Friday, May 18, 2007



During an interview on CNBC this week, the host referred to a guest as a “stock market maven.” Where did that word come from? [Barry, Topeka, Kansas]

Maven comes to us courtesy of the Yiddish meyvn (plural mevinim) an expert or connoisseur. That is a variation of the Hebrew mebin, a person with understanding, a teacher. The word is the participial form of hebin, to understand, to attend to, to teach.

The word was around in the 1950s, but it received wider notoriety because of an advertising campaign for Vita Herring, launched in the United States in 1964.The ads featured a character known as “The Beloved Herring Maven.”

Other names for experts or connoisseurs include enthusiast, aficionado, ace, adept, authority, genius, hotshot, master, pundit, sensation, star, virtuoso, whizkid, and wizard.

Media are also fond of the word guru. Guru is a Hindu term for a teacher or priest. In Sanskrit, the word meant weighty, grave, and dignified. Originally signifying the head of a religious sect, it was eventually secularized into an expert or teacher in more worldly arts.

SIDEBAR: Beloved Herring Maven returns

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