Defenestrate

Defenestrate is one of those favorite words for anyone interested in history in high school, and threat of defenestration became a staple threat of cranky teachers both trying to cow and awe their students.  The word means to throw through a window and it is immortalized through the famous Defenestration of Prague.  Shockingly, Prague seemed to be the sort of place where people are thrown out windows all of the time, and there are actually two defenestrations of Prague.  The first occured on July 30, 1419, when a crowd of angry Hussite’s threw several members of the town council out of a window killing them.  A lego depiction of the event can be found here.

The second, more famous defenestration occurred on 23 May 1618 as a result of a conflict over Protestant chapels being built on land claimed by the Catholic Church.  Two Catholic governors and their scribe were defenestrated by a Protestant assembly from the Bohemian Chancellery, one hundred feet up, and landed in a pile of manure and survived.  The Catholic Church claimed they were saved by angels, and the event was key in the start of the Thirty Years’ War.  Here is a woodcutting of the event.

What triggered my use of this word today was this Newsweek article on South Africa’s District Six, the segregated settlement that inspired the movie District 9.  Note the caption to the photo: “Neill Blomkamp’s new blockbuster, District 9 (left), was inspired by the Cape Flats (right), which were populated by defenestrated inhabitants of South Africa’s real-life District Six.”  I’ve read the article and at no point is their any discussion of anyone being thrown out a window.  I can only assume the author meant the word figuratively, but I’ve never heard of a figurative defenestration.  Neither has the O.E.D.

See y’all on Tuesday!

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