• scry •
Pronunciation: skrai • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: To predict the future by gazing into a crystal ball or other visionary object. (For other forms of fortune-telling, click here.)
Notes: Today's Good if peculiar Word is the aphetic form of descry "see, perceive". Aphesis is the omission of the initial sound or syllable of a word. Southerners love aphesis more than grits, as pronunciations like 'possum, 'gator, and 'tater all attest. We can't blame scry on Southerners, though; it has been around since before 1528 (see the History). If you scry, you are a scryer who engages in scrying.
In Play: Those of you uncomfortable performing gastromancy on the borborygms of your friends can try scrying in a piece of crystal: "Ludwig, I can scry what is on your mind in the crystal of this never-empty wine glass." The deformed reflections in crystal lend themselves to the impression that it contains objects from another world. Most people can see through it, though.
Word History: English borrowed the mother of today's word twice from French. Middle English borrowed descry "catch sight of" from Old French descrier "to call, cry out" from des- "from" + crier "to cry". Later on, after the [s] dropped out of the French verb, we borrowed it again as decry "to condemn" from the modern form, décrier. No one is sure where the original Latin word came from. It came to French as crier from Vulgar (spoken) Latin critare, a later corruption of Latin quiritare "to cry out". Some speculate this verb came from quirites, public officers (burgesses) to whom Romans might appeal (cry out?) to in times of need. The root of this word is probably related to query and querulous, supporting this theory. (Today's curious word came from our long-time resource, Dr. Lyn Laboriel, who, I scry, will send us more in the future.)
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