Word of the Day: Defenestration

Defenestration in Prague, 1618.


The act of throwing an adversary out of a window. One recent morning, I woke up trying to remember what defenestration was. Since I ended up having a bad day, I don’t know if it was an omen that I might want to defenestrate someone by the end of the day.

I thought it might be a form of torture or medieval execution method. Not so much. I also can’t remember what I was reading or watching that might have used the word. I was rereading David Eddings Mallorean series. It’s possible, that in the book where they run into the self-taught sorcerer, Senji, the term might have been used. Every so often, Eddings used to throw in a 20$ word.

The word starts cropping up after the renaissance period had started. In fact, the first two recorded usages of it were in Prague. When mentioning this to my roommate, he then said people who throw themselves out of windows would be defenestrating themselves. I argued against this as an example of this was where authorities changed one man’s cause of death from suicide to defenestration. It has to be someone tossing someone else out a window, not throwing yourself out. The ‘de’ part of the word indicates out or away which reinforces that view. After all, it is hard to throw yourself away from yourself.

Of course, this does not actually have to be fatal. It is the same word if the window is on the ground level or if it is on the 15th floor. Defenestration is the action and not the result. The Latin indicates a window or an opening, but it most often involves a window. Being tossed out of a bar by a bouncer might also be called defenestration. Particularly in those old western movies where the miscreant is literally tossed through the opening and not so much if the bouncer calmly escorts the offensive person from the premise.

As you can see, these would not be usefull in securing a building after hours.

Which reminds me, I don’t think saloons really had those swinging doors. Those doors do not secure the entry way. Even if they latched, a person could crawl under the ‘door’ to get into the bar and steal booze. They also would not keep rain or snow out of the bar in bad weather. I think those were used as internal ‘doors’. It would make going in and out of the kitchen easier than a regular door but still block the activities of the kitchen from the view of the inhabitants or guests. 

Well, I suppose they could have had doors like that, but they had to have had additional doors to close in front of or behind the swinging ones in order to lock up for the night.  You never see that in pictures unless it is on a modern building doing a retro western theme.  I keep wondering if it is part of the romanticized version of the ‘wild west’ we have developed.

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