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Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Nov 17, 2005 12:02 am

• amok •

Pronunciation: ê-mêk Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective & Adverb

Meaning: 1. In a highly frenzied, violent state. 2. Out of control, in chaos.

Notes: This word should be spelled amok, as you see above, but so many people spell it amuck that this misspelling is now widely accepted in the US (elsewhere amok seems preferred). As an adjective, it may only be used in the predicate of a sentence. We may say, "The meeting was completely amok," but we may NOT speak of "the amok meeting". This adjective also cannot be compared, though it may be used 'as is' as an adverb: "The meeting went amok."

In Play: Today's Good Word still retains its sense of violence: "The bee that flew up her dress caused Bernice to run amok and do considerable damage to herself and the merchandise in the crystal store." It also has the less violent sense of simply being out of control or a mess: "Your tax records are totally amok; I don't know if I can help you."

Word History: Today's word has undergone 'folk etymology'. Folk etymology is the reconstruction of a borrowed word to make it more compatible with native words. In this case, the familiar word muck replaced mok in the Malay word, resulting in a more "English" term "amuck," similar to adverb-adjectives like aboard, aglow, adrift.
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Postby tcward » Thu Nov 17, 2005 2:24 pm

How bizarre. I was just going to suggest this word last night, after eating lunch at Zaxby's and reading the camp sign for fictional "Camp Run-A-Muck"...

I didn't get around to it last night and was going to do it today, and here it is!


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Postby M. Henri Day » Sat Nov 19, 2005 1:56 pm

When I first saw this word, I thought it was meant to be our dear doctor's contribution to a brief biographical sketch of the recently dismissed New York Times reporter and Irvin Lewis Libby confidant, Miss Run-amok herself, Judith Miller. Alas, this colporteuse of warmonger fantasies is not mentioned with a word in the above. What is perhaps of more consequence is that in Dr Goodword's «Word History», the Malay origins of the term are only very briefly adumbrated :

muck replaced mok in the Malay word.

Douglas Harper, however, is good enough to provide more detail :

... in phrase to run amok first recorded 1672, from Malay amuk "attacking furiously." Earlier the word was used as a noun or adj. meaning "a frenzied Malay," originally in the Port. form amouco or amuco.

"There are some of them [the Javanese] who ... go out into the streets, and kill as many persons as they meet. ... These are called Amuco." ["The Book of Duarte Barbosa: An Account of the Countries Bordering on the Indian Ocean and Their Inhabitants," c.1516, Eng. transl.]


PS : I don't know about the print edition of the Times, but the on-line edition, contrary to what Mr Lindorff writes, does in fact offer links to some very good cartoonists....

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Postby gailr » Sat Nov 19, 2005 8:50 pm

Amok, like berserk, can be reduced to describing both morally delinquent young people and, interestingly, the fans at sporting events.

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Postby Slava » Tue Sep 03, 2013 9:51 am

As amok has come up in the new berserk thread, I thought I'd resurrect this treatment.

I'll add to it, too. There was a Star Trek episode titled "Amok Time". Spock quite literally goes amok, in the sense of a murderous, uncontrollable rage.
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Postby Pepshort » Tue Sep 03, 2013 10:02 pm

.. in phrase to run amok first recorded 1672, from Malay amuk "attacking furiously." Earlier the word was used as a noun or adj. meaning "a frenzied Malay," originally in the Port. form amouco or amuco."

Perhaps there's a connection of the Malay amuk ('attacking furiously') to the Hebrew infinitive l'hakot -- to hit or strike. See Ex. 21:18 hikah - and strikes Ex. 21:19 makeh - the one who struck Ex.21:20 yakeh -- if a man shall strike And in Num. 20:11 va'yach -- (and Moses raised his arm) and struck (the rock)

A shallow comparison, you say? Au contraire; 'amok' in Nehemiah 12:7 : deep :)
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:48 pm

And some words a bit closer when you omit the vowels. Hebrew does that all the time to itself!

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