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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Feb 03, 2007 11:20 pm

• perfidy •

Pronunciation: pêr-fê-dee • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. (Mass noun) Betrayal, treachery, intentional breach of faith or violation of trust. 2. (Count noun) One instance of such, as the little perfidies of organizational life.

Notes: Perfidy is basically a mass noun like contemplation and consternation that has no plural. However, it is often used to refer to a single instance of betrayal, hence perfidies becomes a possible plural form. The adjective for this noun is perfidious; it may be used adverbially with the suffix -ly. We recommend avoiding perfidy's fraternal twin, perfidity, unless you are writing a poem and need another syllable.

In Play: War, of course, is rife with perfidy: the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the attack on Pearl Harbor are two of the greatest acts of perfidy of World War II. But it is the little perfidies of life that are more likely to wear us down: "What perfidy! Lucy Morales went out with Lance Sterling last Saturday after telling me that she had to stay home to wash her hair!"

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin perfidia, the noun of perfidus "treacherous". This word is made up of per-, an intensifer often indicating destruction + fides "faith". The root of these words was once Proto-Indo-European bheidh-/bhoidh- "to trust", which became Germanic *bidan "to stay, wait", found today in English abide and abode. The sound [bh] (b with a puff of air) became [f] at the beginning of a Latin word, which explains the root of fides. This word is visible in many Latin borrowings in English, including confident, affidavit, and fiduciary. After a little bit of tinkering by French, it also emerged as fiancé. (We can always trust Dr. Lew Jury to send us delicious little lexical pearls like today's, which we wrote up at his suggestion.)
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Postby Ferrus » Sun Feb 04, 2007 12:58 am

Perfidious Albion is a cliché ever used by British and French papers to describe the Anglo-French relations, only beaten by the slightly less pejorative entente cordiale.

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Postby dougsmit » Sun Feb 04, 2007 8:23 am

One of the great things about the daily Good Word is how often we get words we knew previously but did not know completely. Sometimes that means learning that we did not know the word. Here, for example, I discover that I was making an incorrect distinction with 'perfidity' which semed to me to be the larger concept of faithlessness rather than the single faithless act of perfidy.

While here we can mention the Latin 'Perfidens' or 'Perfidelis' which meant 'greatly trusting' but I am not aware of this use in English to mean 'confide with great confidence' which would seem the natural progression of the word. It seems odd for English to pass up so good an opportunity for a contranym.
Doug Smith

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Postby gailr » Sun Feb 04, 2007 11:40 am


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