Trend Watch

Faute de mieux

A Supreme Court opinion by Justice Ginsberg focused on "desperate circumstances" for women seeking an abortion

Faute de mieux spiked in lookups in an extremely dramatic fashion on the morning of June 27th (a 495,000% increase!), due to the phrase being used in an opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Breyer's opinion and wrote a brief concurring opinion, which focused on what she called women in "desperate circumstances."

"When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety."
Ariane de Vogue and Dan Berman, CNN Politics (Web), 27 June, 2016

Faute de mieux is a French phrase meaning “for lack of something better”. It has been in English use since at least 1766, often employed by those who seek to provide a Gallic flair to their writing.

He, indeed, had never forgotten the prophetic words: “Be assured, that though she was glad to hear you quote Spenser on the nightingale, and danced with you, not merely faute de mieux, in regard to love and marriage she is the Countess’s daughter, and the Earl’s and Lady Euphrasia’s sister.”
Robert Plumer Ward, Pictures of the World at Home and Abroad, 1839

The phrase is pronounced foht-duh-MYUH.

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