Word of the Day

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

déjà vu

[ dey-zhah voo, vyoo; French dey-zha vy ]

noun

the illusion of having previously experienced something actually being encountered for the first time.

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What is the origin of déjà vu?

The late, great social philosopher Lawrence “Yogi” Berra is credited with saying “It’s déjà vu all over again,” referring to Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris constantly hitting back-to-back home runs for the Yankees in the early ’60s. This “Yogi-ism” aside, déjà vu, literally “already seen,” is the illusion of having previously experienced something actually being encountered for the first time, a term used in psychology. The phrase is French; it was first used and perhaps coined by Emile Boirac (1851–1917), a French philosopher and parapsychologist. Déjà “already” comes from Old French des ja “from now on”; des comes from Vulgar Latin dex or de ex, a combination of Latin prepositions “of, from” and ex “out, out of.” Ja “now, already,” comes from the Latin adverb jam with the same meaning. Vu comes from Vulgar Latin vidūtus or vedūtus, equivalent to Latin vīsus, past participle of vidēre “to see.” Déjà vu entered English in the early 20th century.

how is déjà vu used?

Trapped in a time loop: That’s how one man felt because of his recurring episodes of deja vu.

Bahar Gholipour, "A strange case of deja vu, again and again and again." Washington Post, January 5, 2015

A person experiencing déjà vu is no more likely to accurately predict what they’re going to see around the next corner than someone who is blindly guessing.

Michelle Starr, "Scientists Have Recreated Déjà Vu in The Lab, And It's Less Spooky Than You'd Think," ScienceAlert, March 6, 2018

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Monday, July 13, 2020

bellicose

[ bel-i-kohs ]

adjective

inclined or eager to fight; aggressively hostile; belligerent; pugnacious.

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What is the origin of bellicose?

Bellicose comes directly from Latin bellicōsus “warlike, fond of war,” ultimately from the noun bellum “war, warfare” and the adjective suffix –ōsus “full of, abounding in,” the source, via Anglo French and Old French, of the English suffixes –ose and –ous. The usual classical form bellum comes from preclassical duellum (the further origin of the noun is unknown), which remained in classical Latin as a poetic and archaic variant of bellum. Duellum in Vulgar and Medieval Latin developed the sense “an arranged combat between two people, according to a code of procedure,” English duel, from a mistaken etymological connection with duo “two.” Bellicose entered English in the second half of the 15th century.

how is bellicose used?

I was always inappropriately dressed, and inappropriately calibrated in tone: In one instance, I was too deferential; in another, too bellicose

Ta-Nehisi Coates, "My President Was Black," The Atlantic, January/February 2017 

Although North Korea has often sounded incorrigibly bellicose, it has proved​ to be a shrewd ​strategist capable of judging when to throttle up the tensions and when to pull back on them.

, "For North Korea, Blowing Hot and Cold Is Part of the Strategy," New York Times, June 24, 2020

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Sunday, July 12, 2020

rhathymia

[ ruh-thahy-mee-uh ]

noun

carefree behavior; light-heartedness.

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What is the origin of rhathymia?

Rhathymia “carefree behavior, lightheartedness” comes straight from Greek rhāthȳmía (also rhāithȳmía, rhāḯthȳmía) “easiness of temper, taking things easy.” Rhāthȳmía is a derivative of the adjective rhā́ithȳmos “easygoing, good-tempered,” but also “frivolous; indifferent, slack.” The first part of rhāthȳmía is the adverb rhã, rhéa, rheīa “easily, lightly” (its further etymology is unknown). The second element of rhāthȳmía is a derivative of the noun thȳmós “soul, spirit, mind, life, breath.” The combining form of thȳmós, –thȳmía, is used in English in the formation of compound nouns denoting mental disorders, such as dysthymia, alexithymia, and cyclothymia. Rhathymia entered English in the first half of the 20th century.

how is rhathymia used?

Rhathymia is the preferred mode of presentation of the self.

Donald Barthelme, "Paraguay," The New Yorker, September 6, 1969

From this sprang slackness, rhathymia, long delays in reaching decisions or paying out salaries, and downright callousness in ignoring positive distress.

E. G. Turner, "Ptolemaic Egypt," The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 7, Part 1, 2nd ed., 1984

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Saturday, July 11, 2020

ductile

[ duhk-tl, -til ]

adjective

capable of being molded or shaped; plastic.

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What is the origin of ductile?

The adjective ductile, “capable of being molded or shaped; plastic,” comes from Middle English ductil, “beaten out or shaped with a hammer,” from Old French ductile or Latin ductilis, “capable of being led along a course; malleable, ductile.” Ductilis is a derivative of duct-, the past participle stem of the verb dūcere “to draw along with, conduct, lead,” one of the verb’s dozens of meanings being the relatively rare “to model or mold material; draw out (metal) into wire.” In modern technical usage, ductile is restricted to “capable of being drawn out into wire or threads,” a quality of the noble metals such as silver and gold; malleable in technical usage covers the sense “capable of being hammered or rolled out into thin sheets,” another quality of the noble metals. Ductile entered English in the 14th century.

how is ductile used?

