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A.Word.A.Day--chirography

Pronunciation RealAudio

This week's theme: words formed using combining forms.

Chirography (ky-ROG-ruh-fee) noun

Back in the Jurassic era, when there were no laptops and no text-messaging, people used a little thing called a pen to write on a flat surface known as paper. Chirography is a word from those times. It means handwriting or penmanship, also known as calligraphy.

My daughter says, "Why didn't they just download new fonts to their pens?" Well, we did once have fountain pens.

We can thank the Greeks again for the combining forms chiro- (hand) and -graphy (writing). The word has many cousins:

  • chiromancy: reading palms to divine the future: palmistry
  • chiropractic: adjusting the spine (using hands, presumably)
  • chiropody: an odd name for podiatry (treating foot problems)
  • chiropter: another name for bats (who got their hands retrofitted as wings at Intelligent Design, Inc.)

-Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)

"This envelope had the air of an official record of some period long past, when clerks engrossed their stiff and formal chirography on more substantial materials than at present." Nathaniel Hawthorne; The Scarlet Letter; 1850.

X-Bonus

Vocations which we wanted to pursue, but didn't, bleed, like colors, on the whole of our existence. -Honore de Balzac, novelist (1799-1850)

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