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May 11, 2011
This week's theme
There is a word for it

This week's words
anomia
poetaster
subitize
philtrum
mysophobia

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

subitize

PRONUNCIATION:
(SOO-bi-tyz)

MEANING:
verb tr., intr.: To perceive, without counting, the number of objects in a small group.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin subitus (sudden), from past participle of subire (to appear suddenly), from sub- (under) + ire (to go). Earliest documented use: 1949.

NOTES:
When you throw a die, you don't count the number of pips to determine the value of the throw. You subitize. Now here's a word you want to use when you take part in one of those "How many marbles are in the jar?" contests, though subitizing works only for a small group of items. Estimates of the upper limit of humans' subitizing capability range from four to seven. Subitizing also depends on the arrangement of the objects. Try this subitizing test.

USAGE:
"Brian Butterworth's explanation focuses on our uncanny ability to subitise. Up to four or five objects, most people can tell how many there are just by looking, without counting each one. But if there are more objects, we have to count."
Emily Sohn; Number of the Beasts; New Scientist (London, UK); Jan 24, 2004.

"Getting the computer model to subitize the way humans and animals did was possible, Stanislas Dehaene found, only if he built in 'number neurons'."
Jim Holt; Numbers Guy; New Yorker; Mar 3, 2008.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity. -Christopher Morley, writer (1890-1957)

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