• Word of the day
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    Thursday, August 23, 2018

    capitulate

    verb [kuh-pich-uh-leyt]
    to give up resistance: He finally capitulated and agreed to do the job my way.
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    What is the origin of capitulate?

    The English verb capitulate is from the Late Latin capitulātus “drawn up or arranged in chapters or headings,” from the verb capitulāre “to arrange in chapters, summarize, stipulate (in a contract), agree.” Capitulāre is a derivative of the noun capitulum, one of whose meanings in Late Latin is “section of a law,” in the Corpus Juris Civilis of the emperor Justinian (483-565). Capitulate entered English in the 16th century.

    How is capitulate used?

    He was just too stubborn and pigheaded unless--and here was the one possible case in which he might capitulate--if it were to save his only son. Wilbur Smith, Birds of Prey, 1997

    She realized that living in midtown would shorten her time on the train each day by half, and decided to capitulate. She would stay with her father weeknights, then return to Brooklyn for the weekends. Elizabeth Gaffney, When the World Was Young, 2014

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, August 22, 2018

    raffish

    adjective [raf-ish]
    mildly or sometimes engagingly disreputable or nonconformist; rakish: a matinee idol whose raffish offstage behavior amused millions.
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    What is the origin of raffish?

    Raffish is protean in its meanings and possible origins. Its meanings include “mildly, engagingly nonconformist, rakish; gaudy, vulgar, tawdry.” Raffish is obviously a derivative of the noun raff, but it is with raff that real problems arise. Raff means “rabble, the lower sort of people, riffraff.” Raff may be a shortening of riffraff (earlier riffe raffe), from Middle English rif and raf, a catchall phrase of very uncertain origin meaning “everything, every particle, things of slight value, everyone, one and all.” Related phrases or idioms exist in other languages: Walloon French has rif-raf “fast and sloppy”; Middle Dutch has rijf ende raf “everything, everyone, one and all; Italian has di riffa o di raffa “one way or another.” Raffish entered English in the late 18th century.

    How is raffish used?

    In trying to look like raffish characters, American men spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on hairpieces, urban cowboy clothes, disco lessons, imported sports cars, aviator glasses, tailored jogging suits or jump suits, health club memberships, and sex manuals. Mike Royko, "Jay's Bottom Line," Chicago Sun-Times, September 24, 1980

    He was wearing a dark suit and a collar and tie, but he had that raffish seediness about him of a newspaper journalist. M. C. Beaton, The Potted Gardener, 1994

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, August 21, 2018

    kyoodle

    verb [kahy-ood-l]
    to bark or yelp noisily or foolishly; yap.
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    What is the origin of kyoodle?

    Kyoodle began as and still may be an Americanism. The word has no distinguished etymology (except for the vague label Imitative), which exactly fits the verb and also one of its noun meanings: mutt, noisy dog. Some distinguished American authors have used the word, however, including John Steinbeck, John O’Hara, and Sinclair Lewis. Kyoodle entered English in the late 19th century.

    How is kyoodle used?

    No living thing moved upon it, not even a medicine wolf to kyoodle to the invisible moon. Richard Sale, The White Buffalo, 1975

    But the dogs waved their tails happily and sought out a rabbit and went kyoodling after it. John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat, 1935

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, August 20, 2018

    squamous

    adjective [skwey-muhs]
    covered with or formed of squamae or scales.
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    What is the origin of squamous?

    The adjective squamous is a direct borrowing of Latin squāmōsus “covered with scales, scaly”, a derivative of the noun squāma “scale (on a fish or reptile), metal plate used in making armor.” The ultimate etymology of squāma is unclear, but it is related to squālēre “to be covered or crusted in scales or dirt,” and the derivatives of squālēre include squālidus “having a rough surface” and squālor “roughness, dirtiness, filth.” Squamous entered English in the 16th century.

    How is squamous used?

