a dense growth of shrubs or small trees.
Chaparral “a dense growth of shrubs or small trees” is an Americanism borrowed from Spanish, in which it is equivalent to chaparro “evergreen oak” and -al, a suffix indicating where something is found in abundance, such as an orchard. Chaparro is likely adapted from Basque txapar “little thicket.” Basque is a language spoken in northern Spain and southwestern France, a region also known as Basque Country, and it is a language isolate—a language with no known surviving relatives. Basque has been conclusively linked with Aquitainian, a language spoken 2,000 years ago in Aquitaine, a region of southwestern France, but outside this small corner of Western Europe, the origins of Basque are shrouded in mystery. Chaparral was first recorded in English circa 1840.
Chaparral is both a vegetation type and the name given to the community of coadapted plants and animals found in the foothills and mountains throughout California …. Seen from the car window or scenic lookout, chaparral looks like a soft bluish green blanket gently covering the hills. Up close, however, this “blanket” no longer appears soft. Instead, what is revealed is a nearly impenetrable thicket of shrubs with intertwined branches and twigs with hard leaves and stiff and unyielding stems.
I lean against a tree—and am treelike. I find myself calmly standing sentry there, part-clad in my mail of moonlight, and doing so in a state of such optical and auditory supervigilance that I perceive, with no trace of a startle reflex, the movements not only of the forest creatures as they hop and scamper and flit but even, through the blackened chaparral, the distant silhouette of a person who stands at a window on San Francisco [Street]. When my phone vibrates, it’s as if I’ve pocketed a tremor of the earth.
one of over a thousand known extragalactic objects, starlike in appearance and having spectra with characteristically large redshifts, that are thought to be the most distant and most luminous objects in the universe.
Quasar “a starlike extragalactic object” is a contraction of quasi-stellar, as in quasi-stellar radio source, a term that developed because of quasars’ resemblance to stars. Quasars are not galaxies but are rather galactic nuclei that draw their energy from supermassive black holes. The later term pulsar, contracted from pulsating star, was based on quasar. The element quasi- “resembling” derives from Latin quasi “as if, as though,” from quam “as” and sī “if.” For more about the stellar element, navigate to the recent Word of the Day circumstellar; it comes from Latin stella “star.” Quasar was coined by astrophysicist Hong-Yee Chiu in 1964.
Supermassive black holes …. likely are the driving force behind quasars, which are among the brightest objects in the universe. Astronomers can detect quasars from the farthest corners of the cosmos, making quasars among the most distant objects known. The farthest quasars are also the earliest known quasars—the more distant one is, the more time its light took to reach Earth.
If this were a Sherlock Holmes story, its title would surely be “The Case of the Disappearing Quasar.” In this case, however, the mystery wasn’t solved by an aging Victorian-era detective, but by a young American astronomer at Penn State University named Jessie Runnoe and her colleagues …. [W]hat Runnoe and her colleagues think happened is the quasar just ran out of gas. Literally. All the nearby gas fell into the black hole, and there wasn’t enough left to produce the brilliance quasars are known for.
prepared with mixed vegetables, as with water chestnuts, mushrooms, and bean sprouts.
Subgum “prepared with mixed vegetables,” despite its appearance, is not based on Latin sub “under” and English gum. Rather, subgum is adapted from Cantonese sahp-gám “assorted,” cognate with Mandarin shíjǐn. The literal definition of sahp-gám is “ten brocades,” from sahp (Mandarin shí) “ten” and gám (Mandarin jǐn) “brocade.” One of the many differences between how Cantonese and Mandarin are romanized in English is how tones are indicated. While Mandarin is romanized in the pinyin system using diacritics such as macrons (ā) and acute marks (á), tones in Cantonese are often indicated in English through the use of superscript numbers. Subgum was first recorded in English in the late 1930s.
Numerous one-pint boxes of Chinese takeout stood on the kitchen table. Foo yung loong har, which was lobster omelet with chopped onion. Subgum chow goong yue chu—fried scallops with mixed vegetables …. There were noodles and rice. Jane ate a little of the latter, none of the former, but indulged in every variety of protein.
“Hey, waiter!” called out the man in booth four. “We ordered subgum chow mein.” He lifted the lid off. “This is shrimp chow mein.” He replaced the metal lid quickly and looked up at Ben Loy, who meekly took the dish away.
Get A Vocabulary Boost In Your Inbox