• Word of the day
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    Monday, January 29, 2018

    ad absurdum

    adverb [ad ab-sur-duh m]
    to the point of absurdity.
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    What is the origin of ad absurdum?

    In Latin ad absurdum is a prepositional phrase composed of the preposition ad “to” and the neuter singular adjective absurdum “out of tune, harsh, rough; senseless, silly.” In English the phrase is used as an adverb and is still unnaturalized. Ad absurdum entered English in the mid-17th century.

    How is ad absurdum used?

    "Oh, if any argument's pushed ad absurdum ..." Fido controls her temper. Emma Donoghue, The Sealed Letter, 2008

    André was allergic to the very idea of "matéreal" and smelled one of Theo's attempts to critique "bourgeois morality" by taking it ad absurdum. Peter Schneider, Couplings, translated by Philip Boehm, 1996

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, January 28, 2018

    earworm

    noun [eer-wurm]
    Informal. a tune or part of a song that repeats in one’s mind.
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    What is the origin of earworm?

    The English noun earworm is a calque or loan translation of the German compound Ohrwurm “earwig (the insect), catchy tune” (the all but identical Dutch oorworm means only earwig). Earworm entered English in the late 16th century in the sense earwig; its current sense dates from the late 20th century.

    How is earworm used?

    Despite the annoying times we can’t get a chorus or a hook of an overplayed pop song out of our heads, getting a really good earworm stuck can be one of the best things, ever. Blake Rodgers, "Weekend Earworms: Good Gracious, the Great Grammys of 1983!" Nerdist, February 12, 2017

    The earworm made it all the way to No. 4 on the Hot 100, stalling just shy of breaking through and becoming the extremely rare alternative track to own that all-genre chart. Hugh McIntyre, "This Hit Single Is Now The Longest-Running No. 1 On The Alternative Songs Chart," Forbes, November 30, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, January 27, 2018

    flakelet

    noun [fleyk-lit]
    a small flake, as of snow.
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    What is the origin of flakelet?

    Flakelet was first recorded in the 1880s.

    How is flakelet used?

    I am amazed before a little flakelet of snow, at its loveliness, at the strangeness of its geometry, its combination of angles, at the marvellous chemistry which brought these curious atoms together. Theodore Parker, Lessons from the World of Matter and the World of Man, 1865

    The first flake or flakelet that reached me was a mere white speck that came idly circling and eddying to the ground. John Burroughs, "A Snow-Storm," Signs and Seasons, 1886

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, January 26, 2018

    Sisyphean

    adjective [sis-uh-fee-uh n]
    endless and unavailing, as labor or a task.
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    What is the origin of Sisyphean?

    Many Greek proper names, e.g., Sisyphus, Ephyra, Corinth, and Athens, have no discernible etymology in Greek. In Greek mythology Sísyphos was king over Ephýra, the old name for Corinth (the port city on the southern shore of the Gulf of Corinth), about 50 miles west of Athens. The only mention of Sisyphus in the Iliad (book 6:154-55) is that he lived in Ephyra. In the Odyssey (book 11:593-600), Odysseus saw Sisyphus rolling his huge stone but gave no reason for Sisyphus’s punishment. Later writers state that Sisyphus had offended Zeus by telling the river god Asopus where Zeus had taken his (Asopus’s) daughter Aegina. Zeus had abducted Aegina, and Asopus was in vengeful pursuit against Zeus. Sisyphean entered English in the 17th century.

    How is Sisyphean used?

    Making himself useful as always, he took upon himself the Sisyphean task of keeping all those Modernist surfaces sparkling. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex, 2002

    We are shown two inmates toiling at senseless, Sisyphean labors, nursing each other's sores, commiserating and bickering with each other. John Simon, "Mad, Bad, Sad, and Glad," New York, December 16, 1974

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, January 25, 2018

    reverie

    noun [rev-uh-ree]
    a state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing: lost in reverie.
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    What is the origin of reverie?

    Reverie has calmed down from its original meaning of wild emotion, wild behavior, anger, fury (the 14th and 15th centuries). The Middle French nouns reverie and resverie derive from Middle French verbs resver, raver, rever “to be insane, behave deliriously” (in modern French rȇver means only “to dream”). The current English meaning of daydreaming dates from the 15th century.

    How is reverie used?

    Sometimes I'd lie quite still with my eyes closed for as much as half an hour, letting myself sink slowly into a state of reverie that was almost a trance. Christopher Isherwood, The World in the Evening, 1954

    As the evening wore away he became more and more absorbed in reverie, from which no sallies of mine could arouse him. Edgar Allan Poe, "The Gold Bug," The Dollar Newspaper, June 21, 1843

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, January 24, 2018

    quodlibet

    noun [kwod-luh-bet]
    a subtle or elaborate argument or point of debate, usually on a theological or scholastic subject.
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    What is the origin of quodlibet?

    The Latin indefinite pronoun and adjective quodlibet is the neuter singular of quīlibet (also quīlubet) “who(m)/what it pleases, who(m)/what you like, whoever, whatever.” Latin libēre, lubēre “to be dear, be pleasing” is related to English love and to Slavic (Polish) lubić “to like, enjoy." By the 14th century, medieval scholars used the noun quodlibētum “whatever (subject or topic) you like,” as in disputātiō dē quodlibētō “a debate on any topic one likes.” Quodlibet entered English in the 14th century.

    How is quodlibet used?

    And his majesty drove off, very much delighted with his last quodlibet upon the duke, whom he really hated. Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870), The Memoirs of a Physician, translated 1910

    The hexahemera of the fathers and the works of Albertus Magnus would be the text-books in natural science, while theology and philosophy would be nothing but a rehash of the quiddities and quodlibets of Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus. E. P. Evans, "Recent Recrudescence of Superstition," The Popular Science Monthly, October 1895

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, January 23, 2018

    maladroit

    adjective [mal-uh-droit]
    unskillful; awkward; bungling; tactless; lacking in adroitness: to handle a diplomatic crisis in a very maladroit way.
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    What is the origin of maladroit?

    English maladroit is a direct borrowing from French. The first element, mal-, is from the French adverb and combining form mal- “badly, ill,” from the Latin adverb male with the same meaning. The second element is the French adjective adroit “skillful, deft,” in origin a prepositional phrase à droit (also à dreit) “by or according to right; correctly.” The element à is from Latin ad “to, up to, towards.” Dreit (droit) is the French development of Vulgar Latin drēctum, drictum “straightened, straight,” from Latin dīrectum, dērectum “straight, right.” Maladroit entered English in the 17th century.

    How is maladroit used?

    He asked a thousand pardons of Madame la Duchesse for being so maladroit. William Makepeace Thackeray, The Newcomes, 1855

    Nixon’s maladroit attempt to be one of the boys indicates an important advance that shows up in the taping. Clive Irving, "Watergate Didn't Reveal Nixon's Demons—David Frost Did," Daily Beast, May 27, 2017

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