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stultiloquy

Printable Version Pronunciation: stêl-til-ê-kwi Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Speaking foolishly, stupidly.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a verb based on an adjective no longer in use: stulty "foolish, stupid", the same adjective underlying stultify "make stupid, render useless". I like this word, though, not only because we are bombarded with stultiloquy on US radio and television these days, but because of its rather lovely adjective, stultiloquent, and noun, stultiloquence.

In Play: Here is a beautiful family of words that allows you to speak bluntly without offending anyone: "Why, Marilyn, that was simply the most stultiloquent speech I've heard in years!" Unless Marilyn subscribes to the alphaDictionary Good Words, she will in all likelihood take the comment as a compliment. I'm sure you'll find far too much use for this word between now and the 2012 elections: "After a long stultiloquy on the advantages of producing helicopter ejection seats, Stu Piddity returned to his place at a table surrounded by incredulous scowling faces."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a gift of the Roman comic playwright, Plautus. It arose in his plays as stultiloquus "speaking foolishly", a compound noun based on stultus "foolish, stupid" + loquus "spoken". Stultus seems to come from the same source as English stand. The original root was stel- "stand, put in place, stay still", as we see in German stellen "stand, place". The best guess as to how this sense came to be "stupid" in Latin is the implication of standing still, not moving forward. Loquus is the past participle of loqui "talk", which came from Proto-Indo-European tolkw-, with the T dropping off after the O and L switched places (metathesis). The result of these changes was lokw-, the correct pronunciation of the root of Latin loqui, loqu-. (Here we have to thank Luke Javan instultiloquently for suggesting the word stultify. However, in the wake of recent US elections, I was irresistibly drawn to the word just below stultify in the Oxford Dictionary: today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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