Word of the Day

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

cynosure

[ sahy-nuh-shoor, sin-uh- ]

noun

something that strongly attracts attention by its brilliance, interest, etc.: the cynosure of all eyes.

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What is the origin of cynosure?

In Greek Kynósoura means “dog’s tail” and is also the name of the constellation Ursa Minor (also known as the Lesser Bear, Little Bear, and especially in American usage, the Little Dipper). The first element of Kynósoura is the genitive singular of the Greek noun kúōn “dog, bitch, shepherd dog, watchdog.” Greek kúōn (and its stem kun-) come a very wide spread Proto-Indo-European noun kúwōn (stems kwon-, kun-) “dog,” source of Sanskrit śvā́ (also śuvā́) (stem śun-), Old Prussian sunis, Germanic (German) Hund “dog,” (Old English) hund, (English hound). Greek ourā́ “tail” is akin to Greek órrhos “rump” (from orso-) comes from Proto-Indo-European orsos “buttocks, rump, tail,” source of Germanic (German) Arsch and English arse (ass in American English). Cynosure entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is cynosure used?

The throne of the gods was the most famous institution in Atvatabar. It was the cynosure of every eye, the object of all adoration, the tabernacle of all that was splendid in art, science and spiritual perfection.

William R. Bradshaw, The Goddess of Atvatabar, 1892

… the garden’s look will be substantially different, with 16 new pieces by artists including … Katharina Fritsch, whose “Hahn/Cock,” an ultramarine rooster more than 20 feet tall, might challenge “Spoonbridge” as the garden’s cynosure.

Robin Pogrebin and Randy Kennedy, "The New Cherries on Top of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden," New York Times, January 21, 2016
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Monday, May 21, 2018

adultescent

[ ad-uhl-tes-uhnt, uh-duhl- ]

noun

a young adult or middle-aged person who has interests, traits, etc., that are usually associated with teenagers.

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What is the origin of adultescent?

The informal noun kidult, a combination of kid and adult, which dates from about 1960, has mostly been replaced by the equally informal noun adultescent (from adult and adolescent), which first appears in the mid-1990s.

how is adultescent used?

It almost seems as if we’re actively trying to raise a nation of “adultescents.”

Elizabeth Kolbert, "Spoiled Rotten," The New Yorker, July 2, 2012

Adultescent came of age in 2004, but only as a word. The adult it describes is too busy playing Halo 2 on his Xbox or watching SpongeBob at his parents’ house to think about growing up.

John Tierney, "Adultescent," New York Times, December 26, 2004
Sunday, May 20, 2018

sub rosa

[ suhb roh-zuh ]

adverb

confidentially; secretly; privately.

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What is the origin of sub rosa?

The English adverbial phrase sub rosa comes directly from the Latin phrase sub rosā “under the rose,” from the use of a rose suspended from the ceiling of the council chamber during meetings to symbolize the sworn confidence of the participants. This use of the rose is based on the Greek myth that Aphrodite (Latin Venus) gave a rose to her son Eros (Latin Cupid); Eros then gave the rose to Harpocrates, the god of silence and secrets, to ensure that Aphrodite’s dalliances remained hidden. Sub rosa entered English in the 17th century.

how is sub rosa used?

He was too impatient. He should’ve worked sub rosa, built a wider network of supporters; and he should not have struck openly.

Michael Flynn, In the Lion's Mouth, 2011

Besides the pleasure of a newly acquired possession, there is an agreeable feeling of having bought it sub rosa.

Daniele Varè, Maker of Heavenly Trousers, 1935

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