I was in a pub the other day and saw a barometer on the wall. It was old and has the word pausodonoptic on it. I had never heard of this before and was curious so I did a bit of searching online. I didn't really find any definition of the word anywhere. I was disappointed that I couldn't find it on your site either. Have you any idea what it means? I shall look forward to hearing back from you.
I get plenty of these from my dutiful readers, and most of them are easily handled, but this one is a real puzzle: pausodonoptic is not in any of the usual online dictionaries, nor is it in the OED. The correspondent sent a photo of the object, so the spelling is correct. While there are a couple dozen websites that use the word, applied to various items (spectacles, barometers, cameras), but none that give a real sense of what it is supposed to mean. So, a mystery - but one that I was eventually able to solve (I think). My response:
You're quite right that 'pausodonoptic' is not used in context anywhere on the web, and indeed, nothing like it is found in the mammoth Oxford English Dictionary. This suggests that it is a coinage used by a manufacturer for the purposes of advertising some feature of the device. Now, 'pausodontic' looks as if it must be Greek-derived, so I turned to the Liddell and Scott classical Greek lexicon. There I looked for words starting with 'pauso-' and found pausodunos 'soothing pain'. This could then combine (a little improperly, and changing the final 'u' to 'o'), with -optic to mean something like 'soothing pain of the eyes', or in other words, relieving eye strain or pain. I was still a little confused, because this doesn't seem to be a suitable characteristic for a barometer. However, looking at the range of products called 'pausodonoptic' using a Google search, I note that there is a pausodonoptic camera and pausodonoptic spectacles. One advertisement from 1890 even says "You will act with discretion if you buy the New Pausodonoptic Spectacles or Eye-Glasses, (convex or concave), so comfortable and cooling to the eyes. They will enable you to read or sew, especially at night, with positive pleasure when others fail." The photo you sent afterwards, with the maker indicated as an optician, confirms this idea. My guess, then, is that the glass used in the barometer must be somehow specially treated in the same way, perhaps to reduce glare. Whether any of the buyers could figure out, or cared about, the Greek-derived coinage is unknown, but manufacturers both then and now often give scientific-sounding names to their products to enhance the sense that they must be effective.
So, what do you think of my explanation? Anyone have any alternate suggestions?