phatic was our Word of the Day on 09/26/2010. Hear the podcast!
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phatic Has Greek Roots
Phatic was coined in the early 20th century by people who apparently wanted to label a particular quirk of human communication-the tendency to use certain rote phrases (such as the standard greeting "how are you?") merely to establish a social connection without sharing any actual information. It probably won't surprise you, then, to learn that phatic derives from the Greek phatos, a form of the verb phanai, meaning "to speak." Other descendants of "phanai" in English include "apophasis" ("the raising of an issue by claiming not to mention it"), "euphemism," "prophet," and the combining suffix -phasia (used to denote a speech disorder). You may also have spotted a similarity to "emphatic," but that turns out to be purely coincidence; "emphatic" traces back to a different Greek verb which means "to show."
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