• Word of the day
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    Sunday, May 05, 2019

    avenaceous

    adjective [av-uh-ney-shuhs] Botany.
    of or like oats.
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    What is the origin of avenaceous?

    The very rare adjective avenaceous, meaning “of, like, or pertaining to oats,” is used only in botany. Avenaceous comes straight from the Latin adjective avēnāceus “made from oats,” a derivative of avēna “oats,” which comes from the same Proto-Indo-European source as Lithuanian avižà and Slavic (Polish) owies, both meaning “oats.” Avenaceous entered English in the 18th century.

    How is avenaceous used?

    See birds that know our avenaceous store / Stoop to our hand, and thence repleted soar ... H. C. Bunner, "Home, Sweet Home, with Variations: V.," Scribner's Monthly, Vol. 22, 1881

    A spikelet, almost entire, of what seems to be a species of Poa, and the flowering glume of another grass, probably avenaceous, have also been found. H. Hesketh Prichard, Through the Heart of Patagonia, 1902

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, May 04, 2019

    organon

    noun [awr-guh-non]
    an instrument of thought or knowledge.
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    What is the origin of organon?

    The Greek noun órganon means “tool, instrument, sensory organ, body part, musical instrument (whence the English name of the musical instrument), surgical instrument, table of calculations, (a concrete) work, work product, and a set of principles for conducting scientific and philosophical work.” This last meaning first occurs in the works of the Peripatetic philosopher Alexander of Aphrodisias, who lived in the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries a.d. and was the most famous ancient Greek commentator on Aristotle. Órganon is a derivative of the Greek root erg-, org- (also dialectal werg-, worg-), from the Proto-Indo-European root werg-, worg-; the Germanic form of this root is werk-, whence English work. Organon in its sense “bodily organ” entered English in the late 16th century; the philosophical sense entered English in the early 17th century.

    How is organon used?

    ... for genuine proof in concrete matter we require an organon more delicate, versatile, and elastic than verbal argumentation. John Henry Newman, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, 1870

    It [logic] thus sunk into the position of an Organon or instrument. William Wallace, Prolegomena to the Study of Hegel's Philosophy and Especially of His Logic, 2nd ed., 1894

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, May 03, 2019

    vigesimal

    adjective [vahy-jes-uh-muhl]
    of, relating to, or based on twenty.
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    What is the origin of vigesimal?

    The English adjective vigesimal comes from the Latin adjectives vīgēsimus and vīcēsimus (also vīcēnsimus) “twentieth.” There is an obvious connection in meaning between the adjectives and the Latin numeral vīgintī “twenty,” but there is also an obvious difficulty in form. The fluctuation between -g- and -c- in the Latin words has never been satisfactorily explained, as the expected Latin form would be vīcintī. Vigesimal entered English in the 17th century.

    How is vigesimal used?

    Maya numeral systems were vigesimal (base twenty), counted by twenties, four hundreds, eight thousands, and so on, rather than by tens, hundreds, and thousands as in a decimal system. Robert J. Sharer with Loa P. Traxler, The Ancient Maya, 6th ed., 2006

    Portland is making vigorous preparations for the vigesimal or twentieth anniversary celebration of the founding of the Christian Endeavor Society .... "State Items," The Lewiston Daily Sun, January 22, 1901

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, May 02, 2019

    bombinate

    verb [bom-buh-neyt]
    to make a humming or buzzing noise.
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    What is the origin of bombinate?

    The verb bombinate comes from Latin bombināre “to buzz,” a possible variant or corruption of bombilāre, bombitāre, or bombīre “to buzz, hum,” all derivatives of the noun bombus “a buzzing, humming.” The Latin verbs and noun ultimately come from Greek bómbos “a humming, buzzing” and its various derivative verbs. The specific form bombināre is apparently a coinage by the French satirist François Rabelais (c1494–1553) in a Renaissance Latin parody of scholastic Latin in the Middle Ages. Bombinate entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

    How is bombinate used?

