Home » A » a - ab » ablative


Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.

Sorry. That song lyric was apropos of nothing other than the fact that either half of the lyric sounds vaguely like ablative to my defective ears. Blame it on my persistent, decades-old tinnitus.

I mentioned it only because I’ve heard Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, a nonsensical song lyric, a great many times in my life, but I had never heard ablative before. (He said, likely conclusively proving his ignorance of a great many things.) Oh well, life goes on; la-la how the life goes on.

So what does ablative mean? It’s a word or phrase that identifies the cause, source, separation or instrument of something. At least, that’s what I got from the definition provided by The New Penguin English Dictionary, the dictionary I’m using to drive this project.

In truth, I’m not sure I interpreted that definition correctly. In an attempt to verify my understanding of ablative I checked it out in another dictionary as well, the one bundled in the OS/X operating system installed on my Mac. (Sometimes it amazes me how much work I will do to provide accurate information to my loyal readers, who likely exist only in my imagination.)

The definition I found there was pretty much the same as the first one, so it neither confirmed nor refuted my interpretation. However, I’m sorry I looked it up because the OS/X-based dictionary offers two definitions for ablative that aren’t in The New Penguin English, which makes me glad I didn’t attempt to use the Mac-based dictionary as the basis for this project. Who needs the extra work? Not me. (Full disclosure: I chose a paper-based dictionary over an electronic one because it’s easier to read words sequentially in a hard-copy dictionary.)

According to the dictionary that resides in my Mac, ablative can also be used in a surgical context. In that case it means … wait for it … involving ablation.

To hell with it! Ablation isn’t in The New Penguin English Dictionary. That’s the dictionary I’m declaring definitive for this project, so I’m not going to bother looking up ablation. If you want to do so on your own, feel free. Or if there is a doctor in the house who would like to explain it, please do so in a comment on this entry.

This brings me to the third definition in my Mac’s dictionary.

Ablative also means, “of, relating to, or subject to” … again, wait for it, … “ablation through melting or evaporation: the spacecraft’s ablative heat shield.”

Oh, crap! There are two different definitions of ablative that depend on me knowing what ablation means. I could ignore one, but two? I guess I’d better look it up.

Alright, here’s what you’ve been waiting for (or not): Ablation means “the surgical removal of body tissue” or “the removal of snow and ice by melting or evaporation, typically from a glacier or iceberg.” OK, doctors, you’re off the hook. You don’t have to provide us with the definition of ablation as requested above.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *