Monday, August 13, 2012


My capacity for remembering the unimportant, unusual and mundane has always been strong. And this has especially applied to words. I find it curious that words, phone numbers, even license plates can stick in my head, but lines from movies, jokes and book plots often vanish within a short period of time.

Rebarbative is one of those words that has stuck in my head, although it's only been rattling around my brain for a little while now. A few years back, I had a Word of the Day calendar in my classroom and during our morning meeting time, I'd take the calendar to our gathering spot and share it with my class. Most of the time, we'd look at the word, someone would have a comment or two, and then we'd move on. But not "rebarbative" - and for two reasons. One, it just sounded good. It was one of those words that is fun to say, and since it's unfamiliar, you could probably get some quizzical looks from people if you use it in front of them. Second, one of my students started using it - a lot. He paired it with another unique word we'd stumbled upon (that one does escape me but I'm committed to finding it) and used it to refer, I believe, to his mother!

Well, you wouldn't know whether or not that's an insult (although you can imagine if I'm sharing the story, it probably was) until you found out what rebarbative meant. Well, it means "unattractive and objectionable," a synonym of repellent and abhorrent. Yikes! Now, I know this student was being playful and I think we all laughed whenever he threw rebarbative out there.

Interestingly, the origin of the word comes from the Latin barba, which means beard. Good thing I shaved my goatee a few years back!

Have a Happy Monday. This is David Wartik, signing off. Word up!

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