Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for July 28, 2020 is:

mesmerize • MEZ-muh-ryze  • verb

1 : to subject to mesmerism; also : hypnotize

2 : spellbind


The crowd was mesmerized by the flawlessly synchronous movements of the acrobats.

“Control is a coveted possession in Credulity, Ogden’s illuminating recent study of American mesmerism. The mesmerists and skeptics she studies all seem to want it; at any rate, they want to consider themselves rational and self-possessed enough not to fall under anyone else’s. During this brief, strange moment between 1836 and the late 1850s, mesmerizing another person—or seeing someone get mesmerized, or denouncing mesmerists as charlatans—became a way of stockpiling control for one’s own use.” — Max Nelson, The New York Review of Books, 24 July 2019

Did you know?

Experts can’t agree on whether Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) was a quack or a genius, but all concede that the late 18th-century physician’s name is the source of the word mesmerize. In his day, Mesmer was the toast of Paris, where he enjoyed the support of notables including Queen Marie Antoinette. He treated patients with a force he termed animal magnetism. Many believe that what he actually used was what we now call hypnotism. Mesmer’s name was first applied to a technique for inducing hypnosis in 1784.

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