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[ ahp-zahyl, ab-seyl ] [ ˈɑp zaɪl, ˈæb seɪl ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun, verb (used without object)

to descend by moving down a steep incline or past an overhang by means of a double rope secured above and placed around the body.

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More about abseil

Abseil “to descend down an incline by means of a rope” is a borrowing of German abseilen, which is a compound of ab- “down” and seilen “to rope.” Because German and English are related, German ab- is a cognate of English of and off; this makes German Ablaut, which refers to the vowel change in the verb singsangsung, equivalent to English off loud. However, German seilen does not have a relative in modern standard English. Old English had sāl “rope,” but this survives today only in dialectal English as sole “a rope for tying up cattle.” Abseil was first recorded in English in the early 1930s.

how is abseil used?

Over the Easter weekend, the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company–based in the heart of London’s principal jewelery quarter–was raided. The circumstances of the case have yet to be established, but initial reports speculate that the perpetrators may have abseiled down an elevator shaft and broken through the wall of the vault with heavy-duty cutting equipment, before finally using drills to get into the deposit boxes.

David Churchill, “Drills, dynamite and derring-do: why we love a diamond heist,” Conversation, April 9, 2015

India, China, Russia, Spain and the United States all have deposits of jet, the pitch-black gem that actually is a form of coal. But the jet found along a seven-and-a-half-mile stretch of rugged coastland around Whitby, a remote Yorkshire fishing town, is considered the world’s best. Jacqueline Cullen, a London designer credited with some of the renewed interest in jet jewelry, gets her supplies from a Whitby resident who abseils down the cliffs to search abandoned Victorian mines, really just small holes chiseled into the rock face.

Felicia Craddock, “A Victorian Fad Has Regained Some of Its Allure,” New York Times, May 13, 2015
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[ stee-vi-dawr, -dohr ] [ ˈsti vɪˌdɔr, -ˌdoʊr ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a firm or individual engaged in the loading or unloading of a vessel.

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More about stevedore

Stevedore “an individual who loads and unloads a vessel” is an Americanism adapted from Spanish estibador “dock worker, longshoreman,” which is based on the Spanish verb estibar “to pack, stow, cram.” Estibar, from Latin stīpāre “to stuff, pack tightly,” reflects a common sound change between Latin and some modern Romance languages: voiceless consonants (p, t, c) that are intervocalic, or appear between vowels, often become voiced, or pronounced with vibrations in the vocal chords (b, d, g). One of the best examples of this is Latin apothēca “shop, storehouse,” which voiced its voiceless consonants—and eventually dropped the initial a—to become Spanish bodega “wine cellar.” Stevedore was first recorded in English in the 1780s.

how is stevedore used?

[Naomi] Cain is part of nine Indigenous sailors, descendants of Indigenous Australians, on the 11-person crew sailing the Beneteau 47.7 Marguerite. She’s worked alongside boats as a stevedore for nearly 18 years, moving cargo on and off container ships with a forklift. Sailing, however, is uncharted waters.

John Clarke, “For the Sydney Hobart, an Indigenous Crew Puts to Sea,” New York Times, December 23, 2019

Around that time in Arles, on the Rhône River in what is now southern France, the stevedores did things a bit differently: They threw their empties into the river. Arles in the first century was the thriving gateway to Roman Gaul. Freight from all over the Mediterranean was transferred there to riverboats, then hauled up the Rhône by teams of men to supply the northern reaches of the empire, including the legions manning the German frontier.

Robert Kunzig, “Romans in France,” National Geographic, April 2014
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[ kou-moh-jee ] [ kaʊˈmoʊ dʒi ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a Japanese-style emoticon that uses Japanese characters, Latin letters, and punctuation marks in combination to represent a facial expression that conveys an emotion.

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More about kaomoji

Kaomoji “a Japanese-style emoticon” is a loanword from Japanese that is a compound of kao “face” and moji “(written) character.” Moji is an example of Sino-Xenic vocabulary, which refers to the hundreds of words that originated in Middle Chinese (compare Sino-) and were exported to foreign languages (compare xeno-) such as Japanese, as we can also see in the recent Words of the Day matcha, waka, and keiretsu. The moji element in kaomoji (as well as emoji) is therefore related to Mandarin wénzì and Cantonese manzi “writing, language.” A common misconception is that emoji and emoticon are related, but the resemblance is a coincidence; emoji is a compound of Japanese e “picture” and moji, while emoticon is a portmanteau of emotion and icon. Kaomoji was first recorded in English in the late 1980s.

how is kaomoji used?

Of course, emoji weren’t the first attempt to add an emotional layer. Before emoji there were kaomoji–those looked kinda like this: ╮( ̄~ ̄)╭, (o_O), and (=`ω´  =). And before that there were emoticons :-). Both were created to add emotional context. Cute and creative, but those older forms require a lot of typing, which on phones means tapping, which in the 1990s meant pecking at numeral buttons.

Nick Stockton, “Emoji—Trendy Slang or a Whole New Language?” Wired, June 24, 2015

Unlike better-known emoticons like :) or ;), ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ borrows characters from the Japanese syllabary called katakana. That makes it a kaomoji, a Japanese emoticon; it also makes it, on Western alphabetical keyboards at least, very hard to type. But then I found a solution, and it saves me having to google “smiley sideways shrug” every time I want to quickly rail at the world’s inherent lack of meaning.

Robinson Meyer, “The Best Way to Type ¯\_(ツ)_/¯” The Atlantic, May 21, 2014
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