June 1, 2007


Bruce Mitchell 1996
Oil on canvas
18" x 48"

from the Oxford English Dictionary.



mThe action of throwing out of a window.
Defenestration of Prague, the action of the Bohemian insurgents who, on the 21st of May 1618, broke up a meeting of Imperial commissioners and deputies of the States, held in the castle of the Hradshin, and threw two of the commissioners and their secretary out of the window; this formed the prelude to the Thirty Years' War
[from Latin de down, down from + fenestra a window.] 1620

  • I much admire the manner in which the defenestration is shown [in a picture].1837SOUTHEY
  • Which commencing at the defenestration of Prague..terminated in the peace of Westphalia.1863 NEALE
mHence (as a back-formation) fenestrate verb transitive (usually jocular), to throw out of a window; fenestrated past part. adj.
  • Two of the defenestrated men.1620 H. WOTTON
  • The word defenestrate means ‘to throw out of the window’..but there is no good authority for its use.1915 Lit. Digest
  • Prague..seemed a good place, gloomy and defenestrated" [perhaps, punningly "windowless"?].1927 C. CONNOLLY
  • Anne Ramsdell, a brilliant math professor at Oxford,..escapes death by stabbing but is thrown out of her third-story window... Anne meets and falls in love with the man who had defenestrated her at Oxford. 1974 Publishers Weekly

"defenestration" The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 1 June 2007 (http://dictionary.oed.com).
—————————————————————————————————— Defenestration IN USE:

From "Operation Freedom from Iraqis"
Essay by
Frank Rich,
The new White House policy, as Zbigniew Brzezinski has joked, is "bame and run." It started to take shape just before the midterm elections last fall, when Mr. Rumsfeld wrote a memo (propitiously leaked after his defenestration) suggesting that the Iraqi people might "have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country."
Frank Rich. "Operation Freedom from Iraqis." OP-ED The New York Times. Sunday, May. 27, 2007.


"Say wha- . . . Me?
Out that window?
Right now

A "Word's Worth" Exclusive:

What Probably Happened:
The Moments Preceeding the Defenestration

As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stares through the fated window on the top floor of The White House—with the President peering over his shoulder through the same window—he says:

"You know, Mister President, outside that window are millions of Americans standing stalwart in gratitude to me (and thus by extension, to you, sir) for the policies and practices that I have given you in well-advised advisements, advisements which I then advisedly brought to fruition, undiminished in any way by apparent (i.e., seeming) need, hewing ever and increasingly more full-heartedly to the guiding principal of parsimony in the field, all of this, I should say, Sir, redounding splendidly to the benefit of us — ultimately, Sir, I should say, Sir, with respect, Sir — of us all."

Concurrently, throughout the Secretary's encomium — not a word of which reached the President's ears — The Defenistrator-qua-Decider-in-Chief pondered how to manage the next problem: that of gracefully moving the Secretary, whose shoulders are broad of beam, through that single available window—one of good height from the ground, but of narrow dimensions in construction—one not propitiously designed for ease of departure during a defenestration.

Bush: "I ga-duh defatstresna yuh, Rummy."

Rumsfeld: No! Not by window! Please! Maybe the back stairs? Or helicopter from the roof?

At sea, of course, we
call it "walking the plank."
Cleverly, the cartoonist here
has created a
leaning (to the
Right*), listing
structure that is
part White House, part ship at sea.

*Antanaclasis: a form, yes, of the Pun.


Now that we've discussed the meaning of defenestration, the question arises: What does fenestration mean? To throw something or someone up from the ground into a building's high window? No. Read on . . . .

from the Oxford English Dictionary.


(fen-uh-stray'-shun) 1846

1. The arrangement of windows in a building

• The fenestration of Soane's building was praiseworthy.—1846 Civ. Eng. & Archit. Jrnl.

I see no difference of principle in the fenestration of the Early French and the Early English Pointed styles.1879 Sir G. G. SCOTT

2. Anatomical a. The process of becoming perforated; the formation of small holes. b. The condition of being fenestrated or perforated.

"fenestration" The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 1 June 2007 (http://dictionary.oed.com.)


ho or what qualifies for a defenestration?

A. Anything, anybody. The window's wide open.

"Defenestration of Bedclothes"



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