Word of the Day

Word of the day

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

corvine

[ kawr-vahyn, -vin ]

adjective

pertaining to or resembling a crow.

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What is the origin of corvine?

Corvine “of or relating to crows” derives from the Latin adjective corvīnus, from the noun corvus “raven” and the adjectival suffix -īnus. A common misconception is that corvus shares an origin with the similar-sounding English word crow, but in fact—as we learned from the recent Word of the Day ravenouscorvus shares an origin instead with English raven. Latin c- frequently corresponds to Old English h-, and Latin corvus is therefore related to Old English hrǣfn, which became raven in modern English. This pattern also explains how Latin caput connects to English head (Old English hēafod) and how Latin cor (stem cord-) is cognate to English heart (Old English heorte). Corvine was first recorded in the 1650s.

how is corvine used?

I looked overhead and then scanned the horizon. In the north, above the trees shading a dry creek bed, there were a lot of crows. A bunch of them. I’d go so far as to say that it was even a crowd of crows. Dozens, in any event. They settled into the trees and then roiled upward, like ash and cinders from a fierce fire … I felt as if I were looking in on a corvine colloquium to which I had not been invited.

Verlyn Klinkenborg, “Sounds From the Sky,” The New York Times, November 19, 2013

He had a corvine nose, mouse-like eyes and a base, greedy expression. The two men charmed and wheedled and swindled their way into court, extorting money with astrological predictions, remedies against sickness, vague promises to find the philosopher’s stone.

Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti, Veritas, translated by Gregory Dowling, 2013

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Word of the day

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

skookum

[ skoo-kuhm ]

adjective

large; powerful; impressive.

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What is the origin of skookum?

Skookum “large, powerful, impressive” derives from Chinook Jargon, a pidgin spoken primarily during the 1800s in the Pacific Northwest that still has hundreds of speakers today. A pidgin is a simplified language variety that fuses elements from multiple languages, and Chinook Jargon is primarily based on four sources: English, French, Lower Chinook (a Chinookan language once spoken along the Columbia River), and Nootka (a Wakashan language still spoken along the western coast of Vancouver Island). However, skookum entered Chinook Jargon instead from Lower Chehalis, a Salishan language once spoken in the southwestern coastal area of the Olympic Peninsula; skookum derives from Lower Chehalis skwəkwə́m “ghost, spirit, monster.” Skookum was first recorded in English circa 1830.

how is skookum used?

[Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato] is perhaps now most widely associated with Baroque and bel canto opera—her skookum approach to the aria “Tanti affetti” from Rossini’s “La Donna del Lago,” with its dizzying runs and leaps up and down the staff, has made her rendition a cult favorite—but she is no less at ease with the gentle lines of the American songbook.

Joel Rozen, “Opera’s Miss Congeniality Takes On a Rare ‘Cinderella,’” The New York Times, April 6, 2018

At the head of the anti statehood efforts was the lobbyist for the Alaska Packers Association, W.C. Arnold. “The fishing and cannery industries employed W.C. Arnold, a man so powerful that he was called ‘Judge Arnold,'” Alaskan historian Claus Kaske told the San Francisco Chronicle in September of 2008. “Arnold was a skookum lobbyist, and he told Congress that business was paying the cost of running the territory.”

Dave Kiffer, "Ketchikan Supported Alaska Statehood, Eventually Chronicle, Daily News Fought The Battle Locally," SitNews, January 03, 2009

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Word of the day

Monday, January 10, 2022

cantillate

[ kan-tl-eyt ]

verb (used with object)

to chant; intone.

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What is the origin of cantillate?

Cantillate “to chant” derives from Late Latin cantillāre “to sing low, hum,” a verb formed from the stem cant- “sing” and the diminutive element -ill-. Cant- ultimately derives from the verb canere “to sing” and is the source of many words related to song, pronunciation, persuasion, and even light magic. While cant- is preserved in words such as cantor, in many stems, Latin a- often becomes e- after a prefix is added; this is how cant- becomes the cent- element in accent (from Latin accentus “speaking tone”) and in incentive (from Latin incentīvus “setting the tune”). Because Latin ca- often becomes cha- in French, the Latin stem cant- is visible today in the French-derived word enchant. Cantillate was first recorded in English in the early 1860s.

how is cantillate used?

Shmuly’s voice, in contrast to his father’s, was high pitched and extraterrestrially sweet, as if the hormonal shakedown had not quite taken. You leaned forward with your elbows planted on the balcony railing, … your brow resting against the steeple of your fingers pointed heavenward as he melodically cantillated the tropes he had so perceptively deconstructed the night before.

Tova Reich, Mother India, 2018

Perhaps unique among international teams, the … group … face to the west and sing the national anthem with a gusto that threatens to require a second warm-up. Before that though comes another ritual, an emotional chant known as the Inifresi, a pledge to their motherland in Chamorro. Standing in a tight circle the entire playing, coaching and support staff cantillate the words as if coming from the depths of their soul, a paean to their forebears.

Scott McIntyre, "Guam: the tiny US territory that just won its first ever World Cup match," The Guardian, June 12, 2015

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