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Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, August 13, 2021

ambisinister

[ am-bi-sin-uh-ster ]

adjective

clumsy or unskillful with both hands.

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What is the origin of ambisinister?

Ambisinister, “clumsy or unskillful with both hands,” is the opposite of ambidextrous, “able to use both hands equally well.” The first element of ambisinister, ambi-, is the familiar Latin prefix ambi– “both, around,” as in ambiguous and ambivalent; the second half of the word, –sinister, comes from the Latin adjective sinister “on the left, left hand, or left side; adverse in influence or nature; unfavorably located.” Ambisinister is a relatively recent word, first recorded in 1849, more than two centuries after ambidextrous (1646).

how is ambisinister used?

During our first lesson, I tried to follow him as he played […] but I could not. I feared I had simply become ambisinister until I realized that his sitar had fewer frets than mine did. He explained that his […] tradition habitually removes several frets to enhance the flow of the bent notes.

Richard D. Connerney, The Upside Down Tree: India's Changing Culture, 2009

Ambidextrous people can do any task equally well with either hand, but it’s exceptionally rare. Ambilevous or ambisinister are awkward with both hands. Our brains are cross-wired meaning the left hemisphere controls the right handed side of the body and vice-versa. So left handers can boast they are always in their right mind.

Rachael Bletchly and Shivali Best, "Lefty or righty? The surprising effects of being right or left-handed." Mirror, August 13, 2018

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Word of the day

Thursday, August 12, 2021

flump

[ fluhmp ]

verb (used with or without object)

to plump down suddenly or heavily; flop.

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What is the origin of flump?

Flump, a verb and noun meaning “to drop or fall suddenly or heavily; the act or sound of flumping,” is a colloquialism dating back to the first half of the 19th century. As with many colloquial and slang terms, its etymology is obscure: some authorities suggest a blend of flop and plump, which have similar meanings; others suggest a purely imitative origin, as with dump and slump.

how is flump used?

I like headstands a lot more than the huff-puff exercises Baba Devanand does with his legs crossed in the lotus position. But right now, if I stay upside down any longer, I’ll break my neck, so I flump to the bed that smells of coriander powder and raw onions and Ma and bricks and cement and Papa.

Deepa Anappara, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, 2020

Horsey Gap is usually a gloriously empty stretch of sand dunes on the crumbling Norfolk coast. At this time of year, however, it is bustling with rowdy grey seals, flumping across the sand and arcing their banana bodies protectively around new pups.

Patrick Barkham, "Mind Norfolk’s Horsey Gap and its seal-related cottage industry," The Guardian, January 8, 2015

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Word of the day

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

skerrick

[ sker-ik ]

noun

a small piece or quantity; a bit.

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What is the origin of skerrick?

Skerrick, “a small piece or quantity; a bit,” used in the negative, as in “Not a skerrick of work got done,” is a slang term used nowadays mostly in Australia and New Zealand. Skerrick originated in Great Britain in the early 1820s as a slang term for halfpenny. As with most slang terms, the origin of skerrick is obscure: it may be a variant of scuddick, which also dates from the early 1820s, means the same thing as skerrick, and has an equally obscure etymology.

how is skerrick used?

Stuck awkwardly amongst straggly olive trees on the high side of the road winding up from the village to the crest above the sea, the house had not a skerrick of charm.

Robert Dessaix, Corfu: A Novel, 2001

With the Prime Minister last week announcing a four-phase reopening scheme to bring Australia back to normality, a skerrick of hope has blossomed in many hearts. Finally, there is a path forward.

Brendan Leeds, "The hospitality sector is facing a mental health crisis," Smart Company, July 8, 2021

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