Word of the Day

Thursday, May 02, 2019

bombinate

[ bom-buh-neyt ]

verb

to make a humming or buzzing noise.

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What is the origin of bombinate?

The verb bombinate comes from Latin bombināre “to buzz,” a possible variant or corruption of bombilāre, bombitāre, or bombīre “to buzz, hum,” all derivatives of the noun bombus “a buzzing, humming.” The Latin verbs and noun ultimately come from Greek bómbos “a humming, buzzing” and its various derivative verbs. The specific form bombināre is apparently a coinage by the French satirist François Rabelais (c1494–1553) in a Renaissance Latin parody of scholastic Latin in the Middle Ages. Bombinate entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is bombinate used?

… and then we were off, climbing rapidly to a couple of thousand feet, then making course west, bombinating over the voes (small fjords) and sounds that fretwork the Shetland coastline.

Will Self, "Inching Along the Edge of the World," New York Times, October 23, 2008

As Olga’s rosy soul … bombinates in the damp dark at the bright window of my room, comfortably Krug returns unto the bosom of his maker.

Vladimir Nabokov, "Introduction," Bend Sinister, 1964
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Wednesday, May 01, 2019

guddle

[ guhd-l ]

verb

to catch (fish) by groping with the hands, as under rocks or along a riverbank.

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What is the origin of guddle?

The verb guddle “to catch (fish) by groping with the hands, as under rocks or along a riverbank” is a Scottish word with no known etymology. Guddle was used by several Scots writers, the most popular being Robert Louis Stevenson. Guddle entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is guddle used?

Tam once more resumed his attempt to guddle a trout ….

Christopher Brookmyre, Country of the Blind, 1997

They have to learn how to catch frogs and how to skin them, for the outside is unpalatable; how to guddle for trout and eels; how to detect the plaice in the shallow waters of the bay, hidden in or against the sand, with only their eyes showing.

J. Arthur Thomson, Secrets of Animal Life, 1919
Tuesday, April 30, 2019

sesquipedalian

[ ses-kwi-pi-dey-lee-uhn, -deyl-yuhn ]

adjective

given to using long words.

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What is the origin of sesquipedalian?

Sesquipedalian comes directly from the Latin adjective sesquipedālis “having a (linear or square) measure of one and a half (Roman) feet.” Unsurprisingly, sesquipedālis is used in farming, military fortifications, architecture, and construction. The poet Horace (65–8 b.c.) uses the phrase sesquipedālia verba “words a foot and a half long” in his Ars Poetica (c19–18 b.c.), a poem in which Horace sets forth his ideas on “poetic art.” It is from Horace’s phrase that English has its only meaning “having or using very long words.” The first part of sesquipedālis is the adverb and prefix sesqui, sesque “one and a half times,” from an earlier, unrecorded sem(i)que, a contraction of sēmis “one half, a half more” and the generalizing particle –que. Pedālis is easy: it’s an adjective meaning “measuring a foot, a foot long, wide, deep, etc.,” a derivative of the noun pēs (inflectional stem ped-) “foot”; –ālis is a very common adjective suffix in Latin, the source of the English adjective suffix –al. Sesquipedalian entered English in the 17th century.

how is sesquipedalian used?

Because my father was a professor, I early picked up a sesquipedalian way of speaking (which has been defined as a tendency to use words like “sesquipedalian“).

Kenneth Tucker, The Old Lit Professor's Book of Favorite Readings, 2010

The Players’ was so successful that Moss Empires invited Sachs to undertake a long tour of major variety theatres, resulting in The Good Old Days, a music hall show which ran on BBC Television from 1953 to 1983 with Sachs as its sesquipedalian Chairman.

Richard Anthony Baker, British Music Hall: An Illustrated History, 2014

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