    The back was piebald with yellow and black, and dimly suggested the squamous covering of certain snakes. H. P. Lovecraft, "The Dunwich Horror," Weird Tales, April 1929

    They speak no known tongue and are said to sacrifice sailors to their squamous, fish-headed gods, likenesses of whom rise from their stony shores, visible only when the tide recedes. George R. R. Martin, Elio M. García, Jr., and Linda Antonsson, The World of Ice and Fire, 2014

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, August 19, 2018

    lunula

    noun [loo-nyuh-luh]
    something shaped like a narrow crescent, as the small, pale area at the base of the fingernail.
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    What is the origin of lunula?

    The uncommon noun lunula is restricted to anatomy, biology, and archaeology or art history. It’s a straightforward borrowing of Latin lūnula, literally “little moon,” but meaning “crescent-shaped ornament” (one of its senses in English). The only common meaning for this uncommon noun is the pale, crescent-shaped are at the base of a fingernail or toenail. Lūnula is a diminutive of lūna “moon,” which is disconcertingly similar to Russian luná “moon.” (The cognate Polish łuna means “glow.”) Both the Slavic and the Latin nouns derive from the same Proto-Indo-European source, louksnā, the same source as Avestan raoxshna- “shining; a light.” (Raoxshna is also used as a proper female name that in Greek is rendered Rhōxánē “Roxane.” The “original” Raoxshna/Roxane was a Bactrian princess born c340 b.c.; she married Alexander the Great in 327 b.c., and was poisoned in prison in 310 b.c.). Proto-Indo-European louksnā becomes in Old Prussian the plural noun lauxnos “stars,” and Middle Irish luan “moon.” All of these forms derive from the very common Proto-Indo-European root leuk- and its variants louk- and luk- “light, bright.” Lunula entered English in the 16th century.

    How is lunula used?

    It refuses to grow back, the nail of this one finger, the lunula destroyed, a moon permanently obliterated by one smash of his interrogator's pistol. Vaddey Ratner, Music of the Ghosts, 2017

    I ... wore only a simple shift of amber-and-brown plaid wool, and only ghillies, ovals of calfskin, laced around my feet. No golden tore, no silver lunula, nor am I royal of stature or of mien. Nancy Springer, “The Kingmaker,” Firebird Soaring, 2009

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, August 18, 2018

    prima facie

    adjective [prahy-muh fey-shee-ee, fey-shee, fey-shuh, pree-]
    plain or clear; self-evident; obvious.
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    What is the origin of prima facie?

    The English phrase prima facie is obviously Latin: prīmā faciē (ablative singular in form) means “at first sight.” (Faciēs has very many meanings: "physical or outward appearance, looks, sight, scene, good looks,….") It is not incredible that the English phrase at first blush is a literal translation of the Latin phrase: blush, a noun meaning "glance, sight," is obsolete except for the phrase at (on) (the) first blush. Prima facie entered English in the 15th century.

    How is prima facie used?

    McCain and Palin have been quoting this remark ever since, offering it as prima-facie evidence of Obama’s unsuitability for office. Hendrik Hertzberg, "Like, Socialism," The New Yorker, November 3, 2008

    There was no prima-facie absurdity in his hypothesis—and experiment was the sole means of demonstrating its truth or falsity. Thomas H. Huxley, "William Harvey," Popular Science Monthly, March 1878

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, August 17, 2018

    corpocracy

    noun [kawr-pok-ruh-see]
    a society in which corporations have much economic and political power.
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    What is the origin of corpocracy?

    Corpocracy is an unlovely compound noun formed from corporate or corporation plus the common combining form -cracy, ultimately from the Greek combining form -kratía, formed from krátos “strength, power,” and the noun suffix -ía. Corpocracy is not a recent word: it first appears in print in 1935, right smack in the middle of the Great Depression, during FDR’s first term.

    How is corpocracy used?

    Whether you are in business or government, you will be members of the same corpocracy. In the West, there are tensions between government and business elites. In China, these elites are part of the same social web, cooperating for mutual enrichment. David Brooks, "The Dictatorship of Talent," New York Times, December 4, 2007

    ... David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas” features a futuristic South Korea-inspired “corpocracy,” a hotbed of clones, plastic surgery (“facescaping”), and insurrection. Ed Park, "Sorry Not Sorry," The New Yorker, October 19, 2015

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