Word of the Day

Sunday, March 29, 2020

apoplectic

[ ap-uh-plek-tik ]

adjective

extremely angry; furious: He became apoplectic at the mere mention of the subject.

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What is the origin of apoplectic?

Apoplectic, “stricken with apoplexy,” comes from Late Latin apoplēcticus (also apoplēctus), from Greek apoplēktikós “paralyzed” and apóplēktos “disabled by a stroke.” Apoplēktikós and apóplēktos are derivatives of the verb apoplēssein (also apoplēttein) “to cripple by a stroke, disable in body or mind,” a compound of the prefix apo-, here with an intensive force, and the verb plēssein, plēttein, plēgnýnai “to strike, hit, thrust at.” By the 19th century apoplectic developed the sense “furiously angry,” as in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814), “A short-necked apoplectic sort of fellow,” and Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers (1837), “A gentleman with an apoplectic countenance.” Apoplectic entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is apoplectic used?

At the White House, Washburne was apoplectic. “Of all the times to let him go, this is the worst!” Washburne marched about the room waving his arms ….

Gore Vidal, Lincoln, 1984

Lenders were apoplectic. They warned CFPB officials that such a tight restriction, however well-intentioned, could cut off access to mortgages for many home buyers and damage the housing market further.

Damian Paletta, "Federal government has dramatically expanded exposure to risky mortgages," Seattle Times, October 2, 2019

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Saturday, March 28, 2020

wont

[ wawnt, wohnt, wuhnt ]

adjective

accustomed; used (usually followed by an infinitive): He was wont to rise at dawn.

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What is the origin of wont?

The history of the adjective, noun, and verb wont is as confused as its three modern pronunciations. The Middle English adjective has many variant spellings, among them wont, woned, wonde (the root vowel is short, as in one of the modern pronunciations). Wont, woned, and wonde (and many other variants) are the past participle of the verb wonen (with many variant spellings) “to inhabit, live (somewhere); to continue to be (in a state or condition); to be accustomed.” Wonen comes from Old English (ge)wunod, past participle of (ge)wunian, (ge)wunigan “to dwell, inhabit, remain, be (in a certain condition).” Old English (ge)wunian is akin to Old High German wonēn “to dwell, remain” and German gewöhnen “to accustom.” Wont (adjective) first appeared in writing in the 9th century; the noun wont in the 14th century; and the verb wont in the first half of the 15th century.

how is wont used?

Ahab was wont to pace his quarter-deck, taking regular turns at either limit, the binnacle and mainmast ….

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1851

Young people are the primary drivers of language change, but even we “olds”—as the young are wont to put it—like to change things up now and then.

John McWhorter, "Why Grown-Ups Keep Talking Like Little Kids," The Atlantic, May 2019

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Friday, March 27, 2020

sciolism

[ sahy-uh-liz-uhm ]

noun

superficial knowledge.

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What is the origin of sciolism?

English sciolism “superficial knowledge, a pretension to learning,” comes from the Late Latin adjective and noun sciolus “pretending to knowledge; a person who pretends to knowledge,” and the common noun suffix -ism, originally Greek but completely naturalized in English. Sciolus comes from Latin scius “knowing, knowledgeable, cognizant,” a derivative of the verb scīre “to know (a fact), know for sure.” The obsolete English noun sciolus “one who possesses only superficial knowledge, particularly and especially an editor of a text,” comes directly from Late Latin sciolus. The uncommon English noun sciolist “a person of superficial knowledge or learning” is another derivative of sciolus. Sciolism entered English in the mid-18th century.

how is sciolism used?

Anderson faded, his showy sciolism proving as tiresome to voters as it had to his congressional colleagues.

Bill Kauffman, "I was expelled from the Electoral College before I was even admitted," The Spectator, February 22, 2020

An unseemly air of sciolism creeps into our insistence that we others know the difference between Benedict Arnold and Arnold Bennett.

"Dictated but Not Read, " New York Times, July 20, 1919

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Cinderella

[ sin-duh-rel-uh ]

noun

a person or thing that achieves unexpected or sudden success or recognition, especially after obscurity, neglect, or misery.

