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A.Word.A.Day--ultima thule

Pronunciation RealAudio

ultima Thule (UL-tuh-muh THOO-lee) noun

1. The northernmost part of the world believed habitable by the ancients.

2. A distant or remote goal or place.

[Latin ultima, farthest, Thule, name of a place.]

"Opportunities? In culture's Ultima Thule? Absolutely, both Clink and Egan affirm." Mike Dunham, Growing Talent Pool Figures in 'Requiem', The Daily News (Anchorage, Alaska), Apr 9, 1999.

"It is much too early, say the experts, to presume Samurai's exile to ultima Thule wherein rust those firecracker Ford Pintos, runaway Audi 5000s and Ralph Nader's Corvairs that were unsafe at any speed." Paul Dean, Safety and the Samurai: Fans Don't Mind a Few Bumps, The Los Angeles Times, Jun 9, 1988.

Known to the ancients as the northern-most region of the habitable world, Thule had been variously identified as one of the Shetland islands, Norway, or Iceland. Today's Thule is in northwest Greenland, within the Arctic Circle.

Incidentally, the name Greenland is ironic, as more than four-fifths of the land is ice-capped. The palindromically named village of Qaanaaq, in the district of Thule, has the distinction of being the northern-most naturally inhabited place on earth.

At least one linguaphile lives in Greenland (with email address ending in gl, the domain code for Greenland), but we don't know if there's one in Thule.

During the rest of this week, we'll look at other words that take their names from faraway places in both fact and fiction. -Anu

X-Bonus

Minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled, ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort. -Charles Dickens, novelist (1812-1870)

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