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Mar 21, 2011
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Miscellaneous words

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Anyone who cancels an A.Word.A.Day subscription receives a brief feedback form. The number one reason for cancellations is information overload. I understand. We all get too much email, and the number of messages we receive isn't going down with time. That's why back in 2000 we reduced the frequency from seven to five words a week.

Some of the reasons for dropping the subscription are a little more offbeat. Here are a few comments from the exit survey:

"My girlfriend subscribed me to your email service and we have subsequently split up. As much as I enjoy your emails each day, they remind me of her."

"Emails were sent too early in the am and disturbing my sleep."
[Apparently this subscriber has his smartphone alert him every time an email pops up.]

"My mom made me subscribe, but I'm unsubscribing because I'm angry at her. It's nothing against Wordsmith. Wordsmith is actually very fun. I'm just being a rebel with her."

Unfortunately, we can't do much for those ex-subscribers and ex-girlfriends, but others are more manageable. There are some who say that they want words to be more useful.

The way I look at it, all words are useful, as shown by their use in current newspapers. But I get it. Those readers want words that they may come across more often, yet are somewhat unfamiliar, words such as, invidious, profligate, and exiguous.

This week we'll feature a few miscellaneous words that could be considered more employable by those readers. As for the rest of you, even if you know these words, their etymologies may be something you'll enjoy.

And don't wait for the exit survey to tell us what you like or don't like. Send your comments any time to (words at wordsmith.org).


(YOO-zuh-fruhkt, -suh-)

noun: The right to use and enjoy another's property without destroying it.

From Latin ususfructus, from usus et fructus (use and enjoyment). Earliest documented use: 1646.

"It is currently in the process of purchasing perpetual usufruct rights to a number of plots."
Budlex Prepares for Large Residential Project; Warsaw Business Journal (Poland); Jan 17, 2011.

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

When I go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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