Word of the Day

Monday, October 19, 2020

clement

[ klem-uhnt ]

adjective

mild or merciful in disposition or character; lenient; compassionate.

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What is the origin of clement?

Clement, “mild in disposition, merciful,” comes from Latin clēmēns (inflectional stem clēment-) “merciful, lenient, mild (of weather), calm (of water).” Clēmēns has no reliable etymology; its most common derivative is the noun clēmentia “clemency, leniency.” The phrase “clemency of Caesar” is not much used nowadays: It comes from Latin Clēmentia Caesaris, which first appears as part of an inscription on a Roman coin dating to 44 b.c., therefore shortly before Caesar’s assassination, and a nice bit of propaganda in his honor. Clement entered English in the late 15th century.

how is clement used?

I know you are more clement than vile men Who of their broken debtors take a third …

William Shakespeare, Cymbeline, 1623

And the spirit of the times is happily growing more clement toward a greater fulness and variety of life.

Richard Le Gallienne, "The Last Call," Vanishing Roads and Other Essays, 1915

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Sunday, October 18, 2020

mardy

[ mahr-dee ]

adjective

grumpy or moody; sulky.

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What is the origin of mardy?

Mardy is a British dialect (the North and Midlands) adjective and noun meaning “spoiled, spoiled child; childish sulkiness.” Mardy is most likely formed from the adjective marred “damaged, spoiled,” originally the past participle of mar, and the native adjective suffix –y. Mardy entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is mardy used?

There was a fleeting reference to the Doctor being in a “mardy mood” during the opening scene. Otherwise, no sign.

Michael Hogan, "Doctor Who: Orphan 55, series 12 episode 3 recap: let down by false jeopardy, a seriously overstuffed story and clumsy moral lessons," Telegraph, January 12, 2020

Pa would rise before daylight had kicked nighttime into touch. He’d return after dark, when he’d be mardy until he’d eaten.

Bernardine Evaristo, Blonde Roots, 2009

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

ambivert

[ am-bi-vurt ]

noun

Psychology.

one whose personality type is intermediate between extrovert and introvert.

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What is the origin of ambivert?

Ambivert, literally “turned both ways,” is a term used in psychology, meaning “one whose personality type is between introvert and extrovert.” Ambivert is based on Latin elements: the prefix ambi– “both, on both sides, around” (as in English ambient “surrounding, encompassing” and ambiguous “open to several interpretations”), and the suffix –vert, extracted from the verb vertere “to turn” (as in English convert “to turn completely,” and divert “to turn aside, deflect”). Ambivert, first recorded in 1927, is modeled on the somewhat earlier words introvert (1916) and extrovert (1918).

how is ambivert used?

Drew was more of an ambivert. He wasn’t as outgoing as his younger sister, but he wasn’t as reserved as his parents either.

Susan Cain, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts, 2016

A well-developed ambivert, he [Abraham Lincoln] could hold complexity and contradiction to stand firmly behind words America desperately needed ….

Michael Alcee, "Why America Needs Introverted Extroverts Now," Psychology Today, June 27, 2020

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Friday, October 16, 2020

diction

[ dik-shuhn ]

noun

style of speaking or writing as dependent upon choice of words.

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What is the origin of diction?

Diction ultimately comes from Latin dictiō (inflectional stem dictiōn-) “speaking, act of speaking, (oracular) utterance, word, expression,” a derivative of the verb dīcere “to say, speak, talk.” Dictiō, though a word in general Latin vocabulary, is naturally connected very closely with rhetoric and law, two very important professions among the Romans. Dīcere, earlier deicere, comes from the very common Proto-Indo-European root deik- (also deig-), dik- (dig-) “to show, point out,” and appears in Greek deíknysthai “to show, point out,” Gothic ga-teihan “to show, make clear,” and German zeigen “to show.” The 13th-century English philologist, grammarian, and university professor John of Garland coined the word dictiōnārius as the title for one of his Latin textbooks in which he grouped lexical items thematically. Garland explained that his dictiōnārius was not based on the sense of dictiō as a single word, but dictiō in the sense of connected discourse. In the 14th century the Benedictine monk, translator, and encyclopedist Pierre Bersuire used the term dictiōnārium as the title for an alphabetical encyclopedia of the Vulgate (St. Jerome’s version of the Latin Bible, completed at the end of the 4th century). By the 15th century, dictiōnārium acquired the generalized sense “alphabetized wordbook.” Diction entered English in the 15th century.

how is diction used?

She did more than powder noses; she advised on diction and apparel and helped commanders in chief put their best selves forward for television.

