• Word of the day
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    Saturday, June 22, 2019

    apologia

    noun [ap-uh-loh-jee-uh]
    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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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, June 21, 2019

    summer

    noun [suhm-er]
    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

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, June 20, 2019

    insipience

    noun [in-sip-ee-uhns] 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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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, June 19, 2019

    shog

    verb (used without object) [shog, shawg]
    to jog along.
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    What is the origin of shog?

    The verb (and noun) shog “to shake, jolt, to jog along” is now used mostly in British dialect. The Middle English verb shogge(n) is possibly a variant of shock “to strike, jar” and is probably related to the Old High German noun scoc “a swinging, a swing,” Middle High German schock “a swing, a seesaw,” and Middle Dutch, Dutch schok “a shake, a jolt.” Shog entered English in the early 15th century.

    How is shog used?

    If you don't mind I'll shog on! I've got to walk fast now, or Gerda will be worrying. John Cowper Powys, Wolf Solent, 1929

    Then shog along homeward, chat over the fight / And hear in our dreams the sweet music all night. Charles Kingsley, "Go Hark!" 1856

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, June 18, 2019

    epiphonema

    noun [ep-uh-foh-nee-muh] Rhetoric.
    a sentence that is an exclamation, a general or striking comment, or a succinct summary of what has previously been said.
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    What is the origin of epiphonema?

    In classical rhetoric, epiphonema is a term for an exclamation or reflection that strikingly sums up a previous passage or discourse—a kind of moral of the story. It comes via Latin epiphōnēma from Greek epiphṓnēma “a witty saying,” from epiphōneîn “to mention by name, call out, address,” composed of a prefixal use of the preposition epí “upon, on” and phōneîn “to make a sound.” Phōneîn is derived from phonḗ “sound, tone, voice,” ultimately seen in a variety of English words, such as Anglophone, microphone, phonetics, phonology, polyphony, and (tele)phone. Oh, what euphonious words derive from ancient Greek!

    How is epiphonema used?

    To round off his argument, Montaigne reaches for an epiphonema ... "Oh, what a sweet and soft and healthy pillow is ignorance and incuriosity, to rest a well-made head!" Kathy Eden, "Cicero's Portion of Montaigne's Acclaim," Brill's Companion to the Reception of Cicero, 2015

    When the Great Teacher wished to recall or rouse attention he employed an epiphonema, saying, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," "Verily, verily, I say unto you," "Hearken unto me every one of you." George Winfred Hervey, A System of Christian Rhetoric, for the Use of Preachers and Other Speakers, 1873

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, June 17, 2019

    caterpillar

    noun [kat-uh-pil-er, kat-er-]
    a person who preys on others; extortioner.
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    What is the origin of caterpillar?

    Caterpillar has a complicated history. Late Middle English has catyrpel, catirpiller (and other variants). These are probably alterations of catepelose, an Old North French variant of Old French chatepelose "hairy cat," from chate “(female) cat,” from Late Latin cattus (masculine) and catta (feminine) “cat” and pelose, pelouse “hairy,” from Latin pilōsus. The Middle English spelling with -yr- is probably due to association with cater “tomcat” (as in caterwaul “to utter long, wailing cries”); the final -er is probably by association with piller “despoiler.” Caterpillar in its original sense “larva of a butterfly or moth” entered English in the 15th century; the sense “extortioner” arose in the late 15th century; the sense “a tractor with two endless steel bands for moving over rough terrain” is a trademark dating from the early years of the 20th century, just in time for World War I.

    How is caterpillar used?

    The caterpillars of the commonwealth, / Which I have sworn to weed and pluck away. William Shakespeare, Richard II, 1623

    By dismissing the Hanoverians ... we shall only send away the caterpillars which devour our victuals ... Statement of the Earl of Chesterfield, January 31, 1744, The Parliamentary History of England, Vol. 13, 1812

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, June 16, 2019

    dada

    noun [dah-dah] (sometimes initial capital letter)
    the style and techniques of a group of artists, writers, etc., of the early 20th century who exploited accidental and incongruous effects in their work and who programmatically challenged established canons of art, thought, morality, etc.
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    What is the origin of dada?

    Despite how it sounds, Dada has nothing to do with dads or Father’s Day. It is a reduplication of the familiar, universal baby syllable da, a French reduplication, specifically, chosen as an arbitrary name for the French and German art movement founded in Zurich in 1916, in the middle of World War I, by a group of multinational and multilingual writers, artists, and composers. According to two of Dada’s founders, the word was chosen at random from dada, a headword in a French dictionary, meaning, in baby talk, “horse, hobbyhorse." The founders were also attracted by the meaninglessness of the two syllables.

    How is dada used?

    In terms of art, Dada could be said to have had the most wide-ranging post-war impact, a fact which is paradoxical given Dada's anti-art inclinations. David Hopkins, Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction, 2004

    ... Scramsfield had manufactured enough Dada poetry to fill up the rest of the magazine by copying out random sections of a boiler repair manual into irregular stanzas, knowing that this should be sufficiently confusing to satisfy his patron ... Ned Beauman, The Teleportation Accident, 2012

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