Printable Version
Pronunciation: pæb-ê-lêm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Food, something that provides nourishment. 2. Food for thought, intellectual sustenance. 3. Something bland, trite, dull, insipid; pablum.

Notes: No word shows us the spread of LVS more than this word. It became pablum in the common vernacular and this afflicted form has even been adopted by a cereal maker as Pablum (see Word History).

In Play: The first sense of today's Good Word is food for the stomach and mind: "Poetry and music became the pabulum for hippy coffee houses in the 1960s." From here the meaning of this word slid into "insipid food for the mind": "Sara Bellam gets tired of the same old poll-tested pabulum from politicians on the news."

Word History: In Latin today's Good Word simply referred to food or fodder. Latin built this word from the PIE word padh- "to feed, protect". It arrived at the doorstep of Old English as foda "food", which wiggled its way to Modern English as food, fodder, and feed. M-m-m Good!The best guess is that the extended form pabulum came from an instrumental case PIE form, padh-lom. We know that PIE had cases and the instrumental case was marked by -om. Where the L came from is anyone's guess. In 1930 a trio of Canadian pediatricians created a cereal and called it Pablum from the LVS reduction of today's word. Pablum was originally intended to help prevent rickets in infants. Mead Johnson & Co. then packed it with vitamins and minerals, and precooked it so as to be easily digestible by young bodies. (We must now award William Hupy a strong note of thanks—not just pabulum—for submitting today's interesting if rare Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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