• Word of the day
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    Friday, September 13, 2019

    bona fides

    noun [boh-nah fee-des]
    good faith; absence of fraud or deceit; the state of being exactly as claims or appearances indicate: The bona fides of this contract is open to question.
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    What is the origin of bona fides?

    The Latin phrase bona fidēs "good faith," is composed of a singular noun in the nominative case (fidēs “faith”) modified by a singular adjective (bona “good”). The relatively recent sense of bona fides “guarantees of good faith, credentials” (as if fidēs, because of its final s, were a plural noun) is first recorded in 1944. The Latin phrase bonā fidē and the English phrase bona fide also mean “in good faith” (fidē being a singular noun in the ablative case, which is frequently used in Latin in adverbial functions). Bona fide was originally an adverbial phrase but since the late 18th century also used as an adjective, e.g., the legal term bona fide purchaser. Bona fides entered English in the 19th century.

    How is bona fides used?

    Few things have sent up our food-conscious era quite so accurately (or affectionately) as that first-season “Portlandia” sketch in which a restaurant waiter is given the third degree by concerned patrons over the bona fides of the menu’s locally raised chicken. Robert Abele, "Review: 'The Biggest Little Farm' is a winning doc about a couple's agricultural dream," Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2019

    Of course it took me a little while to establish my bona fides but at last I did—it will seem ironic to you, but while neither side fully believed in my honesty both were exultant at having penetrated the enemy intelligence service. Lawrence Durrell, Quinx, 1985

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, September 12, 2019

    Ciceronian

    adjective [sis-uh-roh-nee-uhn]
    characterized by melodious language, clarity, and forcefulness of presentation, as in the style of Cicero: Ciceronian invective.
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    What is the origin of Ciceronian?

    The adjective Ciceronian comes from Latin Cicerōniānus “pertaining to Cicero,” an adjective coined by the Stoic author and philosopher Seneca. The Roman orator, statesman, and man of letters Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 b.c.) made Roman oratory the equal of Greek, especially of Demosthenes, the last great Athenian orator, as Greek rhetoricians themselves admitted. Ancient critics said of the styles of Demosthenes and Cicero that Demosthenes was so lean and spare that nothing could be taken away, that Cicero was so full and ample that nothing could be added. For as long as Latin was the chief cultural language of Western civilization (up to the 18th or 19th century), Cicero in prose (like Vergil in poetry) was held up as a model to be imitated or an idol to be cast down. There are still several million former teenagers who after a martini or two can recite from memory the opening sentence of Cicero’s First Oration Against Catiline from their junior year in high school: Quō ūsque tandem abūtēre, Catilīna, patientiā nostrā? ("How long, Catiline, will you abuse our patience?") Ciceronian entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

    How is Ciceronian used?

    ... those who could not follow her reasoning were nonetheless able to enjoy her Ciceronian eloquence. “She spoke like an angel,” one of the Frenchmen commented. Massimo Mazzotti, "From Genius to Witch: The Rise and Fall of a Filosofessa," Los Angeles Review of Books, July 11, 2018

    Its rhetoric was powerful, even Ciceronian, I thought, with the grand sweep of its opening line: “Great triumphs and great tragedies can redirect the course of a people’s destiny.” Willem Marx, "Misinformation intern," Harper's Magazine, August 23, 2019

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, September 11, 2019

    epistolary

    adjective [ih-pis-tl-er-ee]
    contained in or carried on by letters: an epistolary friendship.
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    What is the origin of epistolary?

    English epistolary comes from the Latin adjective epistulāris (also epistolāris), a derivative of the noun epistula (epistola) “a letter, a dispatch, a written communication, an epistle (as in the New Testament).” Epistula comes from Greek epistolḗ, which has the same meanings. An epistolary novel is one that is composed in a series of documents, usually (private) letters, but also diary entries, newspaper articles, and other documents. Such novels were especially popular in the 18th century, e.g., in England, Pamela by Samuel Richardson (1740); in France, Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (1782); and in Germany, The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774). Bram Stoker's epistolary novel Dracula, published in 1897, and continuously in print ever since, has attained a kind of immortality. Epistolary entered English in the 17th century.

    How is epistolary used?

