August 05, 2011
- guillotine (noun)
- What does it mean?
- : a machine for cutting off a person's head by means of a heavy blade sliding in two upright grooved posts
- How do you use it?
- In Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton takes his friend's place at the guillotine, saying "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done . . ."
- Are you a word wiz?
Don't lose your head -- stay calm and try to think clearly. How do you think the "guillotine" got its name?Dr. Joseph Guillotin knew executions were a fact of life in the turbulent days of the French Revolution. He felt it was important for death sentences to be as quick and painless as possible, so he encouraged French officials to use a machine then called the "Louison" or "Louisette" (after its inventor, Antoine Louis), which he thought was more humane than other methods. Guillotin was so outspoken about the use of the device that people nicknamed it "la guillotine." (In French, it is pronounced like \ghee-yoh-teen\). By 1793, English speakers were referring to it as a "guillotine" too.