Word of the Day

Sunday, July 29, 2018

causerie

[ koh-zuh-ree ]

noun

an informal talk or chat.

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What is the origin of causerie?

In French the noun causerie means “a chat; a talk (as at a conference).” As a literary style a causerie is a short, topical essay, personal and humorous (there is no one precise English translation for causerie). Causerie is a derivative of the verb causer “to chat, talk, gossip.” The French verb comes from Latin causārī “to plead a case, bring a (legal) action; to plead as an excuse or reason,” a derivative of the noun causa “legal case or proceeding, trial.” Causerie entered English in the 19th century.

how is causerie used?

I was once booked by my manager to give a causerie in the drawing-room of a New York millionaire.

Mark Twain, "A Little Note to M. Paul Bourget," How to Tell a Story and Other Essays, 1897

It hardly seemed a speech when he was at the tribune, more like a causerie, though he told very plain truths sometimes to the peuple souverain.

Mary Alsop King Waddington, My First Years as a Frenchwoman, 1914
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Saturday, July 28, 2018

hypnopedia

[ hip-nuh-pee-dee-uh ]

noun

sleep learning.

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What is the origin of hypnopedia?

Hypnopedia is first recorded in Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World (1932), and the word may well be a coinage of his. Hypnopedia is a compound word formed from the Greek nouns hýpnos “sleep” and paideía “child-rearing, education.” Hýpnos is a regular Greek development of the Proto-Indo-European noun sup-nos, from the root swep, swop-, sup- “to sleep.” In preclassical Latin the noun swep-nos becomes swop-nos and finally somnus in classical Latin. The Germanic equivalent root, swef-no-, becomes swefen “sleep, dream” in Old English and sweven in Middle English, e.g., in Piers Plowman and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Paideía is a derivative of the noun país (stem paid-) “child.”

how is hypnopedia used?

Years of intensive hypnopaedia and, from twelve to seventeen, Malthusian drill three times a week had made the taking of these precautions almost as automatic and inevitable as blinking.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, 1932

The idea that humans can learn while asleep, a concept sometimes called hypnopedia, has a long and odd history. It hit a particularly strange note in 1927, when New York inventor A. B. Saliger debuted the Psycho-phone. He billed the device as an “automatic suggestion machine.”

Ben Guarino, "Your brain can form new memories while you are asleep, neuroscientists show," Washington Post, August 8, 2017
Friday, July 27, 2018

punnet

[ puhn-it ]

noun

British, Australian. a small container or basket for strawberries or other fruit.

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What is the origin of punnet?

In the “Cyclops” episode (chapter 12) of Ulysses, there are 33 parodies in exaggerated, sentimental, or pompous styles. The first of these parodies begins “In Inisfail the fair,” a parody of a poem by the Irish poet James Mangin (1803-49), and contains, among other things, an extravagant list of Irish products: “… pearls of the earth, and punnets of mushrooms and custard marrows….” A punnet is a light, shallow container for fruits or other produce. The word is used in Ireland, England, and Australia but not in America. Its origin is uncertain. Punnet entered English in the 19th century.

how is punnet used?

Next time you buy strawberries take a look a good look in the punnet. Do the berries still have the stem attached or has it been plucked off leaving only the green hat of leaves called the calyx?

Lucy Hooker, "The strawberry-picking robots doing a job humans won't," BBC, May 25, 2018

We’ve each got a cardboard tray with twenty-five punnets in, and our job’s to fill each punnet with ripe strawberries, or nearly ripe.

David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks, 2014

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