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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:14 am

• avuncular •

Pronunciation: ê-vêng-kjê-lêr • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Uncle-like in being kind and indulgent. 2. Related to uncles in other ways.

Notes: You are usually safe in adverbializing adjectives ending on the suffix -ar and this word is no exception: avuncularly. This suffix also usually attracts the suffix -ity in forming a noun: avuncularity. Wouldn't this word be much easier to remember without the initial av-, just uncular? The Word History will explain why this cannot be.

In Play: To be avuncular, you must be a mature, temperate, middle-aged man or someone who behaves like such a man: " Duane Pipes's attitude toward his research assistant remained avuncular despite her best efforts." Of course, even direct avuncularity can be tested: "Eugene Oregon was less avuncular toward his niece when she arrayed three tattoos across her shoulders and added sixteen metal rings to various parts of her head."

Word History: Today's word comes from Latin avunculus "maternal uncle, mother's brother", originally the diminutive of avus "grandfather". As a matter of fact, English uncle comes from the same word after a few centuries of French smoothing. This word is today oncle in French; English just modified the vowel a bit. The Latin word for "daddy", atta, a salutation for older men, was combined with avus "grandfather" to create atavus "ancestor". French added the suffix -isme to the stem of this word to create atavisme "a throwback", an individual who exhibits genetic traits that have not emerged for several generations. Yep, English grabbed that one, too, and just dropped the final E: atavism.
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Postby uncronopio » Thu Mar 05, 2009 5:01 pm

While reading The Economist I came across King Abdullah's title: 'The avuncular Custodian of the Holy Places'.
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Postby skinem » Fri Mar 06, 2009 3:23 am

As an uncle 16 times over, I think I have this one down.

As an uncle who has lived in Eugene, OR, the city would be very avuncular to one with multiple tattoos and piercings...

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Postby Perry » Fri Mar 06, 2009 9:46 pm

I must have something of the uncle in my demeanor. When I was in college 37 years ago, I came home one day to by greeted by my roommate as "Uncle Perry!". Interesting, as he was at least 6 months older than I.
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