Manqué (feminine, manquée) is a French word - the past participle of the verb manquer, to miss - which is applied as an adjective in English to someone who might have become something but did not. It is placed after a noun (as in French) and is used in particular of professions: for example, a civil servant with a highly pronounced political sense or inclination (and who thus might have made a good politician) might be described as a "politician manqué".
The Collins Dictionary gave the example of a manager as an "actor manqué" , while the Oxford Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases cited the Times magazine in 1996 as describing a "subway genius" as "a writer manqué since many of his chosen citations deal with creating literature" . Arising from the inscription on Plato's door in Ancient Greece, "let no one devoid of geometry enter here" , the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes has been described as typifying a "mathematician manqué".
Manqué as failure
In French manqué
is sometimes applied to someone who has failed to gain professional status - such as un médicin manqué
(a failed doctor) - whereas, in English, it need not have that pejorative implication. In the game of roulette
the set of numbers from 1 to 18 is described as manque
(no accent), meaning that the ball has "failed" to land in one of the higher (18-36) slots.
The slang manky
, meaning "inferior" or "dirty", is thought to be linked in some way to manqué
, possibly from the old Scottish
(maimed or defective) , but maybe via Polari
, the camp
slang that came to the attention of a wider public in the 1960s through the radio show Round the Horne
. The ancestor of all these words is the Latin mancus
(maimed or crippled; and, by transference, imperfect or incomplete ).
In Popular Culture
A cleverly hidden reference to 'Manqué' is found in a song by the British artist Robbie Williams
from the 2003 album Escapology (album)
. A song called 'Me and my Monkey' referrs to 'Manqué' or 'Monkey' as a slightly disturbed and dangerous companion in which the 'Monkey' is acting independently of the singer. In fact, they are one person, and ‘Monkey’ is the dark, 'failed' side of his character.