Inspired by Jim Bisso's ardor in tracing "more unique" to Plautus, I've discovered that the same author is responsible for the whole "nucular" flap. Well, maybe this is a bit unfair, since he is just the earliest extant source for the original form of the base word nucleus, in which there was in fact an extra u between the c and the l ...
According to the OED, the etymology of nucleus is
< classical Latin nucleus (also nuculeus) kernel, inner part, in post-classical Latin also core of a comet
According to Lewis and Short:
nu^cleus (nuculeus ), i, m. [for nuculeus, from nux] , a little nut.
e nuce nuculeum qui esse vult, frangit nucem, he who would eat the kernel of a nut breaks the nut, i. e. he who desires an advantage should not shun the labor of earning it, Plaut. Curc. 1, 1, 55: nuculeum amisi, retinui pigneri putamina, I have lost the kernel and kept the shell, id. Capt. 3, 4, 122 .--
I suggest the last quotation as a motto for language moralists everywhere.Posted by Mark Liberman at January 2, 2004 05:56 PM