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Q From Louise Adams in Australia: I would like to know about the word segway. I have tried to find it myself through the internet and various dictionaries, to no avail. Perhaps I am not spelling it correctly? I use it to describe the bridge between one topic in a conversation and the next and have also heard it used on national radio in the same context.

A It’s pronounced as you write it, but it’s spelt differently: segue. It takes me back to my BBC training in the mid-sixties when, as an apprentice spinner of disks, I was taught this term for the action of jumping straight from one record to the next without any announcement in between, or, as the Oxford English Dictionary more soberly puts it, to make an “uninterrupted transition from one song or melody to another”. It’s Italian, the present tense of seguire, to follow. It was borrowed into English — probably in the 1920s, though it is first recorded in the 1930s — originally as musicians’ and radio broadcasters’ slang. More recently, as you suggest, it has been extended to cover any smooth transition, as in a conversation, or from one film scene to another.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 5 Feb. 2000

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

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Last modified: 5 February 2000.