Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, April 14, 2019

conlang

[ kon-lang ]

noun

an artificially constructed language used by a group of speakers, as opposed to one that has naturally evolved: conlangs such as Esperanto and Klingon.

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What is the origin of conlang?

Conlang, a blend of con(structed) and lang(uage), dates only from around 1991, but the idea of an artificially constructed international auxiliary language has been around since at least the second half of the 19th century. The most famous of these 19th-century conlangs is Esperanto (invented in 1887); other such languages include Volapük (invented about 1879). Twentieth-century conlangs include Ido, derived from Esperanto and developed in 1907; Interlingua (developed between 1924 and 1951); and the half dozen or so languages that J.R.R. Tolkien invented for his trilogy Lord of the Rings. Speakers of conlangs range from those who would like to see them in wide use, e.g., Esperanto, to the aficionados of sci-fi conventions, who delight in the extravagances of, say, Klingon.

how is conlang used?

A good conlang takes time to develop, and a conlanger who works on their own has all the time in the world.

David J. Peterson, The Art of Language Invention, 2015

… I want figurative language. I’ve been pushing for this in Klingon for 20 years. Because if you really are driving your conlang, then you should be able to use metaphors in that language and be understood.

Lawrence M. Schoen, "How the Klingon and Dothraki Languages Conquered Hollywood," Wired, October 4, 2014, from Geek's Guide to the Galaxy, Episode 119, September 30, 2014
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Word of the day

Saturday, April 13, 2019

tootle

[ toot-l ]

verb

to move or proceed in a leisurely way.

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What is the origin of tootle?

Tootle, an English frequentative verb from the verb toot, means “to keep tooting.” Frequentative in grammar and linguistics means “pertaining to a verb that expresses repetition of an action.” In the Slavic languages, e.g., Polish and Russian, frequentative verbs are very common, very complex, and very vexing for the learner. Latin has cantāre “to keep singing,” the source of chant, a frequentative of canere, the “plain” verb meaning “to sing”; and visitāre “to keep seeing, call upon, visit,” a frequentative of vidēre “to see.” Frequentative verbs are no longer productive in English, which uses only –er and –le as frequentative suffixes, as in patter from pat, putter from putt, crackle from crack, and tootle from toot. Tootle entered English in the 19th century.

how is tootle used?

Dash responded with the message “Yay!” and a winsome shimmy, then tootled off at one and a half miles an hour—maybe in search of someone’s job.

Patricia Marx, "Learning to Love Robots," The New Yorker, November 26, 2018

Behind them, the band Kiss tootled down the street on a black float, in its trademark makeup.

Sarah Maslin Nir, "At Macy's Parade, Band, Balloons and, This Thanksgiving, Protesters," New York Times, November 27, 2014

Word of the day

Friday, April 12, 2019

unicorn

[ yoo-ni-kawrn ]

noun

a person or thing that is rare and highly valued, or is a hypothetical ideal.

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What is the origin of unicorn?

Unicorn comes from Old French unicorne, from the Latin adjective ūnicornis “one-horned,” which is used as a noun possibly referring to the rhinoceros in the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible as edited or translated by St. Jerome (c347–420). Ūnicornis is a loan translation from the Greek noun and adjective monókerōs “single-horned” (referring to a wild ox or a unicorn), a word that occurs in the book of Psalms in the Septuagint (the ancient Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures). Ūnicornis is a compound of ūni-, the stem of ūnus “one,” and cornū “horn” and the adjective suffix –is. Unicorn entered English in the 13th century.

how is unicorn used?

Are such politically star-crossed lovers as Mary Matalin and James Carville a relationship unicorn?

Jen Doll, "The Trouble with Interpolitical Dating Is Just the Trouble with Dating," The Atlantic (Wire), October 31, 2012

Big N.B.A. trades are always followed by a scramble to label players and teams as winners and losers, but every so often a unicorn of a deal comes together, and everyone involved seems to benefit.

Benjamin Hoffman, "In the Carmelo Anthony Trade, Everyone Wins," New York Times, July 19, 2018

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