May 3, 2010

WORD OF THE WEEK: Horripilation

Summary: This week's featured word will make the baby hairs on the back of your neck stand up on end. It might even make your skin crawl. After all, it is quite horripilating ...

Ever been horrified? Sometimes fear is healthy (we'll cover that topic more later this week). And sometimes it's just downright scary. What does fear feel like?

Every emotion has a physical sensation that corresponds to it. Fear often starts as a tingling queasiness in the stomach. Sheer horror, on the other hand, assaults the entire body: You get weak in the knees, your heart pounds in your ears and drops into your stomach which is already doing flip-flops, and the hairs on your arms and neck stand up on end, prickling your skin. This skin-prickling sensation is known as "goose bumps," or "goose flesh," so called for the similar appearance to a plucked goose's skin.

This "goose pimple" effect is actually called horripilation. From the Latin words horrere and pilus, meaning "horror" and "hair," it specifically pertains to the standing-up-on-end bristling of your body hair when you're cold, irritated or extremely frightened by something. (Think of the first time you ever visited a haunted house!)

The word horripilation (hor - IH - pih - LAY - shun) entered the English language as it was handed down from similar word usages in the languages of Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and French.

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2010

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