Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, November 11, 2021

curlicue

[ kur-li-kyoo ]

noun

an ornamental, fancy curl or twist, as in a signature.

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What is the origin of curlicue?

Curlicue “an ornamental, fancy curl or twist” is a compound of the adjective curly and the noun cue. Curly, from the verb curl, appears in Middle English as crulled “curled” and is either derived from or related to Middle Dutch crul “curl,” of Germanic origin and related to the name of the rolled pastry cruller. The -ru- of crul became the -ur- of curl as the result of metathesis, a linguistic phenomenon in which sounds switch places. Metathesis is also responsible for creating third, thirteen, and thirty from Old English thridda, thrēotēne, and thrītig. The cue part of curlicue is most likely from French queue “tail,” via Old French from Latin cauda or cōda “tail,” which we discussed in the recent Word of the Day podcast about codicil. Alternatively, this cue could be in reference to the letter Q and its easily identifiable loops when written in cursive. Curlicue was first recorded in English circa 1840.

how is curlicue used?

Armenia is one of the few countries in the world with its own alphabet—invented in the fifth century by St. Mesrop Mashtots, an Armenian linguist. The curved letters are full of loops and curlicues, reminiscent of Ethiopia’s Amharic, … although researchers say there is no connection.

Malaka Gharib, “Why Writing The Word ‘Freedom’ Is More Powerful Than Typing It,” NPR, July 3, 2018

The book is also very much a celebration of Cass [Elliott]’s beauty and her music, which often intertwine visually by way of [Pénélope] Bagieu’s curlicue lines and handwritten text, as when the familiar lyrics “Allll the leaves are brown … ” swirl together with cigarette smoke.

Meg Lemke, "Dream a Little Dream of Me: An Interview with Pénélope Bagieu," Paris Review, March 28, 2017

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Word of the day

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

crapulous

[ krap-yuh-luhs ]

adjective

given to or characterized by gross excess in drinking or eating.

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What is the origin of crapulous?

Crapulous “characterized by gross excess in drinking or eating” derives from Late Latin crāpulōsus “inclined to drunkenness,” from Latin crāpula “drunkenness,” either derived from or related to Ancient Greek kraipálē “drunkenness, hangover.” A common misconception is that crapulous is connected to a certain word for “excrement,” but the resemblance between these two words is a happy coincidence. While crapulous has a clear history, the more colorful term crap is in fact of uncertain origin—perhaps from Middle Dutch krappe “something cut off or separated,” perhaps via Old French from a Frankish cognate of English scrape, perhaps from Medieval Latin crappa “chaff,” or perhaps related to English crop. Crapulous was first recorded in English in the 1530s.

how is crapulous used?

Much wine was drunk and all pretenses of table manners were soon discarded. Leon and [Vivian] planted their elbows on the table and slurped the chicken from the bones with noisy, lustful abandon …. refilling one another’s wineglasses with increasing frequency throughout the meal, uncorking one bottle of wine after another, often uncorking another bottle even before the previous had been depleted of its contents .… Both of them ate and drank to bubbling crapulous excess.

Benjamin Hale, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, 2011

Fettes was an old drunken Scotchman, a man of education obviously, and a man of some property, since he lived in idleness. He had come to Debenham years ago, while still young, and by a mere continuance of living had grown to be an adopted townsman …. His place in the parlour at the George, his absence from church, his old, crapulous, disreputable vices, were all things of course in Debenham.

Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Body-Snatcher,” Tales and Fantasies, 1905

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Word of the day

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

brasserie

[ bras-uh-ree ]

noun

an unpretentious restaurant, tavern, or the like, that serves drinks, especially beer, and simple or hearty food.

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What is the origin of brasserie?

Brasserie “an unpretentious restaurant or tavern” is a borrowing from French, in which the term means “brewery,” though it is not related to the English word brew. Brasserie comes from the Middle French verb brasser “to brew,” which likely derives via Gallo-Latin bracem from a word for a kind of grain used to make malt in Gaulish, an extinct Celtic language once spoken in France. Similar words for “malt” still exist today in modern Celtic languages, such as Irish Gaelic braich and Welsh brag. The French suffix -erie in brasserie indicates location and is also found in terms such as patisserie “pastry shop” and boulangerie “bread shop,” and the suffix’s English cognate, -ery, is present in bakery, distillery, fishery, and refinery. Brasserie was first recorded in English in the early 1860s.

how is brasserie used?

Paris once had a thriving micro-brew culture, housed in the brasseries that migrants from the province of Alsace brought to the city in the late 19th century. Brasseries were raucous and informal and open longer hours than traditional restaurants; they changed how Paris ate—but with their fresh, individual, northern-style beers, they changed how the city drank too.

Maryn McKenna, “Can the City of Light Become the City of Beer?” National Geographic, June 17, 2014

France’s masses have long flocked to brasseries knowing they can order anything at any hour, and to enjoy the scene: the writers, painters, models, stockbrokers, retired gents and couples on first dates, and the ever-present tourists.

Steven Greenhouse, "A Restaurant Empire, Parisian Style," New York Times, February 29, 1988

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