A Word for Wednesday

Oscitancy - n. [L. oscito, to yawn, from os, the mouth] The act of gaping or yawning. 2. Unusual sleepiness; drowsiness; dullness

I'm afraid that, yet again, I have no history to give you on this word. It must be something with the O's. Their history is either protected from google or has never been recorded. Neither option helps me ;) But, I was able to find some neat examples of this word's use. The examples include the adverb, adjective, verb, and second noun form of this word (oscitantly, oscitant, oscitate, and oscitation respectively), so don't be suprised if "oscitancy" isn't the exact word used every time.

The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language provided most of them. Two are from a certain Dr. H More. I tried to find his original work so I could get a better handle on the context of the included sentences. I was unsuccessful, so you'll have take your best guess as to what he's actually talking about when he says,  "Which those drowsy nodders over the letter of the Scripture have very oscitantly collected." "Our oscitant, lazy, piety," though, makes sense. I don't recognize any of the other authors, but I'll share their sentences so you get an idea for how this word and it's various forms are used: "It might proceed from the oscitancy of the transcribers." - Addison. "My treatise on oscitation, laughter, and ridicule." - Tatler. And, "He expresses in them no sort of humane sentiment towards these unfortunate men, but the utmost indignation at the oscitancy of those in power, which connived at the public demonstrations of sympathy." - Hallam.

I also found a passage from none other than John Milton. In his prose works, he starts discussing the will of God and how God cannot contradict Himself because of His own character. If it wasn't written in Old English and if I could cut and paste from GoogleBooks, I'd start at the beginning of his argument. Since I don't have time to transcribe it all manually, I'll skip to the part where he uses our word: "...his legal justice cannot be so fickle and so variable, sometimes like a devouring fire, and by and by connivent in the embers, or, if I may so say, oscitant and supine. The vigor of his law could no more remit, than the hallowed fire upon his altar could be let go out."

So there you have it - a new way to describe a sleepy someone (or thing). I now have exactly 27 minutes to come up with a story...next time I give myself a challenge like this, will someone remind me not to schedule it on a day where I normally work full hours and then have jiu-jitsu class at night? It's really not the most brilliant of plans ;) And now I have 25 minutes. Um...

"I set the quill down and rubbed at my eyelids. My work was nowhere near complete, though the sunrays streaming onto the manuscript from behind me had started to turn rosy. I covered a yawn as one of the elder brother's walked past. 

"There is no place for oscitancy here, young one," he said in the gentle, solemn voice all the brothers seemed to share. "Apply yourself until the day is done."

I picked up the quill once more, dipped it in the ink, and began again where I had left off - filling the block letter with beauty fit for the king himself."


  1. Lo and behold! The girl has a face! And a lovely one at that. ;)

    Very nice profile pic, Caitlin!


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