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Sep 27, 2021
This week’s theme
Hand to mouth

This week’s words
handmaiden
snoutfair
sticky-fingered
gobsmacked
hardfisted

handmaiden
Previous week’s theme
Coined words
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

What does a surgeon have in common with a palmer (also known as a pilgrim)? Maybe some surgeons pray before a surgery (we’d rather they spent that time double-checking everything so we don’t have to hear about yet another doctor who removed the good kidney), but that’s not the commonality we are talking about.

A surgeon works with hands, literally speaking, so does a palmer. The word surgeon is another spelling for chirurgeon, from Greek cheir (hand). In Medieval Europe, a pilgrim brought back a palm branch as a token of their pilgrimage and hence was known as a palmer. A palm tree is called so because of the resemblance of the shape of its frond to the palm of a hand.

What’s common between Boca Raton, Florida, and Oral, South Dakota? Both are named after the mouth. Boca Raton is Spanish for a mouse’s mouth.

Well, this week we’re living hand-to-mouth, etymologically speaking. We’ll feature words relating to the hand and the mouth.

handmaiden

PRONUNCIATION:
(HAND-may-duhn)

MEANING:
noun:
1. Someone or something that is subservient to another.
2. A personal maid.

ETYMOLOGY:
From hand + maiden, referring to a young woman who was ready at hand to serve her lady. Earliest documented use: 1350.

USAGE:
For years the legal case in Bangladesh had gone nowhere. The country’s criminal justice system, slow and the handmaiden of the executive of the day, stood still.”
Delayed Detonations; The Economist (London, UK); Feb 7, 2014.

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

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The central function of imaginative literature is to make you realize that other people act on moral convictions different from your own. -William Empson, literary critic and poet (27 Sep 1906-1984)

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