Oscitant – Friday’s Word of the Day Haiku

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Today’s Dictionary.com word of the day is “oscitant. It’s a rather matter-of-fact word, with little backstory or legend to be found in its etymology. I suppose we need a few to the point with no detour words so we don’t get completely confused. According to Dictionary.com oscitant is defined as:

1-drowsy or inattentive.
2-yawning, as with drowsiness; gaping.
3-dull, lazy, or negligent.

It originates from the Latin verb ōscitāre which means “to yawn, gape (of animals); “to turn toward the sun (of plants”; and by the extension “to be listless, drowsy, inactive, half asleep.” It entered the English language in the early 17th century.

“Surely there is something interesting to report on this word,” you might be thinking. But nope. What you see is pretty much what you get. Much like its definition, it is rather boring, yawn-inducing…oscitant in fact.

But I did become intrigued with a word very much related to oscitant. It is word yawn. Here are a few fun facts regarding yawns.

  • Commonly associated with tiredness, stress, sleepiness or even boredom and hunger, a yawn is in fact thought to have more to do with the cooling of one’s brain. (Who knew?!)
  • Yawning consists of the simultaneous inhalation of air and the stretching of the eardrums, followed by an exhalation of breath.
  • In some cultures yawning is considered an action that has spiritual significance. In this case an open mouth is associated with letting one’s soul out or allowing evil spirits in. It is believed that this may be why we have been trained to cover our mouths when we yawn, so as not to be vulnerable to losing one’s soul or becoming possessed by a demon!
  • Yawning “loudly” is considered the height of rudeness and in former societies could even lead to contempt of court charges.
  • Contagious Yawning is a real thing seen in humans and animals as an empathetic response or positive feedback.
  • Contagious Yawning may also be an instinctual herd instinct that has kept animals alert giving them an evolutionary advantage.
  • In primates, a yawn is a threat gesture and a way of maintaining social structure.
  • Humans can pass a contagious yawn to dogs.
  • Excessive yawning can be a symptom of disease such as multiple sclerosis or brain stem ischaemic stroke, particularly as they are related to neurological pathways and cortisol levels.
  • Other reasons why animals yawn include: Yawning as a part of courtship rituals (the ecstatic display of certain types of penguins), as a display of dominance or anger (as is the case for baboons, Siamese Fighting fish, guinea pigs), to realign their jaws after a meal (as demonstrated by snakes) and for respiratory reasons (fish in general due to a lack of oxygen).

Even when a word “is what it is”, leave it to me, I’ll find a way of making it interesting! 🙂

Have a great weekend! Here’s my Haiku.

Oscitant Haiku

a speaker’s nightmare,
more than forgetting one’s speech,
an oscitant crowd

kat ~17 February 2017


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