Word of the Day

Sunday, May 19, 2019

buckram

[ buhk-ruhm ]

noun

stiffness of manner; extreme preciseness or formality.

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What is the origin of buckram?

The noun buckram has gone through many meanings. In the 13th century it referred to a kind of fine linen or cotton cloth, as for ecclesiastic vestments. In the 15th century buckram referred to a thick, coarse linen or cotton cloth sized with glue or paste, as for stiffening clothing or binding books. By the second half of the 17th century, buckram extended the 15th-century meaning to “stiffness of manner, extreme formality.” The etymology of buckram is obscure: some authorities suggest that the word ultimately comes from Bukhara, Uzbekistan, which manufactured and exported the fine cloth. Buckram entered English in the 13th century.

how is buckram used?

You think you are doing mighty well with them; that you are laying aside the buckram of pedantry and pretence, and getting the character of a plain, unassuming, good sort of fellow.

William Hazlitt, "On the Disadvantages of Intellectual Superiority," Table-Talk, Vol. 2, 1822

I had moments when I thought of him as of a man of pasteboard—as though, if one should strike smartly through the buckram of his countenance, there would be found a mere vacuity within.

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Master of Ballantrae, 1889
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Saturday, May 18, 2019

jockey

[ jok-ee ]

verb (used with object)

to manipulate cleverly or trickily: He jockeyed himself into office.

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What is the origin of jockey?

The verb jockey in its extended sense “to manipulate cleverly or trickily” comes from a noun sense “crafty bargainer, cheater,” from a still earlier sense “horse trader, horse dealer” (as if horse traders were untrustworthy). Jockey in its noun sense “a professional rider in horse races” entered English in the late 17th century.

how is jockey used?

The doctor watched him with interest, wondering … whether Tom Craik, to use his own words, would jockey the undertaker, as he had jockeyed many another adversary in his stirring existence.

F. Marion Crawford, The Three Fates, 1892

Even before the results were released, there was discussion in some quarters over whether to request a recount as small right-wing factions jockeyed to get into the parliament, called the Knesset.

Loveday Morris, "Netanyahu extends lead slightly in final election count," Washington Post, April 11, 2019
Friday, May 17, 2019

alameda

[ al-uh-mey-duh ]

noun

a public walk shaded with trees.

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What is the origin of alameda?

It is hard to imagine a lovelier-sounding word than alameda. It is not a word in general American usage, but a regionalism in the American Southwest, a common noun meaning “a tree-shaded public walk.” Alameda comes directly from Spanish alameda “poplar grove,” formed from the noun álamo “poplar” (a noun of unknown etymology) and the noun suffix –eda, which regularly derives from the Latin noun suffix –ētum, denoting a place where plants are grown, e.g., arborētum “a place where trees are grown.” The placename and proper noun Alameda, a city in California east of San Francisco across the San Francisco Bay, was so named not by Spaniards or Mexicans, but by American settlers in a popular vote in 1853. Alameda entered English in the 18th century.

how is alameda used?

The ascent to it is by an alameda or public walk, which was formerly beautifully planted, but the trees were cut down during the revolutionary contest.

Josiah Conder, The Modern Traveller: Colombia, 1825

At the foot of the hill is an alameda, or public walk, which, though not so fashionable as the more modern and splendid paseo of the Xenil, still boasts a varied and picturesque concourse.

Washington Irving, The Alhambra, 1832

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