Word of the Day

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

cromulent

[ krom-yuh-luhnt ]

adjective

acceptable or legitimate.

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What is the origin of cromulent?

Cromulent, “acceptable, legitimate,” was first used in an episode of The Simpsons in 1996. When Edna Krabappel, the fourth-grade teacher, remarks, “’Embiggens’? Hm, I never heard that word before I moved to Springfield,” Elizabeth Hoover, the second-grade teacher, answers, “I don’t know why. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.” Cromulent began as a facetious formation of an arbitrary “root” crom– and the English adjective suffix –ulent (from Latin –ulentus “full of”). Cromulent began as a facetious formation but is now at the brink of “cromulence,” as happened earlier with Lewis Carroll’s chortle, frabjous, and galumph.

how is cromulent used?

I suspect that one of the scariest moments for new [crossword] solvers is when they discover that it is perfectly cromulent for constructors to clue answers in a way that means one thing, but twists the answers into real words that mean something totally different.

Deb Amlen, "Mythical Matchmaker," New York Times, April 22, 2020

This is the wonder that is Frinkiac, a compendium of Simpsons moments frozen in time, and the latest, best, most perfectly cromulent way to waste time on the Internet.

Brian Barrett, "Epic 'Frinkiac' Search Engine Matches Any Simpsons Quote With Its Still," Wired, February 3, 2016

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Tuesday, March 02, 2021

comeuppance

[ kuhm-uhp-uhns ]

noun

deserved reward or just deserts, usually unpleasant.

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What is the origin of comeuppance?

Comeuppance “just deserts, usually unpleasant,” is an Americanism that first appeared in Harper’s Magazine in 1859. The word derives from the phrasal verb come up, as a case for judgment at a trial, and the common suffix –ance, which forms nouns from verbs, such as acceptance from accept, or appearance from appear.

how is comeuppance used?

He is such a convincing villain, in fact, that we are all very pleased that he meets his comeuppance when a falling telephone pole impales him while he’s searching for his cell phone.

Noah Gittell, "Michael Cera Might Just Be the Most Interesting Actor of His Generation," The Atlantic, July 29, 2013

The narrative is clear: humans get their comeuppance, Nature fights back, multiple cinematic disasters happen in the space of two hours.

Kate Marvel, "Hollywood: Can You Get Climate Change Right for Once?" Scientific American, January 30, 2019

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Monday, March 01, 2021

verbicide

[ vur-buh-sahyd ]

noun

the willful distortion or depreciation of the original meaning of a word.

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What is the origin of verbicide?

Verbicide, “the willful distortion of the original meaning of a word; a person who willfully distorts the meaning of a word,” comes from Latin verbum “word” and the English suffix –cide, a borrowing of the Latin suffixes –cīda “killer” and –cīdium “act of killing,” derivatives of the verb caedere “to cut down, strike, kill.” The willful distortion is usually something as harmless as a pun, or the weakening of the meanings of words like awful, awesome, divine, and ghastly (which occurs in all languages), as opposed to the perversion of language, especially political language, condemned by everyone from Thucydides in the 5th century b.c., to George Orwell in the mid-20th century. Verbicide entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is verbicide used?

“If the minister were not guilty of so much verbicide, if he were not so diffuse in everything he says, he would be able to give some information to Parliament.”

Eldon Woolliams, quoted in, "Sharp Answers to Oil Changes," The Leader-Post, June 28, 1969

It illustrates not merely how the lazy use of phrases leads to foggy meanings, but how the deliberately lazy use of words can lead to a whole new sloppy concept, and, at worst, to deliberate verbicide.

Colm Brogan, The Glasgow Herald, December 24, 1985

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