Monday, September 24, 2007

Word of the Day: Desuetude

Pronunciation: ['de-swê-tyud]

Definition: A state of disuse.

Usage: The adjective from which this noun is derived, desuete "unused, out of use" has been deemed archaic, though it continues to lurk there behind the suffix –ude of "desuetude."

Suggested Usage: Today's word is a term from the highest registers of English speech, "Watching television talk shows has convinced me that the rules of English grammar have fallen in to complete desuetude." The important point is that "desuetude" is a place where things vanish, as the quaint habit of removing your hat inside fell into desuetude, oddly, at about the same time men stopped wearing fedoras.

Etymology: From French désuétude, a reflex of Latin desuetudo, the noun from desuescere "put out of use," based on de- "un-, dis-" + suescere "become accustomed." The Latin root comes from *swe also found in sui "of oneself," as in sui generis "in a class of its own," akin to Russian svoi "one's own" and "swami," borrowed from Sanskrit svami "one's own." The dative of this pronoun, sibi "to oneself", is related to Russian sebya "oneself" and English "self." It is also the origin of the [sol] in "solo, solitary, soliloquy, desolate."

Dr. Language,

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