a deep natural well or sinkhole, especially in Central America, formed by the collapse of surface limestone that exposes groundwater underneath.
Cenote “a deep natural well or sinkhole” is a loanword from Mexican Spanish and derives from the word tz’onot in the Yucatec Mayan language. A common misconception is that Mayan is a single language, but it is in fact a language family comprising at least 20 languages that are spoken primarily in Belize, Guatemala, and southeastern Mexico. Yucatec Mayan is one of the best-known Mayan languages and has hundreds of thousands of speakers today in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, while Quiché (also K’iche’) is the most spoken Mayan tongue, with more than 1 million speakers in Guatemala. Though the Mayan languages share numerous grammatical features with other language families found in Mesoamerica, these similarities are most likely the result of language contact rather than a shared origin. Cenote was first recorded in English circa 1840.
A wooden canoe used by the ancient Maya and believed to be over 1,000 years old has turned up in southern Mexico .… The extremely rare canoe was found almost completely intact, submerged in a fresh-water pool known as a cenote, thousands of which dot Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, near the ruins of Chichen Itza, once a major Maya city featuring elaborately carved temples and towering pyramids.
At the cenote, the water was unbelievably calm and clear enough to reveal some of the underwater formations. The cave’s watery entrance beckoned—dark and forbidding, and yet somehow inviting. We were eager to break the smooth surface…
no longer in fashion; out of date; outmoded.
Démodé “no longer in fashion” is a borrowing of the past participle of the French verb démoder “to put out of fashion.” Démoder is based on the noun mode “fashion,” which also appears in the expression à la mode, which in English often means “served with a scoop of ice cream” but literally translates as “in the fashion.” French mode derives from Latin modus, a word with a wide range of meanings, such as “manner,” “measure,” “limit,” and even “rhythm.” To see the “manner” sense in action, compare the Latin-origin phrases modus operandi (or M.O.) “one’s usual way of doing something” and modus vivendi “lifestyle.” Démodé was first recorded in the late 19th century.
Researchers who study the structure and evolution of the American family express unsullied astonishment at how rapidly the family has changed in recent years, the transformations often exceeding or capsizing those same experts’ predictions of just a few journal articles ago …. Also démodé is the old debate over whether mothers of dependent children should work outside the home …. [T]he issue is settled, and Paycheck Mommy is now a central organizing principle of the modern American family. The share of mothers employed full or part time has quadrupled since the 1950s and today accounts for nearly three-quarters of women with children at home.
By the late 1950s, American women were tired of being swathed in cumbersome layers. According to [Coco] Chanel, they were ready for the relaxed waist … of the modern silhouette even before the French. She rushed to fill the void that her American designer counterparts hadn’t, commenting, “They’ve been offering women [garments] which made it impossible to walk or run. American women refused these before Frenchwomen, because American women are more practical …. They walk, they run.” What was already démodé in Paris was actually long overdue in the States.
a feat requiring unusual strength, skill, or ingenuity.
Tour de force “a feat requiring unusual strength, skill, or ingenuity” is a borrowing from French, in which the phrase literally means “turn of strength.” French tour has two separate derivations: the noun tour “a turn” in tour de force is related to the verb tourner “to turn” (from Latin tornāre), and this tour is not to be confused with tour “tower” (from Latin turris). This distinction is why the Tour de France refers to a long, winding bicycle race while the tour Eiffel is the original French name for the Eiffel Tower. Other derivatives of Latin tornāre “to turn” include return, tourniquet, tourist, and tornado. Tour de force was first recorded in English circa the year 1800.
“The idea that nature is not bound by the artificial boundaries that we assign to physics, chemistry, biology or mathematics has been around a long time,” said astrophysicist Mayank Vahia …. He said the Nobel prize in physiology and medicine shared by Jim Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, for instance, for unraveling the double helix structure of DNA, might not have been won but for the technical (read physical) tour de force of X-ray diffraction studies achieved by Rosalind Franklin and her colleagues.
A tour de force from 1938, by the German-born Argentine Annemarie Heinrich in league with her sister Ursula, finds the two reflected in a mirrored orb. In the background—from our point of view—Annemarie grins as she snaps the shutter of a standing camera; Ursula looms gigantically and wildly distorted as she leans forward to grasp the sphere. It takes time, enjoyably, to puzzle out the picture’s vertiginous structure.
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