Sunday, May 21, 2006

May 21: Defenestration Day

It's not often that we can trace the precise day and year that a word was born, but one particularly interesting word was born on this day in 1618. The word word is defenestration which means: The act of throwing something or someone out the window.

Just before the beginning of The Thirty Years War, a war in which Roman Catholics and Protestants battled for political and religious power, Protestant nobles threw two members of the Roman Catholic royal council and their secretary from a window in Hradcany Castle in Prague. The good news concerning this momentous defenestration is that no one was hurt (1).

The word defenestration comes to us from Latin: de-, out + fenestra, window.

The word window comes to English via Old Norse vindauga: vindr, wind + auga, eye. Window is also a kenning, a figurative device used figurately in Old English and Old Norse where a compound expression is used in place of a noun. They are found frequently in poetic epics like Beowulf, but we also create them today. For example, here are some modern kennings: boob tube, fat pill, gas guzzler, and gut bomb.

One interesting new meaning of defenestration that has appeared recently on the Internet but not in the dictionary - yet - is: The act of removing a Windows operating system from a computer in order to install an alternative one (2).

Today's Challenge: A Verb of Your Own
Defenestrate is not a word you hear or read everyday, but it is an example of an action verb that relates to a very specific action, such as David Letterman defenstrating TVs, watermelons, or rotten eggs. Your task today is to create one or more new action verbs. Start by thinking of an action that we don't have a single verb for in English, such as "to sneeze quietly." You might also think of some type of action that is a reletively new activity, such as: to get stuck in a fast food drive through lane without enough money to pay for your meal. Once you have a definition, set your mind to coming up with one new verb to describe it.

Quote of the Day: Three-fourths of the people you will ever meet are hungering and thirsting for appreciation. Give it to them and they will love you. --Dale Carnegie

1 - Ammer, Christine. Fighting Words: From War, Rebellion, and Other Combative Capers. New York: Paragon House, 1989.

2 -


Jeff Shelby said...

Hi Brian,

We like your blog! We thought of a verb that means "to waste time playing silly games on the computer."


Used in a sentence:

Instead of watering the flowers, Marv spent the afternoon sudokuing.

This from your church friend Carol Shelby.

Aubigne Spratling said...

Close! It was actually the 23rd, not the 21st.

Happy Defenestration Day!