Word of the Day

Monday, August 06, 2018

chevelure

[ shev-uh-loor ]

noun

a head of hair.

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What is the origin of chevelure?

The pronunciation of English chevelure, accented on the final syllable, reveals the still unnaturalized status of the word after nearly six centuries. Chevelure looks like–and is–a French word meaning “head of hair, wig.” In Old French the word was spelled cheveleüre, from Latin capillātūra “hairlike flaw in a gem or gemstone,” a derivative of the adjective capillātus “longhaired,” itself a derivative of capillus “the hair on the head” (and like English hair a collective noun). Chevelure entered English in the 15th century.

how is chevelure used?

The arrangement of this chevelure is performed for the chiefs by professional barbers, and is a work of great labour. Six hours are sometimes occupied in dressing a head; and the process is repeated at intervals of two or three weeks.

Robert Gordon Latham, The Natural History of the Varieties of Man, 1850

… time has stolen away his raven locks, and given him a chevelure of snow instead.

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, The Mysterious Lodger, 1850
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Sunday, August 05, 2018

vespine

[ ves-pahyn, -pin ]

adjective

of or relating to wasps.

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What is the origin of vespine?

English vespine is a straightforward borrowing from the Latin noun vespa “wasp” plus the adjective suffix -ine, from Latin -īnus, and one could reasonably–but wrongly–conclude that wespā was the original Proto-Indo-European word for wasp. The original form was wepsā, wopsā, and Latin and English (among other languages) simply metathesized (or transposed) the consonants. Old English has many different forms for the insect: wæfs, wæps, wæsp, etc. The other Germanic languages also display the -ps- and -sp- forms. Outside Germanic, the extremely conservative Baltic languages have vapsvà (Lithuanian) and wobse (Old Prussian), both meaning “wasp.” The Baltic forms, especially the Old Prussian, also show more clearly the Proto-Indo-European root behind wasp and vespa: webh-, wobh- “to weave” (from the nests that wasps construct). Vespine entered English in the 19th century.

how is vespine used?

From above the cubicles looked like a magnified insect battery, a nest uncovered by mistake, a glimpse of geometrically precise rows of pods, lines of tiny vespine heads, shining with black Sony ovals, trembling with larval energy on T-shirt thoraces.

Rana Dasgupta, Tokyo Cancelled, 2005

The trees had turned a vespine yellow, as if trying to terrify what would eat them.

Bennett Sims, A Questionable Shape, 2013
Saturday, August 04, 2018

squiz

[ skwiz ]

noun

a quick, close look.

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What is the origin of squiz?

The noun squiz is a piece of slang used in Australian and New Zealand. Most slang terms are of uncertain origin, and squiz is no exception: it is possibly a blend of quiz and squint. Squiz entered English in the 20th century.

how is squiz used?

He’d been at me for months to come in and have a squiz at the work he’d done, but I really didn’t care that much, and kept putting him off.

Peter Doyle, The Devil's Jump, 2001

She shrugged–which sort of annoyed me too–and I led her clomping to the front room where the sun was streaming in, and I had another squiz.

Anne Kennedy, The Last Days of the National Costume, 2013

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