Ductile and sensuous, paint hugs the flat photographic forms of Leiter’s nudes in a tailor-made mantle.

Mona Gainer-Salim, "Saul Leiter's Painted Nudes," The New Yorker, May 19, 2015

she cheerfully proposed reading; complied with the first request that was made her to play upon the piano-forte and the harp; and even, to sing; though, not so promptly; for her voice and sensibility were less ductile than her manners.

Frances Burney, The Wanderer; or, Female Difficulties, 1814

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Friday, July 10, 2020

slugabed

[ sluhg-uh-bed ]

noun

a person who lazily stays in bed long after the usual time for arising.

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What is the origin of slugabed?

Slugabed is a relatively uncommon noun meaning “a person who lazily stays in bed long after the usual time for arising.” The noun slug, “a snaillike animal; a lazy person, sluggard,” developed from Middle English slugge “a lazy person; slothfulness, the sin of sloth.” Slugge probably comes from Old Icelandic slōkr “clumsy person,” Swedish and Norwegian dialect slok “lazy person,” Danish slog “rascal, rogue.” The element –a– is simply a reduced form of the Old English preposition on “on, in, into”; bed comes from Old English bedd, ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European root bhedh-, bhodh– “to dig, bury,” from which Latin derives fodere “to dig” and fossa “a ditch, trench, groove”; the Celtic languages have Welsh bedd, Cornish bedh, and Breton béz, all three meaning “a grave.” Slugabed entered English in the late 16th century.

how is slugabed used?

“Auntie…” he said. “Don’t you Auntie me, you slugabed! There’s toads to be buried and stoops to be washed. Why are you never around when it’s time for chores?” 

Michael Swanwick, "King Dragon," The Dragon Quintet, 2003

‘I am not a slug-a-bed, Harriet.’ Asobel’s voice was high and clear across the garden, ‘I get up as soon as my eyes pop open.’

Barbara Ewing, The Trespass, 2002

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Thursday, July 09, 2020

discomfiture

[ dis-kuhm-fi-cher ]

noun

the state of being disconcerted; confusion; embarrassment.

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What is the origin of discomfiture?

Discomfiture comes from Middle English desconfiture, discomfitoure, discomfiture (and many other spelling variants) “the fact of being defeated in battle; the act of defeating in battle.” One of the first occurrences of the word is in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (after 1387). The Middle English word comes from Old French desconfiture “a defeat, a rout.” The English sense “frustration of hopes or plans,” weakened to “confusion” or “embarrassment,” occurs at the beginning of the 15th century.

how is discomfiture used?

She had her cry out, a good, long cry; and when much weeping had dulled the edge of her discomfiture she began to reflect that all was not yet lost.

Charles Waddell Chesnutt, The Colonel's Dream, 1905

A former critical-care nurse as well as an academic philosopher, Froderberg has carefully contemplated body, soul and their fragile nexus. That pays off superbly as the air thins, and the surrealism of the terrain, the hallucinatory wanderings of oxygen-robbed brains and the discomfiture of sapped bodies converge cinematically.

Alexander C. Kafka, "Adventure Seekers—and a few ghosts—make a dangerous trip up a mountain in 'Mysterium,'" Washington Post, August 7, 2018

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Wednesday, July 08, 2020

kaput

[ kah-poot, -poot, kuh- ]

adjective

ruined; done for; demolished.

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What is the origin of kaput?

The adjective kaput “ruined, done for; out of order,” is used only in predicate position, not in attributive position; that is, you can only say “My car is kaput,” but not “I’ve got a kaput car.” Kaput comes from the German colloquial adjective kaputt “broken, done for, out of order, (of food) spoiled,” which was taken from the German idiom capot machen, a partial translation of the French idioms faire capot and être capot, “to win (or lose) all the tricks (in the card game piquet).” Faire capot literally means “to make a bonnet or hood,” and its usage in piquet may be from an image of throwing a hood over, or hoodwinking one’s opponent. Unsurprisingly, kaput became widely used in English early in World War I.

how is kaput used?

“Is it as bad as that?” He shook his head. “It’s worse. If we get caught, all this is kaput. Kaput, you hear? Gone. Lost. Forever.”

Harry Turtledove, The Gladiator, 2007

The business of a woman I know has gone kaput and 15 employees are facing the sack.

David Marr, "One day we will tell stories of the virus, a time when we held our breath passing people in the street," The Guardian, March 27, 2020

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