Words in the News


Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

In a case of what is surely art imitating life rather than the other way round, Meghan Markle has ended her acting career by marrying her on-screen partner Mike Ross (played by Patrick J Adams) in the legal drama Suits, a month or so before marrying Prince Harry in real life. Suits, for those who haven’t watched it, is a long-running TV series about a gifted but unqualified young man who blags his way into a job with a high-profile law firm and somehow manages to maintain the deception for an improbably long time while conducting a passionate on-again off-again relationship with ambitious paralegal Rachel Zane, played by Markle.

The series is well-named in that it does feature some very fine male apparel, especially as worn by legal eagle Harvey Specter. So although the title refers not to these garments but to the legal meaning of the word, I like to think the pun was intended. Suit is also an informal name given to a senior manager, especially one who is seen as cold and impersonal, and while this characteristic does not apply to the swashbuckling Harvey and his colleagues, that shade of meaning is possibly also present.

A suit is also the name for one of the four sets of cards that make up a pack, and this meaning is found in the idiomatic expressions follow suit (literally to play a card from the same set) and someone’s strong suit, which derives from having a good hand in games such as bridge.

An older meaning of suit, referring to the process of trying to gain someone’s love so they will agree to marry you, is also relevant in this context. So now the on-screen wedding is out of the way, all that remains to be revealed is: who is designing Megan Markle’s real-life wedding dress? The world will have to wait until 19 May to find out.

Suit came into Middle English from the Anglo-French Norman word ‘siwte’, which itself derives from the Latin for ‘to follow’. The various legal senses are the earliest, with the clothes meaning first recorded in the 15th century.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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