We were watching Jeopardy tonight, and the following clue popped up:
I wasn’t sure what I was more impressed with, that somebody knew the answer, or that there is actually a word for throwing someone out the window.
And apparently, this is not the first time that the word defenestration has been used in Jeopardy. A quick search on Twitter suggests that it has been used in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2019. Here is one of those clues, from 2018:
In 1618 in a room of Prague Castle, imperial agents Slavata & Borita of Martinic left the room this way.
So I had to search the web to see if defenestration is a thing. Here is what I found on Wikipedia:
The term originates from two incidents in history, both occurring in Prague. In 1419, seven town officials were thrown from the Town Hall, precipitating the Hussite War. In 1618, two Imperial governors and their secretary were tossed from the Prague Castle, sparking the Thirty Years War. These incidents, particularly that in 1618, were referred to as the Defenestrations of Prague and gave rise to the term and the concept.
Here are a few other examples of this practice:
- In 1383, Bishop Dom Martinho was defenestrated by the citizens of Lisbon, having been suspected of conspiring with the enemy when Lisbon was besieged by the Castilians.
- In 1452, King James II of Scotland murdered William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas, with his own hands and defenestrated him at Stirling Castle.
- On November 28, 1953, the U.S. biological warfare specialist Frank Olson died after a fall from a hotel window that may have been an assassination by the CIA.
- On October 26, 1997, NBA player Charles Barkley was arrested for hurling a bar patron through a plate-glass window after the man tossed a glass of ice at him.
- In his poem Defenestration, R.P. Lister wrote with amusement over the creation of so exalted a word for so basic a concept. The poem narrates the thoughts of a philosopher undergoing defenestration. As he falls, the philosopher considers why there should be a particular word for the experience, when many equally simple concepts don’t have specific names. (I guess he had the same thought I had when I first encountered the word.)
- There is a range of hacker witticisms referring to “defenestration”. For example, the term is sometimes used humorously among Linux users to describe the act of removing Microsoft Windows from a computer.
So upon learning that it is a legitimate word, it made me wonder why there aren’t specific words to describe the following; it would be so more efficient:
- throwing the remote control at the TV
- leaving one chip in the bag and putting it back in the closet
- taking the last sheet of toilet paper and leaving the empty roll on the TP holder
- throwing someone headfirst down a bowling alley
- throwing someone off the 10-meter diving platform during the Olympics final
If I come up with any solutions for the above, I may submit it to Oxford English Dictionary for consideration in their next edition.
If that fails, I’ll just make up a new Wikipedia page for the word.
*image from the Czech Center