Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Withenay's Wednesday Word - a series about words and their meanings. 
Sometimes the word is chosen because I like it, sometimes because it is unusual, sometimes because I have heard or read it in the previous week; often because that is just where the dictionary took me. Together we can expand our vocabulary, inch by inch (or maybe letter by letter). Your challenge is to invent a sentence in the comments box that includes it.

the act of throwing someone out of a window (a noun)
from Latin de from and fenestra a window

"He makes a better door than a window," my mother once said of a gentleman who had blocked her view throughout a concert I was in. I hadn't realised how colloquial this saying was until I read it in Up a Hill Backwards by Peter Lancaster. As an aside (albeit an important one) I must encourage you to buy his book, as it is a beautiful, gentle, witty tour of the Pennines - the backbone of England.

Anyway, he lists it as a Yorkshire phrase. I had assumed that everyone would know it, or say it, since it is such an pertinent description of a block to a view...which just goes to prove that what you or I think is obvious or banal is unique, odd or misplaced to someone else. Such are the idiosyncracies of humanity.

Defenestration is probably what my mother would have liked to have done with the gentleman in front of her: to throw him out of the window. One of my favourite bible stories comes in Acts 20.7-12, when one poor boy, Eutychus, is so exhausted by the length of Paul's sermon that he falls asleep, falls out of the window and dies. Thank goodness the godly Paul was on hand to resurrect him!

The word raises two questions in my mind. Firstly, I wonder what gave rise to the need to invent the word defenestration in the first place? This could take me on a long tour of Roman architecture and the history of windows and murderous intents. Such a lengthy investigation might have to wait for another day!

Secondly, who do you think is the best candidate for defenestration today?

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