Printable Version
Pronunciation: fi-sê-ling-gwêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Having a forked tongue.

Notes: Trust me!Here is a Good Word that anyone knowing the Native American expression "to speak with a forked tongue" can have fun with. The adverb is fissilingually, and the world is just waiting for someone to invent the nouns fissilinguist and fissilinguistics. I'll bet you know their meaning immediately. OK, let's see how to play with this extremely Good if widely ignored Word.

In Play: Today's Good Word offers several ways of expressing frustration in the presence of others without offending anyone. First out, you can truthfully (!) say things like: "Fissilingually speaking, Marjorie, I think your new boyfriend is just wonderful." In other words, you truthfully admit that you are speaking with a forked tongue. Just make sure no dictionary is in the room and you can say: "Lucinda, I find all you say positively fissilingual."

Word History: Today's word is used in zoology and medicine to refer to reptiles whose tongues have a forked tip, such as snakes and some lizards. It is a Latin compound made up of fissus "split", the past participle of findere "to split" + lingua "tongue, speech" . Fissus, as you may well have guessed, is the root of English fissure. The root of findere is Proto-Indo-European bheid- "split" with what we call a Fickle N, an N that comes and goes in its various forms for reasons that elude us. The N avoided the Germanic languages in this case so we find the same root in German beißen "bite" and English bite. Lingua, of course, went on to become French langue "tongue, language", which English borrowed with a suffix for its language. The word for "tongue" often doubles for "language". Russian yazyk and Hebrew lashon are two other examples having both meanings.

Dr. Goodword,

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