"I fell into a brown study as I walked on, and a voice at my side made me start." From Charles Dickens's 1850 novel David Copperfield
"He was staring fixedly ahead, lost in a brown study, the pupils of his eyes slightly blurred." From Georgette Heyer 's 1958 novel Venetia
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"Lack of company will soon lead a man into a brown study." Whether or not it's true, that 1532 admonition is the first known example that shows the "reverie" sense of "study" combined with "brown" (in the old and now rare sense of "gloomy"). Today, not all brown studies are "gloomy"some are merely abstractedbut not, we hope, to the extent that provoked the editors of an encyclopedia of the 1950s to call it "a state nearly related to hypnosis and characterized by the ... arrest of bodily movement."
Test Your Memory: What is the meaning of the verb "footle," our Word of the Day from August 2? The answer is
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