Trending: Godspeed,’ ‘noblesse oblige,’ & ‘scion

Why are people looking up the words Godspeed, noblesse oblige, & scion?

Following the announcement of the death of President George H.W. Bush, the words that showed spikes in the dictionary data were Godspeed, scion, and noblesse oblige.

What do the words Godspeed, noblesse oblige, & scion mean?

Scion (pronounced /SYE-un/) means "a person who was born into a rich, famous, or important family" or "heir."

Godspeed, which is usually capitalized, means "a prosperous journey" or "success."

Noblesse oblige (pronounced \noh-BLESS-uh-BLEEZH\ in English) means "the obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high rank or birth."

There was also another spike following President Bush's death: when it was revealed that the code term explaining his passing to close friends and family was CAVU, many people looked up the term, which is pilot jargon meaning "ceiling and visibility unlimited."

Where do the words Godspeed, noblesse oblige, & scion come from?

Scion originally referred to the bud of a plant that is used when grafting two plants together, and comes from the medieval French word meaning "shoot" or "tip or top of a plant."

Godspeed comes from the Middle English phrase God spede you ("God prosper you"). It was originally used to wish success to someone, like saying, “May you prosper.”

Noblesse oblige literally means "nobility obligates" In French. The phrase began to be used as a noun in France, and then English speakers borrowed it in the early 1800s.

Citations

It was in 1948 when George Herbert Walker Bush, newly graduated from Yale and the scion of an eastern establishment family, rode into Odessa, Texas, in a red Studebaker car to start a new career as an oilman.
BBC.com, 1 December 2018

By any yardstick, Mr. Bush was an aristocrat, a product of moneyed Greenwich, Conn., where he was instilled with an enduring sense of noblesse oblige.
NYTimes.com, 30 November 2018

Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.

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