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28 September 2009

Monday's Word - Agrestic

Is the villain of your story 'agrestic?
According to Michael Quinion in this week's 'Worldwide Words"

'The root meaning is rural or rustic, hence a person who is uncouth or unpolished. It's from the Latin "agrestis", itself derived from
"ager", a field, which makes it a close relative of "agriculture"
and of "agrestal", which refers to uncultivated plants growing on
cultivated land - you might prefer to call those weeds. Another, extremely rare, relative is "agresty", defined in one old dictionary as "rusticity; clownishness".' Isn't that interesting? Bet you didn't know that!

Michael Quinion goes on to say that "Agrestic" gained a melancholy moment in the news in 2008 when it was reported that it was one of 24 words that the English publisher Collins was proposing to drop from its dictionaries, on the grounds that newer and more common words needed the space. In early 2009 Collins reprieved the word because it turned out to have a continuing usefulness in the perfumery business. It's one of the standard terms used to classify odours. The scent sense is of an aroma that reminds you of the countryside, such as hay, heather
or meadow or one which is earthy, herbal or woody." Ooh yes, I love those scents reminiscent of warm, summer days (well the few that we get here in the UK anyway!) I love that sort of perfume myself. So, you don't just need to confine this word to your descriptions of people in your writing, you could use it to convey to the reader how a particular place or scene smells. On second thoughts though, anything that has the reader rushing to the nearest dictionary is probaby not such a good idea!

World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2009. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at http://www.worldwidewords.org