Word: nuance

Pronunciation: N(Y)OO-ahns

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Flynn: Frankly, I’m too scared to ask about the frog.

Rapunzel: Chameleon.

Flynn: Nuance.

Tangled (2010)

How about learning a word from a Disney movie this week? In the above scene from Tangled, Rapunzel and Flynn have just evaded the guards in the Snuggly Duckling pub and are making their way through a secret tunnel to escape. On the way, Flynn decides to ask Rapunzel about her story, though he first builds up to his question by mentioning the questions he won’t ask, including anything to do with Pascal. When Rapunzel corrects his mistake, pointing out that Pascal is a chameleon and not a frog, Flynn dismisses it as insignificant. Pascal might disagree, of course; the difference between a frog and a chameleon is much more than a “nuance”!

A “nuance” is a subtle shade of or difference in a meaning, expression, or sound. The word arose in the late 18th century and is originally a French noun meaning “shade” or “subtlety”. This noun stems from the verb nuer “to shade”, which in turn comes from the Latin noun nubes, meaning “cloud”.

In the above example from Tangled, Flynn uses the word “nuance” as a sort of synonym for the expression “same difference”, hinting at the word’s connection with the concept of subtlety. I’ve probably read the word most often in poetic contexts, where it usually refers to the various shades of a given image or slight differences in meaning for certain ideas. Note that “nuance” can also be used as a verb to mean “give nuances to”. If you like to include subtle differences in your scenery, actions, or ideas, you may want to consider mentioning such “nuances” in your stories!

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

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