Word of the Day

Saturday, November 21, 2020

crankle

[ krang-kuhl ]

verb (used with or without object)

to bend; turn; crinkle.

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What is the origin of crankle?

The uncommon verb crankle “to bend, turn; crinkle” is a frequentative verb derived from crank “to rotate a shaft with a handle or crank.” A frequentative verb is one that expresses frequent or repeated action. In English such verbs end in –er (as flutter from float, slither from slide) and –le (as dazzle from daze, bobble from bob). English frequentatives are a closed set, that is, English no longer produces frequentatives with the suffixes –er and –le. Instead, modern English expresses the frequentative by the plain present tense, e.g., “I walk to school (habitually, usually),” as opposed to the present progressive “I am walking to school (right now).” Crankle entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is crankle used?

Two miles down, the river crankles round an alder grove.

Henry Taylor, Philip van Artevelde, 1834

She pleaded with Dagda not to take her child, but her pleading was no more than the sound that a river makes when it crankles between stones.

Alexander McCall Smith, Dream Angus, 2006

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Friday, November 20, 2020

obstreperous

[ uhb-strep-er-uhs ]

adjective

noisy, clamorous, or boisterous.

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What is the origin of obstreperous?

Obstreperous “noisy, clamorous” comes straight from the Latin adjective obstreperus, a derivative of the verb obstrepere “to make (a loud) noise against.” Obstrepere is a compound of the preposition and prefix ob, ob– “toward, against” and the simple verb strepere “to make a loud noise (of any kind), shout confusedly, clamor.” The facetious, almost comic adjective obstropolous, in existence since the first half of the 18th century, is a variant of obstreperous. Unfortunately there is no further etymology for strepere. Obstreperous entered English at the beginning of the 17th century.

how is obstreperous used?

I could not have been the only one in that obstreperous crowd, made up overwhelmingly of Michiganders, to know the presumably important fact that, well…those car plants didn’t exist.

Mark Danner, "The Con He Rode In On," New York Review of Books, November 19, 2020

For one critic, the final movement [of Beethoven’s Ninth] was sometimes “exceedingly imposing and effective” but its “Szforzandos, Crescendos, Accelerandos, and many other Os” would “call up from their peaceful graves… Handel and Mozart, to witness and deplore the obstreperous roarings of modern frenzy in their art”.

Emily Bootle, "The many Beethoven myths," New Statesman, July 22, 2020

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

imagineer

[ ih-maj-uh-neer ]

noun

a person who is skilled in implementing creative ideas into practical form.

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What is the origin of imagineer?

There must be many millions of people who watched the TV show The Mickey Mouse Club, which began airing in 1955, and these same fans of The Mickey Mouse Club may also associate the word imagineer with the designers of Walt Disney’s theme parks (the original Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955). Imagineer, a blend of imagine and engineer, however, predates Disneyland by a good dozen years, first appearing in print on 1 June 1942, just before the Battle of Midway, in the very darkest days of World War II, in an upbeat advertisement, “Postwar America … will be a great day for Imagineers.”

how is imagineer used?

those who have followed this major imagineer since early baroque efforts like “Veniss Underground” and “Shriek: An Afterword,” or who know his lavish craft guide, “Wonderbook” … won’t find Aurora and its denizens to be such a departure.

Laird Hunt, "Jeff VanderMeer's Young Adult Novel Is a Madcap Magical Mash-Up," New York Times, July 7, 2020

Bernie and Connie Karl are imagineers who make good things happen in Fairbanks and throughout the state of Alaska.

, "Imagine That: Bernie and Connie Karl Recognized for deeds and their passion for Fairbanks," Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, December 13, 2019

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

willyard

[ wil-yerd ]

adjective

Scot. and North England.

obstinate; willful.

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What is the origin of willyard?

Willyard (also spelled willyart) “obstinate, willful” is yet another Scots word designed to confound the English. Even the first syllable, will-, is misleading: it is not the English auxiliary verb will, used, for example, to form the future tense; nor is it the English noun will “the mental faculty, desire, purpose”; it is from the Old Norse adjective villr (stem vill-) “wild, false, bewildered, erring, perplexed, uncertain.” The second syllable, –yard or –yart, is anybody’s guess. Robert Burns uses the word once, “But, O! for Hogarth’s magic pow’r, / To shew Sir Bardie’s willyart glowr” (1786), which guarantees the word’s survival; Sir Walter Scott also used the word in his Heart of Mid-Lothian (1818). Willyard entered English toward the end of the 16th century.

how is willyard used?

