Word of the Day

Sunday, February 04, 2018

byzantine

[ biz-uh n-teen, -tahyn, bahy-zuh n-, bih-zan-tin ]

adjective

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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Saturday, February 03, 2018

moxie

[ mok-see ]

noun

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
Friday, February 02, 2018

oblivescence

[ ob-luh-ves-uh ns ]

noun

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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