The Toad's Words

Excursus #1

This begins a new feature, which we are happy to pass on to you. I call it Mr. Gartner's or The Toad's Words of the Day. This is in honor of the Princeton High School vice Principal Mr. Gartner or The Toad as we called him. He always had a word ready if asked. Here we feature new words learned or relearned that we really think are cool or are just fun to use.

Defenestrate, verb

To throw a person or thing out the window.

This comes from the Latin word fenestra meaning window. I came across this word in an article on the Defenestration of Prague. Apparently it is an old Bohemian custom to punish offending officials by throwing them out the window. In 1618, Protestant rebels punished two of their ruler's ministers in this manner and the Thirty Years' War began. One must be careful with this word. If too many people learn it, they may feel obliged to commit the act so they can use the word. On the other hand, the Capitol does have windows doesn't it?

Try as he might, Hubert could not defenestrate the piano. So he threw his sister, Vanta, out instead.

The noun form is 'defenestration.'

Defenestration reached an all time high on Wall Street during the crash of 1929.

Pejorative, adjective

Having negative connotations; tending to disparage, demean, or debase.

The phrase "Hi meathead" is a pejorative greeting. Saying that a potential blind date has "a nice personality" has pejorative connotations. I always thought this word was spelled 'prejorative' and related to prejudice. Oh, well, live and learn.

Hubert's actions were intended as pejorative with respect to Vanta's piano playing.

Onerous, adjective

Involving, imposing, or constituting a burden. Also, having legal obligations that outweigh the advantages.

Onerous comes from the Latin onus, which means load or burden. This is particularly interesting since we still use the word onus in it's original form.

It has been well known through the ages that defenestration of Steinways is particularly onerous.

The onus of picking up the smashed Steinway would have been on Hubert.

And now, the word I love to use in memos and letters to people when I want a quick response.

Celerity, noun

Rapidity of motion or action.

This word always sounds stilted or pretentious, but that has its place at times.

The onerous task of defenestrating Congress, which might be construed by some as pejorative, should be undertaken with celerity.

Defenestration of pianos is particularly onerous if attempted with celerity.

Or the way I use it at the bottom of letters:

Celerity on your part will be appreciated. This almost always causes people to lay your letter down and look up the word.

Revised: August 27, 2000

Copyright by Michael L. VanBlaricum, 04 September 2000.

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