• Word of the day
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    Wednesday, January 10, 2018

    denouement

    noun [dey-noo-mahn]
    the outcome or resolution of a doubtful series of occurrences.
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    What is the origin of denouement?

    Denouement is from the French word meaning literally “an untying,” equivalent to dénouer “to untie.” It ultimately derives from Latin nōdāre, derivative of nōdus “knot.” It entered English in the mid-1700s.

    How is denouement used?

    Both the irrational-Nixon and the rational-Nixon theories lead to the same denouement: "My fellow Americans ... farewell." Richard Reeves, "Nixon in the Twilight Zone," New York, November 5, 1973

    Yet, inexorably, he must be carried on to the final grim denouement. Every step he took seemed to be charted in advance. Arthur J. Burks, "The White Wasp," All Detective, May 1933

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, January 09, 2018

    suspiration

    noun [suhs-puh-rey-shuh n]
    a long, deep sigh.
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    What is the origin of suspiration?

    English suspiration comes directly from Latin suspīrātiōn-, the stem of the noun suspīrātiō “a sigh,” a derivative of the verb suspīrāre “to fetch a deep breath, breathe out, exclaim with a sigh.” The combining form su- is a reduced form of the preposition and prefix sub “under, from under.” The Latin verb spīrāre “to breathe” is also the source of English spirit and sprite. Suspiration entered English in the 16th century.

    How is suspiration used?

    ‘Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother … Nor windy suspiration of forced breath ... That can denote me truly. William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1603

    ... the breast dilated and swelled, as when one draws a heavy suspriation; no sound accompanied the motion. , "A Soldier's Recollections: A Ghost Story," Tait's Edinburgh Magazine, No. XIII, April 1883

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, January 08, 2018

    stardust

    noun [stahr-duhst]
    a naively romantic quality: There was stardust in her eyes.
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    What is the origin of stardust?

    Stardust was first recorded in 1835–45.

    How is stardust used?

    "I seem to remember you had a different opinion of her once." ... "I guess I must've had some stardust in my eyes. But that was a thousand years ago. ..." Alan Hunter, Gently with Love, 1975

    It sounds corny, but I got stardust in my eyes the first time I saw the boulevard. Harold Robbins, Never Enough, 2001

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, January 07, 2018

    horsefeathers

    interjection [hawrs-feth-erz]
    Slang. rubbish; nonsense; bunk (used to express contemptuous rejection).
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    What is the origin of horsefeathers?

    Horsefeathers is a polite euphemism, originally American, for the impolite horseshit. The cartoonist William “Billie” De Beck (1890–1942) claimed credit for coining the word in 1928.

    How is horsefeathers used?

    At the risk of seeming disrespectful, I rise to cry: "Horsefeathers!" John R. Tunis, "Are Fraternities Worthwhile? No!" The Rotarian, September 1937

    "Horsefeathers!" Gus snorted. "Why, that's the dumbest--" Arnold Bateman, "Gus," Boys' Life, April 1949

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, January 06, 2018

    boustrophedon

    noun [boo-struh-feed-n, -fee-don, bou-]
    an ancient method of writing in which the lines run alternately from right to left and from left to right.
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    What is the origin of boustrophedon?

    Only students of ancient scripts, especially (but not exclusively) of ancient Greek, will know the meaning and etymology of boustrophedon “like the ox turns (in plowing).” The major components of the Greek adverb boustrophēdón are the nouns boûs (stem, bou-) “bull, cow, ox,” and strophḗ “a turn, twist.” In the earliest Greek writing (mid-8th century b.c.), the first line was written from right to left (“retrograde,” as always in Phoenician and Hebrew); the second line from left to right; the third line retrograde, etc. Boustrophedonic writing was obsolete in Athens and most other parts of Greece by the mid-5th century b.c. Boustrophedon entered English in the 18th century.

    How is boustrophedon used?

    Many of the old Greek inscriptions were written alternately from right to left and from left to right, turning the direction as one turns a plow in the field, and this style was called "boustrophedon" (turning like oxen). Carl Vogt, "Writing Physiologically Considered," The Popular Science Monthly, September 1881

    And although the zigzag boustrophedon style of writing had long since been replaced with lines running uniformly left to right, a brief, unrelated Roman experiment of SEPARATING∙WORDS∙WITH∙DOTS had by the end of the second century been abandoned in favor of the Greeks' monotonous, unspaced scriptio continua. Keith Houston, Shady Characters, 2013

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, January 05, 2018

    turncoat

    noun [turn-koht]
    a person who changes to the opposite party or faction, reverses principles, etc.; renegade.
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    What is the origin of turncoat?

    There are several possibilities for the origin of turncoat. One is that two English barons in the early 13th century changed fealty to King John (c1167–1216), literally changing their coats of arms from one lord to another. Another is that during the siege of Corfe Castle (1645) during the English Civil Wars (1642–51), Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers turned their coats inside out to match the colors of the Royalist army. A similar expression “to wear the King’s coat,” dating from the mid-19th century, means “serve in the King’s army.” The now obsolete idiom “to be in someone else’s coat,” dating from the mid-16th century, meant the modern “to be in someone else’s shoes.” Turncoat entered English in the 16th century.

    How is turncoat used?

    A turncoat is the angry name for a convert, but you are no converts; how then can you be turncoats? George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton, A Letter to the Tories, 1747

    With Roy comes big trouble, and aging sheriff Bill McNue (Scott McNairy) does his best to protect his people. But Frank and his gang are tearing up nearby towns hunting the turncoat, and a showdown looms. Kelly Woo, "6 things to know about 'Godless,' Netflix's star-packed limited-series western," Yahoo! News, November 21, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, January 04, 2018

    moira

    noun [moi-ruh]
    (among ancient Greeks) a person's fate or destiny.
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    What is the origin of moira?

    Moira comes straight from Greek moȋra “part, portion of booty, one’s portion in life, division (of land, people), political party.” The Greek noun comes from a widespread Proto-Indo-European root (s)mer- to remember,” the source of Latin memoria “memory,” and Germanic (Old English) murnan “to be anxious, care,” English mourn. In Greek mythology there were three Moirai (Moerae), the “Fates” that controlled human life: Clotho (Klōthṓ) “the Spinner (of the thread of human life”), who determined when a person was to be born and was in charge of the present; Lachesis (Láchesis) “the Disposer (of lots or portions),” who was in charge of the past and measured the length of human life; and Atropos (átropos) “the Unturnable, Inflexible,” who was in charge of the future and cut the thread of human life, causing death.

    How is moira used?

    Everyone has a moira that "spins the thread" of one's fate, the day of death. Barry B. Powell, "Introduction" The Iliad by Homer, 2014

    Hermes tells Calypso that 'it is not his [Odysseus'] aisa to perish far away from his loved ones, but it is still his moira to see his loved ones and reach his high-roofed house and fatherland' ... Ahuvia Kahane, Homer: A Guide for the Perplexed, 2012

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