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This week, a theme of 'super' words.

supererogatory
positive sense: performed beyond the required or expected degree
negative sense: superfluous; unnecessary
[from Latin supererogare ‘pay in addition’]
supererogate – to do more than duty requires (noun: supererogation)
    We can usually tell a man's story, relate passages and scenes from his life, without bringing in any physiological or neurological considerations: such considerations would seem, at the least, supererogatory, if not frankly absurd or insulting. For we consider ourselves, and rightly, 'free'—at least, determined by the most complex human and ethical considerations, rather than by the vicissitudes of our neural functions or nervous systems.
    – Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales

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<Asa Lovejoy>
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Isn't "superness" when you're flying over the famous loch?
 
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And superbly is what they once called Nellie.

Ten extra points if you remember her.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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quote:

Ten extra points if you remember her.

You mean personally? Robert Bly, yes, but not Nellie. I ain't THAT old! And wasn't there a movie called "Super bly?"

Asa, home sick. Arrggghhhhh... Choke, gasp
 
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Today's word is used for two completely different situations involving fraternal twins, those born from separate eggs (and, of necessity, separate sperm cells). If a couple has monogamous and frequent intercourse, you can't tell if those two sperm came from a single "romantic interlude" or from two separate ones [separate "coita"?]. But sometimes you can know that two different couplings produced the twins.

superfecundation – fertilization causing fraternal twins (or more) but known to have occurred by separate acts of coitus. This is known either because
– the twins have differing gestational ages, indicating different times of conception (ovulation continued despite the first conception, and it resulted in the second conception), or
– the twins (though conceived in the same cycle) are seen to have two different fathers.
    In normal circumstances pregnancy stops the usual monthly cycle of ovulation. But superfecundation allows ovulation to continue after a woman has become pregnant, allowing her to conceive for a second time. Flavia Tarquini, 20, claims to have conceived triplets three months after becoming pregnant. She may be the first woman ever to be pregnant continuously for 12 months.
    – BBC News, Dec. 18, 2001

    … triplets born to a Cape Town woman were found to have been fathered by two different men. … [A] 54-year-old cab driver … challenged the paternity of the children when his ex-mistress sued him for maintenance. Known as superfecundation, the phenomenon of twins or triplets having different fathers can occur when a woman, having ovulated at least twice in the same cycle, sleeps with more than one man within 24 hours and conceives children by them.
    – The Times (South Africa?), May 17, 2008
The dictionary-writers are confused. For example, AHD defines superfecundation as multiple ova in a "single menstrual cycle" fertilized by separate acts of coitus, especially by different males". Nonsense. If it were "one cycle" but not "different males", you'd have no way to know that it was "by separate acts".

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Many respected dictionaries define today's word as a transitive verb: "Is the boss going to _________ that employee?" They omit that it is also used as an intransitive verb: "Is that employee going to _________ this year?" Contrast AHD's definition with the two usage examples.

superannuate1. to allow to retire on a pension because of age or infirmity 2. to set aside or discard as old-fashioned or obsolete
    It has always been an executive practice in India to supercede or superannuate any public servant who refuses to fall in line.
    – Indian Express, May 13, 2008

    The candidates would replace the bank chiefs who superannuate next year.
    – Rediff, Dec. 9, 2004
Etymology: Latin super beyond, over + annus year. In Medieval Latin, cattle more than a year old were called superannuates. You might think the verb "to superannuate" was the source of the adjective "superannuated" (a previous word-of-the-day), but in fact it's the other way around.

The verb-form "to superannuate" may seem obscure to many readers, but it's quite common in the English used in India.
 
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Medieval churches were vast empty spaces that could not be practically heated during winter, so those who spent much time there needed to dress warmly. A priest would wear animal skins or furs for warmth, covering them with a more-elegant cloth robe for show. (Is this a medieval version of the "layered" look?)

surplice – a loose white robe worn, by clergy and choir, etc. at church services, over a cassock or other garments
[from Latin meaning "an over-fur garment"; super over + pellicium garment of skins or fur; pellis skin. The skin over which the garment lies is the animal's skin, not the priest's skin!]
    Between them an elderly gray bearded man wearing a short surplice over a light tweed suit had evidently just completed the wedding service, for he pocketed his prayer-book as we appeared, and slapped the sinister bridegroom on the back in jovial congratulation.
    – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist (a Sherlock Holmes tale)
 
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supersede – to take the place of; to supplant (often with the sense that the thing being displaced is inferior or antiquated, or is made so by the new)

[Latin supersedere, via Middle English superceden 'to postpone' and Old French superceder. The Latin literally means 'to sit on, or on top of', and those who translate this give two very different senses: some say 'to be superior to’, while others say 'to refrain from'.]

How do you spell the last part of a verb that ends with the "seed" sound? I was taught that it's always spelled -cede, except that three word use a doubled ee (exceed; proceed; succeed) and one word has an s in place of the c (supersede). To my surprise, I saw from a quote a few days ago that supersede can alternately be spelled supercede, although the later version is used far less often. Perhaps the two ways of spelling arose because the word comes to us through several languages, some of which use the s and some the c In any event, Compact OED says that "the standard spelling is supersede rather than supercede."
    One sign of this is that social science authors themselves, in order to keep up with the times, must consistently bring out new, revised editions of their works; and new works supersede older ones and rapidly render them obsolete.
    – Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book
 
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I am waiting for: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Wink
 
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And a cast of thousands …

Today's word has a meaning in theater, opera, etc., for which the dictionary definitions are all over the lot (pun intended).

supernumerary (noun) – theater: a "spear-carrier"; an extra; a player who is merely part of a crowd [a/k/a a 'super']
more generally; adjective: beyond the normal or required number [e.g., a supernumerary or third nipple]
noun: a thing/person thus in excess [e.g., an extra or unneeded employee]
[Latin supernumeraries a soldier added to a legion after it is complete]
    They're supernumeraries, the people on an opera stage who neither speak nor sing, yet whose presence in the production is crucial. … Imagine "Aida" without soldiers and slaves.
    – Chicago Tribune, March 11, 2007
[Note: Some dictionaries give the theater meaning as 'a walk-on' or 'a player with a non-speaking part'. But I think it must be a non-speaker who's part of a crowd. Harpo Marx, for example, was not a 'super'. And if a movie shows its lead characters dining in a restaurant, the supers are the miscellaneous waiters and diners in the background, but not (in my view) the waiter who serves the leads' table.]
 
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