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In a word: Mephitic

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:

MEPHITIC

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Before we understood what the Anopheles mosquito was doing to people it was thought that malaria (from

mala aria

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, "bad air) was caused by exhalations from marshes. The word to describe that air, those exhalations, is

mephitic

(pronounced meh-FIT-ick) — bad-smelling, poisonous, noxious.

It comes from the late Latin

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mephiticus

, which is turns derives from

mephitis

, "noxious exhalation," a bad-smelling vapor from the earth. The Latin survives today in a species name,

Mephitis mephitis

, the striped skunk.

Example:

Colleagues rose as one in protest of the mephitic vapors from the fish he reheated in the office microwave.

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