Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, February 28, 2020

echelon

[ esh-uh-lon ]

noun

a level of command, authority, or rank: After years of service, she is now in the upper echelon of city officials.

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What is the origin of echelon?

In English, echelon originally had a military sense, “military forces advancing in a steplike formation.” Around 1950, echelon acquired the originally American sense “grade or rank in any administration or profession.” Echelon comes from French echelon, originally “rung of a ladder,” from Old French eschelon, formed from the noun eschele, eschiele “ladder” (from Latin scāla) and the augmentative suffix –on (an augmentative suffix, when added to a noun, denotes increased size or intensity). Echelon entered English in the late 18th century.

how is echelon used?

… if they fall out of favor with the top echelon of the party, their business empires could come crashing down.

David Barboza and Michael Forsythe, "With Choice at Tiananmen, Student Took Road to Riches," New York Times, June 3, 2014

The film features interviews with former members of the controversial organization who describe widespread abuse and intimidation from the upper echelons of the Church’s power structure.

"See the First Trailer for Scathing Scientology Documentary Going Clear," Time, February 20, 2015
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Word of the day

Thursday, February 27, 2020

vug

[ vuhg, voog ]

noun

Geology.

a small cavity in a rock or vein, often lined with crystals.

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What is the origin of vug?

While you may have not heard of the word vug before, you have probably encountered a beautiful specimen of what this uncommon term names. In geology, vug refers to a small cavity in a rock or vein, often lined with crystals. Cavity is the key word, as vug comes from Cornish vooga “cave” (compare Cornish gogow “cave, cavity” and gwag “cave,” Welsh ogof “cave,” Latin fovea “pit”). Vug is also spelled vugg and vugh, and its adjective form is the delightful vuggy. Cornish was a Celtic language of southwest England that went extinct around 1800, but was notably revived in the 20th century. Borrowed from Cornish mining, vug entered English in the early 1800s.

how is vug used?

And this little hole—see, this little hole? There were once quartz crystals here too but they eroded away. This little hole is called a vug.

James Landis, The Last Day, 2009

One such quartz vein contained minute particles of free gold, in a vug.

Mineral Resources of the Pasayten Wilderness Area, Washington, 1971

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Word of the day

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

corrigible

[ kawr-i-juh-buhl, kor- ]

adjective

subject to being revised, improved, or made more accurate: a corrigible theory.

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What is the origin of corrigible?

It is curious that corrigible “subject to being revised, improved, or made more accurate” is much less common than its opposite, incorrigible. Corrigible ultimately comes from Medieval Latin corrigiblis, a derivative of Latin corrigere “to correct, amend, improve, rectify.” Corrigibilis does not occur in classical Latin, but incorrigibilis occurs in Seneca, the first-century a.d. Roman philosopher and man of letters. Corrigible entered English in the 15th century.

how is corrigible used?

First, policy decisions demand closure, conclusiveness, and certainty. By contrast, science is by its nature cautious, contingent, and corrigible.

David Murray, Joel Schwartz, and S. Robert Lichter, "How Science Is Handled in the News," "Consumers' Research Magazine, July 2001

He cautioned against a colonizing mindset that too readily collapses the distance between one’s self and another; empathy, in Stein’s definition, is “corrigible, always something to be learned.”

Rowan Williams, "I Have No Idea How You Feel," Harvard Magazine, April 15, 2014

Word of the day

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

krewe

[ kroo ]

noun

a private social club that sponsors balls, parades, etc., as part of the Mardi Gras festivities, especially in New Orleans.

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What is the origin of krewe?

Krewe is a fanciful or archaized spelling of crew “a group of people engaged in a particular kind of work.” Crew comes from Middle French creue “increase” from Old French creu, past participle of the verb creistre “to grow.” Old French creistre develops from the Latin verb crēscere, the ultimate source of the words crescent and croissant. Krewe is first attested in English in 1857.

how is krewe used?

