Sunday, November 20, 2011

More fun for word-nerds: SESQUIPEDALIAN

I’ve noticed that people seem to enjoy the rare words on this site.  The blogspot stats show how people got here; and some of the search-strings people have input to find this site include:

esse est percipi pronunciation
pronunciation tawakkul karman
sit fides pene auctorem
grommets galore
wilders tuigdorpens
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in caelo quae acta sint
ewig weibliche
'die fröhliche wissenschaft'
akribia webster's
nuntiatur iovi venisse quendam bonae
rhymes with monostich
id say res ipsa loquitur

That last one (which means ‘aphorism, epigram’) has an alternate, simplified spelling as apothegm (the silent g stays, though), but I figured:  anyone who will like that word in the first place  will like it even better in its full consonantal mouth-filling (picture Demosthenes with his elocutionary practice-pebbles) Greek glory.

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 K kewl (quoth the lolcat).   Accordingly, we here begin what might turn out to be a series (depending on reader interest)  of posts on lexicological funstuff.  To see them all, simply click on the Label in the Label-field below:  logophilia.  If you’re a logophile, you won’t need to have that one explained to you.

Our word for the day is:

sesquipedalian  ~

Pronounce it:  ses-kwi-peh-DAY-lee-an.   It’s a marvelous word in several respects.  
 It’s from Latin, where it literally means ‘a foot and a half long’.  The ‘foot’ part is obvious -- ped- as in pedal, pedestrian -- but what’s with the ‘foot-and-a-half’ ?  There don’t seem to be enough syllables to mean all that.  Well, sesqui- means ‘one-and-a-half-as-much’, the way semi- means ‘half-as-much’ and bi- means ‘twice as much’.  It is (again to borrow an expression from the cats)  waay kewl  that Latin has a prefix that means that.  We use it in English too:  a sesquicentennial marks 150 years.    Latin has a bunch of other ultrawonderful short words for specific fractions, like bes ‘two-thirds’.
            OK, so:  the way sesquipedalian is used in English  is to refer to words that are humongously complex and long.   That’s already neat enough;  but as a bonus, the word sesquipedalian is itself … sesquipedalian.   And hence it joins the ranks of the self-describing words we call autological.
The antonym of sesquipedalian is:  short.  And that word is autological too.

[Update 13 I 13]  Someone just reached this blog via the following searchstring:

         justice nerds have more fun

Truer words were never spoke!  Willkommen auf WDJ !  More fun here:

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We now return you to your regularly scheduled essay.

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[Update 27 VII 13]  This just in:   If you use big words, you are speaking

=>  sesquipedalianistically <=

Try it!  Impress your friends!

1 comment:

  1. In astrology we have sesquiquadrature, the 135 degree angle aspect, which is the quardrature or 'square aspect' of 90 degrees plus a half: as in "My sun in Leo is sesquiquadrate my moon in Sagittarius".