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ACERBIC

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ACERBIC

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:44 pm

• acerbic •


Pronunciation: ê-sêr-bik • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Sarcastic, slightly caustic, (figuratively) sharp, cutting or biting as acerbic humor.

Notes: Today's Good Word belongs to a large family of words borrowed from Latin (see Word History). The verb in this particular family is acerbate "to sour or embitter" which, of course, relates it to exacerbate, whose meaning has only slightly shifted. The noun is acerbity [ê-sêr-bê-tee], which can also refer to literal sourness, as the acerbity of a pickle.

In Play: Acerbic usually describes a source of psychological pain to someone, which is why biting and cutting are near synonyms: "One pleasant aspect of the early stages of a US political campaign is that the speeches are not at all as acerbic as they will become months later." Acerbity is often humorous, however: "Michael Moore's acerbic documentaries on the institutions of the US do not please everyone."

Word History: Today's Good Word came to us via French from Latin acerbus "bitter, tart" from acer "sharp", which also went into the making of the Latin word English acrimonious is based. The original root here is Proto-Indo-European ak- "sharp, pointed". Latin acus "needle", which underlies English borrowings like acumen, acuity and acid, also came from this root. We see the same root in Greek akone "whetstone", a tool for sharpening things. In Old English it became agen "ear (of grain)", which died along the way to Modern English. In Old Norse, however, it became eggja "to goad, incite", something a good point can do. English borrowed this word during the Viking invasions of the 9th-10th centuries as the verb egg as in 'to egg someone on'. (We are thankful for the absence of any acerbity in Susan Lister's suggestion that we run this very Good Word.)
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby gailr » Mon Mar 04, 2013 12:11 am

Very interesting word history with this one.
We see the same root in Greek akone "whetstone", a tool for sharpening things
egged me on to look up other -conic words in etymonline for comparison.
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby Slava » Mon Mar 04, 2013 12:54 am

And :?: :?: :?: (an attempt at an ellipsis of 3 question marks). Do you really intend to leave us hanging and begging here? Or do you not wish to share the results of your meanderings?
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby MTC » Mon Mar 04, 2013 7:50 am

... a somewhat acerbic response to gailr's post by Slava.

"Ac" is "the root of all sharpness." Which brings me back to a subject I introduced on a previous post, Sound Symbolism.
"Ac" pronounced "ak" has a sharp, hard, bitter edge. Think acrid. Does the sound "ak" symbolize its meaning?
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:56 am

Sound symbolism has an attractive ring, but there are too many counter examples to make it a general law. Consider the sound ak: actor, acknowledge, acclimate, etc.
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby LukeJavan8 » Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:23 pm

acute: sharp
Acumen, another.
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby gailr » Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:30 pm

Slava wrote:And :?: :?: :?: (an attempt at an ellipsis of 3 question marks). Do you really intend to leave us hanging and begging here? Or do you not wish to share the results of your meanderings?

IIRC, ellipsis was one of the associated words cropping up in my search -- was your attempt above based on searching also, or just serendipity? :wink:
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby Slava » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:38 pm

Serendipity. It wasn't meant to be read as acerbic, either. I was going for humor, but it doesn't seem to have come across that way. :cry: I hope you didn't read it the wrong way.

Serendipity is one of my all-time favorite words, by the way.
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby gailr » Mon Mar 04, 2013 9:09 pm

No, I understood you, Slava. :)
These two I did not expect to find in related words:

ellipse (n.)
1753, from French ellipse (17c.), from Latin ellipsis "ellipse," also, "a falling short, deficit," from Greek elleipsis (see ellipsis). So called because the conic section of the cutting plane makes a smaller angle with the base than does the side of the cone, hence, a "falling short." First applied by Apollonius of Perga (3c. B.C.E.).


hyperbola (n.)
1660s, from Latinized form of Greek hyperbole "extravagance," literally "a throwing beyond" (see hyperbole). Perhaps so called because the inclination of the plane to the base of the cone exceeds that of the side of the cone.
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Mar 05, 2013 12:11 pm

My avatar is back! How I missed the little guy.
Thanks to whoever found him and brought him home.
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:02 pm

LukeJavan8 wrote:My avatar is back! How I missed the little guy.
Thanks to whoever found him and brought him home.



I found out it was saparris of this site, usually with
Audiendus on the 'res diversae' thread writing poetry.
THANKS STEVE
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby saparris » Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:21 pm

You're much welcomed.
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:25 pm

Yours has returned as well, I see.
Welcome home little nubbin.
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby Slava » Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:36 pm

LukeJavan8 wrote:
LukeJavan8 wrote:My avatar is back! How I missed the little guy.
Thanks to whoever found him and brought him home.


I found out it was saparris of this site, usually with
Audiendus on the 'res diversae' thread writing poetry.
THANKS STEVE

One addition to the chain. 'Twere gailr who did the re-sizing.
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Re: ACERBIC

Postby MTC » Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:41 pm

Luke would not get very far
Without his precious avatar
We're happy little nubbin's back
So Luke won't have a heart attack
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