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Apr 7, 2014
This week's theme
Words formed in error

This week's words
belfry
ambage
arrant
sashay
viperine

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

A camera was once a specialized gadget, costing lots of money. Who would have guessed that one day most of us would carry a camera or two in our pockets as part of a smartphone?

That brings us to selfie, a self-portrait taken by a camera phone. Some people have misinterpreted the word as cellphie. You have to admit this interpretation makes sense; after all, it's a picture taken by a cell phone.

While the chance of the spelling cellphie taking over selfie is slim, changes in spelling do happen. This week we'll see five words that had their spellings changed owing to misunderstandings or errors.

belfry

PRONUNCIATION:
(BEL-free)

MEANING:
noun:
1. A bell tower; also the part of a tower where a bell is hung.
2. Head. Usually in the phrase to have bats in the belfry, meaning to be crazy.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Old French berfrei, from High German bergan (to protect or shelter) and Old English frith (peace). Originally the term was berfrei and it was a siege tower or watchtower. Since it had bells, people began to think the term was belfry.
Ultimately from the Indo-European root bhergh- (high), which also gave us iceberg, borough, burg, burglar, bourgeois, fortify, force, bourgeois, inselberg, and sforzando. Earliest documented use: 1300.

USAGE:
"I received a rap on my head accompanied by a deluge of water. I carefully examined my belfry and found out I was not dead."
Jerome A. Greene; Indian War Veterans; Savas Beatie; 2007.

"Lula put her finger to the side of her head and made circles. The international sign for bats in her belfry."
Janet Evanovich; Twelve Sharp; St. Martin's Press; 2006.

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

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The best portion of a good man's life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love. -William Wordsworth, poet (1770-1850)

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