The Logophile: Phases, Faces, and Food

Put your vocabulary to the test with this short word quiz.

Half-eaten chocolate mint cookie
(Shutterstock)

Weekly Newsletter

The best of The Saturday Evening Post in your inbox!

SUPPORT THE POST
  1. Ellen wasn’t ______ by news of the burglary.
    1. fazed
    2. phased
    3. phazed
  2. You might describe a woman as having a rubicund face if she is
    1. going pale
    2. turning green
    3. blushing
  3. If Patrick hates ketchup and Lorenzo won’t touch oatmeal, what won’t Eric eat?
    1. rice
    2. marmalade
    3. chocolate

Answers

1. a. fazed

Faze (“to disturb the composure of”) is not an old word; it appeared only in the early 19th century. Before that, though, the verb feeze “to frighten or alarm” goes all the way back to Old English, and faze is an alteration of that.

Phase (“a particular state in a recurring cycle”) came to English from a different root. The Greek phasis was a singular noun that meant “appearance” (especially of a star). Modern Latin took the word and created the plural verses phases, using the same XXXX that gives us, for example, crisis/crises and basis/bases. English-speakers started using the word phases but assumed and applied English morphological rules to the word, back-forming the English singular phase from the Latin plural phases by the early 18th century.

Lastly, any decent spell checker will alert you that phazed is just a misspelled word.

2. c. blushing

Rubicund comes from the Latin rubicundus, which is formed from the verb rubere “to be red.” It’s etymologically related to the word ruby, the name of a precious stone that is famously red. Rubicund is a synonym of ruddy, both of which most commonly refer to one’s complexion. And while someone whose face is red can be referred to as rubicund, someone whose face is turning red can be called the related words rubescent or erubescent.

3. c. chocolate

The connection here has everything to do with their names: If it starts with the last letter of their name and ends with the first letter of their name, they won’t eat it. Besides chocolate, Eric also won’t eat cheese, cake, or a calzone. Poor Eric is really missing out.

This article is featured in the March/April 2022 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: Shutterstock

Become a Saturday Evening Post member and enjoy unlimited access. Subscribe now

Recommended

Comments

  1. Well, I got the first two right, but not number 3. When I was reading it, Eric made me think of little Mikey from the classic Life cereal commercial. “He won’t eat it, he hates everything. He likes it! Hey Mikey!” Something so old it’s new, from 1972.

Reply

Your email address will not be published.