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December 09, 2016  |  Friday words, 2016-12-09  |  2932 hit(s)

I seem to have picked up the cold that's been slaying the ranks at work, bah. But the words must go on! Albeit with reduced energy.

The new-to-me word today is quite delightful. I'll do this a little backward, which will make sense in a moment. First, what is this thing—that is, what's the name of the collection of spikes found on the tail of a stegosaurus?

Apparently this particular, um, feature of stegosauruses has not been formally labeled. However, in some circles, at least, this collection is called a thagomizer.

Fun-sounding name, eh? That shouldn't be surprising, as it turns out, because the term was invented by the cartoonist Gary Larson in this very panel:

Thagomizer doesn't appear in the usual dictionaries, but it's in Urban Dictionary and in Wikipedia. Baby steps on the way to full lexical respectability.

As an aside, I got all this from an article in Mental Floss about Gary Larson. This is merely one of eleven "twisted" facts! Go read about the others!

For etymology today, we have infant. This one was interesting to me because the word uses a prefix that's quite common (namely, in-), but I'd never grokked that. Anyway, infant is in- as a negation (compare incorrect or incomplete) plus fant, which derives from the Latin verb fari meaning "to speak." It's true that infants can't speak, although as any new parent can attest, they're certainly capable of using noises to communicate, ha.

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