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Aug 29, 2006
This week's theme
There is a word for it

This week's words
pollicitation
nudiustertian
dandle
phatic
tarantism

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

phatic

Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio phatic (FAT-ik) adjective

Relating to a communication meant to generate an atmosphere of social relationship rather than to convey some information.

[Coined by anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942). From Greek phatos, from phanai (to speak), which also gave us prophet and aphasia (loss of ability to speak or understand language as a result of an injury).]

When you bump into your neighbor on your way out and say, "How are ya?" you're engaging in phatic communion. The idea is not to inquire your neighbor's state of affairs but simply to create a feeling of shared goodwill. Later, at work, when you discuss weather with someone at the water cooler, it's the same idea.

"When I saw the transcript of that G8 conference conversation between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, my first thought was that it read not so much like a conversation between statesmen as the phatic gruntings of a pair of teenage Kevins."
Jane Shilling; Plenty of Chatter Masks a Dearth of Conversation; The Times (London, UK); Jul 21, 2006.

X-Bonus

It seldom happens that any felicity comes so pure as not to be tempered and allayed by some mixture of sorrow. -Miguel de Cervantes, novelist (1547-1616)

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