Word of the Day

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

boondoggle

[ boon-dog-uh l, -daw-guh l ]

noun

a wasteful and worthless project undertaken for political, corporate, or personal gain, typically a government project funded by taxpayers.

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What is the origin of boondoggle?

Boondoggle, originally a term from the Boy Scouts meaning “a product of simple manual skill, such as a plaited cord for the neck or a knife sheath, typically made by a Boy Scout,” was supposedly coined in the mid-1920s by Robert H. Link, of Rochester, New York, as a nickname for his infant son. In the summer of 1929, Link, a Scoutmaster, attended the World Boy Scouts Jamboree in Birkenhead, England, not far from Liverpool. Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), attended the Jamboree, at which the Scouts from the U.S. presented him with a boondoggle, now meaning “a plaited leather cord or lanyard worn around the neck” (the presentation was reported in the American and British press). By the mid-1930s boondoggle had acquired the sense “a kind of make-work consisting of small items of leather or crafted by the jobless during the Great Depression.” This last sense is the source of the usual modern sense of boondoggle, “a wasteful and worthless project undertaken for political, corporate, or personal gain,” and it is especially used of government projects funded by taxpayers.

how is boondoggle used?

Critics of operating the ISS past its prime say it’s a boondoggle that was built, in part, because the United States needed somewhere to send its space shuttles.

Marina Koren, "What Should We Do About the International Space Station," The Atlantic, June 6, 2018

Environmentalists have suggested the effort to divert water would result in a $1 billion boondoggle, but supporters argue that the project is vital to supplying communities and irrigation districts in southwestern New Mexico with a new source of water as drought persists.

"Plan calls for diverting, storing water from Gila River," Associated Press, April 17, 2020

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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

ubiety

[ yoo-bahy-i-tee ]

noun

the property of having a definite location at any given time; state of existing and being localized in space.

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What is the origin of ubiety?

Ubiety (also spelled ubeity and formerly ubity) is an altogether strange word whose literal meaning is “whereness”; its current meaning is “the property of having a definite location at a given time; the state of existing and being localized in space,” in other words, “location.” Ubiety comes from New Latin ubietās (inflectional stem ubietāt-) “location, position,” formed from Latin ubi, the relative and interrogative adverb meaning “where, where?” and the noun suffix –etās, a variant of –itās used after i. Alexander Ross, a prolific 17th-century Scottish writer and chaplain to King Charles I, was the first writer in English to use ubiety. Writing on the qualities of souls, Ross says, “Neither are the souls nowhere, nor are they everywhere; not nowhere, for ubiety is so necessary to created entities.” Ubiety entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is ubiety used?

Strictly speaking, an unembodied spirit, or pure mind, has no relation to place. Wherenessubiety, is a pure relation, the relation of body to body. Cancel body, annihilate matter and there is no here or there.

Benjamin Franklin Cocker, Handbook of Philosophy, 1878

Notwithstanding her uncertain tenure of ubiety, and, possibly, even of house and home for the next moment, she patiently yielded to her lot. Here to-day, elsewhere to-morrow …

Richard Hobson, Charles Waterton: His Home, Habits, and Handiwork, 1866

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Monday, May 10, 2021

oligopoly

[ ol-i-gop-uh-lee ]

noun

the market condition that exists when there are few sellers, as a result of which they can greatly influence price and other market factors.

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What is the origin of oligopoly?

Oligopoly, “a condition of the market in which there are few sellers, which grants sellers great influence over prices,” is modeled on the familiar noun monopoly (via Latin monopōlium “sole right to sell a commodity,” from Greek monopṓlion “right of monopoly, exclusive sale”). Oligopoly is a compound of the combining form oligo– “few, a few, little” (most often seen in oligarchy “government by only a few”) from Greek olígos, of uncertain etymology. The element –poly, common to monopoly and oligopoly, is a derivative of the Greek verb pōleîn “to offer for sale, sell.” Oligopoly entered English towards the end of the 19th century.

how is oligopoly used?

U.S. housing debates rarely involve the “O” word. But oligopolies, a cousin of monopolies in which a few powerful players corner the market, are emerging everywhere.

Andrew Van Dam, "Economists identify an unseen force holding back affordable housing," Washington Post, October 17, 2019

If she’s stressed and wants to relax outside the shadow of an oligopoly, she’ll have to stay away from ebooks, music, and beer; two companies control more than half of all sales in each of these markets. There is no escape—literally.

Derek Thompson, "America's Monopoly Problem," The Atlantic, October 2016

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