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FRANGIBLE

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FRANGIBLE

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Oct 12, 2012 11:19 pm

• frangible •


Pronunciation: fræn-jê-bêl • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Breakable, capable of being broken.

Notes: Frangible objects are breakable though not necessarily fragile, which implies delicacy and fineness. The difference between breakable and frangible is one of context: ordinary things tend to be breakable (breakable toys) while museum pieces tend to be frangible. The noun for this word is frangibility. Anything that is unbreakable is infrangible.

In Play: It always helps in avoiding chores to impress your parents with your vocabulary. Try this sometime: "Dad, I said I'd clean the garage if I had time Saturday; I didn't sign an infrangible contract." I would have happily cleaned the garage in exchange for knowing that my teenage son had mastered infrangible. However, today's Good Word is not just for joking; it can be used sternly, too: "Lionel, be careful; that vase is sturdy but still quite frangible."

Word History: Today's Good Word first appeared in 1391, a borrowing from Latin frangibilis "breakable" from frangere "to break". The root of this word is a piece of PIE: bhre(n)g- "break" with our old friend, the Fickle N, which comes and goes as it pleases. It doesn't show up in English break or Lithuanian brasketi "crash, crack". Fickle N came and went in Latin, for the past participle of frangere is fractus, the origin of English fraction. (Initial PIE [bh] became [f] in Latin; compare English burn with Latin borrowing furnace.) Sassafras, a plant whose root provides the flavor of root beer, comes from the same root (word root, that is). Sassafras is a reduction of Latin saxifragus "rock-breaking", a name it earned from its ability to grow in the cracks of rocks. (Rather than break our tradition of recognizing those who suggest our Good Words, let's thank Chris Berry for sending in this one.)
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Re: FRANGIBLE

Postby MTC » Sat Oct 13, 2012 7:23 am

Everything solid in our world is breakable under the right conditions, just ask a Materials Engineer. Even some non-solids are breakable like spirits and codes. The American Heritage Dictionary distinguishes among different synonyms for breakable:

" fra·gili·ty (fr-jl-t), fragile·ness n.

Synonyms: fragile, breakable, frangible, delicate, brittle

These adjectives mean easily broken or damaged. Fragile applies to objects that are not made of strong or sturdy material and that require great care when handled: fragile porcelain plates.
Breakable and frangible mean capable of being broken but do not necessarily imply inherent weakness: breakable toys; frangible artifacts.
Delicate refers to what is so soft, tender, or fine as to be susceptible to injury: delicate fruit.
Brittle refers to inelasticity that makes something especially likely to fracture or snap when it is subjected to pressure: brittle bones. See Also Synonyms at weak."

(Underlining added)

"Friable," (not listed) which means "easily pulverized or crumbled" makes an interesting contrast with "frangible" because it implies inherent weakness. This word and its tragic associations deserve separate treatment.

Back to "frangible," some ammunition is frangible, shattering hearts and spirits on contact.
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Re: FRANGIBLE

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Oct 13, 2012 12:20 pm

Now I know "sassafras" .
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Re: FRANGIBLE

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat Oct 13, 2012 11:23 pm

MTC: I am having a little trouble with your reference to "friable", and its implying inherent weakness with tragic associations. I was a farm boy and I knew the word friable long before it was applied to asbestos. Friable is a positive quality of agricultural soils. Where does the inherent weakness come in?
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Re: FRANGIBLE

Postby MTC » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:23 am

Philip, in answer to your question, "friable" things are inherently weak because they crumble or pulverize easily. Glad to see you immediately picked up on the allusion to asbestos.
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Re: FRANGIBLE

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Oct 15, 2012 12:17 am

Ah, weakness in one definition of a word does not necessarily transfer weakness to another definition. Friable soil is definitely strong. It holds moisture well and is easily cultivated. Back home in South Texas,the soil was friable. In the Dallas area, the black gumbo we have here is anything but friable.
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Re: FRANGIBLE

Postby MTC » Mon Oct 15, 2012 6:27 am

"Never fight a farmer on his own soil," they say. So why am I contesting the meaning of "friable soil" with a former farm boy? Perhaps because we are really on "verbal turf."

Rooting around the net, I found the following definition in a Soil Glossary:

"FRIABLE: The term friable refers to a soil property of consistence describing the resistance of a material to deformation or rupture. Consistence refers to the degree of cohesion or adhesion of the soil mass and is strongly affected by the moisture content of the soil. The terms friable and very friable refer to the weak force or very weak force between thumb and forefinger required to just break or deform a 20 mm piece of soil in a moist condition "
(http://vro.dpi.vic.gov.au/dpi/vro/vrosi ... s/gloss_DG)

In layman's terms "friable" soil is easily crumbled. It's structure--not it's value to gardeners and farmers--is inherently weak. In fact from a farmer's perspective, it is because of weak structure that water can penetrate converting a weakness into a strength.

So, Philip, I think we understand each other, and have no real difference about the meaning of "friable." Unless you disagree our fight in the fields has ended before it has begun.

P.S. The opening "proverb" is my own invention which means, "Don't dispute an issue with one who has superior knowledge and competence. Avoid ultracrepidation." Maybe it will catch on.
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Re: FRANGIBLE

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Oct 15, 2012 2:07 pm

One thing several years on this forum has taught me is that people diverge widely in the way they understand and use words. I agree completely with MTC on the book definition, and love his created proverb. Doubtless Philip will let us know whether the south Texas usage is compatible with that definition. I'm again reminded of my professor friend's regular insistence that words have usages, not meanings. In our youth, we are regularly encouraged to figure out meanings from contexts to speed our reading rather than pausing to look them up. (I acknowledge some teachers preferred the dictionary, which caused less confusion.) The guessing practice often resulted in misunderstandings. I had encountered "novice" in my reading and guessed it meant a poor performer. Thus on hearing Iturbe perform, I commented, "that guy is no novice." The adult in the room corrected me that indeed he was new to the concert stage at that time. So I looked the word up. Thus I wonder whether friable is like many others we use in a particular context which develop strong connotations that vary, perhaps widely, from their denotations.
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Re: FRANGIBLE

Postby Slava » Mon Oct 15, 2012 9:30 pm

I have to admit to still not understanding the difference between breakable and frangible. Why are toys breakable and artifacts frangible? Where is the boundary? Value? Sentimentality?

Other than the fact you can't be franged, what's the real difference?
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