• Word of the day
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    Monday, March 18, 2019

    bracketology

    noun [brak-i-tol-uh-jee] Sports.
    a system of diagrammatically predicting and tracking the process of elimination among sequentially paired opponents in a tournament, especially an NCAA basketball tournament.
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    What is the origin of bracketology?

    Bracketology combines bracket, in the sports sense of “a diagram for tracking advancement in a tournament,” and -ology, a word-forming element indicating “branch of knowledge, science.” The term playfully elevates the sports pastime to a discipline or science. Stages of sports tournaments have been termed brackets since the early 1900s, from bracket as a “grouping” in the late 1800s, a sense informed by pairs of typographical brackets for enclosing text or numbers. The tree-diagram structure of NCAA basketball tournament brackets indeed calls up such typographical brackets, named after the original architectural bracket, a type of L-shaped support projecting from a wall. Entering English in the 16th century, the word bracket may derive from a Romance word meaning “breeches,” the architectural devices perhaps resembling a pair of legs or the codpieces historically worn on breeches. That could make bracketology, with a liberal literalism, "the study of pants” or “the study of jockstraps.”

    How is bracketology used?

    Bracketology—the scientific-sounding name for prognosticating tournament picks before the official committee reveals the bracket on Selection Sunday—has exploded among basketball fans in recent years .... Zach Schonbrun, "To N.C.A.A. Bracketologists, It’s Who’s In, Not Who Wins," New York Times, March 13, 2018

    Bracketology is the practice of predicting the field and seeding for all 68 teams in the NCAA tournament and/or the outcomes for all games in the tournament. It is a made-up "-ology", sadly, so don't change your major just yet. Daniel Wilco, "March Madness bracketology: The ultimate guide," NCAA, March 12, 2019

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, March 17, 2019

    green-eyed

    adjective [green-ahyd] Informal.
    jealous; envious; distrustful.
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    What is the origin of green-eyed?

    Green-eyed means "jealous" and is probably most familiar from Shakespeare’s phrase green-eyed monster (Othello, 1604). In the ancient and medieval humoral theory, an excess of yellow bile, which was thought to give the skin a greenish tint, was associated with the element fire and produced a violent, short-tempered, vengeful character. Green-eyed in its literal sense entered English in the 16th century.

    How is green-eyed used?

    O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; / It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock / the meat it feeds on ... William Shakespeare, Othello, 1623

    The protagonist, Ida, has a green-eyed prettiness ... Maria Russo, "In Praise of Maurice Sendak," New York Times, February 14, 2019

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, March 16, 2019

    viator

    noun [vahy-ey-tawr, -ter]
    a wayfarer; traveler.
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    What is the origin of viator?

    Viator comes straight from Latin viātor “traveler,” formed from the noun via “track, road” and the noun suffix -tor signifying agency. Many occurrences of viātor are on epitaphs on Roman tombs from the “occupant,” asking travelers passing by not to deface the tomb with graffiti, or warning, “Look out! Your turn is coming!” Viātor was also a title of Mercury, the patron and protector of travelers and the escort of the dead to the underworld. A viātor was also an agent employed on official errands for magistrates, other public officers, and professional organizations. Viator entered English in the early 16th century.

    How is viator used?

    ... how long he was a viator or traveler in his course of obedience no man knows. Samuel Rutherford,  The Covenant of Life Opened, 1654

    ... these are so graciously concealed by the fine trees of their grounds, that the passing viator remains unappalled by them ... John Ruskin, Fors Clavigera, 1875

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, March 15, 2019

    fantods

    noun [fan-tods]
    a state of extreme nervousness or restlessness; the willies; the fidgets (usually preceded by the): We all developed the fantods when the plane was late in arriving.
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    What is the origin of fantods?

