Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, December 04, 2020

antediluvian

[ an-tee-di-loo-vee-uhn ]

adjective

very old, old-fashioned, or out of date; antiquated.

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What is the origin of antediluvian?

Antediluvian “occurring before the biblical Flood (in Genesis); very old, old-fashioned, or out of date,” comes from the Latin preposition and prefix ante, ante– “before” (naturalized in English) and the noun dīluvium “flood, deluge, inundation,” a derivative of the verb dīluere “to dissolve and wash away” (dīlūtus, the past participle of dīluere, is the source of English dilute). The original meaning of antediluvian was to biblical events or people before the Flood, such as the patriarchs between Adam and Noah; the exaggerated sense “very old, old-fashioned, out of date” developed in the first half of the 18th century. Antediluvian entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is antediluvian used?

How can it be that in a country that landed men on the moon, antediluvian locomotives are pushing and pulling dirty, smelly, 50-year-old cars perforated by rust, past crumbling stations, over track that looks like spilled overcooked spaghetti?

Serge Nedeltscheff, "A Conspiracy at the L.I.R.R.?" New York Times, December 8, 1996

So my on-the-job training in science writing started in the antediluvian age when magazines and newspapers held a near-monopolistic control over science writing.

Carl Zimmer, "A Note to Beginning Science Writers," National Geographic, June 24, 2013

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Word of the day

Thursday, December 03, 2020

doomscrolling

[ doom-skroh-ling ]

noun

the practice of obsessively checking online news for updates, especially on social media feeds, with the expectation that the news will be bad, such that the feeling of dread from this negative expectation fuels a compulsion to continue looking for updates in a self-perpetuating cycle.

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What is the origin of doomscrolling?

Doomscrolling, one our top word trends in 2020, sounds something like the Doomsday Machine in Stanley Kubrick’s movie Dr. Strangelove (1964). (The phrases doomsday machine and doomsday bomb actually date to 1960.) Doomscrolling and its verb doomscroll are very recent neologisms, modeled on doomsday, the day of the Last Judgment, a belief common to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism. Scroll and scrolling are used in their computer sense “moving text up, down, or across a display screen.”

how is doomscrolling used?

Doomscrolling will never actually stop the doom itself. Feeling informed can be a salve, but being overwhelmed by tragedy serves no purpose.

Angela Watercutter, "Doomscrolling Is Slowly Eroding Your Mental Health," Wired, June 25, 2020

Another trick is to wear a rubber band around your hand while you are reading the news, and when you believe you are succumbing to doomscrolling, snap the rubber band against your wrist …

Brian X. Chen, "You're Doomscrolling Again. Here's How to Snap out of It," New York Times, July 15, 2020

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Word of the day

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

hebetude

[ heb-i-tood, -tyood ]

noun

the state of being dull; lethargy.

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What is the origin of hebetude?

Hebetude comes straight from the Late Latin noun hebetūdō, a derivative of the adjective hebes (inflectional stem hebet-) “blunt, dull (physical or mental), obtuse (angle or person).” Hebetūdō first appears in the Commentary on the “Dream of Scipio” (ca. a.d. 430) by the pagan author Macrobius. Macrobius’ Commentary was so popular and influential in late antiquity and the Middle Ages and so important and invaluable a source for Neoplatonic philosophy that its numerous manuscripts cannot be sorted into families. Hebes has no known etymology; scholars cannot even blame hebes on the Etruscans (their usual go-to for strange Latin words). Hebetude entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is hebetude used?

Why did I take up Latin at this late age? I did so not only to fight off hebetude but also to avoid becoming my mother.

Ann Patty, Living with a Dead Language, 2016

Urban hebetude, he discovers, can be cured at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Richard B. Woodward, "Armchair Traveler," New York Times, October 31, 2008

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