Word of the Day

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

ben trovato

[ ben truh-vah-toh ]

adjective

appropriate and characteristic even if untrue; happily invented or discovered.

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What is the origin of ben trovato?

Ben trovato, an Italian phrase meaning “well found,” comes from the sentence Se non è vero, è molto ben trovato “If it isn’t true, it is very well found, happily invented.” The saying seems to have been common in Italy in the 16th century but is especially associated with the pantheistic philosopher (and therefore heretic) and poet Giordano Bruno (1548–1600). Ben trovato entered English in the late 18th century.

how is ben trovato used?

There is a story that Nolan met Burr once on one of our vessels, when a party of Americans came on board in the Mediterranean. But this I believe to be a lie; or rather, it is a myth, ben trovato, involving a tremendous blowing-up with which he sunk Burr …

Edward Everett Hale, "The Man Without a Country," The Atlantic Monthly, December 1863

There is, when we are willing to be deceived, but small difference between the “vero” and the ben trovato

"The Sketcher, No. X," Blackwoods' Edinburgh Magazine, February 1835
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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

abusage

[ uh-byoo-sij ]

noun

improper use of words; unidiomatic or ungrammatical language.

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What is the origin of abusage?

The noun abusage, a derivative of the verb abuse, has been in English since the mid-16th century, and originally the noun had many of the original senses of the verb: “misuse, ill-use, abuse,” and the still stronger sense “corrupt practices, immoral behavior.” New Zealand-born British lexicographer Eric Partridge (1894–1979) is credited for giving abusage its current meaning “improper use of language” in his Usage and Abusage: A Guide to Good English (1942).

how is abusage used?

As a presidential campaign approaches, great rhetorical and metaphoric strain is placed on the language. … Lest this abusage corrupt the young, this department instituted (I started) the scrupulously bipartisan 1988 Hyperbolic and Metaphoric Watch.

William Safire, "The '88 Rhetorical Watch," New York Times, March 23, 1986

Many New Yorkers and New Jerseyites persisted in referring to the agency as the “Port of Authority,” and this abusage long served as a kind of shibboleth for identifying natives of the area.

Henry Petroski, The Road Taken, 2016
Monday, July 22, 2019

qua

[ kwey, kwah ]

adverb

as; as being; in the character or capacity of: The work of art qua art can be judged by aesthetic criteria only.

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What is the origin of qua?

The English adverb qua “in the capacity of, as being” comes from the Latin interrogative, relative, and indefinite adverb quā, one of whose many meanings is “in the manner in which, as.” In form, quā is the ablative singular feminine of the interrogative and indefinite pronoun and adjective quī, quae (qua), quod, which all but guarantees many syntactic uses. Qua entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is qua used?

There is a particular difficulty in discerning whether this book is good, not because the text qua text is somehow elusive or inscrutable but because one struggles to read it without sweeping for psychological clues.

Katy Waldman, "The Idealized, Introverted Wives of Mackenzie Bezos's Fiction," The New Yorker, January 23, 2019

… the privilege that attaches to a client’s confidences to his lawyer is limited to that which is revealed to him in secrecy, only qua lawyer, as distinguished from qua agent or qua negotiator or qua friend.

Copal Mintz, "Accountancy and Law: Should Dual Practice Be Proscribed?" ABA Journal, March 1967

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