Word of the Day

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

alfresco

[ al-fres-koh ]

adverb

out-of-doors; in the open air.

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What is the origin of alfresco?

Very many people became used to dining alfresco in 2020. In Italian al fresco means “in the fresh air, in the cool air,” and is composed of the prepositional phrase al “to the” (from the preposition a “to, on,” and the masculine singular article il, lo, and the adjective fresco “cool, fresh”). Italian fresco comes from Old High German frisc (English fresh and modern German frisch). The Italian noun fresco “painting or a painting on a fresh, moist, plaster surface with colors ground up in water,” entered English at the end of the 16th century. In contemporary Italian slang, al fresco means “in prison” (prisons formerly being cold, dark, dank). Alfresco entered English in the first half of the 18th century.

how is alfresco used?

This being spring, waiters in red jackets with gold buttons dart in and out of the kitchen to ferry drinks from the bar and dishes from the kitchen to those of us wishing to dine alfresco.

Tom Sietsema, "L'Auberge Chez Francois is ready for its close-up, yet again," Washington Post, April 9, 2021

Working from one of the apartment’s two rooms getting a little tedious? Time to upgrade their Wi-Fi router and take calls and Zoom meetings alfresco.

Kim Velsey, "Making the Most of Their Terrace," New York Times, February 1, 2021

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Monday, April 19, 2021

brummagem

[ bruhm-uh-juhm ]

adjective

showy but inferior and worthless.

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What is the origin of brummagem?

Brummagem, an adjective and noun meaning “showy but inferior and worthless; something of that kind,” comes from the local Birmingham (England) pronunciation of Birmingham. The original (and standard) spelling and pronunciation of the city is bir-; the nonstandard or dialect spelling bru– is an example of metathesis, the transposition of sounds, a very common phenomenon. Compare Modern English bird with Middle English brid (brid was the dominant spelling until about 1475; the spelling bird is first recorded about 1419). The name Birmingham is first recorded as Bermingeham in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book (1086); spelling variants with Br- first appear in 1198 as Brumingeham. In the mid-17th century Birmingham was renowned for its metalworking and notorious for counterfeit coins. Brummagem entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is brummagem used?

In an effort to brighten up austerity-ridden Britain, the Southern Region of the state-owned railway system devised a pub-on-wheels (bar car) which was supposed to be very quaint. The outside of the car features leaded windows, cream panels, false brickwork and fake timbers, and the motif of brummagem antiquity is carried on inside.

"Foreign News: Ye Olde-Time Gynmille," Time, June 13, 1949

Anthony lay upon the lounge looking up One Hundred and Twenty-seventh Street toward the river, near which he could just see a single patch of vivid green trees that guaranteed the brummagem umbrageousness of Riverside Drive.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned, 1922

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Sunday, April 18, 2021

longanimity

[ long-guh-nim-i-tee, lawng- ]

noun

patient endurance of hardship, injuries, or offense; forbearance.

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What is the origin of longanimity?

Longanimity, “patient endurance of hardship or offense; forbearance,” comes via Middle English and Old French longanimite from Late Latin longanimitāt-, the inflectional stem of the noun longanimitās “long-suffering, patience,” a derivative of the adjective longanimis, which is a compound of the adjective longus “long” and animus “spirit, soul, mind.” Latin longanimis and longanimitās were coined by Christian Latin writers as calques or loan translations of Greek makróthymos (adjective) and makrothymía (noun) used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible completed sometime between the 3rd and 1st centuries b.c. Longanimity entered English in the early 15th century.

how is longanimity used?

… if your disdain is my humiliation, I shall ill be able, albeit I am well furnished with longanimity, to suffer a grief that is not merely intense but protracted.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), Don Quixote, translated by John Rutherford, 2000

“there’s very little we can do about Thomas.” … “Then do very little,” she says in the voice of one whose longanimity foreshortens like shadows cast by the poplars amid the blaze of noon.

Muriel Spark, The Abbess of Crewe, 1974

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