Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

brasserie

[ bras-uh-ree ]

noun

an unpretentious restaurant, tavern, or the like, that serves drinks, especially beer, and simple or hearty food.

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What is the origin of brasserie?

Brasserie “an unpretentious restaurant or tavern” is a borrowing from French, in which the term means “brewery,” though it is not related to the English word brew. Brasserie comes from the Middle French verb brasser “to brew,” which likely derives via Gallo-Latin bracem from a word for a kind of grain used to make malt in Gaulish, an extinct Celtic language once spoken in France. Similar words for “malt” still exist today in modern Celtic languages, such as Irish Gaelic braich and Welsh brag. The French suffix -erie in brasserie indicates location and is also found in terms such as patisserie “pastry shop” and boulangerie “bread shop,” and the suffix’s English cognate, -ery, is present in bakery, distillery, fishery, and refinery. Brasserie was first recorded in English in the early 1860s.

how is brasserie used?

Paris once had a thriving micro-brew culture, housed in the brasseries that migrants from the province of Alsace brought to the city in the late 19th century. Brasseries were raucous and informal and open longer hours than traditional restaurants; they changed how Paris ate—but with their fresh, individual, northern-style beers, they changed how the city drank too.

Maryn McKenna, “Can the City of Light Become the City of Beer?” National Geographic, June 17, 2014

France’s masses have long flocked to brasseries knowing they can order anything at any hour, and to enjoy the scene: the writers, painters, models, stockbrokers, retired gents and couples on first dates, and the ever-present tourists.

Steven Greenhouse, "A Restaurant Empire, Parisian Style," New York Times, February 29, 1988

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Word of the day

Monday, November 08, 2021

serein

[ suh-ran ]

noun

fine rain falling after sunset from a sky in which no clouds are visible.

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What is the origin of serein?

Serein “fine rain falling after sunset from a cloudless sky” is a borrowing from French, from Middle French serain “evening, nightfall.” If you listened to our recent Word of the Day podcast about serotinal “occurring in late summer,” the ultimate origin of serein should look familiar: the term derives from Latin sērum “a late hour,” from the adjective sērus “late.” A common misconception is that serein is related to serene “peaceful, clear, unclouded,” but while the words are similar in appearance and definition, they are likely unconnected. Serene instead derives from Latin serēnus “cheerful, tranquil; (of weather) clear, unclouded,” and a derivative noun, serēnum, means “fine weather.” Serein was first recorded in English in the late 1860s.

how is serein used?

They walked in silence through the twilight. There were no clouds in the sky, but a serein drizzled down, making the cobbles slick and giving the warmth emanating from the buildings around them a clammy feel. The rain meant the streets were emptier than they might have been, but Harper still felt exposed.

S. F. Burgess, Will, 2014

Serein, the cloudless night rain, is gently flecking the glass. The ballpoint prints his words, upright and stylish. The light dies away as he writes.

Seán Virgo, Selakhi, 1987

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Word of the day

Sunday, November 07, 2021

angakok

[ ang-guh-kok ]

noun

a shaman in Inuit society.

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What is the origin of angakok?

Angakok “a shaman in Inuit society” is a borrowing, by way of a Germanic source such as Danish or German, from Greenlandic Inuit angeqok. Because Inuit, a continuum of dialects spoken from Alaska through Greenland, uses multiple writing systems, the transliteration of angeqok has numerous alternative spellings, such as angakok, angakkoq, and angekkok. Inuit belongs to the Eskimo–Aleut language family, which includes languages spoken throughout the North American part of the Arctic Circle. While Inuit is the most extensively spoken, there are two other major branches of the Eskimo–Aleut family: Aleut dialects are spoken in the Aleutian archipelago off the coast of Alaska, and the Yupik languages are spoken in southwestern Alaska and the easternmost coast of Siberia. Angakok was first recorded in English in the 1760s.

how is angakok used?

The powerful sea goddess [Sedna] could also punish people for breaking taboos by causing them to become sick or injured. It was the duty of the Inuit angakok (shaman) to visit Sedna through soul travel to determine what wrong had been done. The angakok would have to placate Sedna by combing and braiding her dishevelled hair, or by overpowering her to force her to release animals for the hunt.

William C. Wonders, Canada’s Changing North, 1971

Often, illnesses or difficulties resulted from a taboo being broken. The angakok would hold a ceremony in which his familiar spirits would assist him to travel outside of his body to far-off places where he would learn the cause of the problem and how to rectify the situation. Once he returned to his body, the angakok would question the individual or other persons in the household. The general belief was that the angakok knew who was at fault, so those he questioned were obliged to answer him truthfully.

Dawn E. Bastian and Judy K. Mitchell, Handbook of Native American Mythology, 2004

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