Katharine Q. Seelye, "Lillian Brown, Makeup Artist to Nine Presidents, Dies at 106," New York Times, September 29, 2020

His diction mirrors the emotional gravity in each scene, which, combined with raw honesty, is what makes his writing so relatable.

Khrysgiana Pineda, "Review: Bill Clegg's 'The End of the Day' a story of friendship, love and memory," USA Today, September 30, 2020

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

totis viribus

[ toh-tis -wee-ri-boos; English toh-tis -vir-uh-buhs ]

adverb

Latin.

with all one's might.

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What is the origin of totis viribus?

The English adverbial phrase totis viribus, “with all (one’s) might,” comes straight from the Latin phrase tōtīs vīribus, the ablative plural of the adjective tōtus “all, entire, the whole of” and the noun vīs (plural inflectional stem vīr-) “strength, physical strength, force.” More fully, the phrase tōtīs vīribus is an ablative of manner, just in case it’s on tomorrow’s quiz. Totis viribus is uncommon in English; it is used, as one would expect, mostly by lawyers. Vīs has an exact equivalent in Greek ĩs (also wĩs in some dialects), “force, might,” a Homeric word that appears in the instrumental case form ĩphi in the poetic formulas ĩphi máchesthai “to fight with strength,” and ĩphi anássein “to rule with might.” Totis viribus entered English in the 16th century.

how is totis viribus used?

As a fictitious autobiographer—in the power, or at least in the fidelity, of first conceiving a character, and then throwing himself into it totis viribus, and by ten thousand strokes of humour, sense, an observation … Mr. Galt surpasses every writer certainly of this day, and perhaps of any time.

"Review of New Books: Bogle Corbet; or, the Emigrants", The London and Paris Observer, June 12, 1831

If a man say totis viribus, he will resist. The literal meaning is not that he will resist by blood or by force of arms. It is a common expression among lawyers at the bar, “I will resist such an attempt totis viribus.”

Argued by Moses Levy, "The Trial of Frederick Eberle and Others for Conspiracy to Prevent the Use of the English Language, 1816," American State Trials, Vol. 12, 1919

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

doldrums

[ dohl-druhmz, dol-, dawl- ]

noun

(used with a plural verb)

a state of inactivity or stagnation, as in business or art.

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What is the origin of doldrums?

Doldrums is the plural of doldrum, which had two very early meanings: the plural doldrums meant “a state or period of inactivity or stagnation” (1811), the singular doldrum “a dullard, a slow, stupid person” (1812). The later, sailing sense of doldrum, “a becalmed ship,” dates to 1823, and “a region in which ships are likely to become becalmed” dates to 1855. The etymology of doldrum(s) is difficult: it seems to have originated as a slang term (and slang terms are notoriously difficult to etymologize), possibly from dold “stupid,” originally a past participle of Middle English dollen, dullen “to dull,” or possibly from the adjective dull. The second syllable, –drum, is probably the same as in tantrum, which, unfortunately, has no satisfactory etymology. Doldrum and doldrums entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is doldrums used?

countries in economic doldrums may exit the pandemic more reliant on Chinese capital and markets rather than less so.

Richard Fontaine, "China Has Squandered Its First Great Opportunity," The Atlantic, July 30, 2020

A decade later, amid the doldrums of the 1970s, politicians were starting to worry about the financial implications of government regulations.

Adam Rogers, "How Much Is a Human Life Actually Worth?" Wired, May 11, 2020

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

scunner

[ skuhn-er ]

noun

an irrational dislike; loathing.

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What is the origin of scunner?

Those who are addicted to the late, great, dearly missed Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series of novels (41 of them!), particularly The Wee Free Men (2003) and its sequels, will be familiar with the Wee Free Men’s constant use of scunner, a term hard to define past “dislike, aversion, or a source of dislike or aversion” (as indefinable as Huck Finn’s fantods). The Wee Free Men are not talking gibberish or nonsense; they are speaking Scots. The verb scunner (also scurnen, skurne) “to shrink back in disgust or fear, quail, hesitate” is first recorded about 1425. Its further history is unknown, but some authorities think it is related to scornen “to despise, be contemptuous, hold in disdain.” Scunner entered English in the 14th century.

how is scunner used?

Many are in search of a copy of A Moveable Feast. This is not always on offer because, for some reason which I can’t remember, Whitman took a scunner to Hemingway.

Alan Massie, "Shakespeare and Company: the bookshop where you could read in bed," Telegraph, December 15, 2011

Ever since my school days I’ve always taken a scunner to businessmen. They’ll do anything for money.

Sōseki Natsume, I Am a Cat, translated by Aiko Ito & Graeme Wilson, 1972

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