• Word of the day
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    Thursday, October 18, 2018

    cryonaut

    noun [krahy-uh-nawt]
    a person whose dead body has been preserved by the technique of cryonics.
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    What is the origin of cryonaut?

    The rare noun cryonaut derives clearly and simply from the Greek nouns krýos “icy cold” and naútēs “sailor.” Krýos comes from the Proto-Indo-European root kreus-, krus- “to freeze, form a crust,” from which Greek also derives krýstallos “ice” (English crystal). Krus- is also the source of Latin crusta “a hard covering, scab, crust.” Naútēs is a derivative of the noun naûs “ship,” from the same Proto-Indo-European source as Latin nāvis “ship,” nauta “sailor,” and nāvigāre “travel by ship.” Cryonaut entered English in the 20th century.

    How is cryonaut used?

    ... cryonics ... has now been around for 60 years, since the death of retired psychology professor James H. Bedford. Alcor, the company that still has his body in a frozen chamber, calls him the first “cryonaut.” Kat Eschner, "The First Cryonic Preservation Took Place Fifty Years Ago Today," Smithsonian, January 12, 2017

    For the moment, preservation is a pricey proposition, largely because each "cryonaut" must set aside enough capital to pay for maintenance indefinitely out of interest alone. Michael Cieply, “They Freeze Death if Not Taxes,” Los Angeles Times, September 9, 1990

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    thunderstone

    noun [thuhn-der-stohn]
    any of various stones or fossils formerly thought to be fallen thunderbolts.
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    What is the origin of thunderstone?

    Thunderstone in the sense “thunderbolt” dates from the end of the 16th century; the sense “stone or fossil” dates from the late 17th century.

    How is thunderstone used?

    Palta might not be hidden from the sky; thus the sacred thunder-stone of Terminus at Rome stood under a hole in the roof of Jupiter's temple ... Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, 1955

    In Germany until the early 20th century people believed in the magic properties of the devil's fingers, known also as catstones, thunderstones, wombstones or even candles of the dead. According to ancient lore these strange stones are falling from the sky and witches can use them to cause thunderstorms. David Bressan, "Fire burn, and cauldron bubble ... The Thunderstone," Scientific American, October 28, 2013

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, October 16, 2018

    linguaphile

    noun [ling-gwuh-fahyl]
    a language and word lover.
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    What is the origin of linguaphile?

    Linguist has existed in English since the 16th century. It means “one who is adept at learning and using foreign languages; one who is a student of language or linguistics; a translator or interpreter.” Linguaphile has a somewhat different meaning: “one who loves words or languages.” The originally Greek suffix -phile (“lover of”) is completely naturalized in English. Lingua in Latin means “tongue, language”; its Old Latin form was dingua, from Proto-Indo-European dṇghwā, which is also the source of Germanic (English) tongue, and of Celtic (Old Irish) teng, Baltic inžũ-, and Slavic (Polish) język (with Baltic and Slavic loss of initial d-; ę represents a nasalized vowel). Linguaphile entered English in the late 20th century.

    How is linguaphile used?

    The collection has so many good passages — whole paragraphs that move into pages with never a misstep — that any linguaphile could spend a great afternoon in a little spasm of dazzle. Robin Romm, "Baser Instincts," New York Times, July 19, 2013

    In the story “Entourage,” a linguaphile travels to Poland, Denmark, Germany, Turkey, and more, collecting suitcases full of books in their original languages. Nathan Scott McNamara, "Everything Was a Fake," Los Angeles Review of Books, June 8, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, October 15, 2018

    patzer

    noun [paht-ser, pat-]
    a casual, amateurish chess player.
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    What is the origin of patzer?

    Patzer was first recorded in 1955–60. It is probably from German Patzer “bungler,” equivalent to patz(en) “to bungle” (compare Austrian dialect Patzen “stain, blot,” patzen “to make a stain”).

    How is patzer used?

    Anatoly Karpov, the champion before Kasparov, once said the only difference between a prodigy and a patzer was how far into the future a player could look. Mitch Silver, The Bookworm, 2018

    You're a patzer. Look that up in your dictionary. Mark Coggins, The Immortal Game, 2006

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, October 14, 2018

    brightwork

    noun [brahyt-wurk]
    polished metal parts, as on a ship or automobile.
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    What is the origin of brightwork?

    Brightwork is an Americanism dating back to 1835–45.

    How is brightwork used?

    One other mode of passing time while in port was cleaning and polishing your bright-work; for it must be known that, in men-of-war, every sailor has some brass or steel of one kind or other to keep in high order ... Herman Melville, White Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War, 1850

    Under the unblinking gaze of the sun, windshields blazed and brightwork gleamed. Dean Koontz, The Husband, 2006

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, October 13, 2018

    postern

    noun [poh-stern, pos-tern]
    a back door or gate.
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    What is the origin of postern?

    English postern comes from Old French posterne, originally “a concealed exit from a fort, a sally port,” later “a small door, a back door.” Posterne is an alteration of Old French posterle “a back door, back way," from Late Latin posterula “a small back door or gate; back way, byway,” a diminutive noun formed from the adjective posterus “(coming or being) after or in the future” and -ula, the feminine form of the common diminutive noun suffix -ulus. The -n- in posterne is likely due to the influence of the Old French adjectives interne (from Latin internus) and externe (from Latin externus). Postern entered English in the early 14th century.

    How is postern used?

    It was the second gate, a postern in the north wall, that accounted for the most noticeable change. James A. Michener, The Source, 1965

    A practicable postern was ajar on the yellow wood of the studded gates. Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford, Romance, 1903

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, October 12, 2018

    sennachie

    noun [sen-uh-kee]
    Chiefly Scot., Irish. a professional storyteller of family genealogy, history, and legend.
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    What is the origin of sennachie?

    There are several English spellings, e.g., shanachie, seannachie, for the exotic Irish and Scottish noun meaning “storyteller, oral historian, genealogist.” The word in Scots Gaelic is seanachaidh (seanachaidhe in Irish) meaning “historian, antiquarian, chronicler,” from sen “old, ancient” and cūis “matter, affair.” Sen is from Proto-Indo-European sen(o)- “old,” most obvious in Latin senex “old man,” senātus “senate,” and senectūs “old age.” Senos appears in Greek in the noun hénos “year,” and the adjective hénos “last year’s”; and in Baltic (Lithuanian) as sẽnas “old,” and sẽnis “old man.” Sennachie entered English in the 16th century.

    How is sennachie used?

    ... I do not think he could falsify a folk-tale if he tried. At the most he would change it as a few years' passing from sennachie to sennachie must do perforce. William Butler Yeats, "Irish Folk Tales," The National Observer, 1891

    My schoolfellows like my stories well enough-better at least, on most occasions, than they did the lessons of the master; but, beyond the common ground of enjoyment which these ex-tempore compositions furnished to both the "sennachie" and his auditors, our tracts of amusement lay widely apart. Hugh Miller, My Schools and Schoolmasters; or, The Story of My Education, 1854

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