Printable Version
Pronunciation: pr-vi-s Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Permeable, allowing passage through. 2. Susceptible to reason, logic, or change; approachable, reasonable, persuadable.

Notes: Today's Good Word is so seldom used, many think that impervious is another orphan negative like ineffable, nonplussed, and inert. In point of fact, however, there are pervious and impervious jungles and pervious and impervious arguments. The adverb is the expected perviously and the noun, the equally ordinary perviousness.

In Play: A pervious object allows some element to pass through it: "The curtains were so pervious to light that it was impossible to sleep in the room during the day." Water is another substance that enjoys exploring pervious objects: "They discovered during the first rain that the roof of the new house was quite pervious." But we constantly bump into people who are pervious and impervious to reason: "Janet is a pervious supervisor; approach her calmly and rationally and she'll listen to you."

Word History: Today's word is another thinly disguised borrowing, this time of Latin pervius "passable", derived from per "through" + via "way, passage". Via is now used as a preposition in English (via air mail). It comes from an interesting family referring to motion whose descendants include weigh, away, wagon, wiggle, and trivial. Weigh comes from Old English wegan "to carry, balance in a scale", which also gave us wagon. English way and German Weg "way" are also descendants of the same ancestor. Wiggle, wag, and waggle, too, refer to kinds of motion, and all come from the same root. Trivial is the adjective of trivium (tri+vi[a]+um) "the three ways". This word originally referred to the lower division (grammar, rhetoric, and logic) of the seven arts in medieval universities. The higher division comprised arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.

Dr. Goodword,

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