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Word of the day


[ adz ] [ ædz ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


an ax-like tool, for dressing timbers roughly, with a curved, chisel-like steel head mounted at a right angle to the wooden handle.

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What is the origin of adze?

Adze “an ax-like tool” dates back more than 1000 years to the days of Old English, when it was spelled adesa, but before then, its origins are unknown. Some linguists have noted the similarity between adze and ax (or axe), but the resemblance is flimsier in Old English, in which ax is spelled æx or æces, and cannot explain a sound change from x to des. Another loose hypothesis is that adze is related to, if not derived from, Latin ascia “axe” (compare French asse “pickax”), but it seems likelier instead that English ax and Latin ascia share a common, distant origin. One clue to the potential origin of adze may lie at the other end of Europe, specifically in Turkey, where the Hittite language was spoken over 3000 years ago. English and Hittite are both members of the Indo-European language family, which may explain why English adze looks a bit like Hittite atešša “ax.” Adze was first recorded in English before 900.

how is adze used?

They were the metaphorical pickup trucks of their day …. Dugout canoes were difficult to fashion into water-worthy vessels. All were made from a single tree trunk, fire coals placed atop it and then the charred wood was hollowed out with an adze or similar sharp-edged tool made of stone, sea shells and, eventually, metal.

“Ancient Canoe Exhibit Inspires Thousands at Chickasaw Cultural Center,” Indian Country Today, November 30, 2014
[A]n axe that is more than 9,000 years old, found at Ireland’s earliest burial site, in Co Limerick, has shed light on the ancient burial practices of our hunter-gatherer ancestors …. Microscopic analysis has revealed the shale tool, believed to be the earliest fully polished adze in Europe, was only used for a short time, and then deliberately blunted.

Fiona Gartland, “A 9,000-year-old axe sheds light on burial practices,” Irish Times, November 2, 2016
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[ kuhn-viv-ee-uhl ] [ kənˈvɪv i əl ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


friendly; agreeable.

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What is the origin of convivial?

Convivial “friendly, agreeable” comes from Latin convīvium “feast,” which is based on the verb convīvere “to live together, dine together.” The prefix con- “with, together” may also appear as co-, col-, com-, or cor- depending on the letter that follows, as in coincidence, colleague, comfortable, and correct, respectively. The verb vīvere “to live” and its adjective equivalent, vīvus “alive,” are the source of vivacious, vivid, revive, and survival. Of the same origin is the Latin noun vīta “life,” which is the root of vital and vitamin. Convivial was first recorded in the 1660s.

how is convivial used?

Coffee-bar owners say that while space and rent can be considerations, they’re installing counters because they create a lively environment where it’s easy to have a quick, convivial exchange …. The conversation seems to happen over shorter drinks like espresso and coffee brewed by the cup. A four-ounce cortado is a pleasant drink at a bar stool. A 20-ounce latte demands a chair.

Oliver Strand, “The New Coffee Bars: Unplug, Drink, Go,” New York Times, August 24, 2010

Wine, for the ancient Greeks, was a pillar of civilization, to the point where Greek teetotalers were viewed with suspicion. Water-drinking, the Greeks believed, made people surly, curmudgeonly, and over-earnest. Wine-drinkers, in contrast, were convivial, creative, passionate, and fond of intellectual discourse.

Rebecca Rupp, “Cheers: Celebration Drinking Is an Ancient Tradition,” National Geographic, December 26, 2014
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[ biv-rost ] [ ˈbɪv rɒst ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


the rainbow bridge from Asgard, the world of the Aesir gods, to earth.

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What is the origin of Bifrost?

Bifrost “the rainbow bridge of the gods” may look at first glance like a compound of Latin bi- “twice” and English frost, but it should come as little surprise that the name is of Old Norse origin instead. Old Norse is the ancestral language of Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish, and it was spoken throughout northern Europe 1000 years ago. In Old Norse, Bifrost (more accurately transliterated as Bifrǫst or Bifröst) is likely equivalent to bifa “to shake” and rǫst “league” or, more directly, “measure of length between two places of rest.” Old Norse and English are both Germanic languages, and while bifa does not have any relatives in modern English (except obsolete bive “to shake”), rǫst is cognate to English rest. Bifrost was first recorded in English in the late 18th century.

how is Bifrost used?

Bifrost was the strongest of bridges .… Rainbows often served as a path for gods in the mythic literature, and Bifrost was a classic example. The gods in the world above traveled down the rainbow to interact with the people on earth.

Tamra Andrews, Dictionary of Nature Myths: Legends of the Earth, Sea, and Sky, 1998

In its Tolkienian guise, Bifrost is most closely connected to the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, that bridge which the Fellowship must cross within the fiery heart of Moria. It is not at first obvious that the two bridges belong to one tradition …. Yet both bridges span a gap, a space, rather than a river or stream. Both are affiliated with fire.

Marjorie J. Burns, Perilous Realms: Celtic and Norse in Tolkien's Middle-earth, 2005
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