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    Sunday, February 04, 2018

    byzantine

    adjective [biz-uh n-teen, -tahyn, bahy-zuh n-, bih-zan-tin]
    complex or intricate: a deal requiring Byzantine financing.
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    What is the origin of byzantine?

    The English adjective Byzantine originally applied to the city of Byzantium (later Constantinople) and the art, architecture, and history of the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire. The most common current sense "complex, intricate" dates from the first half of the 20th century. Byzantine entered English in the 18th century.

    How is byzantine used?

    “We’ve had the process referred to as byzantine, shrouded in secrecy, opaque. Yet this is the process that Congress designed, a process that not only demands confidentiality, but strict confidentiality. This is the system we’re tasked to administer,” Grundmann said. Joe Davidson, "Hill's workplace rights agency points to Congress for lack of transparency," Washington Post, December 1, 2017

    Over the course of two hundred pages I had improvised a byzantine system involving highlighter, underlines, and marginal punctuation marks. Tom Perrotta, Joe College, 2000

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, February 03, 2018

    moxie

    noun [mok-see]
    Slang. courage; nerve; determination.
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    What is the origin of moxie?

    Moxie originally was the trademark of a carbonated soft drink that was created by Dr. Augustin Thompson, a homeopathic physician who was born in Maine and spent his professional life in Massachusetts. Dr. Thompson patented his beverage in 1885 and promoted it as a “nerve tonic” or “nerve food.” Moxie, the drink, has always been associated with New England: Calvin Coolidge liked it; Ted Williams endorsed it on the radio; the state of Maine made Moxie its official soft drink in 2005. Moxie’s lowercase sense "courage, spirit, vigor" entered English in the 20th century.

    How is moxie used?

    “The only safe thing is to take a chance,” she told Nichols, who was both amazed at her moxie and inspired by her trust in him. , "Sweet and Sour," The New Yorker, June 13, 2005

    He's not a natural singer ... but like the kid in the school play who sells the thing by sheer force of moxie, Crowe handily wins us over. Richard Lawson, "'Les Miserables': Destroying Cynicism with Song," The Atlantic, December 17, 2012

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, February 02, 2018

    oblivescence

    noun [ob-luh-ves-uh ns]
    the process of forgetting.
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    What is the origin of oblivescence?

    Oblivescence dates from the late 19th century and is a later spelling of obliviscence, which dates from the late 18th century. The spelling oblivescence arose by influence of the far more common suffix -escence. The English noun is a derivative of the Latin verb oblīviscī “to forget,” literally “to wipe away, smooth over.” The Latin verb is composed of the prefix ob- “away, against” and the same root as the adjective lēvis “smooth.”

    How is oblivescence used?

    Would that our sins had built-in qualities of oblivescence such as our dreams have. Iris Murdoch, A Word Child, 1975

    Even in reasoning, the gratifying confirmatory instance sticks in the mind, while the negative cases all go glimmering into oblivescence. H. L. Hollingworth, "The Oblivescence of the Disagreeable," The Journal of Philosophy Psychology and Scientific Methods, Volume VII, January–December 1910

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, February 01, 2018

    epistemic

    adjective [ep-uh-stee-mik, -stem-ik]
    of or relating to knowledge or the conditions for acquiring it.
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    What is the origin of epistemic?

    The Greek noun epistḗmē “skill, knowledge, scientific knowledge, science” is a derivative of the verb epistánai “to know how (to do), believe (that), be acquainted with, know, know as a fact.” The verb is composed of the prefix epi- “on, over” and stánai “to stand.” Various languages use different prefixes plus the verb to stand to express intellectual comprehension: in Greek one “stands over”; in German verstehen means literally “stand before’”; and in English one "stands under."

    How is epistemic used?

    Debates over epistemic principles sound abstract, but they have enormous practical repercussions. For instance, in order to decide policy matters (like what to put in our textbooks and what to teach in science classrooms) we need to decide on the facts. Michael Lynch, "Defending Science: An Exchange," New York Times, March 11, 2012

    The US is experiencing a deep epistemic breach, a split not just in what we value or want, but in who we trust, how we come to know things, and what we believe we know — what we believe exists, is true, has happened and is happening. David Roberts, "America is facing an epistemic crisis," Vox, November 2, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, January 31, 2018

    fenestrated

    adjective [fen-uh-strey-tid, fi-nes-trey- or fi-nes-treyt, fen-uh-streyt]
    Architecture. having windows; windowed; characterized by windows.
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    What is the origin of fenestrated?

    The English adjective fenestrated is used in the technical language of architecture, anatomy (“pierced, perforated”), and entomology (“having transparent spots”). Fenestrated is obviously derived from the Latin noun fenestra “window.” But Latin fenestra has no clear etymology. Some derive it from Etruscan fnestra, which is not only unattested but also may be a loan word in Etruscan from another, unknown language. Fenestrated entered English in the 19th century.

    How is fenestrated used?

    As you approach the formal entrance from State Street on the west, you're looking at five or six stories ... of ornately carved and fenestrated red sandstone. Sarah Andrews, Fault Line, 2002

    Even those who feel queasy at the sight of such ostentatious perpetrations of Sir Gilbert Scott in his Gothic Revival style, may yet feel its presence visually preferable to yet another skyscraping multiplication of a single fenestrated module. Patrick Ryan, "The last word on ... Diplomatic dilapidation," New Scientist, January 16, 1975

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, January 30, 2018

    obsequious

    adjective [uh b-see-kwee-uh s]
    characterized by or showing servile complaisance or deference; fawning: an obsequious bow.
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    What is the origin of obsequious?

    The English adjective obsequious, a direct borrowing from Latin obsequiōsus, has undergone pejoration (change in meaning for the worse) from its Latin original. The Latin word means “obedient, compliant,” which is the original English meaning of the word in the 15th century. By the end of the 16th century, in Shakespeare’s time, obsequious developed the meaning "dutiful in showing one’s respect for the dead." Its current sense, "fawning, servile," dates from the early 17th century.

    How is obsequious used?

    At such a moment, the arrival of her friend was a sincere pleasure to Elizabeth, though in the course of their meetings she must sometimes think the pleasure dearly bought, when she saw Mr. Darcy exposed to all the parading and obsequious civility of her husband. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813

    He was garrulous and obsequious, sprinkling “yes, sir”s around as though casting handfuls of seed on new-raked soil. Annie Proulx, "A Resolute Man," The New Yorker, March 21, 2016

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, January 29, 2018

    ad absurdum

    adverb [ad ab-sur-duh m]
    to the point of absurdity.
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    What is the origin of ad absurdum?

    In Latin ad absurdum is a prepositional phrase composed of the preposition ad “to” and the neuter singular adjective absurdum “out of tune, harsh, rough; senseless, silly.” In English the phrase is used as an adverb and is still unnaturalized. Ad absurdum entered English in the mid-17th century.

    How is ad absurdum used?

    "Oh, if any argument's pushed ad absurdum ..." Fido controls her temper. Emma Donoghue, The Sealed Letter, 2008

    André was allergic to the very idea of "matéreal" and smelled one of Theo's attempts to critique "bourgeois morality" by taking it ad absurdum. Peter Schneider, Couplings, translated by Philip Boehm, 1996

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