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[ kat-er-wawl ] [ ˈkæt ərˌwɔl ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

verb (used without object)

to utter a long, wailing cry; howl or screech.

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What is the origin of caterwaul?

The history of caterwaul “to utter a long, wailing cry” takes us down a bit of a linguistic rabbit hole. The term is a compound of two Middle English words: cater “tomcat” and either wawen “to howl” or waul, a variant of wail “to utter a mournful cry.” Cater is related to modern English cat, but while cat comes from Old English, cater may be a borrowing from Middle Dutch or Low German. While cat and its Germanic cousins (such as German Kater and Katze) are often considered to be early adaptations of Latin cattus “cat” (compare French chat and Spanish gato), an alternative opinion is that all these feline words are examples of a Wanderwort. As we learned from the recent Word of the Day matcha, a Wanderwort is a word that has spread across a long chain of unrelated languages, and this explains why the words for “cat” in languages such as Arabic (qiṭṭ) look familiar even though Arabic and English are not related. Caterwaul was first recorded in English in the late 14th century.

how is caterwaul used?

[I]t’s a safe guess that not many of us see these owls because they’re night hunters and take care to remain hidden during the day. This is prime time for hearing male and female owls hooting to each other, however, something they do in winter (and autumn) as they build toward nesting season.Great horned owls’ deep, resonant hoots are what come to mind when we think of owl calls, but they make various other sounds, too—whinnying, screeching, squawking and caterwauling to attract a mate and define a territory.

Val Cunningham, “Great horned owls inspire great awe,” Star Tribune, March 3, 2020

“Call off that dog,” I said warningly to Alexander Abraham …. “Since you’ve brought that cat here you can protect him.” “Oh, it wasn’t for William Adolphus’ sake I spoke,” I said pleasantly. “William Adolphus can protect himself.” William Adolphus could and did. He humped his back, flattened his ears, swore once, and then made a flying leap for Mr. Riley. William Adolphus landed squarely on Mr. Riley’s brindled back and promptly took fast hold, spitting and clawing and caterwauling. You never saw a more astonished dog than Mr. Riley.

Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Chronicles of Avonlea, 1912
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[ puh-goh-duh ] [ pəˈgoʊ də ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a temple or sacred building, usually a pyramidlike tower and typically having upward-curving roofs over the individual stories.

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What is the origin of pagoda?

Pagoda “a temple or sacred building with upward-curving roofs” is an adaptation of Portuguese pagode “temple,” which is of uncertain origin, but there are two prevailing hypotheses. The first is a derivation from classical Persian butkada, in which but (modern Persian bot) means “idol” and derives from Buddha (that is, Sanskrit buddha “awakened”), while kada (modern Persian kade) is a noun of place variously meaning “temple, dwelling, village.” The second explanation is a connection to pagavadi (or pakavati) in Tamil, a language of Sri Lanka and southern India, and the term is borrowed from Sanskrit bhagavatī “goddess” (distantly related to the recent Words of the Day nebbish and baksheesh). In this way, both explanations for pagoda come back to the purpose of the building: a house for gods. Pagoda was first recorded in English circa 1630.

how is pagoda used?

The Chinese built their pagodas mainly in stone, with inner staircases, and used them as much as watch-towers as for worship. In Japan, however, the architecture was freely adapted to meet the local conditions. The Japanese stuck with wood—and they saw no reason to clutter the design with an inner staircase. The upper floors of a Japanese pagoda serve no practical purpose. Often, in fact, there are not even stairs to them.

“Why pagodas don’t fall down,” Economist, December 18, 1997

Ever since Jūbei received the order, he dedicated his entire being to the pagoda project; at breakfast he ruminated on the pagoda, and in his dreams at night his soul circled the top of its nine-ringed spire.

Kōda Rohan (1867–1947), The Five-Storied Pagoda, translated by Cheiko Irie Mulhern, 2011
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[ hip-nuh-pee-dee-uh ] [ ˌhɪp nəˈpi di ə ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


the act or process of learning during sleep by listening to recordings repeatedly.

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What is the origin of hypnopedia?

Hypnopedia “learning during sleep by listening to recordings repeatedly” is a compound of the Ancient Greek nouns hýpnos “sleep” and paideía “child-rearing, education” (compare encyclopedia, from enkýklios paideía “circular education”). Hýpnos is the Ancient Greek cognate of Latin somnus “sleep”; because Ancient Greek and Latin are both Indo-European languages, the two languages share hundreds of cognates, and Ancient Greek h often corresponds to Latin s at the beginning of a word (compare hyper- and super-). Paideía comes from paîs (stem paid-) “child,” which is also the source of the combining form pedo- or ped- in pedantic, pediatrician, and pedology “the study of children.” Aldous Huxley is the first known user of hypnopedia in print and may have coined the term for his 1932 novel Brave New World.

how is hypnopedia used?

Babies, from earliest days, are exposed to systematic conditioning, designed to make them like the task they are predestined to perform and to dislike what they will not be able to attain …. Moreover, they are exposed to repetitious slogans—whether during sleep (hypnopedia) or in waking hours—which inculcate in them certain basic values and judgments, which agree with and promote their social roles.

Mordecai Roshwald, Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction, 2008

“I just didn’t have the logical aptitudes when I first came. Some things just wouldn’t stick in my head, even in hypnopedia. All the facts in the universe won’t help if you don’t know how to put them together.”

Thomas Sturgeon, The Stars Are the Styx, 1950
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