• aberrant •
Pronunciation: æb-êr-ênt, ê-ber-ênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Deviating from the norm, abnormal, negatively anomalous.
Notes: Today's Good Word comes from a verb, aberrate, which is slowly fading into the past. It leaves behind a rich family of derivations, though, including today's word with its two nouns aberrance and aberrancy, and an adverb aberrantly. Two other offspring, aberrated and aberration, are also still around. The accent originally fell on the second syllable, [ê-ber-ênt], a pronunciation still alive in the UK. In the US today, however, accent has migrated to the initial syllable: [æb-êr-ênt]. Don't forget: one B, two Rs.
In Play: Today's word usually bears a slightly negative connotation; aberrance is an undesirable departure from the normal: "Glen maintains an aberrant interpretation of traffic signs as suggestions rather than rules." It requires apologies like this: "In today's world there is nothing aberrant in a grandfather's learning how to use a computer from his four-year-old grandson."
Word History: The verb from which today's Good Word derives, aberrate, came from Latin aberratus "strayed", the past participle of aberarre "to wander away, go astray". This verb comprises ab "(away) from" + errare "to wander, to stray". Errare came into Old French as errere "go astray, be in error", a word English borrowed as err "make a mistake". The semantically related noun, error, however, was taken directly from Latin error "wandering off, making a mistake". In Old English the same word that gave Latin errare turned up as ierre "angry". Today that word is ire. Apparently our ancestors considered losing our temper a matter of losing our normal way, wandering off from our senses. (Of course, it is not at all aberrant of us to thank the mysterious Klimt, an active Lexiterian in the Alpha Agora, for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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