Word of the Day

Thursday, April 02, 2020

aperçu

[ a-per-sy ]

noun

French.

an immediate estimate or judgment; understanding; insight.

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What is the origin of aperçu?

Aperçu, “a hasty glance or glimpse; an insight; an outline or summary,” is not at all naturalized in English, even retaining its French spelling (the cedilla under the c). Aperçu is the past participle of the verb apercevoir “to perceive, see, catch sight of,” a compound of the prefix a– (from Latin ad– “to,” here indicating direction or tendency) and the Old French verb perçoivre (Middle French, French percevoir), from Latin percipere “to obtain, seize, gather (crops), collect (taxes).” Percipere is a compound verb composed of the preposition and prefix per, per– “through,” here with an intensive meaning, and the simple verb capere “to take, take hold of, seize, capture.” Aperçu entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is aperçu used?

I once heard an author of young adult fiction being asked what her novel was about, and instead of explaining its adventure plot or sophisticated science- fiction premise, she said: “Kissing”. This was clearly self-deprecation, but it was also an aperçu about the pleasure that draws readers to a huge array of books ….

Sandra Newman, "The Binding by Bridget Collins review – magical tale of supernatural books," The Guardian, January 4, 2019

Kottke has been an engaging, likable omnipresence on the scene for as long as it has existed, serving up a daily blend of clean-crafted personal aperçus and fresh, literate links to tech, pop, and political news that is as brisk and cozy as Folgers in your cup.

Julian Dibbell, "Pay You, Pay Me," Village Voice, February 22, 2005

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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

credulous

[ krej-uh-luhs ]

adjective

willing to believe or trust too readily, especially without proper or adequate evidence; gullible.

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What is the origin of credulous?

Credulous comes from the Latin adjective crēdulus “inclined to believe or trust, trustful, credulous, rash.” The first part of crēdulus comes from the verb crēdere “to believe, trust, entrust,” most likely a compound of Proto-Indo-European kerd-, kred- (and other variants) “heart” and -dere, a combining form meaning “to put, place,” from the root dhē-, dhō-, with the same meaning. Latin crēdere “to place my heart” is a very ancient religious term that has an exact correspondence with Sanskrit śrad-dadhāti “he trusts,” and Old Irish cretim “I trust.” The second part of crēdulus is the diminutive noun and adjective suffix –ulus, which frequently has a pejorative sense, as in rēgulus “petty king, chieftain.” Credulous entered English in the mid-16th century.

how is credulous used?

When the British news network aired a three-minute segment about Swiss spaghetti farmers plucking long strands of pasta straight from tree branches, hundreds of credulous viewers wrote in asking how they could cultivate their own spaghetti tree.

Sarah Kaplan, "A brief, totally sincere history of April Fools' Day," Washington Post, March 31, 2016

I did not believe half of what she told me: I pretended to laugh at it all; but I was far more credulous than I myself supposed.

Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey, 1847

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

felicific

[ fee-luh-sif-ik ]

adjective

causing or tending to cause happiness.

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What is the origin of felicific?

The adjective felicific “tending to cause happiness,” is a term used in ethics, a branch of philosophy. The word is formed from the Latin adjective fēlix (stem fēlīci-) “happy, lucky” and the English combining form -fic “making, producing,” from Latin -ficus. Felicific entered English in the 19th century.

how is felicific used?

Bentham was advancing his felicific calculus (though without much actual mathematics to back it up) as the scientific solution to the problems of morality and legislation.

Bruce Mazlish, The Uncertain Sciences, 1998

The problem is that as more humans run their felicific calculations and decide to live in pleasant places, their presence changes the balance.

John Yemma, "The greening of the West," Christian Science Monitor, June 17, 2013

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