Word of the Day

Saturday, July 25, 2020

coffers

[ kaw-ferz, kof-erz ]

plural noun

funds, especially of a government or corporation.

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What is the origin of coffers?

English coffers, “treasury, funds,” is the plural of coffer, “box, chest (for valuables).” The Middle English cofre (and coffre, coffer) had the same senses in the singular and plural. Middle English cofre comes from Old French cofre, from Latin cophinus “basket, hamper,” from Greek kóphinos “big basket; unit of measure.” Cophinus, going the easy way, yields coffin in English via Old French coffin “basket; coffer; sarcophagus.” (Latin ph from Greek words frequently becomes f in the Romance languages.) Cophinus, going the hard way, becomes cophn(o); the n then dissimilates to r, cofn(o) becoming cofre, just as Latin Londinium “London” becomes Londn(ium), the second n dissimilating to Londr- (Londres in Modern French). Coffers entered English in the 13th century.

how is coffers used?

For decades, American presidential campaigns have churned out enormous quantities of swag—$5 buttons, $15 mugs, $75 guacamole bowls—to promote candidates, fill campaign coffers and gather sophisticated data about supporters.

Mihir Zaveri and , "Where Does All the Swag Go After Campaigns Fail? Everywhere," New York Times, February 25, 2020
[The team] required shareholders to buy six season tickets, hoping to fill the bleachers and the coffers in a single go.

Austin Smith, "The Lords of Lambeau," Harper's Magazine, January 2017

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Friday, July 24, 2020

taciturn

[ tas-i-turn ]

adjective

inclined to silence; reserved in speech; reluctant to join in conversation.

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What is the origin of taciturn?

Taciturn ultimately derives from Latin taciturnus “keeping silent, saying nothing, silent by habit or disposition,” a derivative of tacitus, past participle of tacēre “to say nothing, be silent.” Tacēre and its derivatives come from an uncommon Proto-Indo-European root tak-, takē- “to be silent.” Tak- regularly becomes thah- in Germanic, yielding Gothic thahan “to keep silent, hold one’s peace,” and Old Icelandic thagna “become silent.” Tak- in Celtic yields Welsh tagu and Breton taga “strangling, choking” (one way of obtaining silence). Taciturn entered English in the 18th century.

how is taciturn used?

But there at the depot was her husband, the taciturn man who kept his emotions to himself …
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns, 2010

Ernő Rubik has often been painted as a taciturn loner, a grudging genius who built a beautiful object he hoped would create an introspective space where individuals could consider the elegance of geometry, and who instead became an icon for one of the great marketing crazes of all time.

Stefany Anne Goldberg, "Puzzled: The Rubik's Cube at 30." The Smart Set, April 13, 2010

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

clamber

[ klam-ber, klam-er ]

verb (used with or without object)

to climb, using both feet and hands; climb with effort or difficulty.

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What is the origin of clamber?

Clamber, “to climb using hands and feet, with effort or difficulty,” comes from Middle English clambren (also clameren, clemeren), possibly a frequentative verb from climben (also clemme, climme, klimbe, clomme) “to climb.” Further etymology is unsatisfying: it has been suggested that clamber is a blend of Old English climban “to climb” and clæmman “to press”; clamber is akin to Old Norse klambra “to hook onto,” and Middle High German klamben and German klammern, both meaning “to clamp tightly.” Clamber entered English in the second half of the 14th century.

how is clamber used?

Outdoor restaurant tables and chairs could be seen bobbing in the waters, and tourists were forced to clamber through the windows of high-end hotels as the water rose to about six feet before 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

Elisabetta Povoledo, "Venice Flooding Brings City to 'Its Knees,'" New York Times, November 13, 2019

He began to clamber as fast as he could out of the enclosed space, his feet scrabbling at the wall and knocking bricks free.

Matthew Hughes, "Jewel of the Heart," Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2018

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