Word of the Day

Thursday, September 20, 2018

dandle

[ dan-dl ]

verb

to move (a baby, child, etc.) lightly up and down, as on one's knee or in one's arms.

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What is the origin of dandle?

The English verb dandle has no clear etymology. It looks akin to the Italian noun dandola, dondola “a (child’s) doll” and the verb dandolare “to rock, swing, dangle, dandle,” but there is no recorded evidence associating the Italian dandolare with English dandle. Dandle entered English in the 16th century.

how is dandle used?

… Paul would want me to dandle his baby on my knee. There is a time to dandle, and a time to watch a limited amount of dandling from the comfort and security of a dry easy chair across the room.

Gregory Mcdonald, Exits and Entrances, 1988

… I would like quiet, books to read, a wife to love me, and some children to dandle on my knee.

William Makepeace Thackeray, The Virginians, 1858–59
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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

psittacine

[ sit-uh-sahyn, -sin ]

adjective

of or relating to parrots.

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What is the origin of psittacine?

The English adjective psittacine comes straight from Latin psittacinus, which comes straight from the Greek adjective psittákinos, a derivative of the noun psittakós “parrot” and the common adjective suffix -inos. Sittakós and bittakós, variant spellings of psittakós, confirm what one would expect, that psittakós is not a native Greek word. Psittacine entered English in the 19th century.

how is psittacine used?

In 1930, the U.S. Health Service clamped down on the importation of psittacine birds, other than a few permitted to research institutions, zoos, and private parrot fanciers returning from Europe with uninfected birds they had owned for at least six months.

, "New Deal for Parrots," The New Yorker, February 2, 1952

Now the psittacine tribe can claim another brainy feat: tool use. Researchers at the University of York and the University of St. Andrews observed captive greater vasa parrots … using date pits and pebbles to pulverize cockle shells.

Michelle Z. Donahue, "14 Fun Facts About Parrots," Smithsonian, January 5, 2016
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Johnsonese

[ jon-suh-neez, -nees ]

noun

a literary style characterized by rhetorically balanced, often pompous phraseology and an excessively Latinate vocabulary: so called from the style of writing practiced by Samuel Johnson.

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What is the origin of Johnsonese?

Samuel Johnson (1709–84) is indeed guilty of Johnsonese, as in his (1755) dictionary definition for network “Any thing reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections,” which is incomprehensible (and unforgivable in a dictionary). But far more often Dr. Johnson is direct and pungent (and sometimes amusing), as in his definition for lexicographer “A writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge…” Johnsonese entered English in the 19th century.

how is Johnsonese used?

Though I, too, admired his Dictionary, his delightfully wrong-headed “Lives of the Poets” and his countless celebrated apothegms, I agree with Macaulay that he translated the English language into a “Johnsonese” dialect whose now deflated orotundities still disfigure public speaking and other such pious utterances.

Anatole Broyard, "Books of the Times: The Man Behind the Myth," New York Times, February 8, 1973

He valued its uncluttered prose – its freedom from the Johnsonese and Gallicisms that had marred Burney’s late style.

Thomas Keymer, "Too Many Pears," London Review of Books, August 27, 2015

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