Word of the Day

Friday, December 06, 2019

bonhomie

[ bon-uh-mee, bon-uh-mee ]

noun

frank and simple good-heartedness; a good-natured manner; friendliness; geniality.

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What is the origin of bonhomie?

The English noun bonhomie, “frank and simple good-heartedness, friendliness,” still feels French and foreign. The French original, bonhomie, bonhommie, which appeared only 40 years before the English noun, has the same meaning as the English. Bonhomie is a derivative of the Middle and Old French bon homme, bonhom, literally “good man” and later “commoner, peasant.” Even today in French-speaking countries bonhomme is a respectful form of address. Bon homme comes from Latin bonus homō; its plural, bonī hominēs, especially referred to the Albigensian heretics (also Cathars or Cathari), who were exterminated in the 13th century by the Inquisition. Bonhomie entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is bonhomie used?

Lennon would fire up his fellow Beatles with a bit of call-and-response bonhomie. “Where are we going, fellas?” he’d ask, to which Paul, George, and Ringo would respond, “To the toppermost of the poppermost, Johnny!”

Andrew Romano, "Lennon's Other Legacy," Newsweek, December 13, 2010

Einstein’s manner was full of charm and bonhomie.

Jacob Epstein, Let There Be Sculpture, 1940
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Thursday, December 05, 2019

spoonerism

[ spoo-nuh-riz-uhm ]

noun

the transposition of initial or other sounds of words, usually by accident, as in a blushing crow for a crushing blow.

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What is the origin of spoonerism?

Spoonerisms, often hilarious, are named after the 19th-century Anglican clergyman William Archibald Spooner, warden of New College, Oxford University. The Reverend Spooner himself claimed as his only spoonerism “The Kinquering Congs Their Titles Take” (1879), a mangling of the name of the hymn “The Conquering Kings Their Titles Take.” In American English the most famous spoonerism must be the one made by the old-time radio announcer Harry von Zell, who in a live broadcast in 1931 announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Hoobert Heever.” Spoonerism entered English about 1900.

how is spoonerism used?

Spoonerisms are the comfortable shoes of slips of the tongue: when it comes time to illustrate the universality speech errors, they’re so familiar and broken in, they always get a laugh.

Michael Erard, Um ... : Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Really Mean, 2007

Other words the BFG coins are from errors. For example, in spoonerisms snapperwhipper, dory-hunky and catasterous disastrophe, the initial syllables have been swapped.

Simon Horobin, "The BFG reminds us that wordplay is part of learning and mastering language," The Conversation, July 22, 2016
Wednesday, December 04, 2019

snarf

[ snahrf ]

verb (used with object)

Slang.

to eat quickly and voraciously; scarf (often followed by down or up).

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What is the origin of snarf?

Snarf, “to eat greedily or voraciously,” is a slang word, originally American, and like many if not most slang terms, it has an obscure etymology. Some authorities claim snarf to be a variant of scarf “to eat greedily,” or a combination of the verbs snort and scarf. Snarf is just as likely to be onomatopoeic, as of the sound of pigs feeding at a trough. Snarf entered English in the late 1960s.

how is snarf used?

“My kids snarf these like candy,” he said.

Matt Lee and Ted Lee, "The Industry: Killer Tomatoes," New York Times Magazine, August 28, 2005

We don’t just snarf down the Hershey bars and gummy bears directly from the bag. We pour ourselves a glass of wine as well ….

Chris Morris, "The Wines That Pair Best With Your Kids' Halloween Candy," Fortune, October 31, 2019

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