Saturday, September 05, 2009

Downright Nugacious

Sara from Port of Old Mission recently shared the word nugacity with me. She came across it as the name of a free downloadable font for her computer. In the 16th century, it meant a frivolity -- a trifling thing or idea.

It came from a Latin word that meant worthlessness. It also appeared as nugation, nugament, and nugality. Something nugatious is of no importance. In philosophy, nugae were difficult but trivial matters over which a disproportionate amount of time was taken. Nugaemania was an overwhelming attraction to trifling things. A nugator was an empty-headed person; he was nugatorious.

A few other words, not connected to the -nuga- root, also mean frivolous nonsense. Blather came from an Old Norse word that meant devoid of sense. Paralerema was once used as a medical name for delirium; it came from a Greek word meaning to speak or act foolishly. A nonce-word for someone who speaks trivial nonsense was phylarologist, from a Greek word meaning to babble. He or she was guilty of tattering.

I was delighted to learn, as I researched this post, that the word nonsense was once balanced by its opposite, bonsense (good sense).

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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