• perpendicular •
pêr-pin-dik-yê-lêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Orthogonal (at right angles) to a plane, plumb, perfectly vertical. 2. (US slang): Alive, still kicking, upright.
Notes: Today's Good Word is creeping into the general vocabulary from the mathematical dialect. "I'm still perpendicular" can be a reply from an older person to, "How are you?" The adverb to this adjective is the expected perpendicularly and the noun, perpendicularity.
In Play: Perpendicular names a relationship of one line to another: "We need to be sure the walls are perpendicular to the floor." However, this word is not immune to hyperbole: "The cottages clung precariously to a virtually perpendicular hillside." In the US this word has been stretched even further. The response to the question, "Did Bud Light drink too much at the party?" might well be, "He was still perpendicular when I left."
Word History: The origin of today's Good Word is uncertain though several speculations have been proposed. It may be related to corruption in the sense of "anger, temper" from the 1790s. It could also be a mispronunciation of Scots English carnaptious "ill-tempered, cantankerous" under the influence of snip(py) or nip. The origin of carnaptious is as much a mystery as that of conniption, probably an misguided upgrade of captious in the sense of "cavilling, fault-finding". (Today's Good Word comes from Dr. Goodword, a US southerner who grew up with a mother and aunts who enjoyed this word immensely.)