Word of The Day for Monday, February 14, 2011


frit•i•nan•cy (FRIT-i-nan-see)  n

a chirping or creaking, as of a cricket

sometime before 1914; from Latin  fritinnire "to twitter", imitative of the rattle of dice

Synonyms: chirping, twittering
Related Words: fritillary

Sentence Examples:
• And from midst the teeming cedars that clung to the east- and west-side scarps, the clicking fritinancy of a million cicadas burst in shrill unison upon the humid night. -And the Ass Saw the Angel, Nick Cave

• Yet there comes a time in the passing of the summer when the youngsters are taught, or learn through necessity, to forage for themselves and cease their fritinancy. Then the thickets are strangely silent. -Wild pastures, Winthrop Packard

• Here in the United States the worship of Woman is carried to ludicrous lengths. . . . And perhaps in these days when the hens hold conventions and their fritinancy disturbs the ears of thoughtful men, it may not be superfluous to iterate the old truth that woman is physically, mentally and morally inferior to man.  -Steeplejack, James Huneker

Why This Word:

Few words could be rarer than this exotic creation by a master of neologisms, the physician and author Sir Thomas Browne, who is at number 69 in the list of most quoted authors in the Oxford English Dictionary. Browne — whom the English writer Philip Howard recently described as “a polysyllabic old quack” — invented it in his vast encyclopaedic work of 1646, Pseudodoxia Epidemica. This attempted to refute many of the errors and superstitions of his age, but has been ridiculed since for its own many errors.
Browne spelled his creation fritiniancy and used it for the sounds of insects (“The note or fritiniancy [of the Cicada] is far more shrill then that of the Locust”). He took it from the Latin fritinni-re, to twitter or chirp. The Oxford English Dictionary, in an entry dated 1898, prefers fritiniency, but notes that “modern dictionaries” prefer fritinancy. Today’s modern dictionaries don’t include it but the very few authors who have borrowed it have indeed mostly used that spelling. This is a rare sighting:
“The native thought of mankind is gratitude. The most significant noise of earth is the singing of birds,” said the professor with determination. “Fritinancy,” declared the young man beside the fire. “What’s that?” said the professor. “I said fritinancy, which is the whimper of gnats and the buzzing of flies.” “You’re talking nonsense.”
-Poet’s Pub, by Eric Linklater, 1929

Sources: Webster's, World Wide Words

Word-E: A Word-A-Day

No comments:

Post a Comment