Word of the Day

Sunday, June 23, 2019

demur

[ dih-mur ]

verb (used without object)

to make objection, especially on the grounds of scruples; take exception; object: They wanted to make him the treasurer, but he demurred.

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What is the origin of demur?

The verb demur comes via Old French demorer, demourer, ultimately from Latin dēmorārī “to linger, delay, hold up,” its original, now obsolete meaning in English. In the 17th century demur acquired its usual senses in contemporary English “to object, take exception to,” and especially its legal sense “to make or interpose a demurral,” which is a pleading that admits the facts of an opponent’s proceeding but denies any entitlement to legal relief, and that also causes a delay in the proceedings until the point or pleading is settled. Demur entered English in the 13th century.

how is demur used?

Montague is genial but determined, and before I could demur he had me packed into a two-thousand-dollar Gore-Tex dry suit with an unbearably tight collar, highly insulated rubber bootees, and an electric-blue life jacket.

Michael Specter, "Inherit the Wind," The New Yorker, May 13, 2013

… Sonia had a little changed her mind. Wedge would be very unlikely to demur.

Michael Innes, The New Sonia Wayward, 1960
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Saturday, June 22, 2019

apologia

[ ap-uh-loh-jee-uh ]

noun

a work written as an explanation or justification of one's motives, convictions, or acts.

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What is the origin of apologia?

It is unsurprising that the earliest occurrences of apologia “a defendant’s speech in a trial” appear in 5th-century Athens. The Greek verb apologeîsthai “to speak in defense, defend oneself” and its derivative noun apología are first used by such heavy hitters as Thucydides, Euripides, and Plato. Plato’s Apología Sōkrátous “Apology of Socrates” refers to the three speeches Socrates delivered in his self-defense at his trial in 399 b.c. Apologia is similarly used in Cardinal Newman’s religious autobiography, Apologia pro Vita Sua “Defense of His Own Life” (1864). Apologia entered English in the late 18th century.

how is apologia used?

Now Starr has laid out the defining saga of his life in a book. … “I view it as not an apologia at all,” he says, “but simply: Tell the story.”

Dan Zak, "20 years ago, the Starr Report got a president impeached. Ken Starr wants to remind you why." Washington Post, September 11, 2018

Occasionally, we’ve been accused of writing a show that’s sort of an apologia for the surveillance state.

Jonathan Nolan, as quoted in "'Person of Interest': The TV Show That Predicted Edward Snowden," The New Yorker, January 14, 2014
Friday, June 21, 2019

summer

[ suhm-er ]

noun

a principal beam or girder, as one running between girts to support joists.

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What is the origin of summer?

The rare noun summer “horizontal supporting beam” comes from Old French somier, sommier, which had the semantic development “packhorse,” then “a pack, a load,” and finally “a beam, a joist.” The Old French forms come from the Late Latin (c600) adjective saumārius, a variant of Late Latin (c300) sagmārius “pertaining to a packsaddle” (equus sagmārius means “packhorse”). Sagmārius derives from Late Latin (late 4th century) sagma (inflectional stem sagmat-) “packsaddle,” a loanword from Greek ságma “covering, clothing,” later also “packsaddle.” Finally, the derivative noun saumatārius (sagmatārius) “driver of a packhorse” comes into English (via Old French sommetier) as sumpter “packhorse, mule.” Summer entered English in the 14th century.

how is summer used?

The summer was a heavy beam spanning the middle of a large room … and it served as an intermediate support for the floor joists of the story above ….

Hugh Morrison, Early American Architecture, 1952

The cross beams were known as girders, summers or somers, and dormants: one of them carried the chimney, and so was called the “bressummer,” that is the breast girder.

C. F. Innocent, The Development of English Building Construction, 1916

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