Word of the Day

Monday, July 30, 2018

contextomy

[ kon-teks-tuh-mee ]

noun

the practice of misquoting someone by shortening the quotation or by leaving out surrounding words or sentences that would place the quotation in context.

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What is the origin of contextomy?

Contextomy is a blend of the words context and -tomy, a Greek suffix meaning “cutting.” In was first recorded in English in 1965–70.

how is contextomy used?

Contextomy can be used to create a false impression of a source’s attitudes in the service of motives as harmless as selling movie tickets or as harmful as character assassination, which is typical of its employment in political advertising.

Joseph McGlynn III, Matthew S. McGlone, "Language," Encyclopedia of Deception, Volume 2, 2014

They engage in what writer Milton Mayer once called “contextomy“: cutting a statement out of context (e.g. John Adams on religion) in order to give a completely misleading impression what what some famous person believes.

Paul. F. Boller, Jr., John H. George, "Preface," They Never Said It, 1989
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Sunday, July 29, 2018

causerie

[ koh-zuh-ree ]

noun

an informal talk or chat.

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What is the origin of causerie?

In French the noun causerie means “a chat; a talk (as at a conference).” As a literary style a causerie is a short, topical essay, personal and humorous (there is no one precise English translation for causerie). Causerie is a derivative of the verb causer “to chat, talk, gossip.” The French verb comes from Latin causārī “to plead a case, bring a (legal) action; to plead as an excuse or reason,” a derivative of the noun causa “legal case or proceeding, trial.” Causerie entered English in the 19th century.

how is causerie used?

I was once booked by my manager to give a causerie in the drawing-room of a New York millionaire.

Mark Twain, "A Little Note to M. Paul Bourget," How to Tell a Story and Other Essays, 1897

It hardly seemed a speech when he was at the tribune, more like a causerie, though he told very plain truths sometimes to the peuple souverain.

Mary Alsop King Waddington, My First Years as a Frenchwoman, 1914
Saturday, July 28, 2018

hypnopedia

[ hip-nuh-pee-dee-uh ]

noun

sleep learning.

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What is the origin of hypnopedia?

Hypnopedia is first recorded in Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World (1932), and the word may well be a coinage of his. Hypnopedia is a compound word formed from the Greek nouns hýpnos “sleep” and paideía “child-rearing, education.” Hýpnos is a regular Greek development of the Proto-Indo-European noun sup-nos, from the root swep, swop-, sup- “to sleep.” In preclassical Latin the noun swep-nos becomes swop-nos and finally somnus in classical Latin. The Germanic equivalent root, swef-no-, becomes swefen “sleep, dream” in Old English and sweven in Middle English, e.g., in Piers Plowman and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Paideía is a derivative of the noun país (stem paid-) “child.”

how is hypnopedia used?

Years of intensive hypnopaedia and, from twelve to seventeen, Malthusian drill three times a week had made the taking of these precautions almost as automatic and inevitable as blinking.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, 1932

The idea that humans can learn while asleep, a concept sometimes called hypnopedia, has a long and odd history. It hit a particularly strange note in 1927, when New York inventor A. B. Saliger debuted the Psycho-phone. He billed the device as an “automatic suggestion machine.”

Ben Guarino, "Your brain can form new memories while you are asleep, neuroscientists show," Washington Post, August 8, 2017

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