• phlegmatic •
Pronunciation: fleg-mæ-tik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Producing, resembling, or otherwise related to phlegm (mucus); phlegmy. 2. Listless, lethargic, heavy, unemotional, slow.
Notes: Today's Good Word contains an odd bit of confusion we need to keep an eye on. Today's word, pronounced [fleg-mæ-tik], is based on a noun, phlegm, pronounced without the G as [flem]. A phlegmatic person is a phlegmatist whose nature is phlegmatism.
In Play: Phlegmatism may be a permanent or temporary state: "I always feel a bit phlegmatic when I get up in the morning before I have my coffee." But phlegmatism has escaped the human body and now applies to a wider range of phenomena: "If this company is going to succeed, we have to build a fire under our phlegmatic sales staff."
Word History: Today's word originates in Greek phlegmatikos "abounding in phlegm". The connection between phlegm and a cold, listless nature comes from the Greek and medieval European view that human disposition and health are determined by four humors (fluids) of the body: blood, phlegm, choler, and melancholy. The predominance of blood gave you a sanguine or happy disposition while choler leads to anger. Melancholy caused sentimentality and phlegm was thought to make you slow, sluggish, unemotional, which is to say, phlegmatic.
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