July 17, 2005

The Word of the Week

is eristic, thanks to the CBC Radio program Sunday Edition's new summer feature, "Word Report." WR is dedicated, for the summer months at least, to reviving obsolete, underused, and otherwise forgotten words. So I was very happy to discover that my 1961 edition of Webster's (not so) New Collegiate Dictionary does in fact include a definition:

eristic, adj. [Gr. eristikos, from erizein, to strive, from eris, strife.] Pertaining to, suitable for, or given to disputation.

From, of course, Eris, the Goddess of Discord, the one who caused all that trouble for Paris, Helen, and a cast of thousands, with that pesky apple.

According to WR's Judy Maddren, the word also has a noun form; for example, one could argue (pun intended, I suppose) that "Mary, Mary quite contrary" was an eristic. Or, to coin a variation, an eristicrat. Or, as my retro kids suggested, as they were listening along, an eristicat, which has a suitably hep and disputatious feel to it.

I can think of more than a few eristicrats and eristicats, myself included depending on the day, and it shouldn't be too hard to work our new word into conversation this week.

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