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17
Mar
2012
2:40 mins
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<p><strong><font color="#000066">Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for March 18, 2012 is:</font></strong></p>
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<strong>sylph</strong> &#149; \SILF\&nbsp; &#149; <em>noun</em><br />
1 : an elemental being in the theory of Paracelsus that inhabits air 2 : a slender graceful woman or girl <br />
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<strong>Examples:</strong><br />
The dancer was a lovely, elegant <em>sylph</em> upon the stage.<br /><br />&quot;By the time [Whitney Houston's] first album came out, in 1985, she'd been given a thorough makeover: the cover photo showed a sleek-haired, golden-skinned <em>sylph</em> wearing an elegantly-draped white gown.&quot; -- From an article by Caroline Sullivan in <em>Guardian Unlimited</em>, February 12, 2012<br />
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<strong>Did you know?</strong><br />
Paracelsus was a man with a vivid imagination. He concocted an elaborate theory of ruling &quot;elemental spirits&quot;: gnomes controlled the earth, salamanders fire, undines water, and sylphs (graceful beings whose name in English is from New Latin &quot;sylphus&quot;) the air. You would hardly believe this 16th-century German-Swiss physician had his feet on the ground, but those fantastic ideas were balanced with an impressive array of solid medical discoveries. In fact, many of his scientific contributions are still highly respected, but his sylph idea has long since been discounted as fairy-tale fantasy. The creatures remain only as romantic figures of literature, art, and ballet, where diaphanous woodland sylphs are often depicted enchanting unwary males.<br /><br />
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