Word of the Day

Saturday, June 22, 2019

apologia

[ ap-uh-loh-jee-uh ]

noun

a work written as an explanation or justification of one's motives, convictions, or acts.

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What is the origin of apologia?

It is unsurprising that the earliest occurrences of apologia “a defendant’s speech in a trial” appear in 5th-century Athens. The Greek verb apologeîsthai “to speak in defense, defend oneself” and its derivative noun apología are first used by such heavy hitters as Thucydides, Euripides, and Plato. Plato’s Apología Sōkrátous “Apology of Socrates” refers to the three speeches Socrates delivered in his self-defense at his trial in 399 b.c. Apologia is similarly used in Cardinal Newman’s religious autobiography, Apologia pro Vita Sua “Defense of His Own Life” (1864). Apologia entered English in the late 18th century.

how is apologia used?

Now Starr has laid out the defining saga of his life in a book. … “I view it as not an apologia at all,” he says, “but simply: Tell the story.”

Dan Zak, "20 years ago, the Starr Report got a president impeached. Ken Starr wants to remind you why." Washington Post, September 11, 2018

Occasionally, we’ve been accused of writing a show that’s sort of an apologia for the surveillance state.

Jonathan Nolan, as quoted in "'Person of Interest': The TV Show That Predicted Edward Snowden," The New Yorker, January 14, 2014
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Friday, June 21, 2019

summer

[ suhm-er ]

noun

a principal beam or girder, as one running between girts to support joists.

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What is the origin of summer?

The rare noun summer “horizontal supporting beam” comes from Old French somier, sommier, which had the semantic development “packhorse,” then “a pack, a load,” and finally “a beam, a joist.” The Old French forms come from the Late Latin (c600) adjective saumārius, a variant of Late Latin (c300) sagmārius “pertaining to a packsaddle” (equus sagmārius means “packhorse”). Sagmārius derives from Late Latin (late 4th century) sagma (inflectional stem sagmat-) “packsaddle,” a loanword from Greek ságma “covering, clothing,” later also “packsaddle.” Finally, the derivative noun saumatārius (sagmatārius) “driver of a packhorse” comes into English (via Old French sommetier) as sumpter “packhorse, mule.” Summer entered English in the 14th century.

how is summer used?

The summer was a heavy beam spanning the middle of a large room … and it served as an intermediate support for the floor joists of the story above ….

Hugh Morrison, Early American Architecture, 1952

The cross beams were known as girders, summers or somers, and dormants: one of them carried the chimney, and so was called the “bressummer,” that is the breast girder.

C. F. Innocent, The Development of English Building Construction, 1916
Thursday, June 20, 2019

insipience

[ in-sip-ee-uhns ]

noun

Archaic.

lack of wisdom; foolishness.

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What is the origin of insipience?

Insipience “foolishness” comes via Old French from Latin insipientia. The Latin prefix in-, which has a negative or privative force, as in insipientia, is the ordinary Latin development of a reduced form of Proto-Indo-European ne “not,” which is the same source of Germanic (English un-). The Latin stem –sipient– is a reduced and combining form derived from sapientia “reason, soundness of mind, wisdom,” hence insipientia “foolishness, folly, stupidity.” The root word behind sapientia and insipientia is sapere “to taste, taste of, smell of, have good taste, feel, show good sense, be intelligent.” Sapere is the source of Italian sapere, Spanish saber, and French savoir, all meaning “to know.” The Latin noun sapor “flavor, taste, odor, smell” becomes Italian sapore, Spanish sabor, French saveur, and, through French, English savor and its derivative adjective savory. Insipience entered English in the 15th century.

how is insipience used?

Too many prefer the charge of insincerity to that of insipience—Dr. Newman seems not to be of that number.

Charles Kingsley, What, Then, Does Dr. Newman Mean? 1864

It has to be frustrating to know that you’re surrounded by intelligent, earnest individuals who are prone to moments of public insipience, usually when their fingers are on the voting button.

Richard Hellmann, "Plenty of room for city bed tax," The Courier, May 27, 1987

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