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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:35 pm

• pusillanimous •

Pronunciation: pyu-sê-læn-ê-mês • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Weak, cowardly, completely lacking in will.

Notes: The trick in successfully deploying today's Good Word in writing is to remember that the Ls are doubled, not the Ss. To use it successfully in conversations, we must remember that the accent falls on the middle of the five syllables (see Pronunciation). However, it moves over one syllable in the noun: pusillanimity [pyu-sê-lê-nim-ê-ti].

In Play: Today's word is rather long, but don't be too pusillanimous to try it when you want to refer to cowardice in a way that will go over the heads of most people: "The fact of the matter is that Lois Riske still lives in an apartment because she is too pusillanimous to assume a mortgage." It is particularly useful when talking about thrill rides like bungee jumping and roller coasters: "I thought Blanche Dwight too pusillanimous to ride the roller coaster, but she screwed up her courage and surprised us all."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Late Latin pusillanimis, a compound comprising pusillus "weak", from pullus " young animal" + animus "mind, soul". Pullus, the origin of English pullet, comes from the Proto-Indo-European root pau- "small", unchanged in Latin paucus "small". This word became Spanish poco "little" and French peu "little, few". In English it turned up as few and in foal. The ani- in animus goes back to a PIE word meaning "breath", also present in Greek animos "wind". The connection was between the wind, breath, and the soul, which ancients sometimes associated with the breath on a cold day. (Today we thank the animated mind of Mark Bailey for overcoming any trace of pusillanimity and sending in today's Good Word.)
Last edited by Dr. Goodword on Wed Jul 18, 2012 9:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Perry Lassiter
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:59 pm

Like WOW man! This blows my mind! I just did a 180 mental flip. I had always read this word as meaning hostile and ready to fight. I guess because of it's similarity to pugilist. Unless pugilist secretly means a kisser?

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Postby Slava » Tue Jul 17, 2012 11:04 pm

Perry Lassiter wrote:Unless pugilist secretly means a kisser?
Only in the sense of bopping someone in the kisser.
Life is like playing chess with chessmen who each have thoughts and feelings and motives of their own.

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