Monday, February 27, 2006

Today's Word: Stilliform

Lots of talk here in sunny San Diego about heavy rain on the way. I'm reminded of one of the most beautiful words in the English language: stilliform, or "drop-shaped." It's from Latin stilla, "drop," and a relative of the drippy words distill (to "drip down") and instill, "to put in drop by drop" -- or as the OED puts it, "To introduce (some immaterial principle, notion, feeling, or quality) little by little into the mind, soul, heart, etc.; to cause to enter by degrees; to infuse slowly or gradually; to insinuate." I love stilliform partly because those long, thin letters -- the t-i-l-l-i-f in the middle -- look kind of, well, drippy. (Or am I a drip for loving a word for the shape of its letters?)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So it is similar to 'stelliform' which means 'star-shaped'. It doesn't have the symmetry of 'stilliform', though. (In 'stilliform', the palindromic symmetry of 'i-l-l-i' and the dash in 't' and 'f' make it beautiful to write it on paper.)

Is there a word to describe such words (those we want to doodle on paper because of symmetry or any other reason)? Sorry to ask here. But I am from India and cannot call u on ur show. I love ur show. Keep ur hearty guffaw.

a logophile from India

6:01 AM  
Blogger Martha said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way about "stilliform," Rajesh! (I like "stelliform," too, but I'd like it better if the letters were somehow star-shaped. Oh well.)

If there's not a word for what you describe, there certainly should be! If we can't find one, maybe we can make one up?

I'm so glad you're enjoying the show -- and don't worry, I don't think there's any chance it'll stop making me laugh! Thanks for your kind words.

(Oh - and I hope we can do an episode on Indian English one of these days. I think it'd be fascinating.)

7:35 AM  
Blogger Martha said...

Btw, Rajesh, I passed your question along to my co-host Richard, who sent along this interesting thought:

"Except for the little horizontal lines in "T" and "f," Rajesh is talking about fearful symmetry of embedded palindromes, from four letters -- stilliform up to eleven letters(!) -- sensuousness.

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Martha

yeah, embedded palindromes sounds good. Eleven letters? What is that beautiful word?

A show on Indian English would be great.


4:23 AM  

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