funambulism was our Word of the Day on 12/27/2010. Hear the podcast!
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Did You Know?
Back in ancient Rome, tightrope walking was a popular spectacle at public gatherings. The Latin word for "tightrope walker" is "funambulus," from the Latin funis, meaning "rope," plus ambulare, meaning "to walk." It doesn't take any funambulism on our part to see how the word for an impressive act of physical skill and agility came to mean an impressive act of mental skill or agility. That extended sense of the word has been around since at least 1886, when British academic and writer Augustus Jessopp described the act of diagramming sentences as "horrible lessons of ghastly grammar and dreary funambulism."
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