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Jul 15, 2013
This week's theme
Words that have many unrelated meanings

This week's words
mensal
sconce
mortify
cloaca
confabulate

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Science-fiction author Robert Heinlein once said, "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

While the world has become so complex we do need specialists, there's a point to Heinlein's assertion. Not a bad idea to be able to do a whole bunch of things, even if not to perfection.

If words were to heed Heinlein's advice, the word 'set' would win the prize. It's listed with more than 400 definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary. The words featured in this week's A.Word.A.Day are not as multi-faceted, but they do have multiple meanings.

mensal

PRONUNCIATION:
(MEN-suhl)

MEANING:
adjective:
1. Monthly.
2. Relating to the table.

ETYMOLOGY:
For 1: From Latin mensis (month). Earliest documented use: 1475.
For 2: From Latin mensa (table). Earliest documented use: 1440.

USAGE:
"I refer to your addled account of an exchange between you and Mike Butler relative to mensal checks from home."
John Lewis-Stempel; Fatherhood; Simon & Schuster; 2001.

"Daphne was good at mensal ceremony; her each gesture and nibble, each sip from her tea bowl, was as graceful as a small ballet."
John C. Wright; The Golden Age; Tor Books; 2003.

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

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know. -Ernest Hemingway, author and journalist, Nobel laureate (1899-1961)

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