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Jul 19, 2010
This week's theme
Words that look one part of speech but are other

This week's words
contumely
panegyric
nebbish
gloaming
beggar

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

"Did you receive my invite?" If the noun use of the word "invite" grates on you, you are not alone. Perhaps you could simply respond with, "Yes, didn't you get my accept?" Or you could go to such great lengths as to create a website about it: IsInviteaNoun.com.

The truth is that the nouning of verbs (and verbing of nouns) is nothing new. The OED shows the word "invite" used as a noun going as far back as 1659 (the verb sense is from 1553).

There are numerous words in the English language that do double duty as nouns and verbs (permit, look, commute, transport, address, to name a few). These noun senses usually follow a short while after the verb sense. Most such nouns become an everyday part of the language, while some continue to carry a stigma, as does the noun invite.

Usually we can tell the part of speech by looking at the ending of a word, but as in the noun sense of the word "invite", our expectations are thrown off. This week we feature words like that.

contumely

PRONUNCIATION:
(KON-too-muh-lee, kuhn-TOO-muh-lee, KON-tuhm-lee, -tyoo-, -tyoom-)

MEANING:
noun: Contemptuous or insulting treatment arising from arrogance.

ETYMOLOGY:
Via French from Latin contumelia (insult), probably from con- (with) + tumere (to swell).

USAGE:
"Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot was greeted mostly with boos, bafflement, and contumely when it was first seen in 1955."
Robert Gore-Langton; Wating for Godot vs Legally Blonde; The Daily Telegraph (London, UK); Jan 21, 2010.

"For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely?"
William Shakespeare; Hamlet; c. 1600.

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

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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