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MIKE KEELER: My Cache Has Some Serious Cachet

So I’m watching the news and a very well-spoken pundit says that the FBI is concerned that the stockpiles of military hardware that we left behind in Afghanistan could be used by the Taliban for deadly terrorist strikes. He says, “these are huge caches of weapons”; he pronounces the word, ‘CASHAY.’
Now don’t get me wrong, I have my share of language shortcomings. Ask my mom about my epic failures with Lie vs. Lay, and don’t even mention the That/Which rule.
But I have to clarify this one. The word ‘cache’ comes from the French ‘cacher,’ which means to hide or conceal. So, for example, consider a French trapper, circa 1650, who is exploring the North American interior, slamming back some bourbon, doing what-all with the natives, and getting into a nasty pinch every now and then. Perhaps this Black-Jacques-Shellac might need to hide some stuff in a safe place where no one else will ever find it. He makes a quick ‘cache’ in the wilderness, a hole in the ground filled with his junk, for the next time he passes through. It’s grubby, it’s gross. Cache. That word, with its dark undertones, has infected the Computer Age, and today the ‘cache’ of your computer holds all those grubby old files, those websites you shouldn’t have visited, the flame-mail you shouldn’t have sent. It’s not cool. It’s cache, one syllable. It sounds like ‘CASH.’
But what if a different Frenchman does the hiding? If Louis-the-Fourteenth hides something, oh very well then and la-di-freakin’-da. If the King puts a secret into a letter, and seals it with wax, then that letter has the royal stamp on it, so it has gained a certain, um, ‘cachet.’ And that means a lot. Cachet. It signifies things like Yves St. Laurent, and Remy Martin. It’s cool. No, it’s way more expensive than cool. It’s cachet, two syllables. Sounds like “CASHAY.”
So, two words the same almost to a “t” but so diametrically opposed. And there’s the problem. With so little to differentiate them, they are tailor-made for confusion, and for hilarity. Need some elegant women’s clothes? Head on over to cache.com (for great clothes good enough to lie down in.) A recent review of the sequel to the horror classic “Candyman” states that the film “has grown in its cultural cache” since its original release (lots of victims ended up 6 feet under). And when Barron’s reported on Starbucks’ merger with Green Mountain Coffee, they concluded that “The Starbucks brand lends new cache to Green Mountain’s market power and patents.” (Yummy, ground coffee!)
Two words, so close, so different. People get them wrong all the time.
All of which means that sometimes it’s very hard to tell the difference between something of quality and a hole in the ground.
Mike Keeler

– Mike Keeler

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