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Dec 13, 2010
This week's theme
Words made with combining forms

This week's words
exogamy
ventifact
tautology
leptorrhine
ontology

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

One of the joys of walking a dog is the company they attract. On my morning walk with Flower (see 1, 2), I meet many people. While solitary walkers pass by with a nod, those with dogs are pulled together by their canine friends wanting to say hello to each other. The result is I know most of the dog people in the neighborhood.

The other day I met an elderly woman walking her mutt. I don't remember her name now, but I'll never forget her dog's: Theo. I thought it was an unusual name for a dog (from Greek theo- : god, the combining form that appears in theophany, theogony, and theomania). When I asked her if there was a story behind the name, she said, "Well, I'm dyslexic." I had to laugh.

Well, you don't have to be dyslexic to name your dog Theo, but if you do want to have an excuse to choose a name, some of the combining forms that make this week's words may help: exo- (outside), venti- (wind), tauto- (same), lepto- (thin), and onto- (being).

What are combining forms? You can think of them as the Legos of language. As the name indicates, a combining form is a linguistic atom that occurs only in combination with some other form which could be a word, another combining form, or an affix (unlike a combining form, an affix can't attach to another affix).

exogamy

PRONUNCIATION:
(ek-SOG-uh-mee)

MEANING:
noun: Marriage outside one's tribe or a similar social unit.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Greek exo- (outside) + -gamy (marriage). First recorded use: 1865. The opposite is endogamy.

USAGE:
"Human beings from very early on came to appreciate the importance of exogamy as a way to avoid the ill-effects of inbreeding."
James W. Ceaser; My Goodness, Your Badness; Weekly Standard (Washington, DC); Jun 2, 2008.

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

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Every man's work, whether it be literature, or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself. -Samuel Butler, writer (1835-1902)

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