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congeries

Printable Version Pronunciation: kahn-jê-rees Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, singular

Meaning: A disparate if not disheveled collection of things, a confused mass of dissimilar objects.

Notes: I like 'curve' words like today's Good Word. In baseball, a curve ball is a pitcher's throw that curves, that isn't what it seems to be to the batter. It is used today to indicate a misdirection. So, a 'curve' word is one that isn't what it seems to be. Contumely "arrogant rudeness" is one of my favorites, a noun that seems to be an adverb. Congeries seems to be a plural noun but it isn't; it is singular though it may be used unchanged in the plural. New York is a congeries of different cultures, but then all big cities are congeries of cultures.

In Play: Any time you need a lovely word for a salmagundi of things, think of congeries: "Gladys Friday left a congeries of unfinished tasks on my desk and Noam Knott refuses to help me even sort them out." No matter how difficult it is, remember to use a singular verb with this noun unless you really mean more than one congeries: "When I first arrived on the job here, departments were just congeries of unrelated jobs carried out by a confused and unfocused staff."

Word History: Today's Good Word simply is Latin congeries "a heap, pile", derived from congerere "to bring together, to heap up", comprising com- "(together) with" + gerere "to bring, carry". We are not sure where the root of gerere came from, but we know where it went. The past participle of congerere is congestus "brought together, piled up", the source of English congest and congestion. Without the prefix, the past participle of the root, gerere, is gestus "carried, pregnant", the root of the English borrowing gestate. Gesture and gesticulate come from Latin words also based on this root. They originally referred to posture, the way Romans carried themselves. (It is long past due that I thank the valiant editors of the Good Word series, Paul Ogden, Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, and Mary Jane Stoneburg for all their efforts to put my style at best. The responsibility for any remaining errors, of course, lies solely at my feet.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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