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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:34 pm

• sultry •

Pronunciation: sêl-tree • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. (Weather) Muggy, oppressively hot and humid, stiflingly hot. 2. (Women) Steamily sexy, seductive, exuding sexuality.

Notes: Given the sultry summer weather in various parts of the world this year, but particularly in the US, we thought today's Good Word would be quite apropos. It comes with a rather awkward sounding adverb, sultrily and a better noun, sultriness.

In Play: Today's word comes in handy on the stiflingly hot and humid days of midsummer: "Today is so sultry, I'm not sure if I am perspiring or the steam from the plants and people around me is simply collecting on my skin." Of course, this word skidded off course back in the 40s to apply to "steamy" women: "That sultry Lucy Lastik has seduced Matt Tremoni and dashed the hopes of June McBride."

Word History: Today's Good Word arose from a now obsolete verb sulter "to swelter", a variation of swelter. (Swelter also has an adjective sweltery.) [U] and [w] are two sounds that often change into one another over the course of history. The sound [w] has been described as a consonantal variant of [u]. Notice that we pucker our lips when we pronounce either of them. So, before a vowel like E, we would expect the consonant W, as in swelter. Between consonants, though, we would expect the vowel U that we see in sultry. Of course, this doesn't tell us where swelter came from; no one seems to know that. (Let's now thank Jackie Strauss for suggesting today's steamy Good Word and hope she avoids sweltering in the sultry weather many of us are experiencing this summer.)
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Postby Slava » Wed Jul 28, 2010 3:42 pm

Aye, sultry is what we're experiencing, at least where I am. I do think I prefer it to the peat bog fires around Moscow, though.

Sultry is also a key word in the odd movie "Throw Momma from the Train."
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Postby tapoensgen » Wed Aug 11, 2010 4:59 am

I would like to add that there is the word "schwül" in German, denoting hot and humid weather. This is undoubtedly related to swelter(y). Interestingly, whereas we refer to a sultry woman, in German "schwul" (without the ") refers to a homosexual man.

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Postby LukeJavan8 » Wed Aug 11, 2010 12:55 pm

Interesting indeed.
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