Word of the Day

Sunday, April 28, 2019

brainchild

[ breyn-chahyld ]

noun

a product of one's creative work or thought.

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What is the origin of brainchild?

The noun brainchild is so common that we forget what a startling metaphor it is: one of the earliest citations for it reads, “All my braines Children fraile and mortall be.” Brainchild entered English in the 17th century.

how is brainchild used?

Coney Island’s white-towered Freudian fairway had been the brainchild of a real-estate entrepreneur named William H. Reynolds … .

Claudia Roth Pierpont, "The Silver Spire," The New Yorker, November 18, 2002

Google Art Project, the brainchild of a small group of art-happy Google employees, brings the Street View technology of Google Earth and Google Maps inside 17 museums around the world.

Eliza Murphy, "The Google Art Project Makes Masterpieces Accessible to All," The Atlantic, February 2, 2011
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Saturday, April 27, 2019

groupthink

[ groop-thingk ]

noun

the lack of individual creativity, or of a sense of personal responsibility, that is sometimes characteristic of group interaction.

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What is the origin of groupthink?

Groupthink is a disparaging term modeled on doublethink “the mental ability to believe simultaneously two contradictory things,” appearing in 1984, by George Orwell (1903–50). Groupthink entered English in the early 1950s.

how is groupthink used?

Lately, as scientists try, and fail, to reproduce results, all of science is taking a hard look at funding biases, statistical shenanigans and groupthink.

Tamar Haspel, "Here's what the government's dietary guidelines should really say," Washington Post, March 26, 2019

You don’t need to do many focus groups to see groupthink in action.

Joseph Stromberg, "Focus groups shape what we buy. But how much do they really say about us?" Vox, January 22, 2019
Friday, April 26, 2019

pseudepigraphy

[ soo-duh-pig-ruh-fee ]

noun

the false ascription of a piece of writing to an author.

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What is the origin of pseudepigraphy?

The noun pseudepigraphy comes from Late Latin pseudepigrapha, a neuter plural adjective (from pseudepigraphus) used as a noun meaning “books or writings falsely titled or attributed to Hebrew writings supposedly composed by biblical patriarchs and prophets.” Pseudepigrapha was borrowed unchanged from the Greek compound adjective pseudepígrapha (from pseudepígraphos), composed of pseudḗs “false” and the Greek combining form –grapha, neuter plural of –graphos “drawn or written.” Pseudepigraphy entered English in the 19th century.

how is pseudepigraphy used?

If de León was the author, his exercise in pseudepigraphy was among the most successful in history.

Ezra Glinter, "A mysterious medieval text, decrypted," Boston Globe, June 26, 2016

Even this gimmick exactly parallels the ancient scriptural practice of pseudepigraphy whereby a later, undistinguished writer, would hide behind the name of a greater figure of the past, claiming venerable authority for his own innovations.

Robert M. Price, "About 'The Descent into the Abyss'," The Book of Eibon, 2006
Thursday, April 25, 2019

frisson

[ free-sohn; French free-sawn ]

noun,

a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion; thrill: The movie offers the viewer the occasional frisson of seeing a character in mortal danger.

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What is the origin of frisson?

Frisson is still unnaturalized in English, as its pronunciation shows. In French frisson means “shudder, shiver.” Frisson comes from Old French friçons, a plural noun meaning “trembling (as before the onset of a fever).” Friçons in turn comes from Latin frictiōn-, the stem of frictiō, an irregular derivative (as if from the verb fricāre “to rub,” with a short i) of the verb frīgēre (with a long i) “to be cold, lack vigor.” Frisson entered English in the 18th century.

how is frisson used?

Musical passages that include unexpected harmonies, sudden changes in volume, or the moving entrance of a soloist are particularly common triggers for frisson because they violate listeners’ expectations in a positive way …

Mitchell Colver, "Why do only some people get 'skin orgasms' from listening to music?" The Conversation, May 24, 2016

That first dinner triggers hope, a frisson of discovery.

Gael Greene, "Patric's Day," New York, March 23, 1992
Wednesday, April 24, 2019

rhubarb

[ roo-bahrb ]

noun

a quarrel or squabble.

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What is the origin of rhubarb?

Rhubarb has a complicated origin. There are several odd Middle English spellings (as one would expect), e.g., reubarb, reubard, reubarbe, etc., from Anglo-French or Middle French reubarbe, rubarbe, reu barbare, all from Late Latin reubarbarum, rheubarbarum. The Latin forms are probably from Greek rhêon bárbaron “foreign rhubarb.” Rhêon is a variant of rhâ “the dried root of rhubarb used as a medicine,” perhaps ultimately related to Persian (an Iranian language) rewend “rhubarb.” Ancient Greek authors also associated rhâ (or Rhâ) with the Scythian (another Iranian language) name for the Volga River. The baseball slang meaning of rhubarb “a loud quarrel on the field, especially between a player and an umpire,” dates from about 1938. Rhubarb entered English in the late 14th century.

how is rhubarb used?

Power, newly acquired from the Minnesota Twins, was accused of the action during a rhubarb with the umpire on a play at third base.

Jet, "'Spitting' Accusation May Cost Vic Power $1,750," July 30, 1964

… Tom Meany stopped in a tavern the day after this thing happened … and the bartender said, “We had quite the rhubarb last night, Mr. Meany.”

Red Barber and Robert Creamer, Rhubarb in the Catbird Seat, 1968
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

bardolatry

[ bahr-dol-uh-tree ]

noun

great or excessive adoration of or reverence for William Shakespeare: I crossed the line into bardolatry halfway through my thesis on the psyche of Lady Macbeth.

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What is the origin of bardolatry?

Bardolatry, an excessive devotion to “the Bard” (William Shakespeare), is a combination of bard, from common Celtic bardos (Old Irish bard, Welsh bardd), and the combining form –latry, from Greek latreía “service, worship.” Bardolatry was coined by George Bernard Shaw in 1901.

how is bardolatry used?

So much for Bardolatry!

George Bernard Shaw, "Better Than Shakespear?" Three Plays for Puritans, 1901

… a fellow who’d been sizing up Aaron’s Bardolatry credentials had boasted that he himself had disproven all three leading theories about the identities of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady and Fair Youth, and would soon be the one to unearth the true identities of Shakespeare’s female and male paramours.

Rachel Kadish, The Weight of Ink, 2017
Monday, April 22, 2019

Anthropocene

[ an-thruh-puh-seen, an-throp-uh‐ ]

noun

Geology.

a proposed epoch of the present time, occurring since mid-20th century, when human activity began to effect significant environmental consequences, specifically on ecosystems and climate.

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What is the origin of Anthropocene?

Anthropocene is a compound of Greek ánthrōpos “human being, man (as opposed to an animal or a god)” and the English combining form –cene, which was extracted from words like Miocene, Pliocene, and Oligocene, names of geological strata and epochs. The combining form –cene ultimately comes from the Greek adjective kainós “new, recent”; it was coined by the English geologist Sir Charles Lyell (1797–1875). Anthropocene entered English in the 20th century.

how is Anthropocene used?

He proposed that humans had so throughly altered the fundamental processes of the planet—through agriculture, climate change, and nuclear testing, and other phenomena—that a new geological epoch had commenced: the Anthropocene, the age of humans.

Robinson Meyer, "Geology's Timekeepers Are Feuding," The Atlantic, July 20, 2018

The meetings addressed ideas including how to accessibly present complex data, and grappled with many aspects of life in the Anthropocene age—today’s geological era, marked by human domination of the environment.

Kimberly Bradley, "The End Is Nigh. Can Design Save Us?" New York Times, March 20, 2019

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