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Mar 19, 2018
This week’s theme
Words to describe people

This week’s words
ambivalent
trencherman
stridulant
mondain
artless

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Imagine you’re running a store that sells things by weight: sugar, rice, iPhones, whatever. You have only a few weights for your weighing scales. It would be difficult to give precise amounts. Sure, there may be times when you’re able to improvise. Put a weight on the left pan, another on the right pan, etc., in the style of logic puzzles, but it wouldn’t be very efficient (and long lines at your store might cause some customers to go the store next door that has a better assortment of weights and buy an Android phone instead.)

It’s something similar with words. With a limited set of words, you could say that Jane is having contradictory thoughts about marrying John or you could efficiently and precisely use today’s word and say that she is ambivalent.

The richer our vocabulary, the better we can convey our thoughts with nuance and precision. This week we’ll see five nouns and adjectives to describe people.

ambivalent

PRONUNCIATION:
(am-BIV-uh-luhnt)

MEANING:
adjective: Having contradictory thoughts about something or someone.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin ambi- (both) + valent (having a valence), from Latin valere (to be strong). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wal- (to be strong) that also gave us valiant, avail, valor, value, wieldy, countervail, valence, valetudinarian, and valorize. Earliest documented use: 1916. Being polyvalent is not an extreme version of ambivalent.

USAGE:
“She was ambivalent in her feelings, alternating between a joyful acceptance and an anxious resentment.”
Francis King; Prodigies; Arcadia Books; 2013.

See more usage examples of ambivalent in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
It's best to give while your hand is still warm. -Philip Roth, novelist (b. 19 Mar 1933)

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