Printable Version
Pronunciation: nahn-plês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To bewilder, perplex, to take aback, to put at a complete loss for words. (Indeed!)

Notes: You might think that anything nonplus would be a minus, but language is not mathematics, thank heavens. To nonplus someone is to bring up nothing in their mind, a perfect zero. If you enjoy doubling your consonants when adding suffixes, you will enjoy this Good Word: nonplusses, nonplussed, nonplussing. However, it you think this a wasteful habit, don't do it: nonpluses, nonplused, nonplused work just as well in the US.

In Play: Certainly we have all had that moment when we are so completely taken aback by a comment or situation that nothing comes to our mind: "When the guy at the fair guessed my weight, I was completely nonplussed—I thought I looked thinner in my new girdle!" You have to be nonplussed when something like this happens to you: "When, after 25 years of culinary servitude, Phyllis Glass told her hubby to cook his own supper, he was totally nonplussed."

Word History: This word originated as something like pel-/ple- 6,000 years ago in what linguists presume was a predecessor (proto-) language. We call it Proto-Indo-European, since most of the languages of India and Europe come from it. Words change a lot over so much time, and the sound [p] consistently changed to [f] in getting to English. So what comes up in Latin as plus, came to English as full. The Latin word for "full", plenus, comes from the same source. The noun for this adjective, plenitas "fullness", became plente in Old French and, while it was there, English borrowed it as plenty. By the way, there was a variant of the PIE root, pol-, which ended up as English folk, probably because it refers to everybody, the full complement of a people.

Dr. Goodword,

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