Sunday, March 16, 2008

Word of the Week: untouchable

Ever engage in the game of free association? If you did, I’ll bet when you saw this week’s word you thought of the t.v. show about famed FBI agent Elliot Ness. Given the news this week about NY’s governor, if you’re still playing free association, I’ll bet the next word to pop into your head was Spitzer.

As unbelievable as this may sound, the day before Spitzer’s news conference a friend and I were debating the definition of untouchable. My friend said that untouchable referred to people in a low class in a caste society. I disagreed, saying I thought the word refers to people who are thought of as above reproach, a la Elliot Ness.

To my surprise, it turns out we were pretty much both right. According to my dictionary (Webster’s New World College Dictionary (4th Ed.) untouchable (the noun) is defined as 1.) an untouchable person or thing 2.) in India, any member of the lowest castes, whose touch was regarded as defiling to higher-caste Hindus.

I suppose I should be embarrassed to admit that my only reference to the word comes from an old t.v. show, but hey, at least by making it the word of the week, others whose familiarity with the term is similarly limited are now at least aware of the other definition.


Post a Comment

<< Home