Don't defenestrate the baby with the bath water

One of my favorite scenes in the movie “Office Space” is the opening traffic jam, where the old man with the walker passes the driver stuck in his car, making the driver  want to bang his head against the steering wheel. I felt that way driving to and from my old job in Akron, and after the frustration of driving I wanted to throw my computer through the window when it ran slow. I didn’t know at the time that a single word existed for “throw out the window.” The word is defenestrate, and it was featured on Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day on Aug. 17, 2011:
defenestration — noun
1 : a throwing of a person or thing out of a window
2 : a usually swift dismissal or expulsion (as from a political party or office)
“They are … bent on the politics of polarization, their more sensible leaders held hostage to the threat of defenestration in the next round of primary contests.” — From an article by Robert Shrum in The Week, July 14, 2011
These days “defenestration” is often used as it is in our second example above: to describe the forceful removal of someone from public office or from some other advantageous position. History’s most famous defenestration, however, was one in which the tossing out the window was quite literal. On May 23, 1618, two imperial regents were found guilty of violating certain guarantees of religious freedom. As punishment, they were thrown out the window of Prague Castle. The men survived the 50-foot tumble into the moat, but the incident, which became known as the Defenestration of Prague, marked the beginning of the Bohemian resistance to Hapsburg rule that eventually led to the Thirty Years’ War.

This entry was posted in Language. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s