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A writer’s first published novel used to be referred to as her or his “first novel.” But we live in what Richard Hofstadter called “the age of bunk,” by which socially acceptable term he meant, in fact, the age of bullshit, and a first novel today is a “debut novel.”
As usual with words, debut has a meaning that runs deep. It runs deep because it is a meaning.
debut (n.) 1751, from French début “first appearance,” a figurative use from débuter “make the first stroke at billiards,” also “to lead off at bowls” (a game akin to bowling), 16c., from but “mark, goal,” from Old French but “end” (see butt (n.3)). The verb is first attested 1830.
Début can only be pronounced as French, and should not be used by anyone who shrinks from the necessary effort. [Fowler]
butt (n.3) “target of a joke,” 1610s, originally “target for shooting practice” (mid-14c.), from Old French but “aim, goal, end, target (of an arrow, etc.),” 13c., which seems to be a fusion of Old French words for “end” (bout) and “aim, goal” (but), both ultimately from Germanic. The latter is from Frankish *but “stump, stock, block,” or some other Germanic source (compare Old Norse butr “log of wood”), which would connect it with butt (n.1).
butt (n.1) “thick end,” c. 1400, butte, which probably is related to Middle Dutch and Dutch bot, Low German butt “blunt, dull,” Old Norse bauta (see beat (v.)). Or related somehow to Old English buttuc “end, small piece of land,” and Old Norse butr “short.” In sense of “human posterior” it is recorded from mid-15c. Meaning “remainder of a smoked cigarette” first recorded 1847.
(These valuable understandings come to Web.Info from an invaluable online resource, the Online Etymology Dictionary.)
Those who think I am unfair in this posting may want to look up the etymology of first.
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