• Word of the day
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    Saturday, June 23, 2018

    backstairs

    adjective [bak-stairz]
    secret, underhanded, or scandalous: backstairs gossip.
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    What is the origin of backstairs?

    Backstairs was first recorded in 1635-45. It’s the adjectival extension of the noun back stairs.

    How is backstairs used?

    I say to Lord Hartington before you all, not by any backstairs intrigue and not by any secret negotiations, but in the face of this great meeting held in this great town and before all of England ... "Come over and help us!" Herbert Maxwell, "Lord Randolph Churchill," The National Review, Vol. XXV, March to August 1895

    He would never believe it--it was a nasty piece of backstairs gossip! Upton Sinclair, The Metropolis, 1908

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, June 22, 2018

    pellucid

    adjective [puh-loo-sid]
    clear in meaning, expression, or style: a pellucid way of writing.
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    What is the origin of pellucid?

    English pellucid comes from the Latin adjective pellūcidus (the usual Latin spelling is perlūcidus) “very clear, transparent.” The Latin adjective lūcidus is thoroughly naturalized in English lucid, but the Latin prefix and preposition per- is worth explanation. In Latin per- is used to intensify adjectives, adverbs, and verbs, e.g., perbonus “very good, excellent,” perbrevis “very short,” perbene “very well,” perbellē “very charmingly,” and percelebrāre “to make thoroughly known.” The Greek prefix and preposition perí- serves the same purpose, as in Periklês (c495-429 b.c.), the Athenian statesman, from the adjective perikleês “very famous.” Pellucid entered English in the 17th century.

    How is pellucid used?

    His art is highly complex, but its expression is so pellucid, so simple, that we can see only its body, never the mechanism of its body. Edward Garnett, "Introduction," The Novels of Ivan Turgenev, 1906

    Trump’s ramblings about Vladi­mir Putin were positively pellucid in their clarity compared with his March 29 comments on the U.S.-South Korea trade deal ... Max Boot, "What on earth is Trump saying?" Washington Post, April 11, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, June 21, 2018

    summerize

    verb [suhm-uh-rahyz]
    to prepare (a house, car, etc.) so as to counteract the hot weather of summer: to summerize a house by adding air conditioning.
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    What is the origin of summerize?

    In the late 18th century, summerize meant “to spend the summer,” a sense rarely used nowadays. In the mid-19th century in the U.S. in colloquial usage, summerize acquired its usual meaning “to prepare for summer.”

    How is summerize used?

    Swap out the stiff white shirt for button-downs in mellower colors. "If you’re in finance, it’s hard to make a big fashion statement, but this is a good way to summerize your wardrobe," says Coats. , "7 stylish office looks for summer (including 4 that will cool off even the strictest of dress codes)," Forbes, June 7, 2017

    The spark plugs don't need to be changed for three years, and the motor can “summerize” itself by fogging the cylinders with oil when you put your machine away in the spring. Ezra Dyer, "Dashing Through the Snow," New York Times, January 29, 2009

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, June 20, 2018

    thigmotropism

    noun [thig-mo-truh-piz-uhm]
    Biology. oriented growth of an organism in response to mechanical contact, as a plant tendril coiling around a string support.
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    What is the origin of thigmotropism?

    Thigmotropism is a very rare word, restricted to biology, especially botany. All three of the components of the word come from Greek: thígma means “a touch”; trópos and tropḗ are both nouns meaning “a turning, turn”; and -ism comes from the Greek suffixes -ismós, isma, used to form nouns denoting the result of an action. Thigmotropism entered English in the early 20th century.

    How is thigmotropism used?

    When touch is the stimulus, the response is thigmotropism. Positive thigmotropism occurs when a tendril touches an object and, by growing toward it, wraps around it. James D. Mauseth, Botany: An Introduction to Plant Biology, 2009

    Thigmotropism is what makes a vine curl around a stake or an epiphyte cling to a branch in the wild. Deb Wandell, "Flora Grubb reinvents the plant stand with Thigmotrope Perch," San Francisco Chronicle, January 30, 2015

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, June 19, 2018

    turophile

    noun [toor-uh-fahyl, tyoor-, tur-]
    a connoisseur or lover of cheese.
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    What is the origin of turophile?

    Turophile a rare word not only in meaning but also in its spelling. The combining form -phile is very common in English, but the combining form turo- is unique: it comes from the Greek noun tȳrós, which is nearly always Romanized as tyro-, as in the technical term tyrosine (an amino acid). Tȳrós comes from a complicated Proto-Indo-European root tēu, tewe, teu, “to swell, coagulate, be or become thick”: for the Greeks cheese was “thickened milk.” The Latin word būtȳrum “butter” is a borrowing from Greek boútyron “butter,” literally “cow cheese.” Būtȳrum “butter” was adopted by the West Germanic languages, e.g., Old English butere, English butter, Dutch boter, Old High German butera, and German Butter. Turophile entered English in the 20th century.

    How is turophile used?

    For any New York turophile ... there is irritation, frustration and dismay when visiting most of the town's restaurants whether grand luxe or bistro. The cheeses, if available at all, are more often than not overripe or underaged, too cold or too few ... Craig Claiborne, "Cheese Lover Dismayed by Restaurant Selection," New York Times, October 12, 1965

    ... as any turophile knows, microbes are the source of cheese’s vast diversity of flavors, textures, and smells. Casey Quackenbush, "The FDA Is Coming Around to the Idea That Cheese, Microbes, and Mold Can Work Just Fine," Time, September 22, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, June 18, 2018

    day-tripper

    noun [dey-trip-er]
    a person who goes on a trip, especially an excursion, lasting all or part of a day but not overnight.
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    What is the origin of day-tripper?

    Day-tripper has been used in English since the mid-1800s.

    How is day-tripper used?

    ... he seized on the word as if it might somehow help to plug him into German culture, rather like a day-tripper to Boulogne trying to convince himself that he has explored France. William McIlvanney, The Kiln, 1996

    Deepest mind in the galaxy, apparently, and you still express yourself like a day-tripper with a dog-eared phrase book. Anthony Lane, "Space Case," The New Yorker, May 23, 2005

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, June 17, 2018

    paragon

    noun [par-uh-gon, -guhn]
    a model or pattern of excellence or of a particular excellence: a paragon of virtue.
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    What is the origin of paragon?

    The English noun paragon comes from Middle French, from Old Italian paragone “touch stone,” a derivative of the verb paragonare “to test on a touchstone or whetstone.” The Italian words perhaps derive from Greek parakonân “to sharpen, whet,” formed from the prefix and preposition para-“beside, alongside” and akonân “to sharpen, whet,” a derivative of akónē “whetstone, bone.” Paragon entered English in the mid-16th century.

    How is paragon used?

    As that paragon of fatherhood Homer Simpson once told his brood, “Remember, as far as anyone knows, we're a nice, normal family.” Andy Simmons, "People Shared Their Funniest Family Stories and It Got Heartwarming Real Fast," Reader's Digest, April 2018

    He has variously been considered a military icon who won a total victory; a presidential model for overcoming his own considerable flaws and a tragic weakness for scoundrels to achieve fame and glory; a literary phenomenon who crafted the most famous deathbed writing in American letters; and a celebrity who was a paragon of humility and modesty. David W. Blight, "The Silent Type," New York Review of Books, May 24, 2018

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