Wednesday 19 October 2016


Your starter for ten. What do all these words have in common?

ambidextrous, antediluvian, analogous, approximate, ascetic, anomalous,
carnivorous, coexistence, coma, compensate, computer, cryptography, cylindrical,
disruption, electricity, exhaustion, ferocious, follicle, generator, gymnastic,
hallucination, herbaceous, holocaust, insecurity, indigenous, jocularity,
literary, locomotion, medical, migrant, mucous, prairie, prostate, polarity,
precocious, pubescent, 
suicide, therapeutic, ulterior, ultimate, veterinarian.

Rather amazingly, every one of them was coined by Sir Thomas Browne, who was born on this day in 1605 and died, with exemplary symmetry, on the same day in 1682. Browne has, indeed, a total of 775 entries in the OED for first use of a word - not all of them as useful, or as lasting, as those above. Even if he had not written his great works - Hydriotaphia (Urn Burial), Religio Medici and the vast and strange Pseudodoxia Epidemica (Vulgar Errors) - he would have earned some fame in the world of words.
Sir Thomas was also, very probably, the first man to say 'I am the happiest man alive.' And, from what we know of his life and character and can adduce from his portrait, it seems likely to have been true.


  1. Yes, "a multitude of [then] exotick words; many, indeed, useful and significant, which, if rejected, must be supplied by circumlocution, such as 'commensality' for the state of many living at the same table; but many superfluous, as a 'paralogical' for an unreasonable doubt; and some so obscure, that they conceal his meaning rather than explain it, as 'arthritical analogies', for parts that serve some animals in the place of joints."
    Dr. Johnson's kettle calling the pot Browne. I'm sure there are droll oldies for whom it would be a solace to be able to refer to their crumbling hips and knees as 'arthritical analogies'.

  2. Arthritical analogies - brilliant! Thanks Alexander.