    In chapter eight of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), Huck, hiding on Jackson’s Island, spots a man sleeping on the ground: “It most give me the fantods.” Here the meaning of fantods is plain enough: "acute distress, fear, panic"; the meanings of fantods range between irritability, tension, an emotional fit or outburst, and physical or mental disorder—not at all specific. Fantods has no reliable etymology: it may be a jocular formation based on fantasy or fantastic. Fantods entered English in the 19th century.

    How is fantods used?

    It gave me the fantods to discover myself cooped up in that narrow room with such a ghastly figure beside me, which I'll describe to you as best I can. Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), The Dialogue of the Dogs, translated by David Kipen, 2008

    What would Mr. Gorey make of his status as an All Hallows’ Eve grand ghoul were he alive to see it?

    “That would have given Gorey himself the fantods,” said Mark Dery, using one of the antiquated words the artist loved to collect and trot out in his books.

    Steven Kurutz, "Edward Gorey Was Eerily Prescient," New York Times, October 30, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, March 14, 2019

    upper crust

    noun [uhp-er kruhst]
    the highest social class.
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    What is the origin of upper crust?

    The noun phrase upper crust is perfectly plain, self-explanatory: it is the top crust on a loaf of bread or a pie, a meaning the phrase has always had. Other meanings have come and gone, e.g., "exterior layer or surface of the earth" (from the mid-16th through the mid-18th centuries), "a person’s head; a hat" (from about 1825 to 1850). The most common meaning of upper crust, "the highest social class," was originally an Americanism dating from the 19th century. Upper crust entered English in the 15th century.

    How is upper crust used?

    ... the 1922 edition of Etiquette promised its readers that they could learn to fit in among intimidating elites, or just emulate the American upper crust within their own circles. Laura Miller, "To the Manners Born," Slate, April 19, 2017

    From his perspective, graffiti forced the upper crust to reckon with the names and the fugitive dreams of a forgotten underclass ... Hua Hsu, "The Spectacular Personal Mythology of Rammellzee," The New Yorker, May 28, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, March 13, 2019

    diffidence

    noun [dif-i-duhns]
    the quality or state of lacking confidence in one's ability, worth or fitness; timidity.
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    What is the origin of diffidence?

    Diffidence is a straightforward borrowing from the Latin noun diffīdentia “distrust, mistrust, lack of confidence.” In the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible prepared chiefly by Saint Jerome at the end of the 4th century a.d., diffīdentia also meant “lack of faith, disobedience (to God).” The original sense of diffīdentia, “distrust of other people,” is obsolete; the current sense “distrust of one’s own ability or worth,” shading off to “modesty, retiring nature,” dates from the mid-16th century. Diffidence entered English in the 15th century.

    How is diffidence used?

    For an artist, insofar as modesty implies diffidence, an unwillingness to exhibit oneself or one's work, it's a virtue so dubious as to be a handicap. Ursula K. Le Guin, "The Conversation of the Modest," The Wild Girls, 2011

    I write with great diffidence, but it seems to me that there is no unfairness in punishing people for their misfortunes, or rewarding them for their sheer good luck ... Samuel Butler, Erewhon, 1872

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, March 12, 2019

    facetiae

    plural noun [fuh-see-shee-ee]
    amusing or witty remarks or writings.
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    What is the origin of facetiae?

    Facētiae is a Latin plural noun meaning “skillfulness, cleverness, wittiness.” It is a derivative of the adjective facētus “clever, good-humored, whimsical,” which has no reliable etymology. In the olden days, in less enlightened and progressive times than our ownsay about 1850facetiae was used in book catalogs as a euphemism for pornography (now also called erotica). Facetiae entered English in the 16th century.

    How is facetiae used?

    Even the facetiae of the gallant expressman who knew everybody's Christian name along the route, who rained letters, newspapers, and bundles from the top of the stage ... failed to interest me. Bret Harte, "A Night at Wingdam," The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Tales, 1871

    ... you had better beware how you excite that comic vein to its fullest current of facetiae. Thomas Peckett Prest, The Brigand; or, The Mountain Chief, 1851

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