Sunday, February 24, 2008

Word of the Week: convivium

So I have a new rule of thumb when it comes to deciding whether a word qualifies as plain language: if it’s not in the standard version of a good dictionary (for example, my trusty Webster’s New World College Dictionary (4th Ed.) or an on-line one like I think it’s safe to say the word is too highfalutin to be used in most communication.

I was in a conversation the other day and the person I was speaking with used the word convivium. Not (usually) too embarrassed to admit when I didn’t know what a word means and, of course, certainly not too embarrassed to ask how the word is spelled, I asked both questions. The person (graciously) spelled it and defined it for me.

Intrigued (and because I had kind of forgotten the definition), I went on-line to look it up. When I went into the Merriam-Webster site that I usually use and I typed in the word, the message that popped up surprised me. Though it’s clear that it’s a word (and I spelled it correctly), the message said that to get the definition I had to go to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged site which is a subscription-based site. (I should note that there was a free trial offer for the Unabridged version, but I didn’t try it. Instead, I decided to look for it in my regular dictionary (Webster’s New World College Dictionary (4th Ed.).)

Well, turns out it’s not in my regular dictionary either. So, unless someone out there has a less-abridge dictionary than I do, or perhaps subscribes to Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged site and wants to share the definition of convivium, I’m not going to worry it. I’ll stick to plain language words.


Blogger Sandy Kemsley said...

Seems to be a high-falutin' way to talk about the "slow food" movement:

7:29 p.m.  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hello and what a nice blog.

I went to a British Public School and we often use the word.

Convivium is a feast or banquet. Where people can be convivial!

Scientifically of course it has a different meaning: a geographically isolated population of a species that is differentiated from other populations eg some animals found on the Galapagos.

Hope that helps - here in England the word is perhaps becoming arcane but I don't believe it is that "high falutin'"!

5:49 p.m.  
Anonymous Jude Thomas said...

Those of us working hard to change the culture of long term care are using the word on a regular basis and most certainly don't see it as "high falutin". We live in a world of fast food and schedules. Sharing good food (preferably with at least some local ingredients), without a time limit, engaging in good, meaningful conversation, in a warm and welcoming environment is
almost a thing of the past. Promoting convivium in long term care settings allows individuals to get to know each other and puts an emphasis on healthy, delicious foods. It's good for all of us! Try it! You'll love it!

7:44 a.m.  

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