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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