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Aug 15, 2022
This week’s theme
Words that aren’t what they appear to be

This week’s words
plutography
miniate
irredentist
recurse
decalcomania

plutography
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
Television show (1984-1995)
Image: Wikimedia

Previous week’s theme
Words coined after animals
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Geography is the study of the Earth’s surface, so is plutography the study of Pluto’s surface? You’d think so, but you’d be wrong.

To debone is to remove the bones, so to deliver is to remove the liver?* The English language, any human language, doesn’t work that logically.

Deliver us from language! Let’s go back to speaking in grunts. Until that happens let’s look at five words that are not doing the English language any favors.

These are words that aren’t what they appear to be.

*The word deliver actually came to us from French délivrer, where it does not mean to remove a book even though livre is a book in French.

The French verb délivrer actually means to free. The equivalent to English deliver is livrer, all of which are from Latin liberare. Everything clear now?

No? Let’s continue.

The Latin liberare came from liber which means free. But it also means a book (which gave us the library). I can do this the whole day.

What are your favorite examples of homophones, false cognates, and other linguistic mischiefs? Share below or email us at words@wordsmith.org.

plutography

PRONUNCIATION:
(ploo-TAH-gruh-fee)

MEANING:
noun: The genre that chronicles the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Greek pluto- (wealth) + -graphy (writing). Earliest documented use: 1985.

NOTES:
The dwarf planet Pluto was named after Pluto, the god of the underworld in Greek mythology. He was also the god of wealth since precious metals and gems are found underground.

USAGE:
“These works are China’s closest approximation to plutography; Cheng’s attention to the brand names and schools by which the old rich set themselves apart from upstarts shows an eye for detail.”
Pang-Yuan Chi and David Der-wei Wang; Chinese Literature in the Second Half of a Modern Century; Indiana University Press; 2000.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
O, what a tangled web we weave, / When first we practice to deceive! -Walter Scott, novelist and poet (15 Aug 1771-1832)

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