Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


A.Word.A.Day

About Us | What's New | Search | Site Map | Contact Us  


Home

Today's Word

Yesterday's Word

Archives

FAQ


Jun 7, 2004
This week's theme
Verbs

This week's words
amerce
deracinate
wamble
embrangle
obtund

Send a gift that
keeps on giving, all year long
A gift subscription of AWAD
It takes less than a minute.
Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share
A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

It appears the verb has been downsized. We've always thought it was indispensable -- try saying anything meaningful without using a verb. But a French writer using the penname of Michel Thaler has done the unthinkable. He's written a 233-page novel Le Train de Nulle Part (The Train From Nowhere) devoid of any verb!

The French have a long tradition of such experiments and wordplay. Writers in the famous group OULIPO (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle: Workshop of Potential Literature) have written entire novels under extreme constraints, for example, without using the letter e. If you think it's easy, try writing a single meaningful paragraph.

While Thaler's feat is commendable, we believe that reports of the verb's demise are greatly exaggerated. Without a verb, that train is getting nowhere. The verbs are all there in the book all right - it's just that they've been given non-speaking roles.

We certainly haven't given up on verbs; on the contrary, we promote them. This week we highlight five unusual verbs, words that bring sentences to life.

amerce

Pronunciation RealAudio

uh-MURS) verb tr.

1. To punish by a fine.
2. To punish by imposing a penalty in an arbitrary manner.

[From Middle English amercy, from Anglo-French amercier (to fine), from Old French a merci (at one's mercy), from Latin merces (wages). Other words derived from the same root are commerce, mercenary, market, merchant, and mercy.]

See more usage examples of amerce in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

"Uncouth though he was, (Geoffroi) le Brun was at least more sophisticated an operator than some of his neighbours. Most of them simply mulcted, amerced, plundered, ravaged, and otherwise terrified their trembling feudal subordinates. Le Brun, advised by a monk skilled in public relations, proceeded more cautiously. He wrote them long letters explaining why what he did was entirely necessary and in their best interests. Only then did he mulct, amerce, plunder, ravage and otherwise terrify them."
Smallweed; The Guardian (London, UK); Jan 28, 1995.

"But only three in all God's universe
Have heard this word thou hast said, -- Himself, beside
Thee speaking, and me listening! and replied
One of us ... that was God, ... and laid the curse
So darkly on my eyelids, as to amerce
My sight from seeing thee."
Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Sonnets From the Portuguese; 19th C.

-Anu Garg

X-Bonus

If you came and you found a strange man... teaching your kids to punch each other, or trying to sell them all kinds of products, you'd kick him right out of the house, but here you are; you come in and the TV is on, and you don't think twice about it. -Jerome Singer, psychology professor

The Book:
A Word A Day is now a book. Find it in your local bookstore or at Amazon.com.

"A delightful, quirky collection." -The New York Times

Join Us:
Subscribe to A.Word.A.Day to receive it in your mailbox every day.

Anu on Words:
Writer Magazine
Globe & Mail 

Interact:

Bulletin board
AWADtalk

Moderated Chat
AWADchat

Readers' Voice
AWADmail

Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 2014 Wordsmith