Saturday, January 3, 2009

Adult Education, So to Speak

So it has begun: A new alphabetical word-of-the-week cycle. The last one ended in December with the all-too appropriate gem of a word, epeolatry. This second one shall begin on a word that itself is not especially wondrous but simply captured my attention.
adulterine (uh-DULT-er-EEN) — adjective: 1. characterized by adulteration, spurious. 2. unauthorized by law, illegal. 3. born of adultery. noun: 1. a person born of adulterous union.
The final definition — which, notably, is the only one not appearing in the American Heritage Dictionary entry for the word — is the one that grabs my attention. I can’t imagine how invaluable this word will be at my high school reunion. Also, I feel I should note that it sounds like a name with which some unfortunate backwoods woman might be cursed. (“Hey Ma, tell me again whyfor my name is ‘Adulterine’”?)

Frank McCourt’s Depraved and Insulting English notes that the distinction between an adulterine and a bastard is important: While a bastard’s parents are simply not married, an adulterine’s parents are married — but specifically not to each other. McCourt encourages us all to confer adulterine with gandermooner (a man who chases women during the month after his wife has given birth), uzzard (a third-generation bastard), wetewold (an understanding cuckold), and yaldson (the son of a prostitute). Yes, we English-speakers have words for all the things that are important to us.

Previous words worth knowing:

1 comment:

  1. I think "adulterine" sounds like a kind of drug, or maybe a cleaning product.