Tuesday, November 19, 2019

I learn a new word, which leads to other thoughts

Dictionary.com, which I use frequently, includes a "word of the day" every single day (naturally). A few days ago the word of the day was oppidan. I had never heard of it.

oppidan
adjective [op-i-duhn]
of a town; urban.

I think I have a better-than-average vocabulary. I know words like defenestrate and quotidian. I know that the accent on the word indefatigable comes on the third syllable, not the fourth. Oppidan was a new one on me.

My education is sorely lacking in many ways, some more obvious than others, but we won't go there just now.

The Dictionary.com people always explain their word of the day. Here is what they said about oppidan:

Oppidan derives from Latin oppidānus “of a town,” from the noun oppidum “town.” Oppidānus didn’t just describe any town, though: it was used of towns other than Rome, which was referred to as urbs “city,” specifically the capital city of Rome. Due to this distinction from Rome, Latin oppidānus could have the pejorative connotation of “provincial, rustic.” The adjective form of urbs was urbānus “of the city,” source of English urban. Another city-based adjective English gets from Latin is municipal, from mūnicipium, a town whose residents had the rights of Roman citizens but which otherwise governed itself. Oppidan entered English by the mid-1500s.

We've all heard the old saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away".

My dad used to say that an onion a day keeps everyone away.

Here's what I think. I think a new word a day keeps the cobwebs away.

The older I get, the more I think it.

Where I live is not urban, suburban, exurban, or rural. It is certainly not oppidan in the sense of provincial or rustic. I live at the very edge of what Atlanta's city planners refer to as urban sprawl. I like to say that eastern Cherokee County, where I live, is very much like the hem of the garment of the high priest in ancient Israel as described in both the 28th and 39th chapters of the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, because as you go around the hem of the high priest's garment there's a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, and as you go around eastern Cherokee County there's a farm and a subdivision, a farm and a subdivision. We have heavy traffic on our roads, and we have horses and cows between our subdivisions. Well, we don’t, but you get what I’m saying.

Were you familiar with the word oppidan?

Remember, it's a sin to lie in the comments.

14 comments:

  1. I have never heard of oppidan, and I didn't remember the pomegranate and bell on the priests' garment. Interesting! Good to learn something new every day.

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    1. Kathy, looking over all of the comments on this post I find that no one has ever heard of oppidan. Do you think dictionary.com just makes things up?

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  2. I am definitely not familiar with that word but as a middle school teacher I had word of the day on the chalk board every day. So I think word of the day is valuable.

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    1. Red, before my daughter became principal of an elementary school, she was assistant principal for a couple of years at a middle school. It had its challenges certainly but she had a blast with that age-group.

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  3. I did not know the word oppidan. I feel deprived. At the same time I feel like the word was made for me. I live on the very edge of a very small town of about 400 people. I have a neighbor across the street who stays with her daughter for about half the year. The neighbors behind us are also nice. The men works in another town and the woman seldom comes outside. My edge of town is bordered by an almost dry creek. Yep. I'm oppidan

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    1. Emma, do you mean in the sense of provincial and rustic? I certainly don't think of you in those terms. A very small town, to my way of thinking, is a village. Maybe oppidan means village.

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  4. I get those new words too. I did not know the meaning of oppidan. I did find though that many of those words are French, so of course they are not well known here, but there are very good English words meaning the same thing. Like for indefatigable, it is French – it comes from fatigue that means “tired” so indefatigable is someone who does not get tired, is tireless. Tireless is better for English. So why use French words?

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    1. Vagabonde, it is good to hear from you again. French is a Latin-based language like Spanish and Italian, and English is a Teutonic language like German. You are right, tireless is better for English than fatigue. Modern English, which has absorbed words from many languages, includes both century (Latin) and hundred (Teutonic), that mean the same thing.

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  5. I did not know the word oppidan but now I do - thank you! I used to subscribe to a word a day email and I enjoyed it quite a lot. I love the way you describe the location of your neighborhood.

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    1. Bonnie, I know you live in the "Show Me" state of Missouri, and writers are always being encouraged to show and not just tell. So you now have two pictures in your mind that you didn't have before -- a bell and a pomegranate, and a farm and a subdivision!

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  6. I, too, get the Word of the Day. I generally glance at it and, depending on what I'm doing (usually having breakfast) I may or may not pursue it. I completely missed oppidan and, no, I had no idea what it meant although, like almost everyone else, I know the root of urban and municipal. The spillchucker has never heard of oppidan either. Mind you I'd not heard of simony nor of spruik either (the previous two days' words).

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    1. Graham, I love your word spillchucker. It reminds me of hearing an Australian fellow say "soy clown" and I eventually figured out he was saying cyclone.

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  7. I didn't know the word and still don't really.
    I'm a suburban dweller, deeply suburban. Boring but true

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    1. kylie, speaking of Australians (see my reply to Graham above), your answer made me realize that people on three continents have now reported that they didn't know the word oppidan. Knowing that is very comforting in an odd sort of way.

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