Word of the Day

Sunday, April 25, 2021

celluloid

[ sel-yuh-loid ]

adjective

of or involving motion pictures.

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What is the origin of celluloid?

The primary meaning nowadays of the adjective celluloid is “pertaining to the movies.” The noun celluloid refers to the hard, explosively flammable plastic that formerly was used to make movies until about 1950 (it was discontinued because of its flammability and tendency to decompose). Celluloid was originally a trademark (1869), a word composed of cellulose and the familiar suffix -oid “resembling, like”: Celluloid is something that resembles cellulose. Some people may remember from literature or the movies (or from Looney Tunes) the celluloid dickeys (pieces of clothing made to look like the front or collar of a shirt) that would pop out of a man’s waistcoat or cummerbund and roll up to his throat. Krusty the Klown of The Simpsons wore a dickey in an act of his that bombed badly (The Last Temptation of Krust, February 22, 1998). Celluloid entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is celluloid used?

My wife and I knew Hollywood couldn’t be trusted. Chances were that the true story of the Von Trapps bore only a passing resemblance to the celluloid version.

Jay Copp, "Move over, Julie. We search for the real 'Sound of Music.'" Christian Science Monitor, June 24, 2003

The story of dashed celluloid dreams became a journalistic genre—the flip side of the overnight-discovery tale, and, in its way, an equal testament to the power of Hollywood.

Margaret Talbot, "The Screen Test," The New Yorker, September 24, 2012

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Saturday, April 24, 2021

bibliopole

[ bib-lee-uh-pohl ]

noun

a bookseller, especially a dealer in rare or used books.

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What is the origin of bibliopole?

Bibliopole is not a misspelling of bibliophile: It is a legitimate word meaning “bookseller (especially of used or rare books),” from Latin bibliopōla from Greek bibliopṓlēs, a compound of biblio-, the combining form of biblíon “book,” and naturalized in English in Bible, bibliography, bibliophile, etc. The Greek combining form –pṓlēs “seller,” occurs only in compound nouns and is a derivative of the verb pōleîn “to offer for sale, sell.” Bibliopole entered English in the early 18th century.

how is bibliopole used?

I have seen a Wilshire clothier who gives his bookseller no other instructions than the dimensions of his shelves; and have just heard of a Liverpool merchant who is fitting up a library, and has told his bibliopole to send him Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope, and if any of those fellows should publish anything new to let him have it immediately.

Henry Curwen, A History of Booksellers, 1874

Rare-book dealers and collectors had mixed feelings about the record costs. “The Snopeses are in the market,” grumbled one bibliopole, as agents for wealthy clients pushed prices to new highs.

"The New Literary Appreciation," Time, April 25, 1977

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Friday, April 23, 2021

versal

[ vur-suhl ]

adjective

universal or whole.

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What is the origin of versal?

The adjective versal, “universal; whole,” is a colloquial shortening of universal. But versal achieved respectability because of its first appearance, in Romeo and Juliet (written about 1591–96), when the Nurse tells Romeo that whenever she tells Juliet that Count Paris wants to marry Juliet, Juliet “lookes as pale as any clout [rag, dishrag] in the versall world.”

how is versal used?

I anger her sometimes, and tell her that Paris is the properer man, but Ile warrant you, when I say so, shee lookes as pale as any clout in the versall world.

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 1599

What else in the ‘versal world have you to do, but to go basking about in the yards and places with your tankard in your hand, from morning to night?

Maria Edgeworth, "Eton Montem," The Parent's Assistant, 1796

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