Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, July 21, 2018

carte blanche

[ kahrt blanch, blahnch ]

noun

unconditional authority; full discretionary power: She was given carte blanche to decorate her room as she wished, perhaps an unwise decision on the part of her parents.

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What is the origin of carte blanche?

In the early 18th century carte blanche, literally “blank paper,” was a paper officially signed and given to another party to write in his or her own conditions or terms. By 1766 carte blanche acquired the meaning “full discretionary power, unconditional authority,” its current meaning. By the 19th century carte blanche in some card games, e.g., piquet, also meant “a hand of cards having no face cards, especially in piquet.”

how is carte blanche used?

If you think this … grants you carte blanche to stroll willy-nilly through that building asking any question that pops into your head, regardless of its bearing on the matter you are investigating, you are sadly mistaken.

Stephen Coonts, America, 2001

… what it said should not be interpreted as giving other businesses carte blanche to do what Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, did.

German Lopez, "Why you shouldn't freak out about the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling," Vox, June 4, 2018
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Word of the day

Friday, July 20, 2018

tummler

[ toom-ler ]

noun

any lively, prankish, or mischievous man.

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What is the origin of tummler?

If one has firsthand knowledge of what a tummler is and does—or was and did—then one ain’t a kid no more. A tummler was a comedian and/or social director at a Jewish resort, especially in the Borscht Belt in the Catskills of New York State, between the 1920s and 1970s. Danny Kaye, Henny Youngman, Sid Caesar, and Joan Rivers are some notable tummlers. Tummler comes from the Yiddish tumler, an agent noun from the verb tumlen “to make a racket,” from German tummeln “to romp, stir.” Tummler entered English in the 20th century.

how is tummler used?

For there is another, decidedly un-Jamesian Philip Roth: an irreverent, taboo-flouting tummler whose boisterous hi-jinks have offended the sensibilities of some readers while incurring the outright wrath of others.

George J. Searles, "Introduction," Conversations with Philip Roth, 1992

He tried to amuse her with funny walks, crazy faces, and barnyard noises, and when she deigned to laugh his face reddened with happiness. He was her tummler, for crying out loud.

Scott Spencer, River Under the Road, 2017

Word of the day

Thursday, July 19, 2018

hoity-toity

[ hoi-tee-toi-tee ]

adjective

assuming airs; pretentious; haughty.

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What is the origin of hoity-toity?

The adjective hoity-toity now means “pretentious, haughty”; formerly it meant “frivolous, giddy.” The phrase is probably an alteration and reduplication of hoit, an obsolete verb of obscure origin meaning “to romp, play the fool.” Hoit may also be the source of or akin to hoyden “boisterous, carefree girl, tomboy,” possibly a borrowing from Dutch heiden “rustic, uncivilized person.” Hoity-toity entered English in the 17th century.

how is hoity-toity used?

Always crowing about their kid with the straight A’s at that hoity-toity school.

Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex, 2002

The typeface used for the credits is the kind of hoity-toity cursive writing—in hot pink, no less—one might see on a Tiffany & Co. shower invitation.

Laura Jacobs, "The Devil Inside: Watching Rosemary's Baby in the Age of #MeToo," Vanity Fair, Summer 2018

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