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Ask MPR Mailbag

September 27, 2006



Can you help me find the meaning of "vitroflous"?

I was listening to a program in my car and I don't know which program. The discussion was about the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci. A word was used to describe her and I had never heard it before and it has been bothering me that I can't seem to find the meaning of the word. Of course I may be misspelling.

The word was vitroflous.

Thank you for your help.

Bonnie
Rochester, MN



Dear Bonnie, "Vitroflous" sounds like a delightful word, and I was eager to find its meaning. Unfortunately, it does not seem to exist, in spite of searches under many alternate spellings. So I decided to exhume the story you were listening to, in the hopes that the mysterious V-word would reveal itself.

There were two rememberances of Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci. One was by Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon. The other was by NPR reporter Sylvia Pogiolli.

I'm guessing that the Pogiolli commentary was what you heard, because she used not one but two adjectives starting with the letter "V", both of them in the following paragraph:

"She kept a low profile for years, but after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 Oriana Fallaci burst out with a vehemence. She shocked many of her admirers with her vitriolic attack on Islam, which she saw as the enemy of Western civilization."

According to my trusty American Heritage Dictionary, "Vehement" is an adjective "characterized by forcefulness of expression or intensity of emotion, passion, or conviction".

"Vitriolic" is defined as "bitterly scathing; caustic".

You can listen to the Pogiolli piece here.

We hope this helps. Thanks for listening, and for writing.

Michael Popham
Minnesota Public Radio Member Listener Services