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Pronunciation: shprahk-gê-ful Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: A feeling or sensitivity for language and the correct use of grammar.

Notes: Today's Good and German Word is sometimes spelled with an umlaut over the U, that is, as Sprachgefühl. In German, all nouns, proper and common, are capitalized, so you may encounter this word capitalized in the middle of a sentence. In English, however, capitalization is not required.

In Play: If you subscribe to alphaDictionary's Good Words, you are probably blessed with sprachgefuhl: "People with sprachgefuhl are not only articulate, but are sensitive to the subtle differences between words and how they flow together." Sprachgefuhl can also show up as phonetic and rhythmic beauty: "Shakespeare's plays reflect not only a profound understanding of the human condition but a sprachgefuhl for phrasing and word selection."

Word History: Sprachgefuhl was plucked by linguists part and parcel from Modern German, where Sprache means "language" and Gefühl, "feeling" from the verb fhlen "to feel". Sprache and English speech share the same origin, as do fühlen and feel. Since the Germanic [f] comes from Proto-Indo-European [p], we find in Latin, as expected, a related verb, palpare "to feel, stroke gently", from which English palpable comes. Since we feel first and foremost with our fingers, the Russian used this stem for their word, palec "finger". (We appreciate the sprachgefuhl of Knigel Holmes, who suggested today's touchingly Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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