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
Sunday, July 21, 2019

popple

[ pop-uhl ]

verb (used without object)

to move in a tumbling, irregular manner, as boiling water.

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What is the origin of popple?

It is difficult to analyze the parts of popple, and most authorities say “imitative”—of the motion, of the sound, of both? There are possible related words in Frisian popelje “to throb, bubble up” and Dutch popelen “to throb, quiver (with emotion),” and German dialect poppeln “to bubble, bubble up.” Popple in the sense of “to move in a tumbling, irregular manner” entered English by the 15th century.

how is popple used?

The breeze had so far raised no more than a little ripple on the water, so that the boat poppled, and thumped gently, as it drifted along, but kept all the time one general course.

Frederick H. Costello, Sure-Dart, 1909

The leaves upon the aspen-tree / They poppled in the breeze / And held the drifting harmony / Of music in the trees.

Liberty Hyde Bailey, "Symphony," Wind and Weather, 1916
Saturday, July 20, 2019

daedal

[ deed-l ]

adjective

skillful; ingenious.

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What is the origin of daedal?

The adjective daedal (also spelled dedal) comes via the Latin adjective daedalus and proper noun Daedalus from the Greek adjective daídalos “skillful, skillfully made” and proper noun Daídalos, the mythical Athenian hero who built the Labyrinth at Knossos for King Minos and was the father of Icarus. Further etymology is unclear: daídalos is likely to be from a pre-Greek language. Daedal entered English in the late 16th century.

how is daedal used?

After dinner, they took a turn in the garden; where Leontine was surprized [sic] to see how greatly the daedal hand of nature had been improved by the assistance of art.

"The Danger of Deception; or, Loves of Clora and Leontine," The New Novelist's Magazine, Vol. 1, 1787

An unrestrained genius with a daedal mind, Plumer was New Hampshire’s only Jeffersonian.

John Reid, "The Arena of the Giants: Rockingham County, New Hampshire," ABA Journal, February 1960
Friday, July 19, 2019

jollier

[ jol-ee-er ]

noun

a person who talks or acts agreeably to someone, in order to keep that person in good humor, especially in the hope of gaining something.

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What is the origin of jollier?

The noun jollier, a derivative of the informal verb jolly “to talk or act agreeably in order to keep someone in good humor, especially in the hope of gaining something,” is an Americanism dating back to the end of the 19th century. If only there were fewer jolliers and “jollyees.”

how is jollier used?

Certainly he would never dream that a “jollier” could become the leader of a great English political party.

Edward Porrit, "Paradoxes of Gladstone's Popularity," Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1909, 1911

The Jollier jollied Mr. Thompson up and down the sweet nerve of flattery in a manner truly artistic, then came away with a double half column ad.

J. Angus MacDonald, Successful Advertising: How to Accomplish It, 1902
Thursday, July 18, 2019

cosplay

[ kos-pley ]

noun

the art or practice of wearing costumes to portray characters from fiction, especially from manga, animation, and science fiction.

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What is the origin of cosplay?

Cosplay is a blend of costume and play, but the combination is masking a much more complex performance. Japanese borrowed the English compound noun costume play (as in theater) and rendered it into its sound system as kosuchūmu-purē, which was shortened by the 1980s to kosupure and narrowed to the more specific sense “the art or practice of wearing costumes to portray characters from fiction, especially from manga, animation, and science fiction” (as well as characters from video games). English borrowed back kosupure and refashioned it as cosplay by the 1990s. Japanese words like kosupure are considered pseudo-English Japanese coinages known as wasei-eigo. Other familiar examples adopted into English from Japanese include salaryman, anime, and Pokémon, the latter itself a popular subject of cosplay.

how is cosplay used?

Although cosplay isn’t a requirement at Comic-Con, many people participate, and they take it extremely seriously.

Michael Hardy, "The Best Costumes at Comic-Con 2018," Wired, July 23, 2018

The goal, many cosplayers interviewed said, is to disrupt popular ideas of what cosplay can and should look like and to help create a more racially tolerant environment through cosplay, both in Black Panther costumes and outside of them.

Walter Thompson-Hernández, "'Black Panther' Cosplayers: 'We're Helping People See Us as Heroes," New York Times, February 15, 2018

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