Printable Version
Pronunciation: mah-jê-græ-fi-yê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: Writer's cramp, scrivener's palsy, graphospasm—cramp resulting from holding a pencil too long.

Notes: Today's word has already fallen off the English vocabulary wagon because it is so rare. If so, we might haul it back up, for it is one word that replaces two: "writer's cramp" and "scrivener's palsy". That is, unless the affliction it names has also been erased from memory by keyboards. It has a sister, mogilalia "tongue-tiedness". Perhaps this word is more relevant today. The adjective is mogigraphic.

In Play: I would like to suggest that this is a better word than "carpal tunnel syndrome" (often pronounced "carpool tunnel syndrome" via folk etymology). It can then replace a three-word phrase that many of us are struggling with: "Constance Noring sits in front of a computer so much of the time, she has developed chronic mogigraphia." We could also apply it to the mental cramp of writer's block, again, replacing two words: "Rhoda Book has mental mogigraphia and hasn't written a novel in seven years."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from a Greek compound, built for the European medical profession just in the 19th century. Apparently, some doctor plugged the root of Greek mogis "with difficulty" into Greek graphe "gloss", added a Greek noun suffix -ia, and launched a new if short-lived word in several European languages. The original Proto-Indo-European word must have had a Fickle S, for we find in Lithuanian smàgus "robust, intensive" and Latvian smags "heavy". In German we find Mühe "fatigue" and in Russian, mogu "I can", both of which might have come from the same PIE word.

Dr. Goodword,

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