Word of the Day

Monday, October 21, 2019

bon vivant

[ bon vee-vahnt; French bawn vee-vahn ]

noun

a person who lives luxuriously and enjoys good food and drink.

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What is the origin of bon vivant?

Bon vivant is completely unnaturalized in English; indeed, if the term were naturalized, it would lose its je ne sais quoi. In French bon vivant simply means “good liver” (a person, not the organ about which every French person is concerned). Bon is a masculine singular adjective meaning “good,” which comes straight from Latin bonus. Vivant is the masculine singular present participle of vivre “to live,” straight from Latin vīvere. The plural of bon vivant is bons vivants, which has the same pronunciation. One also sees the feminine form (not nearly so common), bonne vivante and its plural bonnes vivantes. Bon vivant entered English at the end of the 17th century.

how is bon vivant used?

… his creditors had tampered with his honest name and reputation as a bon vivant. He have bad wine! For shame! He had the best from the best wine-merchant …..

William Makepeace Thackeray, The Adventures of Philip on His Way Through the World, 1862

Jean-Jacques was a bon vivant and might even bring along a couple Cuban cigars ….

M. L. Longworth, Death in the Vines, 2013

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Sunday, October 20, 2019

pepita

[ puh-pee-tuh, pe- ]

noun

the edible seed of a pumpkin or squash, used in cooking and often dried or toasted and eaten as a snack food.

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What is the origin of pepita?

Pepita in 16th-century Spanish meant “naturally occurring nugget or lump of metal, especially gold,” an extension of its original meaning “seed, kernel.” The more recent sense of pepita, “the edible seed of a pumpkin or squash,” arose in the early 1940s.

how is pepita used?

… if you want a crunchy, moderately healthy Halloween snack to munch on … head to the bulk aisle of your local health food store and pick up some pepitas that are actually fit for human consumption.

L. V. Anderson, "You're Doing It Wrong: Pumpkin Seeds," Slate, October 30, 2013

Claire ladled out a Hubbard squash bisque sprinkled with chili-crusted pepitas.

Steven Raichlen, Island Apart, 2012
Saturday, October 19, 2019

canny

[ kan-ee ]

adjective

astute; shrewd; knowing; sagacious: a canny negotiator.

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What is the origin of canny?

Canny originally meant “knowing, wise,” and was a doublet of cunning, originally “knowledgeable, learned, skillful.” Canny (and cunning) both derive from Old English cunnan “to become acquainted with, know” (Modern English verb can). All of the citations of canny before, say, 1800, are from Scottish authors, and the word is first attested in the latter half of the 16th century. Uncanny is also originally Scottish, but feels as American as the pulp horror and sci-fi magazines of the 1930s. The now usual sense of uncanny, “having a supernatural or inexplicable basis,” dates from the mid-19th century.

how is canny used?

He thought himself canny and alert, able to uncover plots, or flatter the great and trick them, bend events to his will.

Tanith Lee, White as Snow, 2000

You have had things all your own way for all your life (… your brothers are much more canny than you are about political issues).

Jane Smiley, Private Life, 2010
Friday, October 18, 2019

minutiae

[ mi-noo-shee-ee, -nyoo- ]

plural noun

precise details; small or trifling matters: the minutiae of his craft.

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What is the origin of minutiae?

In English, minutiae is the plural of the noun minutia, which usually appears in the plural with the meaning “precise details, trifling matters,” the same sense as the Late Latin plural noun minūtiae. In Latin only the singular minūtia appears, and it has its literal meaning “smallness, fineness,” a derivative of minūtus, the past participle of minuere “to reduce in size, lessen.” From the same root min-, Latin also has the words minor “smaller in size or kind” (English minor), minus “a smaller number” (English minus), minimus “smallest, least” (English minimum and minimal), and minusculus “rather small, pretty small” (English minuscule). Minutiae entered English in the mid-18th century.

how is minutiae used?

In my preceding chapters I have tried, by going into the minutiae of the science of piloting, to carry the reader step by step to a comprehension of what the science consists of ….

Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, 1883

In a thank-you note to his devotees that he tweeted last week, the congressman offered a similar lulling density of minutiae.

Katy Waldman, "Beto O'Rourke's Rebirth as a Knausgaardian Blogger," The New Yorker, November 16, 2018
Thursday, October 17, 2019

erumpent

[ ih-ruhm-puhnt ]

adjective

bursting forth.

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What is the origin of erumpent?

The rare adjective erumpent, used almost exclusively in biology, comes straight from Latin ērumpēns (stem ērumpent-), the present participle of ērumpere “to burst forth.” The compound verb ērumpere is composed of the prefix ē– (a variant of ex– “out, out of”) and the simple verb rumpere “to break,” whose past participle ruptus forms the much more common derivative erupt. Erumpent entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is erumpent used?

… on his head—pressing down his erumpent red hair—the vaguely Westernish broad-brimmed hat that signalled his difference from other philosophers (as if any such signal were needed) ….

John Gardner, Mickelsson's Ghosts, 1982

Minutes passed, sun-bathed, as they crossed a stretch of open land; the river slowed, the valley wider, furrowed fields flanking the highway, an erumpent green from rich black soil.

David Bosworth, "Psalm," Death of Descartes, 1981
Wednesday, October 16, 2019

wordie

[ wur-dee ]

noun

a person with an enthusiastic interest in words and language; a logophile: a new board game that will appeal to wordies of all ages.

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What is the origin of wordie?

Wordie in the sense “someone with an enthusiasm for words,” is relatively recent. There is also an older sense, “a little, wee word,” Scottish, dating from the first half of the 18th century and used by Robert Burns.

how is wordie used?

Eric has been a wordie since he was a kid growing up in New York City, a Games magazine acolyte who read the dictionary for fun and subscribes to Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics

Stefan Fatsis, Word Freak, 2001

As a teacher of English, a part-time poet and a full-time wordie, I took genuine delight in Patricia T. O’Conner’s review of books about language by Ben Yagoda and David Crystal ….

Stephen J. Kudless, "Speech, Speech!" Letter to the Editor, New York Times, April 1, 2007
Tuesday, October 15, 2019

flagitious

[ fluh-jish-uhs ]

adjective

shamefully wicked, as persons, actions, or times.

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What is the origin of flagitious?

English flagitious ultimately comes from the Latin adjective flāgitiōsus, “shameful, shocking,” a derivative of the noun flāgitium, a very strong word in Latin meaning “a public demonstration of disapproval outside someone’s house, an offense against decency, disgrace, infamy,” is often applied to sexual misconduct, and even worse, to violations against military discipline. Flāgitium is related to flāgitāre “to press someone with demands, importune, dun (a debtor), summon someone to trial.” Flāgitāre in its turn is probably related to the noun flagrum “a whip, lash, flail (for punishment).” The Latin root flag– is also the source of flagellum “a whip,” flagellāre “to whip,” from which English derives flagellate, flagellant, and flagellation. Flagitious entered English in the 14th century.

how is flagitious used?

… his faith is pure, though his manners are flagitious.

Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776–1788

He should have persisted in gloom, which would eventually earn a commercial reward that outran the avarice of his most flagitious villains.

Caleb Crain, "Something Wicked This Way Comes," New York Times, December 6, 1998

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