E Zine of KV Pattom published by the Library

Nonplus

In Word of the week on March 9, 2008 at 4:46 pm

Nonplus (verb)

Pronunciation: [nahn-‘plês]

Definition: To place someone at a loss as to what to say, do, or think.

Usage: The state of being at a complete loss for a response is also called “nonplus,” so one can be at a nonplus or be brought to one by the actions of someone else. We also often say that we are “nonplussed” by something. (This is another orphan negative, which means you cannot “plus” anyone by raising their consciousness.)

Suggested Usage: This is a state the events of the day bring us to all the more often, so we should prepare ourselves to use it properly. Do you know what to say on occasions such as this: “Frieda nonplussed the whole family when she parachuted into the backyard during Dad’s birthday party.” My friend Shirley came to a complete nonplus at Roland’s response to her question whether he liked cheap wine. “I didn’t know sheep gave wine,” he said.

Etymology: The etymology is very simple though its semantic improbability leaves many etymologists, well, nonplussed. It is from Latin non “not” + plus “more” via the 17th century French phrase mettre a nonplus “to put at nonplus.” “Plus” comes from the same root (*pel-/*pol-) as plenus “full” from which we borrowed “plenty.” This root came to English as “full” and German as “voll.” In Russian the same root emerges as polny “full.”

–Dr. Language, YourDictionary.com

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