May
18
2009

  I Read A New Word

While reading a book review in the New York Times today, I came across a word I didn't recognize. This doesn't happen particularly often, so I was intrigued. Here's the sentence from the review:

But Mr. Kirn has reduced that pain to overly apt poetic justice: a narrative device that turns him aphasic and makes the education process run in reverse.

I couldn't tell what exactly aphasic meant from its context, so I looked it up:

a·pha·sia (-fzh)
n.
Partial or total loss of the ability to articulate ideas or comprehend spoken or written language, resulting from damage to the brain caused by injury or disease.
[Greek, from aphatos, speechless : a-, not; see a-1 + phatos, spoken, speakable (from phanai, to speak; see -phasia).]
a·phasi·ac (-z-k) n.
a·phasic (-zk, -sk) adj. & n.

Ah, I should have been able to tell its meaning from context, since it's pretty much defined in the sentence immediately after it appears. But I thought from reading the sentence that it turned the author aphasic and also made the education system run in reverse. It didn't occur to me that aphasic was the education system running in reverse. I see that's not the exact definition, but in the context of the review it does seem to me an apt word choice.