What is an excrescence?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: excrescence.

I haven’t seen the movie Frank. But I can tell you it’s a comedy about a young man who joins a band of pop musicians led by a guy named Frank.

Frank (the musician) is  unique because he wears a giant fake head, and the movie — which scores an amazing 93% on Rotten Tomatoes — explores themes of creativity and mental illness. I think I’ll have to catch it when it’s re-released. 

I read an Anthony Lane review of the movie in the Aug. 25/14 New Yorker, headlined “Hide and Seek,” and it gave me my word of the week, excrescence. Here is how Lane used it:

The people around Frank accept the head, not as an excrescence or a badge of style but as part of his nature, and as the source of his disorienting charm. 

The noun refers to an outgrowth (or lump, nodule or swelling) on a human, animal or plant, especially one resulting from a disease or abnormality. The origin of the word is Latin, dating to the early 15th century, from excrescentem , present participle of excrescere, meaning “grow out, grow up,” from ex- “out” and crescere “to grow.”

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