Words (7/1 to 7/7)

The Dictionary.com “Words of the Day” for the past week, with that website’s definitions and word origins, and the date of first known use taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

7/1: Deciduous (adjective) falling off or shed at a particular season, stage of growth, etc. Origin: Deciduous derives from the Latin dēciduus, “tending to fall.” First Known Use: 1688

7/2: Bedlam (noun) a scene or state of wild uproar and confusion. Origin: Bedlam is an alteration of the name of a British insane asylum, the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem in London, in essence a folk shortening of Bethlehem. First Known Use: 1522

7/3: Chow (noun) food, especially hearty dishes or a meal. Origin: Chow originates among Chinese workers in California around the Gold Rush, shortened from the pidgin chow-chow, derived from cha, Chinese for “mixed.” First Known Use: 1856

7/4: Suffrage (noun) the right to vote, especially in a political election. Origin: Suffrage stems from the Latin roots Sub-, “under,” and fragor, “crash, din, shouts (as of approval.)” The meaning “right to vote” is first found in the U.S. Constitution, 1787. First Known Use: 14th century

7/5: Aporia (noun) difficulty determining the truth of an idea due to equally valid arguments for and against it. Origin: Aporia derives from the Greek roots aporos, “impassable,” and -ia, “ the state or condition.” First Known Use: circa 1550

7/6: Stonewall (verb) to block, stall or resist intentionally. Origin: While to stonewall conjures associations with the bar in New York that played a role in the gay rights movement as well as Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, this verb originates in the simple sense of obstruction conjured by a wall made of stone. The first recorded use of the verb form occurs in 1914. First Known Use (again, according to Merriam-Webster): 1880

7/7: Futilitarian (adjective) believing that human hopes are vain and unjustified. Origin: Futilitarian is a satirical coinage from the 1820s combining “futility” and “utilitarian.” First Known Use: 1827

The legislature’s calculated aporia was used to stonewall the suffrage movement’s latest efforts, leading many to a futilitarian outlook; namely, since civilization is deciduous anyway, the next step is surely bedlam, so it’s best to find some chow and tough it out.

The above sentence is a bit unwieldy, of course, but I like how all of the words for this week can be connected. We have a good combination of fancy words and more common and easily understandable ones.

My use of aporia in the sentence reflects the second definition of that term: a rhetorical device that feigns uncertainty, perhaps to connect with an audience. One should be careful when using this word that the context clarifies whether the uncertainty is real or not.

Deciduous, bedlam and stonewall are probably the best words for use in ordinary writing, being easily understood and evocative.

Chow has perhaps outlived its effectiveness; at any rate, this of all the words we’ve discovered so far is probably the most commonly known, certainly known well enough that writing out its definition feels superfluous.

Futilitarian is a clever word, one to be used ironically (it sounds like an ancestor of Urban Dictionary coinages).

Suffrage probably has only one use.

For the first time, I can’t really pick out a favorite word in the bunch. Nothing jumps out at me. As always, feel free to disagree. Keep writing.

One response to “Words (7/1 to 7/7)

  1. “Bedlam” is a highly underused word. I’m going to try and work it into conversation whenever possible.

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