Word of the Day : June 25, 2011

pigeon-livered

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adjective PIJ-un-liv-erd

Definition

: gentle, mild

Did You Know?

Since at least the 16th century, the image of the harmless cooing pigeon has moved people -- somewhat unfairly to the bird -- to use its name in reference to innocents like the simpleton, the dupe, and the coward. The gentle disposition of the bird did not escape Shakespeare, either. Applying the belief of the time that the liver and large quantities of yellow bile provided a courageous temperament, the Bard used "pigeon-livered" to describe Hamlet's lack of gall to seek revenge (with the apparent logic that anyone with a pigeon's liver would be deficient in the courage-producing bile). The chicken has the dubious distinction of being the next bird dressed for similar lexical consumption; people began using "chicken-livered" for "cowardly" in the 19th century.


Examples

"'I find it unfathomable that the pigeon-livered Republican delegation from the suburbs is disinclined to be audacious and responsible in the city's hour of need!' trumpets House Minority Leader Bill DeWeese, a Waynesburg Democrat." -- From an article in the Pittsburgh City Paper, November 26, 2003

"Then there are the officials who often display a pigeon-livered attitude in return for some form of bribery -- mostly financial compensation to subsidise their poor salaries." -- From an article by Kevin Govender in the Independent on Saturday (South Africa), April 16, 2011



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What word completes this sentence from a recent Word of the Day piece: "Though I attended a Catholic high school, my education was not too different from that of my friends who came up through more __________ institutions"? The answer is ...


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