    ... and then we were off, climbing rapidly to a couple of thousand feet, then making course west, bombinating over the voes (small fjords) and sounds that fretwork the Shetland coastline. Will Self, "Inching Along the Edge of the World," New York Times, October 23, 2008

    As Olga's rosy soul ... bombinates in the damp dark at the bright window of my room, comfortably Krug returns unto the bosom of his maker. Vladimir Nabokov, "Introduction," Bend Sinister, 1964

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, May 01, 2019

    guddle

    verb [guhd-l]
    to catch (fish) by groping with the hands, as under rocks or along a riverbank.
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    What is the origin of guddle?

    The verb guddle “to catch (fish) by groping with the hands, as under rocks or along a riverbank” is a Scottish word with no known etymology. Guddle was used by several Scots writers, the most popular being Robert Louis Stevenson. Guddle entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

    How is guddle used?

    Tam once more resumed his attempt to guddle a trout .... Christopher Brookmyre, Country of the Blind, 1997

    They have to learn how to catch frogs and how to skin them, for the outside is unpalatable; how to guddle for trout and eels; how to detect the plaice in the shallow waters of the bay, hidden in or against the sand, with only their eyes showing. J. Arthur Thomson, Secrets of Animal Life, 1919

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, April 30, 2019

    sesquipedalian

    adjective [ses-kwi-pi-dey-lee-uhn, -deyl-yuhn]
    given to using long words.
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    What is the origin of sesquipedalian?

    Sesquipedalian comes directly from the Latin adjective sesquipedālis “having a (linear or square) measure of one and a half (Roman) feet.” Unsurprisingly, sesquipedālis is used in farming, military fortifications, architecture, and construction. The poet Horace (65–8 b.c.) uses the phrase sesquipedālia verba “words a foot and a half long” in his Ars Poetica (c19–18 b.c.), a poem in which Horace sets forth his ideas on “poetic art.” It is from Horace’s phrase that English has its only meaning “having or using very long words.” The first part of sesquipedālis is the adverb and prefix sesqui, sesque “one and a half times,” from an earlier, unrecorded sem(i)que, a contraction of sēmis “one half, a half more” and the generalizing particle -que. Pedālis is easy: it’s an adjective meaning “measuring a foot, a foot long, wide, deep, etc.,” a derivative of the noun pēs (inflectional stem ped-) “foot”; -ālis is a very common adjective suffix in Latin, the source of the English adjective suffix -al. Sesquipedalian entered English in the 17th century.

    How is sesquipedalian used?

    Because my father was a professor, I early picked up a sesquipedalian way of speaking (which has been defined as a tendency to use words like "sesquipedalian"). Kenneth Tucker, The Old Lit Professor's Book of Favorite Readings, 2010

    The Players' was so successful that Moss Empires invited Sachs to undertake a long tour of major variety theatres, resulting in The Good Old Days, a music hall show which ran on BBC Television from 1953 to 1983 with Sachs as its sesquipedalian Chairman. Richard Anthony Baker, British Music Hall: An Illustrated History, 2014

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, April 29, 2019

    clown car

    noun [kloun kahr]
    a group whose size seems absurdly excessive for the purported function of the group, and whose effectiveness is therefore questionable: The planning committee has added yet another member to its clown car, almost guaranteeing further delays.
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    What is the origin of clown car?

    The term clown car in its original sense “a very small car used in a circus comedy act, in which the normal passenger capacity is greatly exceeded by the numerous clowns who climb out from inside,” dates from the early 1950s. The disparaging, usually political sense “a group whose size seems excessive for the function of the group, and whose effectiveness is therefore questionable,” dates from about 2013.

    How is clown car used?

    But I’m old enough to remember 2015, when there were so many Republicans vying for the nod of their party, the early intraparty debates needed to be divided into two to ensure everyone got airtime .... The clown car, people named it. Helaine Olen, "The Democratic primary will be crowded in 2020. Good!" Washington Post, November 13, 2018

    ... as the clown-car of guest stars that Swift brought out in each city verged on the absurd ... it started to feel like Taylor Swift was not interested in a collective, collaborative vision of feminism so much as one that proved the dominance of her own brand. Lindsay Zoladz, "2015: The year that #squad died." Slate, December 18, 2015

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