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A.Word.A.Day--talion

Pronunciation: WAV or RealAudio

talion (TAL-ee-uhn) noun

A punishment identical to the offense, as the death penalty for murder.

[Middle English talioun, from Anglo-Norman, from Latin talio, talion-.]

"Retribution (`a life for a life') has been a more popular reason than belief in deterrence since 1981. It is possible that people were more reluctant to express retributive motives a decade earlier, but we have no comparable data. Support for the law of talion has increased over the past 10 years, but far more striking is the marked decrease in the proportion of people who spontaneously give general deterrence as their reason." Ellsworth, Phoebe C., Gross, Samuel R., Hardening of the attitudes: Americans' views on the death penalty, Journal of Social Issues, 22 Jun 94.

Have you ever opened a dictionary to lookup a word only to find yourself distracted by some other word on the page? The definition of that word steers you to yet another some two-hundred odd pages ahead and before you know it your fingers are cavorting as if in a random dance on the leaves of the lexicon. This week's words in AWAD are chosen by following precisely that route. I think Brownian movement (yes, that's an eponym but no more eponyms this week) is the best way to describes what happens when a linguaphile casually opens a dictionary. -Anu

X-Bonus

Always, Sir, set a high value on spontaneous kindness. He whose inclination prompts him to cultivate your friendship of his own accord, will love you more than one whom you have been at pains to attach to you. -Samuel Johnson, British lexicographer (1709-1784)


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