Wednesday, June 30, 2010

From The Left: Defenestration

defenestration: dee-FEN-uh-stray-shen, noun; 1) the act of throwing a thing or person out of a window; 2) an unusually swift dismissal or sudden expulsion (as from a political party or office), as in the recent fate of former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.  Author's note: Readers who remember their junior high French may recall that "ferme le fenetre" means "close the window".  The word in question, however, is from Latin (French's Romance Language sister.)  I remember when I first learned this word I was immediately seized with an irrational fondness for it, perhaps due to the perspicacity with which it describes the act and the obscurity of the derivation itself.  The few times I've encountered it since, I realize part of the term's enjoyment for me is the description that accompanies it in various dictionaries.  For instance, "The Diabolical Dictionary of Modern English" defines it as a "... rapid descent unencumbered by an elevator."  Peter Bowler adds that "if the word were not needed to describe the act, the act would need to be performed to justify the word," in his classic "The Superior Person's Book of Words."