Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, November 04, 2021

bellwether

[ bel-weth-er ]

noun

a person or thing that shows the existence or direction of a trend.

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What is the origin of bellwether?

Bellwether “a person or thing that shows the existence or direction of a trend” is a compound of bell, the instrument, and wether, a castrated male sheep. A bellwether was originally a wether that led the rest of a flock and wore a bell around its neck; from there, bellwether broadened to figuratively refer to a trendsetter, as within an industry, and then shifted once more to indicate something that demonstrates that a trend exists. Wether has nothing to do with the atmosphere or the climate; it derives instead from a Proto-Indo-European root that is also the source of veal (from Latin vitulus “calf”) and veterinarian (from Latin veterīnae “beasts of burden”). Bellwether was first recorded in English in the early 1400s.

how is bellwether used?

In American politics, a bellwether state has exhibited a historical tendency to duplicate in smaller scale the political behavior of the nation at large .…The best-known bellwether is Missouri, which not only demonstrates classic bellwether behavior but also has a history that invites and supports various theories to explain the effect.

Kenneth F. Warren, Encyclopedia of U.S. Campaigns, Elections, and Electoral Behavior, 2008

Covid put Code [Conference] on pause, however, along with every other technology conference. A year later, it’s among the first tech conferences to reemerge fully in-person, a possible bellwether for the future of such events.

Arielle Pardes, "Bring on the Fist Bumps and Nasal Swabs—Tech Conferences Are Back," Wired, October 1, 2021

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Word of the day

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

maringouin

[ mar-uhn-gwan ]

noun

a mosquito, especially a large swamp mosquito.

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What is the origin of maringouin?

Maringouin “mosquito” is a borrowing from Louisiana French. Although Louisiana has been part of the United States for over 200 years, from its time as part of the former French Empire, it has retained its own dialect of French, which has incorporated vocabulary from English, Spanish, and Indigenous American languages. Unlike many words that Louisiana French has borrowed from local Indigenous languages, maringouin is allegedly a borrowing by way of standard French marigoin from mbarigui in Tupi, an extinct language once spoken in what is now Brazil. On what is now São Luís Island in the Brazilian state of Maranhão, the French briefly had a colony in the early 1600s, and it was during this period that author Claude d’Abbeville noted the potential connection between maringouin and Tupi; however, the use of maringouin in French predates d’Abbeville’s text by about 50 years, which casts doubt on this connection. Maringouin was first attested in French in the mid-1500s and appeared in English in the early 1800s.

how is maringouin used?

The surroundings of the district of Inga are really ideal, and life there is good. Yet there is something in this area that truly makes one hate living there, which is the fact that it is literally invaded by flying and biting creatures called the “maringouin”…

Junior Nzita Nsuami, If My Life As a Child Soldier Could be Told, 2016

The creature called mosquito in English and maringouin in French Canadian is a small insect similar to the French midge which differs from it only in size. It is generally bigger and its proboscis so strong and sharp that only woolen material can protect against its bites. These small midges are the scourge of the American wilderness.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835 

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Word of the day

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

busk

[ buhsk ]

verb (used without object)

to entertain by dancing, singing, reciting, juggling, etc., on the street or in a public place.

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What is the origin of busk?

Busk “to entertain on the street or in a public place” is of unclear origin, though there are multiple theories. One hypothesis is that busk is a borrowing from Polari, a type of English slang that developed in the 1700s. Polari was popular among theater workers, circus performers, sailors, and the gay community, and derived much of its vocabulary from Italian and other Romance languages. If busk was borrowed from Polari, it could derive from an Italian verb such as buscare “to procure, get, gain,” which itself was a borrowing from Spanish buscar “to look for, seek,” also of unclear origin. Busk was first recorded in English in the early 1850s.

how is busk used?

Before the jugglers, acrobats, and comedians hit the streets of the Scottish capital to busk at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, there’s morning coffee, a chat among colleagues, and the lottery. The three-week long Fringe welcomes street performers of every type and stripe to provide the raucous carnival atmosphere, from young men dressed as poppies to high-flying acrobats who have honed their skills for years.

Paul Casciato, “Busking is a lottery at Edinburgh Festival Fringe,” Reuters, August 9, 2009

Raised in California, Remi first got the music bug after she created a pre-teen girl group called Citrus with two of her friends, which went onto become a slightly more serious (and less fruit based) production during high school. “We would busk on the street, and I think that was the moment where I really started to think that I could do it as a career,” Remi recalls.

Elly Watson, "Wolf Like Her: Remi Wolf," DIY, October 15, 2021

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