Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, November 27, 2021

ankh

[ ahngk ]

noun

a tau (T-shaped) cross with a loop at the top, used as a symbol of generation or enduring life.

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What is the origin of ankh?

Ankh “a tau (T-shaped) cross with a loop at the top” is a borrowing from Egyptian ʿnh̬ “live; life, soul.” In this word, ʿ represents a voiced throaty sound that does not exist in English, and represents the sound spelled as ch in German Buch, Hebrew Chanukah, and Scottish loch. While Arabic is the official language of Egypt today, the Egyptian language was spoken in the country for thousands of years until its latest form, Coptic, became largely extinct in the 1700s. Although the Egyptian source of ankh is transliterated today as ʿnh̬, while its spelling remained consistent in Egyptian hieroglyphics, its pronunciation during the several stages of the Egyptian language varied greatly. Ankh was first recorded in English in the late 1880s.

how is ankh used?

In a period when paganism and Christianity coexisted, there was cross-pollination between the two. The ancient Egyptian symbol for life, the ankh—a cross shape with an oval loop—influenced the development of the cross known as the crux ansata, used extensively in Coptic symbolism.

José Pérez-Accino, “Ancient Egypt gave rise to one of the world's oldest Christian faiths,” National Geographic, April 19, 2019
[King] Hezekiah faced an all-but-certain death from something that … may have been anthrax. Hezekiah prayed to God, recovered and went on to live another 15 years, biblical accounts state. His brush with death may have made the ankh symbols, which represented life, even more significant to the Judean king…

Tia Ghose, "Seal of a biblical king is found in a trash heap in Jerusalem," Washington Post, December 7, 2015

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Friday, November 26, 2021

spendthrift

[ spend-thrift ]

noun

a person who spends possessions or money extravagantly or wastefully; prodigal.

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What is the origin of spendthrift?

Spendthrift “a person who spends wastefully” is a compound of the verb spend and the noun thrift. Spend has been in the English language for well over 1000 years, but it is in fact of Latin origin; while most English words derived from Latin entered following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, there are a select few that spread from Latin long beforehand and took root in West Germanic languages such as English and German. In this case, spend derives from Latin expendere “to weigh out, lay out, pay,” a compound of the prefix ex- “out of, from” and the verb pendere “to hang.” Thrift, in contrast, derives from Old Norse, in which the word means “well-being” or “prosperity,” and is related to the verb thrive. This “prosperity” sense is obsolete, of course; thrift shifted in definition during the 16th century to mean “savings,” and from there, it adopted its current meaning of “economy” and “spending little money.” Spendthrift was first recorded in English at the turn of the 17th century.

how is spendthrift used?

The final step toward extending Roman citizenship to nearly all the subject peoples of the empire came with the Edict of Caracalla. Promulgated in A.D. 212, it granted citizenship to all the free men of the Roman Empire. Historians point out that this decidedly bold move was not as enlightened as it may appear. Caracalla was a spendthrift and unstable ruler, and extending citizenship to the huge populations that inhabited his mighty realm was a quick way to increase his tax base.

Clelia Martínez Maza, “In ancient Rome, citizenship was the path to power,” National Geographic, November 4, 2019

It will be interesting to see how Friedman’s more wallet-friendly methods match up with the Dodgers seemingly endless vault of money. Although the Dodgers exited the playoffs early in the last two consecutive years, the team’s spendthrift strategy, which allows the Dodgers to maintain the highest payroll, has managed to get them to the playoffs in the first place.

Marissa Payne, "Andrew Friedman leaves Rays to join Dodgers as president of baseball operations," Washington Post, October 14, 2014

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Thursday, November 25, 2021

repast

[ ri-past, -pahst, ree-past, -pahst ]

noun

a meal.

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What is the origin of repast?

Repast “meal” derives via Middle English from the Old French verb repaistre “to eat a meal” (compare Modern French repaître “to feed, to eat”), which ultimately comes from the Latin prefix re- “again, regularly” and the verb pāscere “to feed.” Pāscere, the past participle stem of which is pāst-, is the source of numerous food- and livestock-related terms in English, such as antipasto and pasture. Despite the similar spelling, the words past and pasta are not derivatives of pāscere. Past was originally a variant of passed, the past participle of pass, a verb that comes from the Latin noun passus “step,” while pasta is an Italian borrowing from Ancient Greek pastá “barley porridge.” Repast was first recorded in English in the early 1300s.

how is repast used?

One of the greatest aspects of the traditional Thanksgiving feast is the near-boundless array of food at the table. That also makes it perhaps the [year’s] toughest repast for wine pairing. Or not, if we extend the bounty of the food to the wine options .… [I]t makes sense to make them part of the meal and give guests a chance to try different wines with different dishes, or to hoard a bit of one wine for their favorite part of the meal.

Bill Ward, “Different wines for different dishes at the holiday table,” AP News, November 14, 2018

Consider for a moment, the Thanksgiving meal itself. It has become a sort of refuge for endangered species of starch: sweet potatoes, cauliflower, pumpkin, mince (whatever “mince” is), those blessed yams …. And then the sacred turkey. One might as well try to construct a holiday repast around a fish—say, a nice piece of boiled haddock. After all, turkey tastes very similar to haddock: same consistency, same quite remarkable absence of flavor.

Michael J. Arlen, "Comment," The New Yorker, November 27, 1978

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