Monday, November 07, 2005

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Detritus


detritus \dih-TRYE-tus\ noun

1 : loose material (as rock fragments or organic particles) that results directly from disintegration

2 a : a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away : debris *b : miscellaneous remnants : odds and ends

Example sentence:
"The blog originated ... as a catch basin for mental detritus, for the kind of stuff not good enough for print, but too good to waste on casual conversation." (Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post, August 21, 2005)

Did you know?
In the late 18th century, Scottish geologist James Hutton borrowed the Latin word "detritus" (meaning "rubbing away") for the process of wearing away or wearing down rock. His use of the word, however, was short-lived: one of the last appearances of this usage is in an 1802 book on his geologic theory. In that book, "detritus" was also used to describe the loose material that results from disintegration. It is that use, unlike Hutton's original, which has withstood the test of time and is firmly established in geology. Not surprisingly, "detritus," with its erudite sound and figurative possibility, was also taken up by non-geologists, from other scientists to nonscientists.

1 comment:

The Continental Op said...

My favorite literary quote includes a nice use of the word (at least in translation):

"Every lawyer carries within him the detritus of a poet." Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary.

P.S. I think one could make some interesting poetry from the comment verification "words" on Blogger.