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Today's Word



Mar 4, 2024
This week’s theme
Words derived from body parts

This week’s words

Illustration: Anu Garg + AI

Previous week’s theme
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with Anu Garg

There is as much variation among languages as there is between living beings of different species (or even within a species).

Did you know that the variety in languages is like comparing cats to dogs, or maybe more accurately, cats to cucumbers? Take the Great Andamanese languages, for example. They’re so in touch with the body, they could be the linguistic equivalent of yoga. Words in these languages, spoken in the Indian Ocean’s Andaman Island archipelago, stretch and bend according to which body part they’re associated with: The prefix a- (mouth) doesn’t just result in amu (mute), which is literally tight-lipped, but also ajom (greedy), metaphorically all mouth. (Reference)

Anything that’s important to us, shows up in our language. English, for example, has lots of words from horses. (See here, here, here, and here.) Sure, these days we park our “horse” in a garage instead of a stable, but the language continues galloping along with words derived from horses.

Back to the body theme, English might not be as body-centric as the Great Andamanese languages, but it body-slams with the best of them, from head to toe. This week we’ll feature five body-derived words which prove even English can touch its toes without pulling a muscle. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes not and you have to look into the etymology.


(tuhr-JIV-uhr-sayt, TUHR-juh-vuhr-sayt)

verb intr.:
1. To evade or to equivocate.
2. To change one’s loyalties.

From Latin tergiversari (to turn one’s back), from tergum (back) + vertere (to turn). Earliest documented use: 1654.

“Is the normally tergiversating Dakota Stevens committing to a date with moi?”
Chris Orcutt; The Rich Are Different; Have Pen, Will Travel; 2012.

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

Creativity -- like human life itself -- begins in darkness. We need to acknowledge this. All too often, we think only in terms of light: "And then the lightbulb went on and I got it!" It is true that insights may come to us as flashes. It is true that some of these flashes may be blinding. It is, however, also true that such bright ideas are preceded by a gestation period that is interior, murky, and completely necessary. -Julia Cameron, artist, author, teacher, filmmaker, composer, and journalist (b. 4 Mar 1948)

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