• Word of the day
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    Saturday, August 31, 2019

    adventitious

    adjective [ad-vuhn-tish-uhs]
    associated with something by chance rather than as an integral part; extrinsic.
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    What is the origin of adventitious?

    Adventitious comes from the Medieval Latin adjective adventītius, from Latin adventīcius “coming from without, from abroad, foreign, external, made or happening by chance, casual.” Adventīcius is a derivative of the verb advenīre “to come to, arrive at, reach” (formed from the preposition and prefix ad, ad- “to, toward” and the simple verb venīre “to come, be on the way, approach”) and the suffix -īcius, used for forming adjectives from the past participle stems of verbs (here, advent- from adventum). The zoological or botanical sense “appearing in an abnormal or unusual position or place, as a root” dates from the second half of the 17th century. Adventitious dates from the early 17th century.

    How is adventitious used?

    It is not founded on organic strength, the delicate, ennobling mark of a good endowment, of sound blood and a sound character, but is in a curious way something adventitious, accidental, perhaps even usurped or stolen. Herman Hesse, The Glass Bead Game, translated by Richard and Clara Winston, 1969

    This is exhausting, of course, but far less so than the tenor of a normal museum, which groups works by adventitious categories of period and style. Peter Schjeldahl, "Untouchable," The New Yorker, February 8, 2004

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, August 30, 2019

    banalize

    verb (used with object) [buh-nal-ahyz, -nah-lahyz, beyn-l-ahyz]
    to render or make devoid of freshness or originality; trivialize: Television has often been accused of banalizing even the most serious subjects.
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    What is the origin of banalize?

    Banalize “to render or make banal, trivialize” dates only from the mid-20th century. Banalize is a derivative of the adjective banal “lacking freshness or originality, trite, hackneyed.” Banal comes from Old French banal, banel “communal, open to the public,” from ban “public proclamation, edict, (in ecclesiastical usage) an official notice of an intended marriage, given three times in the parish church of each of the betrothed,” usually used in the plural banns or bans. In secular life, ban in feudal times meant “a summons from a lord or sovereign to a vassal to perform military service.” Any American male of a certain age who has ever received a letter personally addressed to him from The President of the United States, beginning with “Greeting:” would consider a ban like that as anything but banal.

    How is banalize used?

    Once the human tragedy has been completed, it gets turned over to the journalists to banalize into entertainment. Philip Roth, I Married a Communist, 1998

    ... these poets suffer by living in an anti-Romantic hollow, when the lyric occasion is no longer a noble and high thing, (let alone a public thing) but has been banalized and domesticated. James Wood, "Several General Conclusions," Slate, January 14, 1999

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, August 29, 2019

    wiredraw

    verb (used with object) [wahyuhr-draw]
    to strain unwarrantably, as in meaning.
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    What is the origin of wiredraw?

    The verb wiredraw, which entered English at the end of the 16th century, is a back formation from the agent noun wiredrawer, which dates from the 13th century and means—get this!—a worker whose job is to draw metal into wire (by forcibly pulling metal through holes of smaller and smaller diameter). Readers with scholarly interests will be familiar with the adjective wiredrawn “(of scholarly arguments) overrefined, overly subtle, contrived”—an occupational hazard.

    How is wiredraw used?

    He wiredraws every thing, and endeavours to misrepresent every circumstance of the story. Thomas Morgan, The Moral Philosopher, Vol. 2, 1739

    They wiredraw their arguments to such a length, that they absolutely weaken the very impression which a previous part of their speech may have produced. James Grant, The Bench and the Bar, Vol. 2, 1837

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, August 28, 2019

    sanguine

    adjective [sang-gwin]
    cheerfully optimistic, hopeful, or confident: a sanguine disposition; sanguine expectations.
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    What is the origin of sanguine?

    Sanguine comes from the Middle English adjective and noun sanguyn(e), sanguyn(e) “blood red, blood-red cloth, rosy hue, ruddy (of complexion), dominated by the humor blood, the humor blood.” The Middle English forms come from the Old French adjective sanguin(e), from the Latin adjective sanguineus “crimson, bloody, bloodstained. polluted with blood,” a derivative adjective of sanguis (stem sanguin-) “blood.” Neither sanguis nor sanguineus has any sense of the humor blood, which in medieval physiology is one of the four elemental fluids of the body (blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile) regarded as determining, by their relative proportions, a person's physical and mental constitution (their complexion). The medieval physiological theory actually dates back at least as far as Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” (c460–375 b.c.); it was adopted by Galen (c129–216 a.d.), the Greek physician and medical writer and afterward by Muslim and medieval scholars. Sanguine entered English in the 14th century.

    How is sanguine used?

