• Word of the day
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    Saturday, July 21, 2018

    carte blanche

    noun [kahrt blanch, blahnch]
    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
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    Friday, July 20, 2018

    tummler

    noun [toom-ler]
    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

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, July 19, 2018

    hoity-toity

    adjective [hoi-tee-toi-tee]
    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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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, July 18, 2018

    cheville

    noun [shuh-vee]
    Prosody. a word or expression whose only function is to fill a metrical gap in a verse or to balance a sentence.
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    What is the origin of cheville?

    Cheville represents the normal northern French phonetic development of Latin clāvīcula “key, tendril, pivot,” a diminutive of clāvis “key, bar, hook.” In French cheville means “ankle, peg, dowel, pin, plug.” It is this latter sense "plug" that gave rise to the English meaning of a filler word or phrase in a sentence or line of verse. Clāvis derives from the Proto-Indo-European root klēu-, klāu- “hook, peg,” the same source of the very many Greek forms, e.g., kleís, klēī́s, klāī́s (all from assumed klāwis, identical to the Latin noun), Celtic (Old Irish) clō “nail,” Baltic (Lithuanian) kliū́ti “to hang, hang on,” and Slavic (Polish) klucz “key.” Cheville entered English in the 19th century.

    How is cheville used?

    The languages were by this time close enough to each other to make this easy, and when there was any difficulty it scarce required the wit of a Chaucer to supply such a cheville as "An emperesse or crowned queen" ... (though it may be observed that "crowned" is a distinct improvement to the sound, if not to the sense of the line) ... George Saintsbury, A History of English Prosody, Volume I, 1906

    But when we discover that ... the word "Sparte" has been dragged in at any cost for the rhyme's sake, we feel that a cheville, like some other concessions to the intractable nature of things, is least offensive when it asks for no admiration. Frederic William Henry Myers, "Victor Hugo," Essays, Modern, 1883

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, July 17, 2018

    magisterial

    adjective [maj-uh-steer-ee-uhl]
    authoritative; weighty; of importance or consequence; of, relating to, or befitting a master: a magisterial pronouncement by the director of the board.
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    What is the origin of magisterial?

    Magisterial comes directly from Late Latin magisteriālis “pertaining to a teacher or magistrate,” a development of Latin magistrālis, a derivative of Latin magister “magistrate, master, teacher.” Magister is formed from the adverb magis “more” and the Proto-Indo-European suffix -ter, used to form natural or opposing pairs, e.g., dexter “right-hand” and sinister “left-hand,” noster “our” and vester “your,” and magister “master,” literally “the bigger guy,” and minister “servant, assistant,” literally “the smaller guy” (from the adverb minus “less”). Magisterial entered English in the 17th century.

    How is magisterial used?

    This is an impressive, magisterial book whose steady, earnest gaze also encompasses the lives of pickpockets and poets. Robert McCrum, "Nightwalking review – an enthralling study of London after dark," Guardian, March 29, 2015

    They heard a magisterial speech from A. Lawrence Lowell: "As wave after wave rolls landward from the ocean, breaks and fades away sighing down the shingle of the beach, so the generations of men follow one another, sometimes quietly, sometimes, after a storm, with noisy turbulence." William Martin, Harvard Yard, 2003

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, July 16, 2018

    garbology

    noun [gahr-bol-uh-jee]
    the study of the material discarded by a society to learn what it reveals about social or cultural patterns.
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    What is the origin of garbology?

    Garbology is proof of the complete naturalization in English of the originally Greek combining form -ología “study of, science of.” The “correct” Greek word for the hybrid garbology is—or would be—tracheliology, from Greek trachḗlia “scraps of meat and gristle from the neck thrown away with offal,” or more simply “scraps, offal,” and -ología. The meaning of trachḗlia coincides very neatly with the meaning of garbage, originally “discarded bits of butchered fowl.” Garbology entered English in the 20th century.

    How is garbology used?

    The thing about garbology at that level, Smith says, is that it lets anyone--kids, teachers, parents--understand their own footprint, as well as their friends'. And once that's understood, it's possible to do something about it. Edward Humes, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, 2012

    Had the Puente Hills landfill called it back in 2007, when the U.S. was on the verge of the Great Recession, perhaps we'd all be singing the praises of garbology as economic indicator. Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley, "Touring the Largest Active Landfill in America," Atlantic, April 5, 2013

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, July 15, 2018

    coeval

    adjective [koh-ee-vuhl]
    of the same age, date, or duration; equally old: Analysis has proved that this manuscript is coeval with that one.
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    What is the origin of coeval?

    The English adjective coeval comes from the Late Latin coaevus “of the same age.” The common Latin prefix co- is a variant of the prefix con-, from the preposition cum “with.” The noun aevum “age, the past, history” comes from the Proto-Indo-European root aiw-, ayu- “life force, long life, vitality,” from which Gothic derives awis “time, eternity,” German ewig “eternal, everlasting,” Old English ā “ever, always,” and Old Norse ei “ever,” the source of English ay (also aye). Coeval entered English in the 17th century.

    How is coeval used?

    An old woman, who seemed coeval with the building ... received us at the gate ... Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, 1749

    ... the Serpent mentioned that very jest, and called it the First Chestnut, and said it was coeval with the creation. Mark Twain, The Private Life of Adam and Eve, 1906

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