Word of the Day

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Croesus

[ kree-suhs ]

noun

a very rich man.

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What is the origin of Croesus?

Croesus comes from Latin Croesus, from Greek Kroîsos (the name has no further etymology). Croesus, who lived from about 595 b.c. to 546 b.c., was the last king of fabulously wealthy Lydia, an ancient kingdom that occupied much of modern western Turkey. (Croesus issued the first gold coins of standardized quality and weight, and the Greeks adopted coinage from the Lydians). For the ancient Greeks (e.g., for the poet Sappho), Sardis, the capital of Lydia, was the equivalent of the Paris of today, elegant and stylish. Croesus was also remarkable for the Greeks because of his philhellenism: he embellished Greek temples in Ionia and made many offerings to the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. The death of Croesus, possibly burnt alive on a pyre on the orders of Cyrus the Great, was profoundly shocking to the Greeks: how could a man of such piety come to such a brutal end? Croesus entered English at the end of the 14th century.

how is Croesus used?

Apple’s share price fell by 8% yesterday, wiping more than $40bn off its value in a few hours. Is the world falling out of love with the Croesus of Cupertino?

Steve Rose, "A brief guide to everything that's annoying about Apple," The Guardian, April 27, 2016

One of our countrymen, Mr. Cockerell, appears to be considered the manufacturing Croesus of these parts, and his name is that which is generally mentioned by the obsequious valets-de-place ….

Robert Clouston, Letters from Germany and Belgium, 1839

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Saturday, June 06, 2020

jury-rig

[ joo r-ee-rig ]

verb (used with object)

to assemble quickly or from whatever is at hand, especially for temporary use: to jury-rig stage lights using automobile headlights.

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What is the origin of jury-rig?

Jury-rig, “to assemble quickly with whatever is at hand, improvise, especially for temporary use,” is of obscure origin, but probably originally a nautical term, based on another, earlier nautical term jury-mast, “a temporary mast on a sailing vessel replacing a damaged or destroyed mast,” first recorded in 1617. Jury-rig is close enough in meaning and sound to jerry- in jerry-build (and its derivatives jerry-builder and jerry-built) “to build or make in a haphazard, slovenly fashion,” and the confusion of those terms resulted in the hybrid verb jerry-rig, first recorded about 1960. (There are people in south Jersey and Philadelphia who pronounce ferry as furry and color as keller.) But jerry-build and jerry-rig always imply flimsiness and shoddiness; jury-rig implies improvisation. Jury-rig entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is jury-rig used?

She told the school custodian that her bike handlebars were all screwed up and that she needed some duct tape to juryrig it until she got home.

Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes, 2007

New problems arose all the time, and the engineers were forever improvising ways to jury-rig a component or bypass a system.

Ken Follett, Code to Zero, 2000

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Friday, June 05, 2020

shambolic

[ sham-bol-ik ]

adjective

Chiefly British Informal.

very disorganized; messy or confused: I’ve had a shambolic year, the worst ever.

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What is the origin of shambolic?

Shambolic, “disorganized; messy or confused,” is a colloquial adjective, used mostly by the British. The word is a combination of shambles and symbolic. Shambolic is a fairly recent coinage, entering English about 1970.

how is shambolic used?

a programme to train thousands of contact-tracers to help control the spread of coronavirus has been described as shambolic and inadequate by recruits.

Frances Perraudin, "'No one had any idea': Contact tracers lack knowledge about Covid-19 job," The Guardian, May 20, 2020

If democratic procedures start to seem shambolic, then democratic ideas will seem questionable as well.

Timothy Snyder, "How a Russian Fascist Is Meddling in America's Election," New York Times, September 20, 2016

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