Tag Archives: Anglo-French

Viscous

Standard

Viscous \ˈvis-kəs\

adjective: having or characterized by viscosity

Yet another definition-by-hyperlink. Well, here’s viscosity:

: the quality or state of being viscous

Wait, what? Seriously? Well at least they also give us this:

: the property of resistance to flow in a fluid or semifluid

…or, to give me more what I want, I’ll just go ahead and take the Google.com definition:

: Having a thick, sticky consistency between solid and liquid; having a high viscosity.

Yes, that’s much better.

This is another of those editorial gems that I’ve picked up lately, and is probably my favorite I’ve yet seen: the author meant to write that a character was “vicious,” as in “horrible and mean and going to kill you”–but a slip of the hand resulted instead in “having a thick and sticky consistency.” Much better descriptor, in my book!

So, viscous. How to use it?

The substance was viscous like molasses, and as the thin string of goo reached its tendrils toward my brother’s neck, I wondered if I would soon regret what was about to happen…

Or, you could try:

I can’t stand regular pudding. Nope, give it to me nice and viscous–the closer to snot it looks, the better–or else I’m not touching it.

You know, on making these examples, I’m realizing that viscousis a word, like moist, that is near-impossible to use in a pleasant context. It’s really more in keeping with the sorts of words used to describe the sorts of things little boys tend to enjoy getting into messes with–though not by the boys themselves, of course, unless they happen to be little Shakespeares and Faulkners.

So, where did this come from? Well, it showed up in English around the 14th century, having come from Angl0-French roots,which I’m guessing has something to do with everyone who was anyone speaking French back then. Anyway, before that, it was Latinate, from viscosus (sticky) and viscum (anything sticky/birdlime made of mistletoe/anything made of mistletoe).

Sample 14th century dialogue:

That’s some pretty viscous birdlime you’ve got there, John!

Why thank you, Mary, I made it myself out of all the mistletoe out back. Only the most viscous viscum for our birds! Otherwise they get vicious!

*Shakes head at the absurdity*

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