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Jul 30, 2008
This week's theme
Words with hidden connections to animals

This week's words
popinjay
croupier
boustrophedon
sommelier
haggard

AWAD in boustrophedon
boustrophedon

An ancient boustrophedon
Gortyn code of law
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

boustrophedon

PRONUNCIATION:
(boo-struh-FEED-n, -FEE-don)

MEANING:
noun: A method of writing in which lines are written alternately in opposite direction, from left to right, and right to left.

ETYMOLOGY:
From boustrophedon, literally ox-turning, referring to the movement of an ox while plowing a field, from Greek bous (ox) and strophe (turning). It's the same strophe that shows up in catastrophe (literally, an overturning) and apostrophe (literally, turning away, referring to the omission of a letter).

NOTES:
In such writing, each letter on the alternate lines was written as in a mirror image or rotated 180 degrees. We still do many things boustrophedonically, such as mowing the lawn, vacuuming the floor, etc. In many computer printers, such as dot-matrix and inkjet, the print head usually moves in the boustrophedon mode (though thankfully doesn't print letters mirrored or rotated).

USAGE:
"Tell me, am I wrong to mock vertigo from summit to abyss, to reveal the world as I see it? To scribe my destiny boustrophedon, from left to right then right to left."
Philippe Petit; To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers; North Point Press; 2002.

See more usage examples of boustrophedon in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

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