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comedo

Printable Version Pronunciation: kah-mê-do Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: True to its misleading appearance, today's Good Word is a funny one though completely unrelated to the word comedy: a comedo is a zit, a blackhead produced by acne, a dot of blackened keratin and sebum that plugs a hair follicle, often causing infection beneath.

Notes: What looks like a combining form in a word like comedo-dramatic is actually the medical term for a pesky speck on the faces of millions of teenagers that leads to widespread embarrassment. In keeping with this family tradition, the plural form of this word is a bit funny, too: comedones, pronounced [kah-mee-do-neez] (click here to hear). If the funny form is too bothersome to remember, comedos is just as acceptable.

In Play: OK, we have plenty of shorter words that mean the same thing, but that doesn't detract from the interesting aspects of this word: "The acne medication invented by Farnsworth had to be removed from the market when it began turning the skin around each comedo blue." I usually try to avoid this level of tastelessness but, since we are using the polite term for "zit", maybe you'll forgive me this once: "Tommy Rott and his cousin, Izzy Dare, have comedo-squeezing contests to see who can squeeze the longest comedo from the pimples on their faces." At least I didn't post a photo.

Word History: As any current or former teenager knows, squeezing a comedo results in a worm-like excretion of waxy keratin and sebum. Apparently, either the Romans or their ancestors believed that comedones are worms that feed on facial skin and they therefore named them comedo "glutton". The word is derived from comedere "to eat up" made up of com-, an intensifier prefix here + edere "to eat". Edere shares its origin with English eat, not to mention German essen and Russian est'. Comedere itself went on to become comer "eat" in Portuguese and Spanish. (We hope that Good Word editor Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira is well past the comedo stage of his life as we thank him for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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