    Today, investors seem sanguine about risks. Floyd Norris, "Going Long: Bond Buyers Are Sanguine," New York Times, May 9, 1993

    As his temper therefore was naturally sanguine, he indulged it on this occasion, and his imagination worked up a thousand conceits, to favour and support his expectations of meeting his dear Sophia in the evening. Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, 1749

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, August 27, 2019

    peacherino

    noun [pee-chuh-ree-noh] Informal: Older Use.
    person or thing that is especially attractive, liked, or enjoyed.
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    What is the origin of peacherino?

    Slang terms are notoriously difficult to etymologize, and peacherino is a slang term. Peacherino, with the variant spellings or words peachamaroot, peacherine, peachermaroot, is American in origin, formed from peach in the sense “someone or something especially attractive, liked, or enjoyed,” and the suffix -erino, of uncertain origin, but possibly from the suffix -eroo (of uncertain origin itself) augmented by the Spanish or Italian diminutive suffix -ino. The suffix -erino has its own variants, such as -arina, -arino, -erama, -ereeno, -erine. Peacherino entered English in the late 19th century.

    How is peacherino used?

    "It's a peacherino!" declared Tom enthusiastically. "Just wait till you see it and listen to the music coming in." A. Hyatt Verrill, The Radio Detectives, 1922

    Here's a peacherino: "The dieter who is limited to one slide of bread per meal should divide it into four quarters. This gives him the feeling that he has had access to four slices of bread." Earl Wilson, "All the Diet Secrets," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, May 15, 1957

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, August 26, 2019

    electorate

    noun [ih-lek-ter-it]
    the body of persons entitled to vote in an election.
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    What is the origin of electorate?

    Electorate is composed of two elements derived from Latin. The first is elector “voter,” from Late Latin ēlēctor “chooser,” formed from ēligere “to pluck out, pick out, choose” and -tor, a suffix forming agent nouns. The second is -ate, a suffix denoting “office (or person performing it), function, institution, collective body, etc.,” as in professorate (the office of professor, group of professors); -ate is ultimately from Latin -ātus, as seen in augurātus “the office of augur” or senātus “senate (of Rome).” Electorate is first attested in English the late 17th century.

    At that time, the elector in electorate referred to a very different voter than the word evokes today: an Elector (German Kurfürst) was a German prince of the Holy Roman Empire who could cast a vote in the election of the German king (Emperor). Elector was a powerful office until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806; the territory the electors oversaw was their electorate, e.g., Elector of Cologne. It wasn’t the late 19th century that electorate was recorded as “body of persons entitled to vote in an election”—a group that was dramatically, and finally, expanded to include women in the U.S. with the certification on August 26, 1920, of the Nineteenth Amendment, which enshrined women’s suffrage in the Constitution.

    How is electorate used?

    The passage of the Nineteenth Amendment nearly doubled the size of the electorate in the United States. Heather L. Ondercin, "The Evolution of Women's (and Men's) Partisan Attachments," 100 Years of the Nineteenth Amendment, 2018

    ... the views of Democrats on social media often bear little resemblance to those of the wider Democratic electorate.

    Nate Cohn and Kevin Quealy, "The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate," New York Times, April 9, 2019

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, August 25, 2019

    dvandva

    noun [dvahn-dvah, dvuhn-dvuh] Grammar.
    a compound word neither element of which is subordinate to the other, as bittersweet.
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    What is the origin of dvandva?

    Dvandva, literally meaning “a pair,” is a Sanskrit technical term used exclusively in grammar and linguistics. (By the end of the second millennium b.c., Hindu Brahmans had invented and developed the science of descriptive linguistics, including phonology, phonetics, metrics, grammar, and etymology, in order to preserve the correct pronunciation and oral transmission of the Vedas). Dvandva is a reduplication of dva “two,” closely related to Latin duo, Greek dýo (also dýō and dýwe), Slavic (Czech) dva, Germanic (Gothic) twa, and Old Irish da, all derived from Proto-Indo-European duwo. Dvandva entered English in the 19th century.

    How is dvandva used?

    These days, it's hard to tell leftists and liberals apart without an agenda. Hence the increasing popularity of ''liberal-leftist,'' which merges categories on the model of compounds like ''toaster-oven'' and ''owner-occupier.'' (Linguists call those ''dvandvas,'' a term invented by the Sanskrit grammarians.) Geoffrey Nunberg, "Sticks and Stones; The Defanging of a Radical Epithet," New York Times, August 17, 2003

    Dvandva compounds can be doubly pluralized, but only when the first noun is irregular: men-children, menfish, menservants, gentlemen-farmers, women writers, and women-doctors, but not boys-kinds, girlsfriends, or players-coaches. Steven Pinker, Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language, 1999

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