|This photo breaks my heart every time I look at it.|
(photo by Big Ben in Japan)
Noun. Mid-16th century.
[Latin catastropha from Greek katastrophe overturning, sudden turn, from katastrephein, formed as CATA- + strephein turn.]
1 The dénouement of a play, especially a tragedy;
the final resolution of a novel etc. M16
2(a) A disastrous conclusion; overthrow, ruin, calamitous fate. L16
2(b) obsolete. The buttocks. jocular. rare (Shakespeare). Only in L16
3(a) A revolutionary event. L17
3(b) GEOLOGY. (An event causing) a sudden upheaval or discontinuity in the stratigraphic record. M19
4 A sudden or widespread or noteworthy disaster.; an extreme misfortune. M18
catastrophic adj. of or pertaining to a catastrophe; disastrous, dreadful. M19
catastrophical adj. = CATASTROPHIC E19
catastrophically adv. L19
One of catastrophe's greatest qualities as a word, however, is its evolution away from its thespian roots. Yes, of course, catastrophe can mean a genuine, ground-splitting, world-ending disaster, but it can also be used just as comfortably to describe, say, your oven going on the blink half an hour before your boss and his wife arrive for dinner. And what about a dropped ice-cream? Oh my word! Is there anything more catastrophically tragic than a dropped ice-cream? For what was a only a fleeting moment, a child held a single scoop of pure happiness in her hand. It was everything - the excitement, the anticipation, the wonder of the cool, delicious bliss to come. And then? Splat. In an instant, the child's entire world is unceremoniously spattered across the unyielding pavement. Oh one almost weeps just thinking about it.
And yes, finally, in Shakespearean English, a catastrophe was a pair of buttocks, as immortalised in the line:
"Away you scullion! You rampallion! You fustilarian! I'll tickle your catastrophe!"
Henry IV Part II
Seriously, is there anything more catastrophic than a dropped ice-cream?
Has anyone ever admired your catastrophe?
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