A word Ward Cleaver might cry out when served a meagre, insipid portion. This word makes its speaker stutter like a man starving in a month of plenty and pucker like a lemon sucker dying for a drop of water. Ironically, this byword of privation is found in a part of our body that brings us nourishment: the jejunum, the middle part of the small intestine. But while the gut may go for food, the double shrivelling roots of this word get little or none, and have gotten none since the times of the Romans, and the skipping tongue slows through fasting to the limp final touch of the n.

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