• psephology •
see-fah-lê-jee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: The study of elections and election polling, usually a subfield of sociology.
Notes: For all the political talk shows and articles in the US we rarely hear or read this word. It comes with a full panoply of derived forms: psephological is the adjective, psephologically, the adverb, and a practitioner of this science is a psephologist.
In Play: We should hear more comments like this: "Before tossing his hat into the political ring, Corry Publican talked to several psephologists about the latest psephological forecasts." If talk show hosts should ever turn to experts for their opinions, we will hear them saying things like this: "After losing three runs for Congress, Jerry Mandor decided to retire and teach psephology at the local college."
Word History: Today's Good Word gives us a glimpse into the history of voting. Like ballot, which comes from an Italian word meaning "a little ball", today's word is made up of Greek psephos "pebble, ballot" + log-os "word, idea, thought" + the English noun suffix -y. The Greek word for "pebble" came to mean "vote, ballot" from the use of pebbles in voting in ancient Greece. Greek psephos came from the same original root that emerged in Latin as sabulum "sand" and in the Germanic languages as German Sand and English sand. (Any psephologist worth his salt would tell you that Luciano de Oliveira has earned two votes of thanks: one for suggesting today's Good Word and another for serving years as an editor of this series.
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