Printable Version
Pronunciation: dis-kê-mod Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: I know what you're thinking. No, it doesn't mean "to push someone off the toilet", it simply means to inconvenience or cause discomfort to someone—although, come to think of it, wouldn't pushing them off the toilet inconvenience them?

Notes: If you think discommode is mildly facetious, just wait until you read about its family. The adjective adhering to this noun is discommodious; the noun is discommodity. Gives us a new perspective on the commodities we purchase every day, doesn't it? In the 17th and 18th centuries commode could also refer to a tall hat for ladies, consisting of a wire frame covered with silk or lace with lappets hanging down the shoulders.

In Play: The first sense of today's Good Word, "to inconvenience", has to be rather narrowly construed: "Frederick was discommoded by the rock-and-roll group who rehearsed in the apartment above him throughout the night." They also vacuumed at two o'clock in the morning. The second sense has a much wider application: "The rain discommoded the curls of Francine's recently styled hair; she had forgotten to bring her umbrella."

Word History: Today's word has an ambiguity based on the history of commode. This word began referring to a convenience, a movable cupboard that sometimes contained a washbowl. When the washbowl became a chamber pot, the word did not migrate, since this was just as much a convenience if not a greater one. It comes from a Latin derivation, commodus "suitable, convenient, favorable", comprised of com- "(together) with" + modus "measure". The latter comes from a Proto-Indo-European word with a variant vowel: mod-/med- "(appropriate) measure", which we see everywhere in English: measure itself, remedy, medicine, but also modest, modern (from Latin modo "in a certain manner"), and much. This last word comes to us from Old English moste, the past tense of motan "to be permitted". (We should not discommode Kathleen McCune by forgetting to recognize her recommendation of today's rather amusing Good Word. Thanks again, Kathy.)

Dr. Goodword,

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