Monday, December 10, 2007

Word of the Day: Veneficial

Veneficial (noun)

Pronunciation: [ve-nê-'fi-shêl]

Definition: With poison, by means of poison, poisonous; by means of witchcraft.

Usage: Today's word is the adjective of venefice "magic potion, poison" which has been around since at least 1380.

Suggested Usage: The lovely aspect of this word is that it sounds so much like "beneficial" it will be taken as this word if glossed over casually: "Oh, yes, I totally agree; Lockhart's work has been very veneficial for the company." Just subdue the [v] a bit and it will slip by all but the most enlightened. In fact, it is easy to find employment for this word all around the workplace: "Sure, Roderick, there are probably many veneficial ingredients in hamburgers and French fries that the medical experts overlook." Voila! You have told the truth without ruffling a feather.

Etymology: Hardly related to Venus, the goddess of love, today's word comes from the Latin word veneficus "poisonous," the adjective of venenum "poison," which, by way of haplology, came to us as "venom." What is "haplology"? I'm glad you asked. Language doesn't like repetition. That is why we use pronouns like "he" and "she" instead of repeating our names over and over. It also doesn't like repeated sounds, such as the repeated [ahb] in "probably," which is generally scrunched down to "probly." Even though Spanish seems to tolerate them in veneno "poison," English reduced the two occurrences of [en] to one in both "venom" and today's word. Time is valuable; once is enough.
–Dr. Language,

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