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

REFRACTORY

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Most editing involves correcting the errors people make all the time, but occasionally an exotic turns up. Last week I came across one I had never seen before: a reference to "a refractory table."

Refractory (pronounced ri-FRAK-tur-ee) means "stubborn," "obstinate," "perverse," "hard to manage." It also has technical senses: resistant to heat, hard to melt or work, as of metals; and resistant to treatment, in medicine.

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Its roots are in Latin, refractus, the past participle of refringere, "to turn aside" or "to break off."

I changed the reference in the article to "a refectory table," a dining hall table, from reficere, "to remake," "to restore," and thus refection, "refreshment."

Example: From Edward G. Shirley's "Not fanatics, and not freaks," The Atlantic, December 1993: "And when it came to dealing with refractory clergy Khomeini could be tougher than any Pahlavi Shah."

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