Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, December 12, 2021

bezoar

[ bee-zawr, -zohr ]

noun

a calculus or concretion found in the stomach or intestines of certain animals, especially ruminants, formerly reputed to be an effective remedy for poison.

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What is the origin of bezoar?

Bezoar “a calculus found in the stomach of ruminants, formerly reputed to be an effective remedy for poison” is derived via Medieval Latin bezahar and Arabic bāzahr from Persian pād-zahr “antidote.” This Persian term is a compound of the elements pād- “protector” and zahr “poison.” Pād- comes from the Proto-Indo-European root pā- “to protect, feed,” which is also the source of food, fodder, and foster (via Old English); forage and fur (via Old French and Germanic); and recent Word of the Day selection repast (via Latin). Zahr also comes from a Proto-Indo-European root, gwhen- “to strike, kill,” which is the source of bane (from Old English bana “slayer”), defend and offend (from Latin dēfendere “to repel, ward off” and offendere “to strike against”), and gun (from Old Norse gunnr “war”). Bezoar was first recorded in English in the 1470s.

how is bezoar used?

Porcupines are being hunted for onion-shaped masses of undigested plant material in their gut known as bezoars …. Demand is predominantly driven by China, where some believe that bezoars, which accumulate in the digestive tract, have potent medicinal properties, including the ability to cure diabetes, dengue fever, and cancer. No scientific evidence exists for any curative properties of bezoars.

Peter Yeung, “Porcupines are being poached for their stomach content,” National Geographic, March 22, 2019

Arabian doctors had been using bezoars since the 8th century, and brought them into western medicine in the 12th century as an antidote to arsenic, a favorite poison used to assassinate European nobles. By the 16th century, use of bezoars was widespread among the very rich—they were valued at 10 times their weight in gold. Queen Elizabeth I even had a bezoar set in a silver ring.

Loraine Fick, "The Magical Medicine of Bezoars," How Stuff Works, February 7, 2019

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Word of the day

Saturday, December 11, 2021

filiopietistic

[ fil-ee-oh-pahy-i-tis-tik ]

adjective

of or relating to reverence of forebears or tradition, especially if carried to excess.

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What is the origin of filiopietistic?

Filiopietistic “of or relating to reverence of forebears” is a compound of the Latin noun fīlius “son” and the adjective pietistic “intense in religious devotion,” the latter of which derives ultimately from Latin pius “pious.” Fīlius is also the source of the English terms affiliate “to bring into close connection,” filial “of or relating to a son or daughter,” and even the Anglo-Norman element Fitz “(illegitimate) son of” that appears in many surnames of English and Irish origin, such as Fitzgerald and Fitzwilliam. Pius is the root of pious as well as expiate “to make amends for” and may be related to pūrus “clear, clean,” the source of pure. Filiopietistic was first recorded in English in the early 1890s.

how is filiopietistic used?

Nationalist historians … wrote in a spirit of respect for their forefathers. Others went far beyond them and created another school of interpretation in which respect became a form of reverence. They inspired critics to coin a new word: “filiopietistic,” having an excess of filial piety .… In some of its forms, filiopietism was benign and highly constructive. It stimulated interest in early American history and supported serious scholarship on the American Revolution .… But in other ways filiopietism could become malignant, when it shifted from celebration of one’s forebears to execration of others.

David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing, 2004

Since Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical became a Broadway sensation and made the 1804 Burr-Hamilton duel “of the moment,” the field of Revolutionary and early republican American history has found itself caught in the crossfire. For those who prefer it that way, the men in powdered wigs are no longer dead white guys; they’re streetwise. It all sounds new, but it’s not. Every generation has refashioned the Founders in its own image, mixing patriotic lore with filiopietistic tales to enshrine America’s cherished ideals.

Nancy Isenberg, "Beneath the Powdered Wig," American Scholar, September 23, 2020

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Word of the day

Friday, December 10, 2021

babushka

[ buh-boosh-kuh, -boosh- ]

noun

an elderly Russian woman, especially an elderly grandmother.

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What is the origin of babushka?

Babushka “an elderly Russian woman” is a borrowing from Russian bábushka “grandmother,” equivalent to bába “old woman” and -ushka, a diminutive suffix. Bába is but one example of the innumerable kinship terms that originated from baby talk; the bilabial consonants b, m, and p are among the first sounds that infants acquire, and these three sounds are the bases of the words for “father” and “mother,” as well as for other elder relatives, in multiple language families. It is not a coincidence that the word for “mother” in Basque (ama), Hawaiian (makuahine), Hebrew (ímma), Latin (māter), Korean (eomi), Mandarin Chinese (mǔqīn), Navajo (amá), and Quechua (mama) all contain the letter m even though these languages are unrelated. Babushka was first recorded in English in the late 1930s.

how is babushka used?

The singing Babushkas of Buranova have made a name for themselves, first as an Internet sensation and then at the Eurovision competition this year .… Babushka is Russian for grandmother and these women are mostly in their 70s and 80s. Their story is sadly familiar in Russia. Many of these elderly women lost their husbands years ago to alcoholism or hard work. Searching for companionship, the babushkas of Buranova turned to one another and to music.

David Greene, as quoted in “Babushkas Sing For The Good Of Their Village,” NPR, July 15, 2012

My own Siberian-born babushka, it must be said, does not go to the trouble of stewing short ribs for eight hours when she makes borscht. Nor does any babushka in my circle incorporate delectably astringent homemade garlic mayo into her spin on herring under a fur coat, an already laborious dish that involves prepping and layering potatoes, carrots, hard-boiled eggs, and beets atop pickled herring.

David Kortava, "Taking Care with Babushka Classics, at Tzarevna," The New Yorker, September 3, 2021

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