Here’s an odd word that one hears in school, and oddly, one I’ve not covered here before. I’ll flag it under “academic culture,” since that seems to be the most common usage, as in “tardy students will be docked for each time they arrive late.”
Given the tardy nature of this week’s post, let’s give it a go. From its Latin origin, tardus, we have several forms in modern Romance languages, such as the modern Spanish tardio. Strangely, it was a word I never learned living in Spain, where my Madrid students were perpetually tardio. In English it sounds less Latinate.
As the OED has it, tardy has always meant “slow,” though in US English it has come to mean “late” or “arriving late.” Consider other words such as “retarded,” in its non-pejorative sense. It means to slow down, as in this sentence: the damage during the test flight retarded development of the new airliner.
That sounds more forceful than would “slow” or “delay,” though either would suffice as “retarded” has a negative sense we would do well to avoid.
Older meaning for “tardy” carry similar meanings but have lost currency. Consider this 1908 example from the OED, “When a girl used to think her admirer rather tardy in asking for the wedding-day.” Sounds quaint and old-fashioned, doesn’t it?
Just set the date, man! I’d go on a bit, but I’m running late.
Creative-Commons image courtesy of The Noun Project.