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What Does It Say About You if Your Doppelganger Is Facinorous?

AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on Wordmaster: Anu Garg, creator of the A.Word.A.Day Web site and author of a new book called "Another Word A Day: An All-New Romp Through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English."

RS: Some of those words are facinorous (fa-SIN-uhr-uhs) which means extremely wicked. There are some facinorous people, too.

ANU GARG: "F-a-c-i-n-o-r-o-u-s, facinorous."

AA: "If you said that to someone, they might look at you funny."

ANU GARG: "That's the idea. You insulted somebody and then of course they don't even know what it means."

RS: "What kind of context would you find that word in?"

ANU GARG: "Well, William Shakespeare used that word in 'All's Well That Ends Well.' The character is saying, 'and he is of a most facinorous spirit.'"

AA: "What are some other words for an opponent?"

ANU GARG: "One that I like is ventripotent. Ventri is a belly and potent is powerful. So you can say this fellow has a large belly, or he's a gluttonous person."

RS: "Could you spell that word too? I didn't quite get it."

ANU GARG: "V-e-n-t-r-i-p-o-t-e-n-t."

AA: One way to become ventripotent is to eat too much candy. No, you won't find a common word like candy in his new book. But Anu Garg mentioned it because he likes to talk about words borrowed from other languages.

ANU GARG: "This Halloween my daughter, she went trick-or-treating. So she collected lots of candy. And then she came back, she said 'Daddy, where did we get the word candy from?'" So I said 'Well, let's find out.' It turns out we got it from Sanskrit.

"In Sanskrit the word khanda, it means a piece. And of course the word khanda has a more specific sense also. It means a kind of raw sugar. So even today you can go into any grocery store in India and you can ask for khanda and they will give you this powdered brown sugar kind of thing."

AA: "Well, one of the words you use in your book is doppelganger, and it's interesting because that's a term I've been hearing for it seems like a few years. It seems like it's getting more popular. And recently one of our listeners in Iran used that term to describe a friend of his, and it's a great word -- and then, lo and behold, I see it in your book. Can you explain doppelganger, and maybe start by spelling it."

ANU GARG: "The word is spelled as d-o-p-p-e-l-g-a-n-g-e-r. So we borrowed this word from German and it literally means a double goer. It's used to describe a ghostly double of a living person. You can as well use it metaphorically.

"So let's say you have interest in words and radio broadcasting, and you attended a party and you met a woman and it turns out she also has a deep interest in words and languages, and she also had a radio show. So you might say 'Oh, I met my doppelganger' -- somebody who is, in a way, double of you."

RS: "You talk about words borrowed from other languages. Do you have any idea how many languages we've borrowed words from?"

ANU GARG: "If you speak English, you speak at least a part of more than a hundred languages. So we all know in English we have words from French, Latin, German, Spanish. But we have words from even these obscure languages like Tongan."

AA: "Which has given us the word ... "

ANU GARG: "Taboo."

RS: "Which is something that we use all the time."

AA: "Something forbidden."

RS: "So you're saying that that came from -- you say there are not many words from that language. So there must have been some sort of contact, had to have been some sort of contact, to get the word into the language."

ANU GARG: "Exactly. I'm looking in the Oxford English Dictionary and it shows me a grand total of eleven words that came from Tongan."

RS: Anu Garg operates the free A.Word.A.Day e-mail service, with more than six hundred thousand subscribers, and the Web site His first book was called "A Word A Day," and now he has written "Another Word A Day."

AA: And that's Wordmaster for this week. Our e-mail address is And our segments are online at With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.