A dreamy and peripatetic life…

Word count: 251 words

Reading time: About 1 minute

If you increase your vocabulary you’ll not only help your reading, you’ll also make your writing more precise. Here is my word of the week, peripatetic.

When I read the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs, the author reminded me that novelist Mona Simpson (pictured here) was Jobs’ sister. I’d known that fact, but had forgotten it! Simpson’s novel, Anywhere But Here, had been one of my favourite books when I was in my early 30s.

The Jobs biography also reminded me that I’d forgotten the meaning of the word peripatetic. Here is the sentence in which it appeared:

“After she and Jandali divorced in 1962, Joanne [Jobs’ mother] embarked on a dreamy and peripatetic life that her daughter, who grew up to become the acclaimed novelist Mona Simpson, would capture in her book Anywhere But Here.”

Peripatetic eluded me. Turns out, it means travelling from place to place. But the etymology is absolutely fascinating! It dates back to the 1400s from the Old French, perypatetique and the Latin peripateticus meaning “pertaining to the disciples or philosophy of Aristotle.” In turn, this stems from the Greek peripatetikos meaning “given to walking about” (especially while teaching). As you may know, Aristotle’s custom was to teach while strolling through the Lyceum in Athens.

I’ve now restored peripatetic to my vocabulary because I like so much about it — the way it sounds, the way it replaces five other words and its startling etymology.

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