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Apr 12, 2023This week’s theme
Words about words
This week’s words
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A.Word.A.Daywith Anu Garg
noun: A terse, witty, instructive saying.
From Latin apothegma/apophthegma, from Greek apophthegma (apothegm), from apophthengesthai (to speak plainly), from apo- (off, away) + phthengesthai (to speak). Earliest documented use: 1570.
You might expect an apothecary to dispense nuggets of wisdom but you’d be disappointed: that word is from Greek apotheka (storehouse). Back then an apothecary was a storeowner who sold all kinds of stuff: spices, candy, preserves, even pills and potions. According to the OED, “in 1617 the Apothecaries’ Company of London was separated from the Grocers’.” If you walk into a pharmacy these days, drugs are only a small part of the store. I say we are back to the old days.
“When you feel down, count your blessings. Beatrice had so often heard people, even people she greatly respected, utter that apothegm with the same confidence with which pharmaceutical reps tout the virtues of Zoloft or Prozac.”
Melanie Forde; Hillwilla; D Street Books; 2018.
“‘To live outside the law, you must be honest.’ [Hunter] Thompson, like a lot of people in the sixties and seventies, interpreted Dylan’s famous apothegm to mean that in order to be honest you must live outside the law. By the time the fallacy in this reading became obvious, his persona ... was engraved in pop-culture stone.”
Louis Menand; Believer; The New Yorker; Mar 7, 2005.
See more usage examples of apothegm in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:Who are we but the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and believe? -Scott Turow, author and lawyer (b. 12 Apr 1949)
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