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What is the origin of Cinderella?

Cinderella is a partial translation of French Cendrillon “Little ashes,” from Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon ou la petite pantoufle de verre “Cinderella or the Little Glass slipper” (1697). The story of Cinderella is ancient: The Greek geographer and historian Strabo tells the earliest recorded version of the folk tale in his Rhodopis (written between 7 b.c. and a.d. 24), the name of a Greek slave girl who married the King of Egypt. The first modern European version of the folk tale appears in Lo cunto de li cunti “The Tale of Tales” (also known as the Pentamerone), the collection of fairy tales written in Neapolitan dialect by the Neapolitan poet and fairy tale collector Giambattista Basile (1566-1632), from whom Charles Perrault and the German folklorists and philologists the Brothers Grimm later adapted material. Cinderella entered English in the 19th century.

how is Cinderella used?

The first Cinderella in the era of the 64-team bracket may be the greatest in history.

Tyler Lauletta, "The Cinderella team that busted everybody's March Madness brackets the year you were born," Business Insider, March 28, 2019

Ukraine is the new Cinderella. It could just metamorphose from bankruptcy and potential civil war to surpass elder sister Russia in reform and perhaps even consensus. 

Elizabeth Pond, "Cinderella Ukraine," Washington Post, November 20, 1994

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

moue

[ moo ]

noun

a pouting grimace.

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What is the origin of moue?

The noun moue, “a pout, grimace,” still feels very French in its spelling. Some of its Middle English spellings include moue, mouwe, mowhe “grimace, wry face, grin,” all from Middle French mouwe, moe “lip, pout,” from Old French moe “grimace, pout.” Old French moe is probably from unrecorded Frankish mauwa “pout, protruding lip,” or Middle Dutch mouwe “protruding lip.” Moue entered English in the mid-19th century.

how is moue used?

“What, your stitching wasn’t good enough?” The woman made a sympathetic moue.

Tracy Chevalier, Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1999

Disapproval either goes unexpressed or is exaggerated, with a roll of the eye and a theatrical moue and a “She never takes any notice of me, anyway.”

Julian Barnes, "Complicity," The New Yorker, October 12, 2009

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

longevous

[ lon-jee-vuhs, lawn- ]

adjective

Archaic.

long-lived; living to a great age.

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What is the origin of longevous?

The adjective longevous is much less common than its derivative noun longevity. Longevous derives from the Latin adjective longaevus “of great age, ancient,” a compound of the adjective longus “long” and the noun aevum “time, the past, the ages.” Longevity comes from Late Latin longaevitās (stem longaevitāt-) “long life, longevity,” formed from longus and the noun aevitās (also aetās) “age, one’s age,” a derivative of aevum. Longevous entered English in the mid-17th century (and longevity in the second half of the 16th century).

how is longevous used?

a vast majority of these extremely longevous folk were of a placid temperament, not given to worry.

Raymond Pearl, "The Search for Longevity," The Scientific Monthly, Vol. 46, May 1938  

It’s hard to remember a longevous rock band that left on such a high note as these women did in 2006.

Chris Riemenschneider, "Sleater-Kinney returns to a city full of love," Star Tribune, February 15, 2015

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Monday, March 23, 2020

schlep

[ shlep ]

verb (used with object)

to carry; lug: to schlep an umbrella on a sunny day.

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What is the origin of schlep?

The slang term schlep “to lug, carry” is used mostly in the United States. Schlep is from the Yiddish verb shlepn “to pull, drag” (German schleppen “to draw, tug, haul”). The derivative noun schlepper, “one who schleps,” appears slightly earlier than the verb. Schlepper entered English toward the end of the 19th century; schlep appeared in the early 20th.

how is schlep used?

She had drawn notice as the doctor who would help mechanics schlep gear, fetch coffee and even massage the overworked massage therapists.

Nancy Lofholm, "Crested Butte surgeon scores top spot at Sochi Olympics," Denver Post, January 11, 2014

After a bit of trial and error, you’ll find car-free travel is a liberating choice that forces you to schlep considerably less.

Lauren Matison, "How to Travel Car-Free With a Family," New York Times, December 4, 2019

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