Why Is There Even a Word for This?

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

78 thoughts on “Why Is There Even a Word for This?

  1. You already invented a new word a few days ago. Remember “pairanox?”
    Did you know that a “belvedere” is a beautiful view? So if you are defenestrated from a belvedere, you can at least enjoy the view on the way down.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha, Jim. Good try. I could think of some words in other languages that can only be translated with phrases in English or vice versa because there are no equivalent words for them. I’m impressed by the people who seem to know the answers to the diversed categories at Jeopardy.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The link is an article. So I went to Wikipedia, it says, Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.
        Well, it’s pretty hard to find one word to translate such a rich meaningful word!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you for reading my about page, Jim. Life in Hong Kong is fascinating. I only mentioned two of my jobs. I had other volunteer “jobs,” plus things I did for enjoyment. There were all interesting!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Defenestration is a new word for me. I’m not sure why I should be surprised, but I didn’t know that questions were recycled on Jeopardy. Why am I not surprised that Charles Barkley was involved in one of the incidents? I actually like listening to him most of the time. He says what most of us think but aren’t willing to say. I like it when somebody asks him about Skip Bayless. If you don’t know who that is, Jim, you aren’t missing much.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was also surprised that it hade been so many times on Jeopardy. And I also enjoy Charles Barkley. I do know the name Skip Bayless, but I was not aware of the animosity Charles has for him until I just read a few things about it after receiving you comment. Charles does not hold back…

      Charles is an occasional visitor to a hole in the wall bar not far from me, and I have heard he is quite generous with buying rounds…


  4. Haha I actually have heard of that word before but never would have guessed it off the top of my head! What a very specific meaning lol

    Good examples of actions we need words for! Simultaneously, sometimes I’m doing something or experiencing something and I think to myself, I don’t think there’s actually a word to describe this… 🤔🤔

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Sniglets were/are made up words for things.

    I invented “carperpetuation”: The act of vacuuming over the same spot repeatedly in an attempt to suck up something that won’t budge. More specifically, picking that thing (usually a thread) off the floor, examining it, then releasing it back to the floor and resuming.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I also came up with Reanastapleration/Reantistapletation: Using the stapler repeatedly as if it’s being obstinate instead of empty or jammed.

    One I didn’t invent but use regularly is Opticagook… the gunk in your eyes in the morn.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have heard of defenestration before maybe on a visit to Prague Castle. I couldn’t give a definition though before reading your post. Fenêtre is French for window, so the Latin root word survives in at least one of the romantic languages. Other recent examples of defenestrations that come to mind are opening scenes of Watchmen and I, Robot.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I look forward to you adding words to the dictionary. I want to say I know a guy who created a word.

    I wonder if the Charles Barkley argument started over insults about his golf swing. Have you seen it? It’s dreadful.

    I have to agree with you on this. I was stunned there was a word for this. Not so much because there was a word but more because it happened enough that it needed a term.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I wasn’t allowed to view your video. I had heard the word but assumed it meant removal of windows! I like the idea of a word for pushing someone off the ten metre diving board. Actually my evil doppelgänger just likes the idea of pushing someone off… there is perhaps a word for unbidden dark thoughts that come when you are standing near the edge of a train or tube platform and realise how easy it would be to push someone off…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have to remember not to stand near the edge of a train platform when you are around!

      Sorry about the video; it’s just a 10-second clip of the Q&A on Jeopardy.


  10. Between you and Tippy my vocabulary just keeps expanding! How did I live without knowing about this word? 🙂 Let me know when you come up with those other words, they could be very useful!, and you thought your blog was about “nothing”!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Impressive! I have learned a new word. When one reaches retirement, learning is sometimes regulated to one word at a time. Thanks for helping me meet my daily quota. As a sidebar, I once removed an old sofa by pushing it through a sliding glass door on to a small balcony. Eventually, the sofa descended to the ground below. I never knew a sofa could fly.

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