Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Masticate \MAS-tih-kayt\ , transitive verb;
1. To grind or crush with or as if with the teeth in preparation for swallowing and digestion; to chew
2. To crush or knead into a pulp
intransitive verb;
1. To chew food

This word dates to the 1640's and comes from Late Latin masticat-, the past participle stem of masticare. Masticare probably derives from Greek mastikhan ("to gnash the teeth"), which is related to mastax ("mouth, jaws") and masasthai ("to chew"). It ultimately comes from Proto-Indo-European *menth- ("to chew, mouth"), which is the forebear of Old English muð ("mouth"). Somewhat surprisingly, muð is not the forebear of Modern English mouth. That word followed this progression:
*mnto-s > *munthaz > muþ > mouth
Proto-Indo-European > Proto-Germanic > Old English > Modern English

So I have this vague memory of hearing this word for the first time in junior high or something and feeling very scandalized because it sounds so similar to a certain solo sex act...

THAT word dates to 1766 from Modern Latin masturbationem, from Latin masturbatus, the past participle of masturbari. The etymology before that is somewhat speculative, but the long-running theory is that it was a result of an alteration of *manstuprare, influenced by turbare ("to stir up"). *Manstuprare comes from manu + stuprare (the ablative of manus, meaning "hand" + "defile (oneself)"). Stuprare comes from stuprum ("defilement, dishonor"), which is related to stupere ("to be stunned, stupefied"), which just so happens to be the forebear of stupid. Another theory is that the first element of the word comes from an unattested word *mazdo-, meaning "penis".

Either way, it's pretty funny that it is either "to stir up the hand" or "to stir up the penis". How's that imagery for you?

Today's word and the first definition were both taken from Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day' for Tuesday, March 1
Etymologies come from the Oxford English Dictionary and/or Etymonline.com

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