• nostrum •
Pronunciation: nah-strêm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A patent medicine or other questionable remedy prepared by someone who is not a doctor. 2. A pet scheme, someone's favorite remedy, especially one for solving some economic, social, or political problem.
Notes: Here is a word that is becoming rarer as medical science progresses. However, it is still needed for people who are taking nostra (or simply nostrums). I myself am taking cinnamon to help with glucose regulation and turmeric (pronounced [têr-mêr-rik]) for pain regulation on my wife's recommendation.
In Play: The primary sense of today's word is "quack medicine": "Ivan Oder wears a bag of garlic around his neck as a nostrum he thinks wards off evil spirits." (It actually wards off all souls approaching him.) The other meaning of this word is usually used sarcastically: "Siddy Hall is now running for congress on that old nostrum that lowering taxes on the rich creates jobs."
Word History: Today's Good Word is the neuter form of the Latin word for noster "our". The English word resulted from a shortening of the phrase nostrum remedium "our remedy" in the early 17th century. We find noster little disguised in all Romance languages, which descended from Latin. In French it became notre, in Spanish, nuestro, in Portuguese, nosso, and in Italian, nostro. Believe it or not, the Germanic languages still use the remnants of it. English us came from an original word closer to German uns "us", which reverses the order of the N and the vowel (metathesis). We also find this word in many phrases commonly heard in English, such as the name of the French cathedral Notre Dame "Our Lady", and words like paternoster "our father" = the Lord's Prayer. (We now thank Rob Towart for recommending today's Good Word, and wish him a working nostrum for all his pains.)