Word of the Day

Saturday, August 31, 2019

adventitious

[ ad-vuhn-tish-uhs ]

adjective

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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Friday, August 30, 2019

banalize

[ buh-nal-ahyz, -nah-lahyz, beyn-l-ahyz ]

verb (used with object)

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
Thursday, August 29, 2019

wiredraw

[ wahyuhr-draw ]

verb (used with object)

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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