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DEFENESTRATE

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DEFENESTRATE

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Jul 30, 2007 11:57 pm

• defenestrate •

Pronunciation: dee-fin-is-trayt • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To throw out a window. 2. To remove the windows from.

Notes: Today's Good Word is one of the funnier words of English in that it specifies a mode and place of exit. The verb actually was 'back-derived' from the noun defenestration. This word came into being to describe a popular method of disposing of political opponents in Prague. The Defenestration of Prague in 1618 set off the 30 Years War (1618-1648). That year the protestant Bohemian aristocracy took offense at the election of a Catholic, Ferdinand of Styria, to rule the empire. At Hradcany Castle in Prague, they threw the local Imperial governors out of the castle windows in protest, unleashing the dogs of war.

In Play: Outside the Czech Republic, objects less controversial than governors are usually tossed through open windows: "Yes, not only did Gwendolyn change the locks on the apartment, she defenestrated all my belongings to the sidewalk below." Since fenestrated means "having windows" to an architect, today's Good Word could also mean "to remove windows", as in, "The architect has now defenestrated our house plans in favor of more and bigger lighting fixtures." Why not?

Word History: Today's word was created by some non-Roman around the year 1618 as defenestration took firm root in Prague. It is composed of de- "from, of" + fenestra "window". Fenestra, which went on to become French fenêtre and German Fenster, may have been borrowed by the Romans from the Etruscans, who lived nearby but spoke an unrelated language. Suffixes similar to -stra are found on other words borrowed from Etruscan. (Let's all thank Sara Goldman for opening windows to new vocabulary by suggesting words like today's very good if funny one.)
Last edited by Dr. Goodword on Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: DEFENSTRATE

Postby gailr » Tue Jul 31, 2007 5:31 am

That year the protestant Bohemian aristocracy took offense at the election of a Catholic, Ferdinand of Styria, to rule the empire. At Hradcany Castle in Prague, they threw the local Imperial governors out of the castle windows in protest, unleashing the dogs of war.


This is why upper class Romans such as Antony had few fenestrae in their domus, and kept the dogs in a cella in the ostium.

-gailr

Of course, this sort of thing doesn't happen to peasants with cat doors.
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windowless

Postby dougsmit » Tue Jul 31, 2007 10:52 am

Once again I'm missing something here. Do I read it correctly that the use of defenestrate to mean removal of windows is just a suggestion and not documented? It would seem that architects might choose to have windows in their designs and are free to call that 'fenestrate' but a lack of windows would seem better termed 'afenestrate' since the apertures were not removed but just omitted from the original design. Afenestrate shows up as a term for non porous bone so it would seem a smaller leap to apply that word form to a wall without openings unless we were terming a wall being bricked up. Does anyone know if architects already have a term to cover 'windowless' (other than 'windowless')?

Another fair question might be whether we might be better off inventing words that do not already have perfectly good meanings contrary to the new suggestion. It is not like the language does not double back on itself enough without our adding rabbit runs on purpose. If 'de' means out of when pertaining to windows we surely could find another prefix to indicate a lack of fenestra.
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Re: windowless

Postby skinem » Tue Jul 31, 2007 2:14 pm

dougsmit wrote:If 'de' means out of when pertaining to windows we surely could find another prefix to indicate a lack of fenestra.


Un? Non? Ex? Aut? :D
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unfenestrated

Postby dougsmit » Tue Jul 31, 2007 2:49 pm

As a matter of fact, "unfenestrated" gets a Google rating over 600 including a few refering to walls lacking windows. I found humor in one hit for "exfenestrate" in the sense of switching a computer away from Windows.
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Postby Stargzer » Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:34 pm

I guess that computer was debilitated ... :lol:
Regards//Larry

"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
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The Prefix de-

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:53 pm

An odd conception that the printing press brought us is the idea that words "exist". No one thinks sentences exist but words somehow do.

Part of the problem is that we have dictionaries and many think dictionaries are the repositories of 'existing' words. In fact, all dictionaries is someone selection of preexisting words but words can be created on the fly as well as sentences.

When we say delouse, we don't mean throw something out of a louse but to remove lice, When we say debug, we mean to remove bugs. Decontrol means to remove controls. Although the prefix de- certainly has several functions, one certainly is what linguists call Privitive, meaning "remove X".

That being the case, there is no way of avoiding the interpretation of "removing windows" for defenestrate whether that meaning is in dictionaries or not. Dictionaries are full of words missing legitimate meanings as well as missing words that haven't been added yet.

Word formation may not be as fluid and creative as syntax in English but in the various Eskimo and North American Indian languages they are. Most simple sentences in these language can be expressed in single words. But just look at all the new meanings added to words in the last 30 years by the technological revolution to get some idea of the flexibility and semantic mobility of words.
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Postby AnneCilano » Sat Oct 09, 2010 7:54 am

Doug where does it say the google rating is 600?

There's so much to read about the wartrol I can't do it quick enough.
Last edited by AnneCilano on Thu Aug 21, 2014 5:52 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby dougsmit » Sat Oct 09, 2010 8:56 am

In 2007 when this thread was new a Google search produced 600 hits on the word. Today that number was 3890 including one on the first page discussing ventilation of basements, several medical uses and this page on which we discussed the word.

While we are here revisiting the past, I disagree with the idea that no one thinks sentences exist. We call existing sentences 'quotations' and some of them certainly do carry an existence in the culture far beyond their individual words. The extreme example of this is when people quote Bible verses by chapter and verse rather than actually quoting the word-string but we also see it when we communicate an idea based on previous experience with the words used together (What is it they say about us when we 'assume'?). Certainly there are more phrases that have this separate existence but there are sentences that this nobody credits with being.

My question is when do words cease to exist? Publishers of dictionaries maintain a life for words the last actual use of which was on paper long since rotted. I suppose a word lives as long as there are two or more people who can communicate a thought using that word. Now we know why the OED went digital. I would appear 'unfenestrated' is gaining ground since this thread began.
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