Thursday, February 02, 2006

Word of the Week - Obmutescence

For as long as I can remember, I have had a fascination for words, especially long ones and those not frequently heard in everyday language.

It probably started at Primary School, where there was a weekly spelling test of twelve (we were pre-decimalisation then) very long words, or so they seemed to a nine year old. However, rising to the challenge, I set my sights on achieving a score of 12/12 each week. So successful was I, that after some weeks of perfect marks, the teacher decided that my development would be better served if she gave me the task of finding twelve suitable words for the weekly test. I was even given my own dictionary in order to complete this task. What joy!

However, the realisation, on the part of the teacher, that it didn’t take me long to open the dictionary at random and select the longest word on the page (a process repeated twelve time in as many minutes), meant that I was soon put in charge of marking the test for the rest of the class.

Neither did it stop there. If one of my classmates dared to ask the meaning of one of the words, the teacher would call my name and I would have to stand up and tell the class the definition. Such opportunities to display my talents were greeted by me with all the self-effacing reticence of the fairground showman; something which, with hindsight, did not endear me to my peers. I now also wonder whether the teacher was simply trying to catch me out, as opposed to diligently progressing my literary ability.

However, such things are character building, and my love of words was born. Therefore, in order to share such delights with you, I have decided to introduce the concept of the ‘Word of the Week’. This week it has entailed me opening The Concise Oxford Dictionary at random and selecting the first word I have never heard of.

This week’s word is obmutescence.

Obmutescence, (being derived from the Latin mutescere, which in turn derives from mutus, meaning dumb), is a noun meaning ‘obstinate silence’. It may be used as an adjective, as in: ‘he was so obmutescent’.

There, I am sure you are the better for knowing that. The delight for me is that even the spell-checker on the computer had not heard of it before. I have since educated it. My old teacher would be proud…I think.

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