I am now on page five of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. Do you know what that means? Word that start with “ae.” And that also means a lot of, “See [word that starts with “e”].
I was struck by the definition of a fairly common word: aesthete. I do know that people very often use it as a pejorative. But I was still struck with this: “a lover of beautiful things, especially to the scornful exclusion of practicalities.” Ouch! Why is it necessary to throw “scornful” in there? It makes aesthetes sound like monsters!
Other Good Words
There were other good words as well. “Advalorem” has something to do with the value of something for the purpose of an import tax. There was also “afferent,” which has something to do with a nerve impulse toward the inside of the body. So maybe when you touch something, the signal moves in an afferent way? I don’t know. And I don’t have to know. It isn’t today’s word!
Today’s word is a great one: afflatus.
1. inspiration; knowledge or understanding. (Note: other sources tend to include the word “divine” in this definition.)
Date: 17th century.
Origin: it comes from the Latin word afflare, which means “to blow or breath on.”
Example: But [Thomas] Wolfe’s temperament was white-hot, his need to digest experience more urgent, and his style of expression too full of the divine afflatus, to the point where his bombastic writing strikes contemporary tastes as almost unreadable. —Gerald Howard