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:
Before we understood what the Anopheles mosquito was doing to people it was thought that malaria (from
, "bad air) was caused by exhalations from marshes. The word to describe that air, those exhalations, is
(pronounced meh-FIT-ick) — bad-smelling, poisonous, noxious.
It comes from the late Latin
, which is turns derives from
, "noxious exhalation," a bad-smelling vapor from the earth. The Latin survives today in a species name,
, the striped skunk.
Colleagues rose as one in protest of the mephitic vapors from the fish he reheated in the office microwave.