Printable Version
Pronunciation: tri-kê-ti-lê-may-ni-ê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: The irresistible urge to pull out your hair.

Notes: Today's Good Word is dedicated to those who think that English doesn't have a word for everything. It is generally used in medicine in reference to a mental disorder but every word is subject to figurative usage and this one is no exception. A person who feels the urge to pull out his or her hair may be a trichotillomaniac or a trichotillomanic. The latter also serves as the adjective for today's word.

In Play: "Pulling out one's hair" is an English idiom meaning to undergo extreme frustration. I am sure all Americans have experienced this urge, especially recently: "Congressional politics, the presidential campaign, the cost of college and housing, the stagnation of wages, and job loss are all behind a rising sense of trichotillomania in the US." We also find ourselves in situations where we need a word much, much longer than nuts: "This crossword puzzle is driving me to trichotillomania!" Nothing like today's word for that situation.

Word History: In Spanish a quiniela is ball game with five players. It also is the word for "football pool". Spanish quiniela is the diminutive of Spanish quina, a word based on French quine, a set of five winning numbers in a game of keno. The French word came from Latin quini "five each", based on the word for "five", quinque. This word is still around today as cinque in Italian, cinq in French, and cinco in Portuguese and Spanish. The original PIE word for "five" was penkwe-, for it shows up in Greek as pente, as in pentagon. The Germanic languages to changed the [p] sound to [f], producing English five and German fünf. We have two other English words related to the meaning "five", one with an Fickle N, finger, and one without, fist. (We can only thank Mary Bouchard for suggesting such a fascinating Good Word and encourage her to shoot for a trifecta by sending us two more equally fascinating.)

Dr. Goodword,

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