Words (8/26 to 9/1)

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 (except where noted).

8/26: Proclitic (adjective) [of a word] closely connected in pronunciation with the following word and not having an independent accent. Origin: Proclitic is modeled on the Greek procliticus, “to lean forward.” It was formed in relation to enclitic, “a monosyllabic word or form that is treated as a suffix of the preceding word.” First Known Use: c. 1864

8/27: Personalia (noun) personal details such as biographical data, reminiscences, or the like. Origin: Personalia is adapted from the Late Latin personalis, “personal.” First Known Use: 1900-1905 (Dictionary.com)

8/28: Homologate (verb) to approve; confirm or ratify. Origin: Homologate is based on the Greek homologos, “of the same word.” First Known Use: 1593

8/29: Flounce (verb) to go with impatient, exaggerated movements. Origin: Flounce may have emerged from the Scandinavian flunsa, “to plunge, hurry,” but the first record of these is 200 years later than the English word. The English bounce may be an influence. First Known Use: 1542

8/30: Parergon (noun) work undertaken in addition to one’s principal work. Origin: Parergon consists of a combination of Greek roots, para- meaning “beyond,” and ergo meaning “work, labor.” First Known Use: early 17th century (Oxford Dictionaries Online)

8/31: Metaphrastic (adjective) having the quality of a literary work that has been translated or changed from one form to another, as prose into verse. Origin: Metaphrastic comes into English from the medieval Greek metaphrastes, “one who translates.” First Known Use: 1600-1610 (Dictionary.com)

9/1: Substrate (noun) something that is spread or laid under something else. Origin: Substrate combines the Latin sub-, “under,” and sternere, “to spread.” First Known Use: 1807

As a ludicrous parergon, I was assigned to homologate every infantile whim of my superior, as he flounced from one meaningless task to another.

I’m learning quite a few new words this week. Only flounce and substrate look at least somewhat familiar to me.

Substrate, as well as proclitic, parergon and metaphrastic, seem to be primarily useful as jargon. So, if you are interested in biology/chemistry, grammar, business, or literature, you’re likely to come across these terms. But I don’t see any of them getting much traction for an audience outside of those circles.

Personalia is an interesting word and an easily understood way of conveying its meaning. It calls to mind paraphernalia but has a more sweeping definition.

Homologate is a fancy word, interesting for philologists, perhaps, but certainly not superior to the words in its definition.

Flounce is my favorite word this week. It’s not a pretty word, by any stretch, but it has the virtue of being monosyllabic, and its negative sound is absolutely appropriate. Once again, I manage to pick the oldest word in the list, but that’s really a coincidence this time. My second favorite would probably be personalia, which is the newest word.

Keep writing, and also check out Robert Beard’s list of the 100 Most Beautiful Words in English, which I just discovered online this week.

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