Word of the Day

Monday, April 19, 2021

brummagem

[ bruhm-uh-juhm ]

adjective

showy but inferior and worthless.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of brummagem?

Brummagem, an adjective and noun meaning “showy but inferior and worthless; something of that kind,” comes from the local Birmingham (England) pronunciation of Birmingham. The original (and standard) spelling and pronunciation of the city is bir-; the nonstandard or dialect spelling bru– is an example of metathesis, the transposition of sounds, a very common phenomenon. Compare Modern English bird with Middle English brid (brid was the dominant spelling until about 1475; the spelling bird is first recorded about 1419). The name Birmingham is first recorded as Bermingeham in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book (1086); spelling variants with Br- first appear in 1198 as Brumingeham. In the mid-17th century Birmingham was renowned for its metalworking and notorious for counterfeit coins. Brummagem entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is brummagem used?

In an effort to brighten up austerity-ridden Britain, the Southern Region of the state-owned railway system devised a pub-on-wheels (bar car) which was supposed to be very quaint. The outside of the car features leaded windows, cream panels, false brickwork and fake timbers, and the motif of brummagem antiquity is carried on inside.

"Foreign News: Ye Olde-Time Gynmille," Time, June 13, 1949

Anthony lay upon the lounge looking up One Hundred and Twenty-seventh Street toward the river, near which he could just see a single patch of vivid green trees that guaranteed the brummagem umbrageousness of Riverside Drive.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned, 1922

Listen to the word of the day

brummagem

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
quiz icon
WHAT'S YOUR WORD IQ?
Think you're a word wizard? Try our word quiz, and prove it!
TAKE THE QUIZ
arrows pointing up and down
SYNONYM OF THE DAY
Double your word knowledge with the Synonym of the Day!
SEE TODAY'S SYNONYM

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Sunday, April 18, 2021

longanimity

[ long-guh-nim-i-tee, lawng- ]

noun

patient endurance of hardship, injuries, or offense; forbearance.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of longanimity?

Longanimity, “patient endurance of hardship or offense; forbearance,” comes via Middle English and Old French longanimite from Late Latin longanimitāt-, the inflectional stem of the noun longanimitās “long-suffering, patience,” a derivative of the adjective longanimis, which is a compound of the adjective longus “long” and animus “spirit, soul, mind.” Latin longanimis and longanimitās were coined by Christian Latin writers as calques or loan translations of Greek makróthymos (adjective) and makrothymía (noun) used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible completed sometime between the 3rd and 1st centuries b.c. Longanimity entered English in the early 15th century.

how is longanimity used?

… if your disdain is my humiliation, I shall ill be able, albeit I am well furnished with longanimity, to suffer a grief that is not merely intense but protracted.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), Don Quixote, translated by John Rutherford, 2000

“there’s very little we can do about Thomas.” … “Then do very little,” she says in the voice of one whose longanimity foreshortens like shadows cast by the poplars amid the blaze of noon.

Muriel Spark, The Abbess of Crewe, 1974

Listen to the word of the day

longanimity

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00
Saturday, April 17, 2021

specious

[ spee-shuhs ]

adjective

apparently good or right though lacking real merit; superficially pleasing or plausible.

learn about the english language

What is the origin of specious?

Specious, “apparently good but lacking real merit; superficially pleasing or plausible; pleasing to the eye but deceptive; pleasing to the eye, fair,” comes from Latin speciōsus, which has the same ambivalent meanings. Speciōsus is a derivative of the noun speciēs, which also has the same wide range of meaning, but even the literal meaning “sight, view,” as in the common Latin phrase prīmā speciē “at first sight,” implies a “but.” Speciēs is a derivative of the verb specere “to see, look at, observe,” from the Proto-Indo-European root spek-, spok-, with the same meaning. The root appears in Sanskrit spáśati “he sees” and Avestan spasyeiti “he watches out (for), looks out (for).” In the Germanic languages spek– appears as spähen “to scout, look out” in German, and in Old Norse as spā “prophecy” (i.e., something that one has looked out for). Greek not infrequently goes its own way: it metathesizes (switches the positions of) the p and k, resulting in the Greek root skep-, skop-, as in sképtesthai “to look around, survey, spy, contemplate” (source of English skeptic and skeptical); skop– appears in Greek skopós “spy, scout; target, goal, purpose” (English scope). The Greek combining form –skopion, –skopeion “instrument for viewing” appears in microscope and telescope. Specious entered English in the late 14th century.

how is specious used?

At the start of the pandemic, there were vague hopes of an artistic flourishing—that hoary and ultimately specious “Shakespeare wrote ‘King Lear’ in quarantine!” trope—but for me, at least, it was difficult to focus on much more than the ways in which my friends and neighbors were suffering.

Amanda Petrusich, "The Best Music of 2020," The New Yorker, November 27, 2020

And his own reasoning in these pages tends to be specious or skewed. He sets up ridiculous paper tigers to knock down easily …

Michiko Kakutani, "Novelist's Crash Course on Terror," New York Times, April 8, 2008

Listen to the word of the day

specious

Play Podcast Stop Podcast
00:00/00:00

Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox

Get the Word of the Day every day!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.