Word of the Day

Thursday, May 24, 2018

antemeridian

[ an-tee-muh-rid-ee-uhn ]

adjective

occurring before noon.

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What is the origin of antemeridian?

The Latin adverbial phrase ante merīdiem means “before midday, before noon.” The noun merīdiēs is a dissimilation of medīdiēs “middle of the day, midday, south,” formed from the adjective medius “middle, middle of” and the noun diēs “day.” The Roman polymath Varro (c116-c27 b.c.) wrote that he saw the archaic or dialectal form medīdiēs on a sundial in Praeneste (modern Palestrina), a town east southeast of Rome. Antemeridian entered English in the 16th century.

how is antemeridian used?

And what, pray tell, is the point of “Twitter”? Seriously, I don’t “get” it. I meanest, I see what people use it for; I simply do not comprehend the urge to share publicly thy basest observations about celebrated thespians during ceremonies of awards and the quality of thy antemeridian coffee …

Teddy Wayne, "My Kingdom for an English Course!" New York Times, November 9, 2013

In the first antemeridian hours there was a lull in the restless hotel night.

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, 1955
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

flubdub

[ fluhb-duhb ]

noun

pretentious nonsense or show; airs.

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What is the origin of flubdub?

There is no etymology other than “fanciful coinage” or “of unknown origin” for flubdub. It is used as a common noun but first appears in print as a surname in 1885.

how is flubdub used?

He had, by intently listening to lawyers who had delivered him from justice in the 43 times he had stood prisoner before city and county courts, acquired an astonishing hash of legalistic flubdub.

Meyer Berger, "Murder Inc.: Justice Overtakes the Largest and Most Cruel Gang of Killers in U.S. History," Life, September 30, 1940

Next to seeing a ballgame, the best thing is to sit in the studio with Mr. Barber and watch and listen as he takes the skeletonized report of a game coming over the telegraph wire and wraps up the bare bones with flubdub and pads it out and feeds it to the customers so it sounds as though he, and they, were seeing the plays.

Red Smith, "It's All Genuine, Although Synthetic," New York Herald Tribune, August 28, 1946
Tuesday, May 22, 2018

cynosure

[ sahy-nuh-shoor, sin-uh- ]

noun

something that strongly attracts attention by its brilliance, interest, etc.: the cynosure of all eyes.

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What is the origin of cynosure?

In Greek Kynósoura means “dog’s tail” and is also the name of the constellation Ursa Minor (also known as the Lesser Bear, Little Bear, and especially in American usage, the Little Dipper). The first element of Kynósoura is the genitive singular of the Greek noun kúōn “dog, bitch, shepherd dog, watchdog.” Greek kúōn (and its stem kun-) come a very wide spread Proto-Indo-European noun kúwōn (stems kwon-, kun-) “dog,” source of Sanskrit śvā́ (also śuvā́) (stem śun-), Old Prussian sunis, Germanic (German) Hund “dog,” (Old English) hund, (English hound). Greek ourā́ “tail” is akin to Greek órrhos “rump” (from orso-) comes from Proto-Indo-European orsos “buttocks, rump, tail,” source of Germanic (German) Arsch and English arse (ass in American English). Cynosure entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is cynosure used?

The throne of the gods was the most famous institution in Atvatabar. It was the cynosure of every eye, the object of all adoration, the tabernacle of all that was splendid in art, science and spiritual perfection.

William R. Bradshaw, The Goddess of Atvatabar, 1892

… the garden’s look will be substantially different, with 16 new pieces by artists including … Katharina Fritsch, whose “Hahn/Cock,” an ultramarine rooster more than 20 feet tall, might challenge “Spoonbridge” as the garden’s cynosure.

Robin Pogrebin and Randy Kennedy, "The New Cherries on Top of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden," New York Times, January 21, 2016

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