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January 19, 2018

Strange But True!

Q. Calling all you word aficionados, can you say what the following have in common: “addubitation” (questioning oneself), “circumplicate” (to wrap around), exsufflation (blowing out) and “impotionate” (poisoned)?

A. They're all inkhorn terms (after portable ink containers that scholars hung from their belts), born out of a time in the 15th and 16th centuries when the English language experienced a vocabulary innovation, says Arika Okrent in Mental Floss magazine. These terms and many others eventually fell into disuse, as they were often “deliberately difficult, crafted to reflect well on the author rather than make things clear for the reader.” But a good number more entered the language with real staying power, including “absurd,” “adult,” “ambiguous,” “articulate,” “catastrophe,” “confide,” “deduce,” dilemma,” “education,” “enigma,” “exact,” “expert,” “explain,” “frequent,” “gradual,” “hero,” “illustrate,” “imitate,” “irony,” “lament,” “map,” “myriad.”

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