    Her imaginative epistolary novel opens with Johanna's engagement to Theo in 1888 and winds its way through the avant-garde Paris art scene .... Sarah Ferguson, "Johanna: A Novel of the van Gogh Family," New York Times, June 4, 1995

    Their disagreement lay dormant for nearly two decades, during which time their epistolary friendship flourished .... Nathan Goldman, "'I Don't Know If This Letter Will Reach You': The Letters of Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem," Los Angeles Review of Books, March 12, 2019

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, September 10, 2019

    slubber

    verb (used with object) [sluhb-er]
    to perform hastily or carelessly.
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    What is the origin of slubber?

    Slubber  is an older, infrequent verb that means “to perform (something) hastily or carelessly.” Earlier senses include “to smear; smudge” and “to sully (a reputation, etc.).” Slubber comes from Low German slubbern “to do work carelessly” and appears to be related to slabber and the more familiar slobber “to let saliva run from the mouth,” with an earlier sense of “to eat in a hasty, messy manner”—an unfastidious trio of terms forming one “sloppy” family. Slubber entered English in the early 1500s.

    How is slubber used?

    Slubber not business for my sake, Bassanio ... William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, 1600

    It must be "slubber'd o'er in haste,"—its important preliminaries left to the cold imagination of the reader—its fine spirit perhaps evaporating for want to being embodied in words. Caroline Kirkland, Western Clearings, 1845

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, September 09, 2019

    ikebana

    noun [ik-uh-bah-nuh; Japanese ee-ke-bah-nah]
    the Japanese art of arranging flowers.
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    What is the origin of ikebana?

    Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, comes from the Japanese verb ikeru “to keep alive, make alive, arrange” and -bana, a variant used as a combining form of hana “flower.” Ikebana dates to the 6th century when offerings of flowers were placed at altars; later, flowers were also displayed in tokonomas (alcoves in private homes). Ikebana entered English at the beginning of the 20th century.

    How is ikebana used?

    ... were you to consider the philosophy at the core of ikebana, grounded as it is in Japan's ancient polytheism and its Buddhist traditions, you might find something quite relevant to the times we live in: an art that can expand your appreciation  of beauty. Deborah Needleman, "The Rise of Modern Ikebana," New York Times, November 6, 2017

    One must surpass and transcend concepts of traditional use and discover a "new face" in the material, and this "new face" is the primary focus of contemporary ikebana. Shozo Sato, Ikebana: The Art of Arranging Flowers, 2012

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, September 08, 2019

    embosom

    verb (used with object) [em-booz-uhm, -boo-zuhm]
    to cherish; foster.
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    What is the origin of embosom?

    The verb embosom “to cherish, foster,” is a compound formed from the prefix em- meaning “to make (someone or something) be in (a place or condition),” a borrowing from Old French, from Latin in-, and the noun bosom (the variant imbosom is formed directly from the Latin prefix in-). Bosom comes from Old English bósm and has certain relatives only within Germanic, e.g., Old Frisian bósm, Old Saxon bósom, Old High German buosam, German Busen. The verb is poetic and rare, first appearing in Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene (1590).

    How is embosom used?

    The more thoroughly she is recognized in any University, and made to embosom the minds trained in it, interpenetrating with her Divine force all resources of Science, the more will she make that, in no common-place sense but truly, royally, the cherished mother of its students. "The True Success of Human Life," The New Englander, No. 41, February 1853

    When the act of reflection takes place in the mind, when we look at ourselves in the light of thought, we discover that our life is embosomed in beauty. Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Spiritual Laws," Essays, 1841

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, September 07, 2019

    rarefied

    adjective [rair-uh-fahyd]
    extremely high or elevated; lofty; exalted: the rarefied atmosphere of a scholarly symposium.
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    What is the origin of rarefied?

    The adjective rarefied “elevated, lofty, exalted,” only first appears in this sense in English in the second half of the 17th century. In origin, rarefied is the past participle of the Middle English verb rarefien “to reduce the density of, thin, soften,” first recorded at the end of the 14th century. Rarefien comes from Old French rarefier, from Medieval Latin rārēficāre, from Latin rārēfacere “to make less solid, rarefy,” a Latin technical term occurring first and only in Lucretius’s Dē Rērum Nātūrā, a long Epicurean didactic poem aimed at freeing human beings from the scourge of superstition, religion, and the fear of death.

    How is rarefied used?

    The country gentry of old time lived in a rarefied social air: dotted apart on their stations up the mountain they looked down with imperfect discrimination on the belts of thicker life below. George Eliot, Middlemarch, 1872

    In his 30s, breathing rarefied air, Mr. Coppola made two decisions that changed his career’s trajectory. R. T. Watson, "Francis Ford Coppola's New Visions," Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2019

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