Word of the Day

Thursday, February 13, 2020

chocolate-box

[ chaw-kuh-lit-boks, chok-uh-, chawk-lit-, chok- ]

adjective

excessively decorative and sentimental, as the pictures or designs on some boxes of chocolate candy; prettified: decorous, chocolate-box paintings of Victorian garden parties.

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What is the origin of chocolate-box?

The compound noun chocolate box dates from around 1865 and has the literal meaning “a package, box, or tin filled with chocolates.” Such packages or boxes are typically decorated in a showy, gaudy, sentimental style. By the end of the 19th century, the compound noun acquired the function of an attributive adjective, hyphenated as chocolate-box, meaning “excessively decorative and sentimental.”

how is chocolate-box used?

It works best when everyone stops worrying about conjuring a chocolate-box version of the past and allows the duo’s raw talent to shine through.

Alexis Petridis, "The Secret Sisters," The Guardian, February 17, 2011

But if it’s verdant folds, ­chocolate-box villages and a taste of eternal England that you want, try East Kent ….

Will Hawkes, "The idyllic Cotswolds are overrun with tourists. Try East Kent instead." Washington Post, January 9, 2020
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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

quiddity

[ kwid-i-tee ]

noun

the quality that makes a thing what it is; the essential nature of a thing.

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What is the origin of quiddity?

Quiddity, with its conflicting senses, “the essential nature of a thing” and “a trifling nicety of subtle distinction,” ultimately comes from the Medieval Latin noun quidditās (stem quidditāt-), literally “whatness,” formed from the Latin interrogative pronoun quid “what” and the abstract noun suffix –itās, the source via Old French –ité of the English suffix –ity. Quiddity entered English at the end of the 14th century.

how is quiddity used?

… that gift for creating idioms may be a clue to the quiddity of his genius.

Adam Gopnik, "The Pleasure and Pain of Being Cole Porter," The New Yorker, January 13, 2020

If, argues he, we could only find out exactly what humour is ‘in its quiddity,’ we could keep ourselves humorous, or at any rate bring up our children to be so.

Henry Duff Traill, "The Future of Humour," The New Fiction, 1897
Tuesday, February 11, 2020

blench

[ blench ]

verb (used without object)

to shrink; flinch; quail: an unsteady eye that blenched under another's gaze.

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What is the origin of blench?

The history of the verb blench is complicated. The uncommon Old English verb blencan “to cheat, deceive” is the direct source of Middle English blenchen, blenken, blinchen, blinken “to move suddenly, dodge, avoid, mislead, deceive.” The various Middle English forms yield both English blench “to shrink, flinch” and blink “to wink the eyes, be startled.”

how is blench used?

But art historians should not blench at the sight of dreadful paintings, any more than doctors should blench at the sight of blood.

John Russell, "Art: Symbolists In America at Grey," New York Times, November 30, 1979

… the actor blenches as he reads the instruction ….

Susannah Clapp, "The week in theatre: When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other and more—review," The Guardian, January 27, 2019

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