Printable Version
Pronunciation: gæs-trê-mæn-see Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Telling someone's fortune from the noises of the stomach interpreted as words (a giant leap forward from the use of entrails for the same purpose). 2. Fortune-telling using a clear pot-bellied glass bowl filled with water placed in front of candles (a forerunner of crystal-ball gazing).

Notes: Did you ever wonder what people did before television? Today's word is the name of a popular 17th century after-dinner pastime that declined in the 18th century with the introduction of antacids and the discovery that practitioners of gastromancy were using ventriloquism (gastriloquism?) to deceive their audiences. (Some have suggested that the US Office of Management and Budget still uses it for predicting US budgetary needs.) The adjective and personal noun is gastromantic [gs-tr-mn-tik].

In Play: You will live a short life unless you feed me less and exercise more!Are you getting tired of watching TV after dinner? Then just stay at the table and introduce gastromancy with an off-hand comment like: "I just adored the cabbage, black beans, and sausage, Frederica. Now, let's see what we can predict about tomorrow's market through gastromancy." If you don't want to play, you at least have a more sophisticated term for stomach-rumblings, "After a few beers your stomach is a gastromantic chorale, George. I predict you are in for a long night of heart-burn and indigestion." Finally, we could use it rather like "Gesundheit" after a sneeze: "Gastromancy!" after a gurgle, could mean "Happy digestion!"

Word History: This Good Word is the English version of Greek gastromanteia "divination by the belly" made up of gaster "pot-belly" + mant-eia "power of divination." Gaster may be related to English graze and that which is grazed upon, grass, though the connection is shaky. Manteia, however, is related to Latin mens, mentis "mind, soul, feelings", found in English mental and the suffix -ment. Sanskrit mantar "thinker" and Russian mudryi (from *mond-riji) "wise" are also relatives. For more fortune-telling words, visit Fortune Telling on this website.

Dr. Goodword,

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