A word to be said with nose stuffed and throat phlegmy. For those who have ever seen this word actually used, it may have resonances of 19th-century advertisements for medicine. Its sound brings contradictory echoes: a dry, arid Arabian country and a resonant stringed instrument. Pet owners may look at it and think of a hairball. But if you focus on the tar, you begin to get the sense of the thing. The first half has a stickiness suitable for saying with the sinus passages inflamed. The second half simply lolls the tongue, but the spelling tells the true tale of woe: a double liquid rolling followed by heavy breathing… a throat clearing, or a grunt of frustration. If the rrh reminds you of diarrhea, it should, not just because that’s also unpleasant but because they both come from the Greek for “flow.” The cata is the same one as in cataclysm and catastrophe: down.
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