Use this forum to discuss past Good Words.
User avatar
Dr. Goodword
Site Admin
Posts: 4562
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2005 9:28 am
Location: Lewisburg, PA


Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Aug 24, 2013 10:08 pm

• stultify •

Pronunciation: stêl-tê-fai • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To render useless, less effective or ineffective. 2. To make look stupid or ridiculous. 3. [Law] To allege or prove legally insane or of unsound mind.

Notes: Like all verbs ending on the suffix -ify, today's Good Word allows stultification and stultifier, though not much else in terms of a derivational family. More distantly, we have stultiloquy "talking or speaking stupidly". This noun comes with a similarly reduced family of only an adjective stultiloquent and a quality noun, stultiloquence.

In Play: My experience with this word suggests that the first definition above is the most common: "The US Senate has been stultified by the overuse of the filibuster." The original meaning, however, is number two above: "Winfred stultified the speaker by correcting his misstatement that George Washington was born in the District of Columbia."

Word History: Today's word was imported from Latin stultificare "to make foolish" from stultus "foolish" + -ficare, a reduced variant of the root of facere "to make". Our best guess is that the Latin root stult- goes back to Proto-Indo-European stel- "put, place, stand". It shows up in such words as still, stilts, and stallion, a horse most likely to stand on its hind legs. Another related Latin word, stolidus, set out meaning "unmoveable, rude", but then its sense shifted to "stupid, foolish". We have no shortage of words in the Indo-European languages based on this root. German Stelle "position, place" comes from it, as well as Russian stlat' "to lay down, put down". (I would, of course, stultify myself were I to forget to thank Luke Javan, otherwise known as Luke-a-Lele, a Grand Panjandrum in the Alpha Agora, for suggesting today's Good Word.)
• The Good Dr. Goodword

Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 1079
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:40 am
Location: Pasadena

Re: Stultify

Postby MTC » Sun Aug 25, 2013 1:25 am

stupefly: To render a fly temporarily senseless with a flyswatter.

Usage: Though stupeflied by a stunning blow from Throckmorton's flyswatter, the fly quickly regained its senses and composure, and buzzed off toward a steaming blueberry pie.

Last edited by MTC on Sun Aug 25, 2013 7:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Perry Lassiter
Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 3212
Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2007 12:41 pm
Location: RUSTON, LA

Re: Stultify

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Aug 25, 2013 1:30 pm

My first encounter with the word came while reading a debate of one kind or another. The author said his opponents' argument was "self-stultifying," which I took to mean as contradicting itself, which it did. Is that a proper use of the word?

User avatar
Senior Lexiterian
Posts: 794
Joined: Fri Jan 22, 2010 5:33 pm
Location: South Carolina USA

Re: Stultify

Postby saparris » Sun Aug 25, 2013 1:39 pm

Since I was partly to blame for the Luke's "...a-Lele" moniker, I thought that I should comment on its origin.

Before I joined the Alpha Agora Forum, I was a member of another, now defunct language discussion site, where I kept noticing an avatar depicting a little bearded man holding a stringed instrument backwards.

Being a finger picker myself, I inquired (via PM) about the owner's interest in the guitar and found that Luke had inherited the drawing of little guy (then in black and white) from a friend on the site.

After a few PM's back and forth, I offered to produce a color version of the avatar, which, in the end, included the name, Luke-a-Lele.

At the time, it was my intention to name the avatar, not the owner. However, if the name has indeed migrated from one to the other, then it's a good example of linguistic change.

Metonymy? Synecdoche? One of those other Greek-rooted thingies?
Ars longa, vita brevis

Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 1079
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:40 am
Location: Pasadena

Re: Stultify

Postby MTC » Sun Aug 25, 2013 7:44 pm

It was good to learn the origins of Luke's distinctive avatar which like its owner strikes a happy note.

On a deader note, we should not overlook stultify's sound-alike cousin, stupefy:

Stupefy \Stu"pe*fy\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Stupefied; p. pr. &
vb. n. Stupefying.] [F. stup['e]fier, fr. L. stupere to be
stupefied + ficare (in comp.) to make, akin to facere. See
Stupid, Fact, and cf. Stupefacient.] [Written also
stupify, especially in England.]
1. To make stupid; to make dull; to blunt the faculty of
perception or understanding in; to deprive of sensibility;
to make torpid.
[1913 Webster]

The fumes of drink discompose and stupefy the brain.
[1913 Webster]

2. To deprive of material mobility. [Obs.]
[1913 Webster]

It is not malleable; but yet is not fluent, but
stupefied. --Bacon.
[1913 Webster]

The "definitional fields" of stupefy and stultify resonate, if they do not actually overlap. The fly struck by Throckmorton's flyswatter, for instance, rendered it useless, and also made it make look stupid and dull. The fly was probably insensible to these fine distinctions, however.

User avatar
Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 3981
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 6:16 pm
Location: Land of the Flat Water

Re: Stultify

Postby LukeJavan8 » Mon Aug 26, 2013 11:59 am

Thanks, saparris, for the history. And a good relationship
it has been. The other site he mentioned was started
(or so I hear) by Doc before Agora. It was a fun site
as well.
Thank you for mentioning that you gave the little fellow
the color he now has, as well as my dog's name on his
hat. He was pretty dull in black and white.
Thanks for bringing the group up to date.

I always called him Baruchodonosor because he looked
somewhat like an ancient Babylonian musician. But
Luke-a-lele he now is.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----

Return to “Good Word Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests