• Word of the day
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    Wednesday, July 18, 2018

    cheville

    noun [shuh-vee]
    Prosody. a word or expression whose only function is to fill a metrical gap in a verse or to balance a sentence.
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    What is the origin of cheville?

    Cheville represents the normal northern French phonetic development of Latin clāvīcula “key, tendril, pivot,” a diminutive of clāvis “key, bar, hook.” In French cheville means “ankle, peg, dowel, pin, plug.” It is this latter sense "plug" that gave rise to the English meaning of a filler word or phrase in a sentence or line of verse. Clāvis derives from the Proto-Indo-European root klēu-, klāu- “hook, peg,” the same source of the very many Greek forms, e.g., kleís, klēī́s, klāī́s (all from assumed klāwis, identical to the Latin noun), Celtic (Old Irish) clō “nail,” Baltic (Lithuanian) kliū́ti “to hang, hang on,” and Slavic (Polish) klucz “key.” Cheville entered English in the 19th century.

    How is cheville used?

    The languages were by this time close enough to each other to make this easy, and when there was any difficulty it scarce required the wit of a Chaucer to supply such a cheville as "An emperesse or crowned queen" ... (though it may be observed that "crowned" is a distinct improvement to the sound, if not to the sense of the line) ... George Saintsbury, A History of English Prosody, Volume I, 1906

    But when we discover that ... the word "Sparte" has been dragged in at any cost for the rhyme's sake, we feel that a cheville, like some other concessions to the intractable nature of things, is least offensive when it asks for no admiration. Frederic William Henry Myers, "Victor Hugo," Essays, Modern, 1883

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, July 17, 2018

    magisterial

    adjective [maj-uh-steer-ee-uhl]
    authoritative; weighty; of importance or consequence; of, relating to, or befitting a master: a magisterial pronouncement by the director of the board.
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    What is the origin of magisterial?

    Magisterial comes directly from Late Latin magisteriālis “pertaining to a teacher or magistrate,” a development of Latin magistrālis, a derivative of Latin magister “magistrate, master, teacher.” Magister is formed from the adverb magis “more” and the Proto-Indo-European suffix -ter, used to form natural or opposing pairs, e.g., dexter “right-hand” and sinister “left-hand,” noster “our” and vester “your,” and magister “master,” literally “the bigger guy,” and minister “servant, assistant,” literally “the smaller guy” (from the adverb minus “less”). Magisterial entered English in the 17th century.

    How is magisterial used?

    This is an impressive, magisterial book whose steady, earnest gaze also encompasses the lives of pickpockets and poets. Robert McCrum, "Nightwalking review – an enthralling study of London after dark," Guardian, March 29, 2015

    They heard a magisterial speech from A. Lawrence Lowell: "As wave after wave rolls landward from the ocean, breaks and fades away sighing down the shingle of the beach, so the generations of men follow one another, sometimes quietly, sometimes, after a storm, with noisy turbulence." William Martin, Harvard Yard, 2003

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, July 16, 2018

    garbology

    noun [gahr-bol-uh-jee]
    the study of the material discarded by a society to learn what it reveals about social or cultural patterns.
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    What is the origin of garbology?

    Garbology is proof of the complete naturalization in English of the originally Greek combining form -ología “study of, science of.” The “correct” Greek word for the hybrid garbology is—or would be—tracheliology, from Greek trachḗlia “scraps of meat and gristle from the neck thrown away with offal,” or more simply “scraps, offal,” and -ología. The meaning of trachḗlia coincides very neatly with the meaning of garbage, originally “discarded bits of butchered fowl.” Garbology entered English in the 20th century.

    How is garbology used?

    The thing about garbology at that level, Smith says, is that it lets anyone--kids, teachers, parents--understand their own footprint, as well as their friends'. And once that's understood, it's possible to do something about it. Edward Humes, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, 2012

    Had the Puente Hills landfill called it back in 2007, when the U.S. was on the verge of the Great Recession, perhaps we'd all be singing the praises of garbology as economic indicator. Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley, "Touring the Largest Active Landfill in America," Atlantic, April 5, 2013

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, July 15, 2018

    coeval

    adjective [koh-ee-vuhl]
    of the same age, date, or duration; equally old: Analysis has proved that this manuscript is coeval with that one.
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    What is the origin of coeval?

    The English adjective coeval comes from the Late Latin coaevus “of the same age.” The common Latin prefix co- is a variant of the prefix con-, from the preposition cum “with.” The noun aevum “age, the past, history” comes from the Proto-Indo-European root aiw-, ayu- “life force, long life, vitality,” from which Gothic derives awis “time, eternity,” German ewig “eternal, everlasting,” Old English ā “ever, always,” and Old Norse ei “ever,” the source of English ay (also aye). Coeval entered English in the 17th century.

    How is coeval used?

    An old woman, who seemed coeval with the building ... received us at the gate ... Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, 1749

    ... the Serpent mentioned that very jest, and called it the First Chestnut, and said it was coeval with the creation. Mark Twain, The Private Life of Adam and Eve, 1906

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, July 14, 2018

    amour-propre

    noun [a-moor-praw-pruh]
    French. self-esteem; self-respect.
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    What is the origin of amour-propre?

    The French compound noun amour-propre, literally “self-love, self-regard,” is associated especially with the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), but the phrase is found earlier in the works of Blaise Pascal (1623-62) and François de La Rochefoucauld (1613-80). For Rousseau amour-propre is self-love or self-esteem dependent upon the good opinion of others, as opposed to amour de soi, which also means “self-love” but is directed solely toward one’s own well-being and is not dependent upon the good opinion of others. The English lexicographer Henry W. Fowler (1858-1933), in his A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926), acidly comments about amour-propre, “Vanity usually gives the meaning as well, &, if as well, then better.” Amour-propre entered English in the 18th century.

    How is amour-propre used?

    From the faces round him there fell that glamour by which the amour propre is held captive in large assemblies, where the amour propre is flattered. Edward Bulwar-Lytton, What Will He Do with It?, 1858

    Whatever might be the urgings of his amour propre, in his opinion he had a professional duty to tell the client his findings. Louis Begley, Matters of Honor, 2007

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, July 13, 2018

    vitiate

    verb [vish-ee-eyt]
    to impair or weaken the effectiveness of.
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    What is the origin of vitiate?

    The English verb vitiate comes directly from the Latin past participle vitiātus “spoiled, impaired,” from the verb vitiāre, which is a derivative of the noun vitium “defect, fault,” a word of uncertain etymology. Vitium is the source of Old French vice, English vice. Vitiate entered English in the 15th century.

    How is vitiate used?

    ... some infinitesimal excess or deficiency, some minute accession of heat or cold, some chance adulteration in this or that ingredient, can vitiate a whole course of inquiry, requiring the labour of weeks to be all begun again ... Charles Lever, One of Them, 1861

    In his mad odyssey through the dark side — waterboarding, secret rendition, indefinite detention, unnecessary war and manipulation of C.I.A. analysis — Dick Cheney did his best to vitiate our system of checks and balances. His nefarious work is still warping our intelligence system more than a decade later. Maureen Dowd, "The Spies Who Didn't Love Her," New York Times, March 11, 2014

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, July 12, 2018

    eggbeater

    noun [eg-bee-ter]
    Slang. a helicopter.
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    What is the origin of eggbeater?

    Eggbeater in the sense “small, hand-operated rotary appliance used for beating eggs” has existed in English since the 1830s. Eggbeater in the sense “helicopter” was originally an American slang term used by pilots of fixed-wing aircraft for the newfangled helicopter, the rotary action of whose blades looked to them somewhat like the rotary action of the familiar kitchen appliance. Eggbeater in the aircraft sense dates from the 1930s.

    How is eggbeater used?

    With all aboard, the door of the egg-beater was closed. Harry Lever, "Helicopter Ambulance," Flying, April 1953

    Just keep that eggbeater you're flying below sixty-five thousand feet and you'll be just fine. Dick Couch and George Galdorisi, Out of the Ashes, 2014

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