My new dictionary fills a visceral need

From a Denver Post story about deep cuts in public services in Colorado Springs:

Colorado Springs' woes are more visceral versions of local and state cuts across the nation. Denver has cut salaries and human services workers, trimmed library hours and raised fees; Aurora shuttered four libraries; the state budget has seen round after round of wholesale cuts in education and personnel.

So what is visceral? To the American Heritage Dictionary:

  • 1. Relating to, situated in, or affecting the viscera.
  • 2. Perceived in or as if in the viscera; profound.
  • 3. Instinctive.

And the definition of viscera:

  • 1. The soft internal organs of the body, especially those contained within the abdominal and thoracic cavities.
  • 2. The intestines.

Definition 2 of visceral seems about right here. The Colorado Springs cuts include reductions in police, fire, watering public parks, and other deep losses that will probably feel like a kick in the gut when the effect is noticed.

Before I grabbed the definitions online, I looked up visceral in my new print copy of the American Heritage Dictionary, which I got for my birthday on Sunday. It's a gorgeous, illustrated volume. One of the reasons I like print dictionaries is there is always the opportunity to notice other entries that you wouldn't see when using the online version.

In this case, I saw viscid:

  • adj. 1. Thick and adhesive. Used of a fluid.
  • 2. Covered with a sticky or clammy coating.

And viscous:

  • adj. 1. Having relatively high resistance to flow.
  • 2. Viscid; sticky.

And then I saw viscus:

  • Singular of viscera.

So I wondered if viscera and viscid had the same messy origin. But no. Viscus and its plural viscera both come straight from Latin. Viscid and viscous also have a Latin origin, but it's not quite as direct: Middle English viscous, from the Old French, from Late Latin viscōsus, from the Latin viscum, meaning mistletoe and  birdlime made from mistletoe berries.

So viscus is a soft internal organ, but viscum is mistletoe. Not something you'd want to confuse when hanging it over the doorway at Christmas.

I love my new dictionary. Thanks Mom and Dad.