|The Veteran in a New Field, by Winslow Homer (Metropolitan Museum of Art)|
I have no trouble using the occasional exotic word, and certainly endorse the practice. How are you to ever learn new words if you never encounter an unfamiliar one?
Still, I was taken aback not only to see a word I had never noticed, but see it in the very first sentence of an impeachment story in the New York Times, prominently placed on the upper right hand of the front page, under the masthead:
"House Democrats, moving quickly to escalate their impeachment inquiry into President Trump, subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, demanding that he promptly produce a tranche of documents and a slate of witnesses that could shed light on the president's attempts to pressure Ukraine to help tarnish a leading political rival.""Tranche?" That's a new one for me, and though you can guess what it means from the context—"a bunch" perhaps, or "a pile"?—I leapt to the dictionary to see why the Gray Lady feels the need to deploy it.
"A cutting, a cut; a piece cut off, a slice" is how the Oxford English Dictionary defines it, noting "Now only as a loanword from French."
Indeed, it comes from the French, trenchier, to cut, and thus is related to both "trench" and "trenchant."
A slice of documents? The "Now" in my Oxford is 40 years ago, so maybe the meaning has shifted. The online Merriam-Webster defines "tranche" this way:
"a division or portion of a pool or whole. Specifically: an issue of bonds derived from a pooling of like obligations (such as securitized mortgage debt) that is differentiated from other issues especially by maturity or rate of return."Plunging into Nexis, "tranche" seems chiefly related to financial dealings. Business stories speak of "tranche triggers." Though it does pop up in the political. On Sept. 19, a report from the British newspaper, The Independent contained this sentence:
Mr Giuliani had, in particular, asked for an inquiry into the "Black Ledger", a tranche of information about Manafort which was supposedly forged.Earlier this month, Alexandra Lange wrote this, in a column headlined, "Is Instagram Ruining Design?"
I'm an architecture and design critic. Buildings are my life. But it isn't that unusual to try to find and follow the tranche of people who love what you love. If you're in the visual arts, they are probably on Instagram.So obviously "tranche" is in common use among the chattering classes. Though I can't see myself using it, just because it doesn't bring anything to the table. Take "the tranche" out of Lange's sentence above. Improved, isn't it?