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[ sig-nit ] [ ˈsɪg nɪt ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a young swan.

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What is the origin of cygnet?

Cygnet “a young swan” was spelled during the Middle English period as signet but is based on Latin cygnus “swan,” plus the French suffix -et “little, small” (as in owlet “little owl” and tablet “little table”). This habit of changing the spelling of words to reflect their origins, also called restored spelling, is hardly limited to cygnet; take a gander at arctic, asthma, debt, homily, horizon, receipt, and symptom, which were respectively spelled in Middle or Early Modern English as artik, asma, dette, omelie, orizonte, receite, and sinthoma but changed to reflect their earlier forms in Latin or Ancient Greek. Despite the spelling of cygnet as signet in Middle English, cygnet is not related to the modern English word signet “a small seal, as on a finger ring,” which is a compound of sign and the suffix -et. Cygnet was first recorded in English in the early 15th century.

how is cygnet used?

The plan was to raise the wild cygnets at captive ponds and then release them in the Hayden Valley come fall …. Over the years most of the cygnets haven’t been released in Yellowstone park itself, but rather along the fringes of a tristate trumpeter swan population that covers much of the larger ecosystem.

Mike Koshmrl, “Biologists intervene to keep swans alive in Yellowstone,” AP News, July 25, 2018

Today, juvenile swans—cygnets—are counted, weighed, checked for injury or illness and then released …. A sudden die-off in the 1980s was attributed to swans swallowing lead fishing weights. Numbers bounced back after they were banned.

Corinne Purtill, “Queen owns all of the U.K.'s swans. Every year, she counts them,” USA Today, July 22, 2015
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[ hoh-kuhm ] [ ˈhoʊ kəm ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


out-and-out nonsense; bunkum.

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What is the origin of hokum?

Hokum “out-and-out nonsense” is an Americanism, a word first recorded in American English, and as with many Americanisms, hokum has quite the peculiar backstory. Though its origins are disputed, many linguists consider hokum to be a combination of hocus-pocus and prior Word of the Day bunkum “insincere talk.” Hocus-pocus is a fake Latin term used by magicians and jugglers that may have been based on the real Latin phrase hoc est (enim) corpus (meum) “(for) this is (my) body,” but that is a fringe theory. Bunkum is a namesake of Buncombe County, North Carolina (county seat Asheville), which Felix Walker represented in the House of Representatives from 1817 to 1823. During a debate over what eventually became the Missouri Compromise, Walker attempted to deliver a speech, speaking “to Buncombe” rather than to the House, that was so lengthy and irritating that his colleagues shouted at him until he stopped talking. The name Buncombe (respelled phonetically as bunkum) soon developed the meaning of “insincere speechmaking by a politician intended merely to please local constituents.” Hokum was first recorded in English in the late 1910s.

how is hokum used?

Students should get an introduction to logic. They should learn a bit about cognitive science to understand some of the biases and mental shortcuts we all subconsciously employ …. Critical thinking is as much about problem solving and extracting meaning from complexity as it is about not falling for hokum.

Scott K. Johnson, “Re-thinking the way colleges teach critical thinking,” Scientific American, December 14, 2012

There were always a few people around who had it figured that the witch superstition was hokum, but they weren’t scientific rationalists. According to Hugh Trevor-Roper here (in his book of historical essays, “The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century”) they were mostly lawyers, medical doctors and mystical philosophers.

Bruce Sterling, “Enlightened skeptics during the witch-craze,” Wired, August 9, 2018
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[ raht-skel-er, rat-, rath- ] [ ˈrɑtˌskɛl ər, ˈræt-, ˈræθ- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a restaurant patterned on the cellar of a German town hall, usually located below street level.

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What is the origin of rathskeller?

Rathskeller “a restaurant patterned on the cellar of a German town hall,” which is spelled Ratskeller in modern German, is not related to rats. Instead, Rathskeller is based on Rathaus “town hall” (with the -aus cropped off) and Keller “cellar.” In Rathaus, the Rat- element means “advice, counsel” or “council” and is related to the names Conrad (literally meaning “brave advice”) and Ralph (earlier Radulf, literally “wolf advice”). The -haus part of Rathaus is a cognate of English house and is used much like how English features house in terms such as bathhouse, clubhouse, and coffeehouse simply to mean “building.” German Keller and English cellar both come from Latin cellārium “storeroom,” which is related to English cell (from Latin cella “room”). Rathskeller was first recorded in English in the early 1860s.

how is rathskeller used?

The building dates to the 1860s, and tin sheathing on the wall pre-dates the 1920s, Stewart said. They found horsehair in parts of the masonry. Wood-fired stove chutes are still notched in the wall. The place is a little less than 3,500 square feet plus a basement that will be refurbished and shows promise as a potential rathskeller, they said.

Marc Bona, “Bookhouse Brewing to add to West 25th Street brewing district,” Cleveland.com, February 15, 2018

He descended the stairs to the ground floor of the hotel and wandered aimlessly about through the lobby into the billiard room, and finally to a plate glass door upon which was lettered the word “Rathskeller.” What a Rathskeller might be he did not know, but, as there was another set of letters on the door and those spelled “Push,” he pushed. The Rathskeller was a large room, with a bar at one end and many little tables scattered about.

Joseph C. Lincoln, Cap'n Dan's Daughter, 1914
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