the drugs don't work
December 14, 2002 10:40 AM   Subscribe

In some places, they have firing squads or electric chairs. In Prague, they have defenestration. Defenestration, or the tossing of people from windows, is a tradition there, popularized first by the defenestration of 1419 and later by the defenestrations of 1618 and 1948. William Safire name-checked it in in his column a few weeks back, and another mention of it can found in the Houston Chronicle.
posted by charlesv (19 comments total)
Ah yes, the defenestration of especially good year for defenestrations, if my memory serves.
posted by troutfishing at 10:59 AM on December 14, 2002

I suppose somebody has to ask it, for obvious reasons : When is Bill Gates next due to visit Prague?
posted by kaemaril at 11:01 AM on December 14, 2002

I was SO going to ration my posts today.

One can hardly mention defenestration without bringing up the most notorious American example, approximately as mysterious as the contemporaneous death of Masaryk: the death of James Forrestal, the first US Secretary of Defense, some weeks after his replacement by Truman on winning a second term. For reasons undiagnosed, Forrestal developed emotional instability and paranoia during a period of intense political stress. To this day, some believe the paranoia was justified, and that his defenestration was by persons unknown; but the bitterest allegations focus on Zionists, or the CIA. I'm inclined to believe the suicide theory, myself -- mainly because of who seems not to.
posted by dhartung at 11:10 AM on December 14, 2002

One of my favorite words!

Is entering a building through a window "infenestration?" After being thrown out, "refenestration?" Throwing yourself through a window autodefenstration?
posted by Foosnark at 11:13 AM on December 14, 2002

The window itself.
posted by grimmelm at 11:39 AM on December 14, 2002

We should have more links like this - I'm interested in reading about this sort of thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii....

v> oh look she's sleeping
posted by KettleBlack at 11:45 AM on December 14, 2002

That is seriously fupped duck.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 11:47 AM on December 14, 2002

defenestration is one of those words people seem to use because they think it'll make them look learned ... even though anyone who took european history in high school will recognize it.
posted by donkeyschlong at 12:16 PM on December 14, 2002

dude, defenestration is old.

dschlong: no, people seem to mostly use it for laughs.

In fact, it's the funniest part of the entire European history knowledge base that I acquired in high school.
posted by azazello at 12:59 PM on December 14, 2002

Next on Espn2 - Extreme Defenestration!
posted by SpecialK at 1:15 PM on December 14, 2002

To make the situation more interesting, King Wenceslas IV... died of a heart attack upon learning of the defenestration.

Good King Wenceslas? All this time, I thought it was "thefeastofstephen", not "defenestration".
posted by eddydamascene at 1:22 PM on December 14, 2002

Good King Wenceslas, in reality a mere Duke, lived considerably earlier. He was kind to the poor, halted persecution of Christians, and was himself martyred; the Feast of St. Stephen, by no coincidence, celebrates the first martyr of the Christian church. The song dates from the 19th century.
posted by dhartung at 1:45 PM on December 14, 2002

defenestration is one of those words people seem to use because they think it'll make them look learned ... even though anyone who took european history in high school will recognize it.

people use it 'cause it's funny, and I think half of us learned it in 7th grade latin. It woke our class up that there was a word that meant "to throw out the window"; it just doesn't strike one as something you'd need a word for generally. (fenestra remains one of the few latin nouns I remember).
posted by mdn at 1:54 PM on December 14, 2002

This is also one of my favorite words!

I liked it so much that, at my last job, I took great pains to include it in my "self review" that HR insisted each employee write about themselves, a boring and pointless task that everyone hated.

Since the review was distributed as a Word document I also took the time to rewrite some of the questions so that they were even less clear than their original.

No one noticed, of course, but I was amused. Can you tell I was sort of bored at work?
posted by hadashi at 2:24 PM on December 14, 2002

anyone who took european history in high school will recognize it.

That's funny, because on the last day of my ap european history course our teacher told us that if there was one thing we should remember from our class, it should be the meaning of defenestration. Honestly though, this has got to be one of the most unlikely words to survive the years and changing of languages.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 3:27 PM on December 14, 2002

Great post! Reminds me of my favorite building in San Francisco.
"On March 9, 1997, hundreds of people came together to celebrate the opening of Brian Goggin's Defenestration installation. Over 30 pieces of furniture and home appliances are welded and rigged to the two sides of a currently-empty 3-story building at 6th and Howard Street in San Francisco. "
posted by shoepal at 3:59 PM on December 14, 2002

i love words with german background :)
posted by y0bhgu0d at 6:45 PM on December 14, 2002

Have to say the best Defenestration caught on screen was in 'Braveheart'.
posted by IndigoSkye at 10:11 PM on December 14, 2002

In first pages of Pynchon's California novel Vineland, the main character Zoyd Wheeler has to do his yearly jump through a window to prove he's crazy enough to get a government check. It's a hoot, the local tv station reschedules him to a different diner for a better shot...

Anyways, I believe Pynchon coins "Transfenestration" for jumping yourself through a window there.
posted by mblandi at 12:31 AM on December 15, 2002

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