Word of the Day

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

consternation

[ kon-ster-ney-shuhn ]

noun

a sudden, alarming amazement or dread that results in utter confusion; dismay.

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What is the origin of consternation?

Consternation comes from the Latin noun cōnsternātiō (inflectional stem cōnsternātiōn-) “unsettlement, confusion, disturbance, disorder,” a derivation of the verb cōnsternāre “to throw into confusion, drive frantic, shock.” Cōnsternāre most likely derives from the verb cōnsternere “to strew over, cover, calm (the sea), bring down, fell,” a compound of the intensive prefix con– (a variant of com-) and the simple verb sternere “to lay out on the ground, spread out,” from the Proto-Indo-European root ster-, sterə-, strē-, steru-, streu– “to spread out, stretch out.” The root is the source of Sanskrit stṛṇā́ti “he throws down, strews,” Greek stornýnai and strōnnýnai “to stretch out, make level, make one’s bed,” Old Irish sernim “I spread out,” Albanian shtrin “I spread out.” The variant streu– lies behind Gothic straujan “strew,” Old English strēowian “to scatter” (English strew), and strēaw “hay, straw” (English straw). Consternation entered English in the early 17th century.

how is consternation used?

Deepfakes have inspired much consternation over their potential to destabilize public discourse.

Alexis C. Madrigal, "Mark Zuckerberg Is Rethinking Deepfakes," The Atlantic, June 26, 2019

I was standing shaving at my glass, when I suddenly discovered, to my consternation and amazement, that I was shaving—not myself—I am fifty—but a boy.

Charles Dickens, "The Haunted House," All the Year Round, 1859
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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

solipsism

[ sol-ip-siz-uhm ]

noun

extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one's feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption.

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What is the origin of solipsism?

The usual sense of solipsism is “extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings or desires; egoistic self-absorption,” and not the philosophical sense “the theory that only the self exists or can be proved to exist.” Solipsism comes from New Latin sōlipsismus “extreme self-centeredness,” formed from the Latin adjective sōl(us) “lone, alone,” the pronoun and adjective ips(e) “himself, herself,” and –ismus, a noun suffix borrowed from Greek –ismós, forming action nouns from verbs ending in –ízein (-izāre in Latin), as baptismós “dipping, baptism” (baptismus in Latin), from baptízein (baptizāre in Latin). A literal translation of sōlipsimus would be the ungainly “myselfaloneism.” Solipsism entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is solipsism used?

Murdoch’s fiction frequently offers work as the way out of the self-serving fantasies of solipsism, even simple labor proving therapeutic.

Peter J. Reed, "Introduction," 2001,  A Fairly Honourable Defeat, 1970

“Lady Bird” takes its protagonist through adolescent solipsism to recognition and gratitude ….

Richard Brody, "Greta Gerwig's Exquisite, Flawed 'Lady Bird'," The New Yorker, November 2, 2017
Monday, October 21, 2019

bon vivant

[ bon vee-vahnt; French bawn vee-vahn ]

noun

a person who lives luxuriously and enjoys good food and drink.

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What is the origin of bon vivant?

Bon vivant is completely unnaturalized in English; indeed, if the term were naturalized, it would lose its je ne sais quoi. In French bon vivant simply means “good liver” (a person, not the organ about which every French person is concerned). Bon is a masculine singular adjective meaning “good,” which comes straight from Latin bonus. Vivant is the masculine singular present participle of vivre “to live,” straight from Latin vīvere. The plural of bon vivant is bons vivants, which has the same pronunciation. One also sees the feminine form (not nearly so common), bonne vivante and its plural bonnes vivantes. Bon vivant entered English at the end of the 17th century.

how is bon vivant used?

… his creditors had tampered with his honest name and reputation as a bon vivant. He have bad wine! For shame! He had the best from the best wine-merchant …..

William Makepeace Thackeray, The Adventures of Philip on His Way Through the World, 1862

Jean-Jacques was a bon vivant and might even bring along a couple Cuban cigars ….

M. L. Longworth, Death in the Vines, 2013

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