Monday, October 11, 2010

A Word for When the Dust Settles

A strange and wonderful words hat trick: a single term that can mean three different things, all of them pinpoint specific.
pulveratricious (pull-ver-uh-TRISH-us) — adjective: 1. (of birds) nesting on the ground. 2. dust-colored. 3. covered with dust.
The word comes from the Latin pulvis, meaning “dust,” which also gives us the English pulverize and which is related the words pollen and polenta. With birds, pulveratricious refers to the habits of certain birds that wallow in dust as a means of cleaning or maintaining their feathers. As William R. Long notes, such a bird would be called a pulveratrix, though the term is unfortunately not often used anymore despite how well it describes these birds’ habits. Pulveratricious doesn’t show up in most dictionaries, but Wiktionary at least has it, though only with the bird-related definition. It’s cited in various placed online, however, to also mean “dust-colored,” which is logical since that’s how anything would if it played in dust all day. Finally, it’s noted even still fewer places that it can just mean “covered with dust,” which kind of also means “dust-colored,” depending on how you look at it.

I think the take-away here is that when you’re eating polenta, you’re really just eating dust. Well, that’s what I took away. Now, to sing us out, the lovely and incomparable Pulveratricious Springfield.

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