Word of the Day

Friday, November 15, 2019

chutzpa

[ hoot-spuh, khoot- ]

noun

Slang.

audacity; nerve.

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What is the origin of chutzpa?

Chutzpa is one of many colorful, and very useful, English words of Yiddish origin. Also commonly spelled chutzpah (among other forms), chutzpa was borrowed into English in the late 1800s from Yiddish khutspa “impudence; gall; audacity; nerve,” from Aramaic ḥūṣpā. Chutzpa often has a negative connotation, as in “The unruly siblings had the chutzpa to correct their father on manners.” The qualities of chutzpa, however, can also be positive, as in “The employees showed a great deal of chutzpa when they demanded pay raises.”

how is chutzpa used?

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to write a book called “The Problem With Everything,” but chutzpah is something essayist and cultural critic Meghan Daum has always possessed in spades.

Rosa Brooks, "Meghan Daum's merciless take on modern feminism, woke-ness and cancel culture," Washington Post, October 24, 2019

Selling these artifacts at these prices requires more than a list of customers with too much disposable income. It takes hard work, chutzpa and catalog copy that ignites neural brush fires in the amygdala.

Rene Chun, "Why Audiophiles Are Paying $1,000 for This Man's Vinyl," Wired, March 4, 2015
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Thursday, November 14, 2019

ipso facto

[ ip-soh fak-toh ]

adverb

by the fact itself; by the very nature of the deed: to be condemned ipso facto.

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What is the origin of ipso facto?

First recorded in English in the mid-1500s, ipso facto is an adverb that comes directly from the Latin phrase ipsō factō “by the fact itself, by the very fact.” Ipso facto is often used when the very fact that one thing occurs is a direct consequence of another, as in “Having won all the gold medals in the sport’s Olympic events, she was ipso facto the best gymnast in the world.” Latin factō is the ablative form of factum “deed, act, fact,” and ipsō is the ablative of ipsum “very, same, itself,” among other senses. Ipso appears in other Latin expressions used in English, especially in law, including eo ipso “by that very fact” and ipso jure “by the law itself.”

how is ipso facto used?

… the notion that cars made in Germany would ipso facto be better crafted than others … this would have seemed curious indeed just a generation before.

Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, 2005

I had, it seemed, defined myself as a “popular” writer, and if one is popular, then, ipso facto, one is not to be taken seriously.

Oliver Sacks, On the Move, 2015
Wednesday, November 13, 2019

lacuna

[ luh-kyoo-nuh ]

noun

a gap or missing part, as in a manuscript, series, or logical argument; hiatus.

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What is the origin of lacuna?

In Latin lacūna means “ditch, pit, gap, deficiency, hole, hole where water collects.” Modern French lagune “lagoon,” Italian laguna “lagoon,” and Spanish laguna “lagoon, gap” are obvious developments from lacūna. Lacūna in turn is a derivative of lacus “basin, tub, cistern, pond, lake,” the source (through Old French) of English lake. Latin lacus is also related to Scots Gaelic and Irish loch. Lacuna entered English in the 17th century.

how is lacuna used?

I hardly know what to say after that, for there is a lacuna in the story, a line of verse missing from the elegy.

Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880), Memoirs of a Madman, translated by Andrew Brown, 2002

Attending to the mundane and the momentous, they punch in on the dark side of the clock, bridging the quiet lacuna between rush hours.

David Montgomery, "All in a Night's Work," Washington Post, August 20, 2000

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