Words, Words, Words (Again) (4)

Obviously, when it comes to words, I never quit. They fascinate me no end. So here are some more:

Precedent can be pronounced two different ways with two different meanings. When pronounced pree-SEE-dent, it means something that came before.  When pronounced PRESS-eh-dent, it means something done or said that may serve as an example or rule to authorize or justify a subsequent act of the same or an analogous kind. The word comes from the Latin “praecedere” and, later, the French “preceder,” both meaning to come before.

Next: mordant. It means incisive or keen and is often used to describe a sense of humor or wit. It comes from the French word “mordant,” which is the present participle of the verb “mordre,” to bite.

Now flummox. The word refers to a state of confusion resulting from failure. The word intrigues me because its origin is unknown. The best guess is that it comes from the word “flummock,” a mid-nineteenth century British verb meaning to make untidy or confuse.

That brings us to slog. Merriam-Webster says the origin of the word is unknown. It may be a variant of “slug,” meaning to remain idle out of laziness. The earliest recorded occurrence of the word meaning “hit hard,” probably a variant of slug, “to strike,” came in 1824; the first occurrence of its use to mean “walk doggedly” was recorded 1872.

Next: limbo. According to Oxford Languages, the word means the supposed abode of the souls of unbaptized infants and of the just who died before Christ’s coming. I remember it from my childhood indoctrination in Catholicism to mean the eternal resting place for souls that were inadmissible to heaven but not condemned to hell. The word is used in ordinary conversation to refer to being stuck in a forgotten or ignored place, state, or situation. The origin of the word is the Latin from the medieval phrase “in limbo,” from the Latin word “limbus,” meaning hem, border, or limbo.

Now null.  It means having no legal or binding force, being invalid, or having or being associated with the value zero. The word’s origin is the Latin “nullus” meaning none. Its most common use that I am aware of is “null and void,” meaning having no force, binding power, or validity.

That’s enough for one day.

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