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Feb 15, 2016
This week’s theme
Words formed in error

This week’s words
megrim
posthumous
lutestring
messuage
frontispiece

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

If to err is human, human languages have ample proof of it. What we consider correct spelling or proper pronunciation or official meaning of a word today is sometimes an error that has taken root and become a part of language.

The word third was earlier thrid, helpmate was helpmeet, and syllabus was sittybus. Errors in printing, reading, hearing, or understanding gave the words new spellings, new pronunciations, or new meanings. Time is kind to imperfections. Just wait long enough and what was erroneous is now the standard.

In this week’s selection we feature five words that were shaped by errors.

megrim

PRONUNCIATION:
(MEE-grim)

MEANING:
noun:
1. (In plural, megrims) Low spirits.
2. Whim.
3. Migraine.

ETYMOLOGY:
From misreading of in as m in the word migraine. From French migraine, from Latin hemicrania (pain in one side of the head), from Greek hemi- (half) + kranion (skull). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ker- (horn or head), which also gave us unicorn, horn, hornet, rhinoceros, reindeer, carrot, carat, and cerebrate. Earliest documented use: 1440.

USAGE:
“Those who listen to this stuff get the megrims, the fantods, and loose bowels.”
Malcolm Berko; The Dow Jones at 23,000; Creators Syndicate (Los Angeles); Nov 11, 2015.

“The family began moving from city to city on the whims and megrims of his father’s employer.”
Rohinton Mistry; Tales from Firozsha Baag; Penguin Books; 1987.

See more usage examples of megrim in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The question is not Can they reason?, nor Can they talk?, but Can they suffer? -Jeremy Bentham, jurist and philosopher (15 Feb 1748-1832)

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