Idiosyncrasy

A few days ago, the OED Word Of The Day was “bullseye”. Since I know what a bullseye is, I wouldn’t normally click to find a definition, but for some reason I did and lo and behold it has about 351 meanings. One of which is that a bullseye is a large, thick piece of convex glass used as a sort of skylight in sailing ships.

Last night, I got to the part in Ahab’s Wife where the heroine is on a ship making use of such a bullseye. Hooray! thought I – I even know what that means, thanks to the OED WOTD. Hooray!

Today the word is “pant” and I was happy to find that the fourth definition of pant was a new one on me – either a bit of a lark or caper, or news / gossip, or a person who has lots of news and gossip and is therefore fun to talk to.

Well I decided to share my pleasure, by writing a quick post on words and stuff, and ran an image search to see what came up. What came up was the above graphic on a website in German. Showing the word “Idiosyncrasy”.

Now the thing is, that I was thinking about the word idiosyncrasy earlier today. I was wondering about its etymology. The “idio” bit I was fairly sure was “self/own” or something like it, the “syn” bit I knew meant “with/together”* and the “cracy”* I decided was probably the same “cracy” that you get in democracy / aristocracy and the like, meaning something along the lines of “rule (of) / ruled (by)”.

(* Because I knew the etymology of synchronicity – ha – which is, more or less, “things happening at the same time”.)

(*Forgive me, I was driving at the time. I mis-spelled it in my head.)

Put it all together and you come up with some sort of word stew. I got to a roundabout before I could come up with anything sensible. Which is just as well, because “-cracy” is in fact “-crasy” which means something like “constitution / contraction” (as in crasis). Which makes a different sort of word stew.

Ahem.

I decided to check Etymology Online and discovered to my gratification that “-syncrasy” means “mixed together / admixture / fusion” (makes sense, think syncretism) which also sort of translates as “temperament/personality (as in mixture of personal characteristics)”.

So idiosyncrasy means you’ve got your own recipe, you’ve got your own personality, your own unique way of reconciling all that is within you. Nice.

Speaking of gratification – guess what Dictionary Online has as wotd?

Idiosyncracy? No WAY! Yes way.

(Ha, got you. That was an old wotd!)

Anyway the point of this post is – words are really cool. And wotds are kind of fun.

PS, wandering around Etymology Online, I found this description for “doofus”: “Student slang, “dolt, idiot, nerd,” by 1960s. “Dictionary of American Slang” says “probably related to doo-doo and goofus,” which isn’t very helpful.” Quite.

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