• phatic •
fæ-dik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Related to perfunctory speech used for social or emotional reasons rather than communication, e.g. Hello, Darn!, Good-bye.
Notes: This word only came into being only in1923 and has not had a chance to produce a derivational family. We do have an adverb, phatically. We should also be able to use this adjective as a noun, a phatic, referring to a phatic expression, but currently no dictionary lists this noun.
In Play: We don't have much leeway in the use of today's Good Word, but we do find places in ordinary conversation for it: "Corey Ander is a taciturn fellow. He doesn't say much beyond the occasional phatic word or two." We can use this term to question someone's motivation for speaking: "When you wish me a good day, are you speaking phatically or are you serious in your wish?"
Word History: Phatic was introduced by B. Malinsky in C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards's The Meaning of Meaning (1923), p. 478. Malinsky derived his word from phatos, the past participle of Greek phanai "to speak". It is related to phasia "speech", as in aphasia "loss of speech" and paraphasia "speaking in jumbled sentences". With the suffix -n, we see this root again in Greek phone "saying, speech", found in the English borrowings phonetics and telephone, the Greek for "distant speaking". The same PIE root (bha- "to speak") turned up in Latin as fari "to speak". The present participle of this word was fan(t)s "speaking". The negative of this word was in-fan(t)s "not speaking". Latin had another word based on this root, fama "talk, fame", whence English fame. (A nonphatic "thank you" goes out to Lew Jury, who recommended today's almost vanished Good Word.)
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