• Word of the day
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    Monday, February 12, 2018

    madeleine

    noun [mad-l-in, mad-l-eyn]
    something that triggers memories or nostalgia: in allusion to a nostalgic passage in Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.
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    What is the origin of madeleine?

    The etymology of madeleine (in full, gâteau à la Madeleine), which is named after an 18th-century cook named Madeleine Paulnier or Paumier, is dubious. Madeleines (the small cakes) are popular today, but perhaps the word madeleine “something that evokes a memory or nostalgia” has more significance from the use of madeleine in this sense in Swann’s Way (1922), the first volume of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (À la recherche du temps perdu), also known in English as Remembrance of Things Past.

    How is madeleine used?

    ... thus temporarily bringing the sounds and smells of his dream world to him, a madeleine of the ever-postponed future. Jane DeLynn, Real Estate, 1988

    To reread this is like scenting a Madeleine of the drama and struggle that once was. Mustapha Marrouchi, Edward Said at the Limits, 2004

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, February 11, 2018

    berceuse

    noun [French ber-sœz]
    Music. a cradlesong; lullaby.
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    What is the origin of berceuse?

    Berceuse, not yet naturalized in English, still retains its French pronunciation or a semblance of it. Berceuse is an agent noun in French, meaning “girl or woman who rocks a cradle, lullaby,” the feminine of berceur “a cradle rocker.” In English, berceuse is restricted to “lullaby,” especially as a musical composition in 6/8 time, as, e.g., “Brahms’ Lullaby.” Berceuse entered English in the 19th century.

    How is berceuse used?

    The berceuse is so soothing, it ought to send your husband to sleep ... A. R. Goring-Thomas, Wayward Feet, 1912

    I love soft songs that soothe me--something cradle-like--a Berceuse, you understand. Fergus Hume, The Man with a Secret, 1890

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, February 10, 2018

    fiddle-footed

    adjective [fid-l-foo t-id]
    Informal. restlessly wandering.
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    What is the origin of fiddle-footed?

    Fiddle-footed was first recorded in 1945-50.

    How is fiddle-footed used?

    Instead, they just kept moving, a pair of fiddle-footed ramblers, following the wind, until that drifting brought them out here. Robert Coover, Ghost Town, 1998

    Being fiddle-footed was its own peculiar blessing and curse at the same time. Jon Sharpe, The Trailsman #290: Mountain Mavericks, 2005

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, February 09, 2018

    intersectionality

    noun [in-ter-sek-shuh-nal-i-tee]
    the theory that the overlap of various social identities, as race, gender, sexuality, and class, contributes to the specific type ofsystemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual (often used attributively): Her paper uses a queer intersectionality approach.
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    What is the origin of intersectionality?

    Intersectionality was coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw. It entered English in 1989.

    How is intersectionality used?

    Intersectionality tells us that there is no one singular experience for women because of the way gender works in conjunction with race, ethnicity, social class, and sexuality. Anna Diamond, "Making the Invisible Visible," Slate, September 3, 2015

    ... flippant or vague references to "intersectionality" abound and can serve to obscure a profound critique of deeply entrenched cognitive habits that inform feminist and antiracist thinking about oppression and privilege. Anna Carastathis, Intersectionality: Origins, Contestations, Horizons, 2016

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, February 08, 2018

    naissance

    noun [ney-suh ns]
    a birth, an origination, or a growth, as that of a person, an organization, an idea, or a movement.
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    What is the origin of naissance?

    The English noun naissance comes from Middle French naissance, which is a derivative of the verb naître “to be born.” The French verb comes from the Vulgar Latin nāscere, a regular verb replacing the Latin deponent verb nāscī. Naissance entered English in the late 15th century. The sense of “new style, movement, or development (in the arts)” comes from a French usage of the 20th century.

    How is naissance used?

    If this was a period of Renaissance for Western Europe, was it not rather a Naissance for Russia? Mary Platt Parmele, A Short History of Russia, 1899

    Nina's watchful eyes opened wider and wider as she witnessed in Eileen the naissance of an unconscious and delicate coquetry, quite unabashed, yet the more significant for that ... Robert W. Chambers, The Younger Set, 1907

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, February 07, 2018

    lenity

    noun [len-i-tee]
    the quality or state of being mild or gentle, as toward others.
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    What is the origin of lenity?

    The English noun lenity is a borrowing of Old French lenité or Latin lēnitat-, the stem of lēnitās “softness, smoothness, gentleness,” a derivative of the adjective lēnis, from which English has lenient and lenition. Lenity entered English in the mid-16th century.

    How is lenity used?

    He confined the knowledge of governing within very narrow bounds, to common sense and reason, to justice and lenity, to the speedy determination of civil and criminal causes ... Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, 1726

    ... I have relaxed, as I believe I may depend on her observing the rules I have laid down for their discourse. But do not imagine that with all this lenity I have for a moment given up my plan of her marriage ... Jane Austen, Lady Susan, 1871

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, February 06, 2018

    cerebrate

    verb [ser-uh-breyt]
    to use the mind; think or think about.
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    What is the origin of cerebrate?

    The verb cerebrate is a back formation from the noun cerebration, which is a derivative of the Latin noun cerebrum “brain, understanding.” Cerebrum is a derivative of a very widespread, very complicated Proto-Indo-European root ker- “uppermost part of the body, head, horn, nail (of the finger or toe).” This root has many variant forms and is related to the Latin noun crābro “hornet” (English hornet comes from the same root), Greek kár “head” and kéras “horn,” and German Hirn “brain." Cerebrate entered English in the 19th century.

    How is cerebrate used?

    To think, then, is to cerebrate. To worry is to cerebrate intensely. George Wharton James, Quit Your Worrying!, 1917

    If you simply retire to your own room, shove your backside into an excessively sprung easy chair, and there grimly cerebrate, the chances are that you will eventually do no more than crawl into bed -- to wake up six to eight hours later with an unsolved conundrum and a filthy headache. Michael Innes, An Awkward Lie, 1971

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