Saturday, October 22, 2011

lexicon news flash

I used the word dextrous in conversation recently only to have a friend ask what it actually meant (uh oh). I started fumbling around, "Uh, agile... I think?" I croaked. Truth be told, as soon as he asked I started doubting myself. Dexterious, I thought, is certainly a word, but I don't know about this anomaly.  (Incidentally, if one listens to me talk for any length of time, they soon see that my using a word is no guarantee for it existing at all. I so often mispronounce or garble or splice a word that it's a wonder that anyone understands me at all!)

Here's where it gets crazy, y'all. I look up the word dextrous this morning and loandbehold! not only does it exist, but it's spelled and pronounced exactly like I thought it would be... what are the odds?! But then I tried to look up my trusted friend dexterious (which I thought was the alternate spelling) only to find that it does not exist. Egads! Instead there's this random concoctification called dexterous. And that is the world from which dextrous springs and which is a synonym thereunto. Who knew?

So for everyone's enlightenment here is the entire entry for dextrous from my trusty computer New Oxford American Dictionary:

dextrousadjectivevariant spelling of dexterous .dexterous |ˈdekst(ə)rəs| (also dextrous)adjectivedemonstrating neat skill, esp. with the hands dexterous accordion playing.• mentally adroit; clever power users are dexterous at using software, rather than creating it.DERIVATIVESdexterously adverbdexterousness nounORIGIN early 17th cent. (in the sense [mentally adroit, clever] ): from Latin dexter ‘on the right’ -ous .

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