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Sep 19, 2011
This week's theme
Words about books

This week's words
vade mecum
enchiridion
roman-fleuve
chapbook
omnibus

vade mecum
Ladies' Vade Mecum
"Useful in repairing lost beauty"

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Though just a few ounces of paper and ink, books can be threatening to some. Governments try to ban them. Religious leaders try to shield their followers from them.

Of course, it's not the container, it's what's in them -- the ideas -- that frightens those in power. A good gauge of a free society is the freedom it enjoys to publish and read a book, even one some people don't agree with.

As an antidote to the banning of books, Banned Books Week is celebrated in the US every year. This year it's Sep 24 - Oct 1. Does your country observe a Banned Books Week? If not, why not start one yourself?

To mark this week we'll feature five words to describe various forms of books. For previous years of words featured in A.Word.A.Day for the Banned Books Week, see here and here.

vade mecum

PRONUNCIATION:
(VAY/VAH-dee MEE/MAY-kuhm)

MEANING:
noun: A book for ready reference, such as a manual or guidebook.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin vade mecum (go with me), from vadere (to go) + me (me) + cum (with). Earliest documented use: 1629.

NOTES:
An iPad may serve as the modern vade mecum, but in earlier times there was no Wi-Fi with easy access to reference material. A moneylender may have had to carry a book of interest tables, a doctor a book of treatments, and so on. A vade mecum was often folded like an accordion or a map and suspended from the belt or girdle.

USAGE:
"The U.S. Senate, over which Dallas presided, ordered twelve thousand copies of Hickey's pro-slavery vade mecum."
Jill Lepore; The Commandments; The New Yorker; Jan 17, 2011.

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

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? -Alexander Solzhenitsyn, novelist, Nobel laureate (1918-2008)

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