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VITRIOLIC

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VITRIOLIC

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Jan 11, 2011 12:42 am

• vitriolic •

Pronunciation: vi-tree-ah-lik • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. (Literally) Containing or similar to sulfuric acid or any of the metal sulfates. 2. (Figuratively) Extremely caustic, scathing, filled with rage and abasement, often accompanied by profanity.

Notes: Today's Good Word comes from the noun vitriol which once was the name for metal sulfates including sulfuric (vitriolic) acid, hence the caustic flavor of its current meaning. To add sulfates to a compound is to vitriolate it. The spelling and pronunciation of this word are rather straightforward; just remember the accented O.

In Play: The recent political elections in the US saw far to many and too vitriolic attacks: "Highly vitriolic political attacks only inflame the debate over real issues and encourage violence." Perhaps politicians should remember that there is no problem that anger solves. But politics is not the only arena in which we find too much vitriol: "Jess Newcomb's vitriolic attack on his neighbor for playing loud music late at night was grossly disproportionate to the neighbor's misdeed."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin vitreolus "of glass, like glass, glassy", the adjective of vitrum "glass". So, how did we get from "glass" to "vitriolic", you may rightly wonder. For the answer to this question, we have to go back farther than glass. The original meaning of vitrum was "woad" (related to weed), a plant from which Romans derived blue dye. Since Roman glass had a bluish tint, the word for "woad", vitrum, gradually migrated to the meaning "glass". In the Germanic languages vitriol was borrowed to refer to acid, a glassy, transparent liquid so, initially, vitriol had an appropriate sense. However, since acid is also caustic, it is in that sense we use vitriolic today. (Today's Good Word comes to us under the auspices of Suzanne Russell, who joins us at alphaDictionary in wishing for a far less vitriolic political world in 2011.)
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Postby Slava » Wed Aug 01, 2012 6:57 pm

Well, we did indeed have a slightly less vitriolic political scene in 2011, but then again, that's to be expected as it wasn't an election year. There was the false crisis over the spending limit, but that almost doesn't count as vitriol, just bamboozling bombast and posturing.

Now that 2012 is upon us, and the electioneering is in full swing, I expect we'll have plenty of occasion to use this Good Word. Bummer.
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Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Aug 04, 2012 12:02 am

Folks who lambaste frequently do it vitrolically. It's more fun that way.
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