Word + Quiz: pneumatic – The New York Times


: of or relating to or using air (or a similar gas)


The word pneumatic has appeared in 14 articles on NYTimes.com in the past year, including on July 17 in “At Old St. Pat’s, a History of Defiance” by John Freeman Gill:

Funds raised at the event went to the Friends of the Erben Organ, a nonprofit group, for the future restoration of the church’s 1868 pipe organ, a gracious beast of an instrument larger than many of the area’s tenement apartments. Handcrafted by Irish, English and German immigrant artisans at a nearby Wooster Street factory, the organ is a masterwork of Henry Erben, the 19th century’s most prolific organ builder.

The instrument is a marvelously intricate device that Mr. Lamenzo, who studied mechanical engineering at Harvard, describes as a “pneumatic computer.” To watch his hands fly around its three manual keyboards while his feet dance across its pedals is to witness the operation of a retro-futuristic contraption that seems like something out of a Jules Verne novel.

A mechanical wonder, the instrument requires no electricity between the organist’s fingertip or toe and each valve that admits air into one of its 2,500 pipes. And the music that issues from those pipes — the smallest the size of a pencil, the biggest 24 feet tall — ranges from a celestial whisper to an earthshaking, Old Testament thunderclap.


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