Word of the Day

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

canting

[ kan-ting ]

adjective

affectedly or hypocritically pious or righteous: a canting social reformer.

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What is the origin of canting?

Canting comes from one of the senses of the verb cant, “to talk hypocritically or with affected piety.” One of the famed lexicographer Samuel Johnson’s five senses for cant is “A whining pretension to goodness, in formal and affected terms.” Cant and canting ultimately come from Latin cantāre “to sing.” Cantāre and its derivatives such as cantus “song, chant, chanting” were used contemptuously in Medieval Latin for perfunctory and lackluster liturgical chanting of the hours. In English by the first half of the 18th century, cant also meant “the singsong whining or chants of beggars; the phraseology peculiar to a particular class, party, or profession,” and “insincere, conventional expressions of enthusiasm for high ideals, goodness, or piety.” Canting entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is canting used?

He’s a villain in disguise; that’s my opinion of him. A low, canting hypocrite.

T. S. Arthur, True Riches; or, Wealth Without Wings, 1852

While conducting a petty, politically motivated trial and listening to a canting, ideological prosecutor, she looks bored and casts her glance aside.

Richard Brody, "The Distasteful Vagueness of 'Ida'," The New Yorker, May 9, 2014
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Monday, January 27, 2020

fettle

[ fet-l ]

noun

state; condition: in fine fettle.

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What is the origin of fettle?

The noun fettle is found most often in the stock phrase in fine fettle “in a good state or condition.” Fettle is originally a British dialect word (Lancashire in northwest England), a verb meaning “to shape, prepare, fix, arrange.” Further origin is obscure: fettle may come from Middle English fetlen (fetelen, fatelen, fitelen) “to shape, fix, put, bestow” and be related to the Old English words fetian “to fetch, bring to, marry,” fæt “cup, vessel, vat,” and feter “fetter.” Or fettle may be related to the Old English noun fetel “belt, girdle.” The sense “to shape, prepare” entered English in the 14th century; the metallurgical and ceramics senses entered English in the second half of the 19th century; the sense “state or condition” in the mid-18th century.

how is fettle used?

Bernie Sanders was, as usual, in fighting fettle.

David A. Graham, "Is Sanders Writing Off South Carolina?" The Atlantic, February 22, 2016

Mathilde was in fine fettle. The month in Venice had healed all the wounds.

Irving Stone, The Passions of the Mind, 1971
Sunday, January 26, 2020

EGOT

[ ee-got ]

noun

the honor of winning at least one Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony in competitive rather than honorary categories: How many people have won an EGOT?

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What is the origin of EGOT?

The acronym EGOT was coined in 1984 by the American actor Philip Michael Thomas (born 1949) from the initial letters of the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards. It was later popularized by the TV show 30 Rock. As of 2019, 15 people have accomplished this feat.

how is EGOT used?

Anderson-Lopez’s husband co-created “The Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q,” and is the youngest person ever to claim the EGOT, or the rare Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony show-biz grand slam.

Jia Tolentino, "How to Follow Your Dreams and Burst Into Song," The New Yorker, December 22, 2016

Porter’s win puts him on the road to EGOT glory.

Sydney Scott, "Billy Porter Makes History with Lead Actor Emmy Win," Essence, September 22, 2019

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