Students ‘Finesse’ their way through life

January 23, 2018 — by Sandhya Sundaram

Use of 'finesse' as a slang word gains popularity at Saratoga High.

During her second-period class, Chemistry Honors teacher Janny Cahatol was explaining Robert Millikan’s oil-drop experiment when she used the word “finesse” to describe the skillfulness and brilliance of the experiment. Suddenly, the class erupted with students wondering if Cahatol really used the word “finesse.”

Taken aback by the class’ response, Cahatol thought she had said something wrong or politically incorrect, not realizing that “finesse” was a slang word used by Saratoga students to mean taking a shortcut or succeeding at something without preparation.

I wasn’t sure if there was like an inside joke that everyone knew about and I didn’t,” Cahatol said. “There were two classes that tried to explain to me why it was funny, but it did not click.”

According to, the word “finesse” means “extreme delicacy or subtlety in action, performance, skill, discrimination, taste, etc.,” explaining Cahatol’s use of the word in her lecture.

However, for students, the slang is quite different from its dictionary definition.

According to sophomore Sally Kim, one common situation that the term would be used for would be if “you didn’t do your homework and you BS-ed it, but your teacher didn’t check it — you finessed it!”

Kim explained that many of her friends and peers have a tendency to finesse things, like homework, tests and class participation.

This lifestyle and culture of constant procrastination and eventually taking the easy way out leads to people using the word a lot.

In Saratoga especially, a lot of people finesse their life,” Kim said. “It’s a good way to like, um, I don’t know — I’m finessing this right now!”


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