On the morning of Shrove Tuesday, families lined up on St. Charles Ave. to watch the main event of the Carnival—the parade of Rex, the second-oldest parading krewe.

Calvin Trillin, "New Orleans Unmasked," The New Yorker, January 26, 1998

Davis lovingly previewed the ritual of revelry: on the Friday before Fat Tuesday he and his krewe—some 500 strong—will gather for lunch and ribald jokes.

Evan Thomas, "Taken by Storm," Newsweek, December 25, 2005

Word of the day

Monday, February 24, 2020

realpolitik

[ rey-ahl-poh-li-teek, ree- ]

noun

political realism or practical politics, especially policy based on power rather than on ideals.

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What is the origin of realpolitik?

Realpolitik still feels like a German word. It was coined by Ludwig von Rochau, a 19th-century German politician and journalist, in his Grundsätze der Realpolitik “Principles of Practical Politics” (1853). Real in German means “realistic, practical, objective,” and Realpolitik means “realistic politics, practical politics,” that is, politics based primarily on power, national interests, and material factors and not on explicit ideological or moral or ethical premises. Realpolitik entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is realpolitik used?

Throughout, Ms. Warren has kept one eye trained on policy and the other on realpolitik: protecting her aspirational brand of liberalism and robbing Republicans (and her Democratic rivals) of a potent talking point about middle-class taxes.

Shane Goldmacher, Sarah Kliff, and Thomas Kaplan, "How Elizabeth Warren Got to 'Yes' on Medicare for All," New York Times, November 17, 2019

… the cynic also had not counted on how ruthless the man could be in attaching himself to cold realpolitik after building his entire campaign—nay, his entire political career—on a notion of political transcendence.

Charles P. Pierce, "The Cynic and President Obama," Esquire, November 1, 2012

Word of the day

Sunday, February 23, 2020

thersitical

[ ther-sit-i-kuhl ]

adjective

scurrilous; foulmouthed; grossly abusive.

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What is the origin of thersitical?

The very rare adjective thersitical “scurrilous, foulmouthed, abusive” derives from the Greek personal name Thersítēs, itself a derivative of the adjective thersiepḗs “bold of speech.” Thersites appears in Book 2 of the Iliad in the assembly of the Achaeans. Homer describes Thersites as lame, bowlegged, with shoulders that sloped inward, and a pointy head covered with tufts of hair—the ugliest man at Troy. Thersites accuses Agamemnon of greed and Achilles of cowardice, for which Odysseus beats him severely about the head and shoulders to the great amusement of the rest of the Achaeans. Thersitical entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is thersitical used?

… there is a pelting kind of thersitical satire ….

Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Vol. 2, 1759

These he lists in language so richly thersitical that his English translator, likely Herring himself, must have strained his vocabulary to its limits to do it justice.

Todd H.J. Pettigrew, Stephanie M. Pettigrew, and Jacques A. Bailly, eds., "Introduction," The Major Works of John Cotta, 2018

Word of the day

Saturday, February 22, 2020

gullywasher

[ guhl-ee-wosh-er, -waw-sher ]

noun

Chiefly Midland and Western U.S.

a usually short, heavy rainstorm.

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What is the origin of gullywasher?

Gullywasher, “a short, heavy rainstorm,” is a dialect and regional word in the U.S. Midwest and West. The first half of the word is a variant pronunciation of gullet “throat, esophagus,” from Middle English golet, gulet, from Old French goulet, from Latin gula “throat.” Gullywasher entered English in the early 20th century.

how is gullywasher used?

I used to have a country neighbor who during drouths would inevitably, when he saw a white rim of cloudiness on the easter horizon, prognosticate a gully-washer, a clod-melter, a frog-strangler within the week.

John Graves, "Weather Between East and West," From a Limestone Ledge, 1977

The rounds of rain and flash flooding Tuesday presented another reminder that 2018 has featured both gullywashers and full-day washouts.

Ian Livingston, "Tuesday's record rainfall catapulted D.C. to its yearly total with four months to go in 2018," Washington Post, August 22, 2018

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