It has been a while since I saw a word that tickled my fancy. As you know, I love words, sometimes big ones and sometimes small ones. It just depends on the sound of them in the saying as well as the meaning of them.One of my favorites has always been “pusillanimous” which in the context I read it was applied to Hubert Humphrey and meant “lacking courage” or in a more pejorative sense, “cowardly.” Do I use it very much? No, but every once in a while it is just the right word, if you are talking to the right person who won’t think you are putting on airs if you do. In the small word category, I like it that if you ask someone to spell the word for a little kitty cat or an infected sore, both answers are the same – “pussy.”
Today’s word, was sent to me by Dictionary.com, and it brought back a funny memory. The word is “defenestrate” which I have occasionally seen but never bothered to specifically look up because the context provided the broad definition of it. But today the definition was laid out. Defenestrate means “to throw out the window.”Here is the way it is used in the dictionary examples:
Now unless this word becomes a lot more “fixed” in my mind and my vocabulary, I probably will not be using it too much. Mostly the examples pertain to throwing people out a window, and I can’t imagine a time when I might use it in that context.But it did remind me of October of 1981 when I was working for a temp agency and was sent out as a temporary replacement for a tiny office of Burroughs corporation in Santa Ana, California. In this office there was the office girl (me) and 5 district managers. There were Burroughs products involved – a fax machine and an early word processor. The latter was called a “Redactron” (now this was before PCs) and it was a very large rectangular box with a built-in screen and keyboard. It was used exactly like a PC is used today, except that compared to today’s desk top computers, it was gigantic. It was a stand-alone unit and really, really expensive.
At that time the major purchasers were mainly legal offices, and the Redactron was popular because so much of legal documents were what we’d call “boiler plates.” This early word-processor made it possible to “cut and paste” instead of retype paragraphs over and over in each new document. However, the catch was that the technology for the machines was new and there were lots of bugs to be worked out. They kept breaking; all the phone calls for repair of machines in California came into our office. And of course being the only clerical help in that office, I was the one who handled those calls, routing the information I collected to the department head who then sent out a repairman.One day I answered the phone – and was immediately blown backwards about two feet by a shouting attorney, irate at another breakdown of his machine. He was calling from San Francisco and I could have heard his diatribe even without the phone transmission. He went on and on. There was nothing I could do to break in – he had really “lost it” – and when he finally stopped to take a breath, I was totally nonplussed as to how to handle it. The Redactron manager was not in and all I could do was take a message. Of course the attorney didn’t like that one bit and in a voice that was controlled and icy he said, “Young lady, when you see him tell him to get his repairman here immediately before I throw all of your machines out the window – and I’m on the 12th floor of the building in downtown San Francisco.”
I did. The machines were repaired and I also later received a phone-call of apology from San Francisco.End of story.
But today when I saw the dictionary explanation of “defenestrate” I recalled this event, which I’d long forgotten. It was, and still is, about the most blistering phone call I ever received. And certainly it is one take on just how "defenestrate" comes into play.