• pabulum •
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. 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.)
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