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amerce (uh-MURS) verb tr.
1. To punish by a fine.
2. To punish by imposing a penalty in an arbitrary manner.
[From Middle English amercy, from Anglo-French amercier (to fine), from Old French a merci (at one's mercy), from Latin merces (wages). Other words derived from the same root are commerce, mercenary, market, merchant, and mercy.]
Today's word in Visual Thesaurus.
"Uncouth though he was, (Geoffroi) le Brun was at least more sophisticated
an operator than some of his neighbours. Most of them simply mulcted,
amerced, plundered, ravaged, and otherwise terrified their trembling
feudal subordinates. Le Brun, advised by a monk skilled in public
relations, proceeded more cautiously. He wrote them long letters
explaining why what he did was entirely necessary and in their best
interests. Only then did he mulct, amerce, plunder, ravage and otherwise
"But only three in all God's universe
It appears the verb has been downsized. We've always thought it was indispensable - try saying anything meaningful without using a verb. But a French writer using the penname of Michel Thaler has done the unthinkable. He's written a 233-page novel Le Train de Nulle Part (The Train From Nowhere) devoid of any verb!
The French have a long tradition of such experiments and wordplay. Writers in the famous group OULIPO (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle: Workshop of Potential Literature) have written entire novels under extreme constraints, for example, without using the letter e. If you think it's easy, try writing a single meaningful paragraph.
While Thaler's feat is commendable, we believe that reports of the verb's demise are greatly exaggerated. Without a verb, that train is getting nowhere. The verbs are all there in the book all right - it's just that they've been given non-speaking roles.
We certainly haven't given up on verbs; on the contrary, we promote them. This week we highlight five unusual verbs, words that bring sentences to life.
If you came and you found a strange man... teaching your kids to punch each other, or trying to sell them all kinds of products, you'd kick him right out of the house, but here you are; you come in and the TV is on, and you don't think twice about it. -Jerome Singer, psychology professor
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