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Mar 24

dilemma

While (I just stopped myself from saying “whilst,” even though I like it better) writing what I’ve taken to calling a “nasty-gram” at work (aka a “cease and desist”), I had the opportunity to use the word “dilemma”, formerly a source of great spelling angst to me (delimma? dilemma?).
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…that is until one day I realized that “dilemma” was really “di-” (two) and “-lemma” (mathematical assumption) put together to make “dilemma,” which means (in my really fudgy definition way) “two alternatives”. Or, as Mirriam Webster would have it:

Main Entry: di·lem·ma
Pronunciation: d&-‘le-m& also dI-
Function: noun
Etymology: Late Latin, from Late Greek dilEmmat-, dilEmma, probably back-formation from Greek dilEmmatos involving two assumptions, from di- + lEmmat-, lEmma assumption — more at LEMMA
1 : an argument presenting two or more equally conclusive alternatives against an opponent
etc.

I love personal etymylogical breakthroughs.

Permanent link to this article: http://ginalikins.com/2004/03/24/dilemma/

2 comments

  1. blush10ac

    –“dilemma”, formerly a source of great spelling angst to me–

    I immediately thought, she means dilemma was formerly a dilemma, haha…eh

    Sorry, had to share.

    1. gina

      tee hee — yes, that’s exactly what I meant. A very self-referential problem…

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