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A.Word.A.Day--tabula rasa

Pronunciation Sound Clip

tabula rasa (TAB-yuh-luh RAH-sa, -za) noun, plural tabulae rasae (TAB-yuh-lee RA-see, -ze)

1. The mind before it receives the impressions gained from experience. The unformed, featureless mind in the philosophy of John Locke.
2. A need or an opportunity to start from the beginning.

[Medieval Latin tabula rasa : Latin tabula, tablet + Latin rasa, feminine of rasus, erased.]

"The big, virtually empty backyard was as close to a perfect tabula rasa as anything we had seen."
Martin Filler; Digging In; House Beautiful, Jun 1995.

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." Those colorful words of writer James Davis Nicoll (b. 1961) succinctly inform us of the tendency of English to profit from foreign imports. Luckily, there is no nanny called The English Academy to keep it honest and we are all the richer for it.

While many of these "borrowed" expressions, or what linguists call loanwords, eventually become naturalized a lot of them retain their distinctly foreign character, in spelling, pronunciation and grammar. In this week's AWAD we'll identify a few of the latter variety known as foreignisms and look at words and phrases from seven different languages, one each, during the next seven days.


Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. -Calvin Coolidge

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