Thursday, February 02, 2012

Word of the Day: Avuncular

The Romans, like the Chinese and most other imperial cultures, were very hot on the veneration of ancestors and the assigning of appropriate titles or terms to each relative.

And so, avunculus was the term used for one's maternal uncle, one's mother's brother. It was the diminutive of avus, a 'grand old man' on that side, normally one's maternal grandfather (one's mother's father).

I suppose that distinguished it from a carbuncle, which by similar formation meant 'a small glowing coal' and thus 'an inflamed red spot'. It was also used to describe garnets and rubies. And pimples. Hur hur.

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