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Pyknic

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Pyknic

Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Jul 23, 2014 10:56 pm

• pyknic •


Pronunciation: pik-nik • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: No, today's word does not refer to a witches' outdoor party; it is an adjective meaning "stocky, stout, thickset". It belongs to a trio of adjectives describing body types, which includes asthenic "lean, flat-chested, and narrow-shouldered", and athletic "muscular, broad-shouldered".

Notes: A pyknic person may be referred to as a pyknic (not in their presence, of course). This word is used mostly in psychology, where research has tried to map traits of temperament onto these types. These are the terms of Ernst Kretschmer. William Sheldon used the terms endomorphic (fat), ectomorphic (skinny), and mesomorphic (muscular), and associated different temperaments to them.

In Play: This word replaces "stout" or "thickset, if you want to impress your friends or send them running for the nearest dictionary: "Tad Poole was a rather short, pyknic youth, who grew into a strikingly gallant man." Today's word can also be used as a noun: "Tad was a pyknic; his brother Gene was a tall asthenic. Together they looked like Mutt and Jeff."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a Western European adaptation of Greek pyknos "thick, compact, firm". English borrowed it from French, whose interpretation of it was picnique. Apparently, its ancestor survived only in Greek. One possibility is that it comes from the Proto-Indo-European word puk- "thick-haired", which turned up in German as Fuchs and English as fox. This word today in Russian is pukh "down, fluff" and pushistyi "fuzzy, bushy". Alternatively, it could be related to puge "buttocks, behind", as in callipygian, another dead end (if you'll pardon the pun). (Today's Good Word was recommended by Larry Brady, Stargazer and Grand Panjandrum of the Alpha Agora, and we thank him most heartily for it.)
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Re: Pyknic

Postby LukeJavan8 » Thu Jul 24, 2014 11:48 am

I love to see pyknic people in all you can eat buffets.
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Re: Pyknic

Postby Slava » Thu Jul 24, 2014 11:06 pm

I never would have guessed the Russian "pukh" connection. One of my favorite words, though I despise the phenomenon.
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Re: Pyknic

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Jul 25, 2014 8:13 am

The jump from "bushy" to "thickset" has to work. But the jump isn't far.
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Re: Pyknic

Postby misterdoe » Sat Aug 23, 2014 12:08 pm

I looked up that Russian word pukh and followed a link to an article about it. Sounds like late spring and early summer in White Plains, NY, where I was born (and went to college, and used to work). I don't know what it is about White Plains in particular, but the stuff (pollen pods or something) used to be everywhere! And my hay fever was much worse back then, too...
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Re: Pyknic

Postby Slava » Sat Aug 23, 2014 12:53 pm

In Moscow, at least, the pukh can be so bad that a health advisory is issued. It can also collect in alleyways, swirl around in wind eddies, and catch fire from the friction. Nasty stuff.
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Re: Pyknic

Postby misterdoe » Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:15 pm

Is it known to cause mental health issues? :idea:
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Re: Pyknic

Postby Slava » Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:52 pm

Well, it came pretty close to sending me around the bend a few times. I'd say it could drive you nuts.
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