Good morning! I had another solid three day weekend, and while I’ve begun to feel a bit under the weather I’m ready for the week. Here is an explanation for this week’s words:

“If to err is human, human languages have ample proof of it. What we consider correct spelling or proper pronunciation or official meaning of a word today is sometimes an error that has taken root and become a part of language.

The word third was earlier thrid, helpmate was helpmeet, and syllabus was sittybus. Errors in printing, reading, hearing, or understanding gave the words new spellings, new pronunciations, or new meanings. Time is kind to imperfections. Just wait long enough and what was erroneous is now the standard.

In this week’s selection we feature five words that were shaped by errors. ”

megrim (MEE-grim)

noun: 1. (in plural, megrims) Low spirits
2. whim
3. migraine

From misreading of in as m in the word migraine. From French migraine, from Latin hemicrania (pain in one side of the head), from Greek hemi- (half) + kranion (skull). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ker- (horn or head), which also gave us unicorn, horn, hornet, rhinoceros, reindeer, carrot, carat, and cerebrate. Earliest documented use: 1440

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“Those who listen to this stuff get the megrims, the fantods, and loose bowels.”
Malcolm Berko; The Dow Jones at 23,000; Creators Syndicate (Los Angeles); Nov 11, 2015.

“The family began moving from city to city on the whims and megrims of his father’s employer.”
Rohinton Mistry; Tales from Firozsha Baag; Penguin Books; 1987.

posthumous (POS-chuh-muhs)

adjective: happening after someone’s death, but relating to something done earlier.
For example, a book published after the death of the author, a child born after the death of the father, an award given after the death of a person

From Latin posthumus, alteration of postumus, superlative of posterus (coming after). The word literally means “subsequent” but since it was often used in contexts relating to someone’s death, people began associating the word with humus (earth) or humare (to bury) and amended the spelling. Earliest documented use: 1608

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“President Aquino has authorized the posthumous conferment of Medal of Valor to two SAF commandos who died during the Mamasapano mission.”
Pres. Aquino to Confer Posthumously Medal of Valor; Asia News Monitor (Bangkok, Thailand); Jan 26, 2016.

lutestring (LOOT-string)

noun: a glossy silk fabric

This fabric has nothing to do with a lute string. The word is a corruption of French lustrine, from Italian lustrino, from Latin lustrare (to make bright). Ultimately from the Indo-European root leuk- (light), which also gave us lunar, lunatic, light, lightning, lucid, illuminate, illustrate, translucent, lux, lynx, pellucid, lucubrate, limn, levin, and lea. Earliest documented use: 1661

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“Her modish Pomona green lutestring gown, which she’d thought so becoming earlier, now seemed a less than ideal choice.”
Heather Cullman; A Perfect Scoundrel; Signet; 2000.

messuage (MES-wij)

noun: a residential building with outbuildings and the attached land

From the misreading of the letter n as u in Old French mesnage (household), from Latin manere (to remain, dwell). Ultimately from the Indo-European root men- (to remain), which also gave us manor, mansion, ménage, immanent, permanent, menagerie, menial, and remain. Earliest documented use: 1490

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“Can you tell me where I can find a messuage by the name of Neolithic Villa?”
JRL Anderson; Redundancy Pay; Littlehampton Book Services; 1976.

frontispiece (FRUN-ti-spees)

noun: 1. an illustration facing or preceding the title page of a book
2. a facade, especially an ornamental facade, of a building
3. an ornamental pediment over a door or window

The word was formed by corruption of French frontispice by association with the word ‘piece’. It’s from Latin frontispicium (facade), from front- (front) + specere (to look). Ultimately from the Indo-European root spek- (to observe), which also gave us spy, spice, species, suspect, expect, spectrum, despise, despicable, bishop, telescope, specious, speciesism, soupcon, prospicient, perspicuous, speculum, omphaloskepsis, and conspectus. Earliest documented use: 1598

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“I still have the physical copy, its frontispiece decorated with characters from the stories.”
Francine Prose & Ayana Mathis; Bookends; The New York Times Book Review; Oct 26, 2014.

“An ornate frontispiece above the front door, shutters, and flower boxes add charm to the white painted brick facade.”
Lauren Beale; Eva Gabor’s Onetime Estate in Holmby Hills is for Sale; Los Angeles Times; Oct 22, 2015.

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