“Uh! uh! uh!” ejaculated Dumbiedikes, as he checked the hobbling pace of the pony by our friend Butler. “Uh! uh! it’s a hard-set willyard beast this o’ mine.”

Sir Walter Scott, The Heart of Midlothian, 1818

His disposition resembled that of the famous animal who carried Dumbiedikes so long and so well, but of whom Jeanie Deans remarked that he was willyard.

"Four Fair Nieces," Townsend's Monthly Selection of Parisian Costumes, March 1878

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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

irenic

[ ahy-ren-ik, ahy-ree-nik ]

adjective

tending to promote peace or reconciliation; peaceful or conciliatory.

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What is the origin of irenic?

Irenic “peaceful, conciliatory” comes straight from Greek eirēnikós “belonging to peace,” a derivative of the noun eirḗnē. Eirḗnē was also the name of the Greek goddess of Peace, the name of an 8th-century Byzantine empress, and the name of several Christian saints, whence the English female name Irene. The bewildering number of dialect forms (irā́nā, irḗnā, ireinā, etc.) point to a non-Greek origin. Irenic entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is irenic used?

When casual readers of poetry think about Heaney, his Irishness, his charisma, his connection to thousands of years of poetic tradition …, and his irenic political attitudes first come to mind.

Stephanie Burt, "How Seamus Heaney Became a Poet of Happiness," The New Yorker, October 3, 2019

After a presidential election that deserves the word it was given in headlines—historic—welcome to the newly irenic but still newsworthy period in American politics that goes by the ancient Latin name of interregnum, “between reigns.”

William Safire, "Interregnum," New York Times, November 14, 2008

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Monday, November 16, 2020

zeitgeber

[ tsahyt-gey-ber ]

noun

an environmental cue, as the length of daylight or the degree of temperature, that helps to regulate the cycles of an organism's biological clock.

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What is the origin of zeitgeber?

Zeitgeber “an environmental cue, such as the length of daylight, that helps regulate the biological clock of an organism,” comes from German Zeitgeber, literally “time giver,” a compound of Zeit “time” (cognate with English tide) and Geber, an agent noun from the verb geben “to give” (cognate with English give). The German term is formed on the analogy of Taktgeber “electronic synchronization device, timer, metronome.” Takt and Zeit are near synonyms except that Takt is more narrowly applied to music and rhythm. Zeitgeber entered English in the late 1950s.

how is zeitgeber used?

Natural light is the best-known, though not the only, zeitgeber that syncs human sleep patterns up with the Earth’s 24-hour day. 

Julie Beck, "The Caves of Forgotten Time," The Atlantic, November 9, 2015

Night-shift workers also struggle, he says, because they don’t get the environmental and social cues that help adjust the circadian clock. The most important of these cues, called zeitgebers (German for ”time givers”) is sunlight.

Tara Parker-Pope, "Before Sunrise," New York Times, November 20, 2011 

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Sunday, November 15, 2020

friable

[ frahy-uh-buhl ]

adjective

easily crumbled or reduced to powder; crumbly.

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What is the origin of friable?

The English adjective friable comes from Middle French friable from Latin friābilis “easily crumbled, crumbly,” a derivative of the verb friāre “to break into small pieces, crumble.” Friāre is akin to the verb fricāre “to rub, chafe” (source of English friction) and the adjective frīvolus “worthless, trashy” (English frivolous). In the Olden Days, when studying Latin in high school was routine, some clever wag would reinvent for the millionth time the saying Sīc friat crustulum “Thus crumbles the cookie.” Friable entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is friable used?

In some places, the limestone was so friable that, if you brushed a finger against it, it ran like sand through an hourglass.

Lauren Collins, "On the Roof of Notre-Dame, Before It Burned," The New Yorker, April 15, 2019

In autumn, the days are pleasant, the soil friable, and there is a good choice of desired rose varieties.

Cynthia Westcott, "Tis Possible to Plant Roses This Fall," New York Times, September 13, 1970

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