Words

triage, n. and v.
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The Independent Culture
IN Let Nothing You Dismay, Mark O'Donnell's recent witty novel about Christmas in Manhattan, the hapless hero "strategised triage on the remaining parties"; in reporting on Y2K, The New York Times notes that companies are "resorting to triage, fixing the most important programs first and worrying about minor ones later." This shows the circular course which language takes.

From the French trier, to cull, the adjective trie meant excellent, as in Spenser's "feete of silver trye". By the 19th century, coffee beans were best, middling or triage; by 1930, in Stretchers by F.A. Pottle, it acquired a medical hue (a "triage officer"), to determine the urgency of wounds awaiting operation. American hospitals have triage units. It is unlikely to be a Starbucks brew.

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