Word: decorum

Pronunciation: di-KO-rəm

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety; etiquette

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Monica: (after Chandler “steals” her bath) What do you think you’re doing?

Chandler: Leaving my troubles behind?

Monica: I know that you’re new at this, but this is completely unacceptable bath decorum.

Chandler: Oh, it’s so hard to care when you’re this relaxed.

Friends (Season 8, Episode 13 – The One Where Chandler Takes A Bath)

The first time I read this word on a flashcard, I didn’t realize I had already heard it before. It wasn’t until I watched a rerun of Friends years later that I noticed it in the dialogue. Some time after Monica teaches him how relaxing baths can be when drawn well, Chandler tries to make up for his failed attempt at drawing his own by stealing one of hers. Catching him in the act, Monica explains that his behavior is not in keeping with “proper bath etiquette”, a comment that Chandler simply shrugs off as he enjoys another of his wife’s perfectly drawn baths.

“Decorum” is a type of behavior that’s proper and tasteful. In the mid 16th century, the word arose as a literary term to denote suitability of style. It stems from the Latin adjective decorus, meaning “seemly” or “noble”.

I admit that when I came across the word “decorum” while studying vocabulary, the first thought that came to mind was that it had something to do with decorating. Maybe these words have similar origins; after all, “decorated” is one of the definitions of the aforementioned Latin adjective, though I assume it’s in the sense of “honored” rather than “adorned” (which may make it easier to remember). If you write for a lot of heroes, “decorum” would probably be a good word for defining the behavior of your noble characters. As for the less-than-noble, you could always come up with some creative solutions for how to address their lack of “decorum”…

Monica: Fine, you can have the bath, but I am taking your boat. Now you’re just a girl in a tub!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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