Word of the Day

Saturday, May 15, 2021

derring-do

[ der-ing-doo ]

noun

daring deeds; heroic daring.

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What is the origin of derring-do?

The noun derring-do, “daring deeds; heroic daring,” has a curious history. In Middle English the phrase durring don, durring do meant “daring to do,” durring being the present participle of durren “to have the courage (to do something),” modern English dare, and don, do being a present infinitive verb, modern English do. Chaucer uses the phrase “correctly” is his Troilus and Criseyde: Troilus was nevere… secounde / In durryng don that longeth to a knight (“Troilus was never… second in daring to do what was fitting for a knight”). Derrynge do, one of the later spellings of durring don, was misinterpreted by Edmund Spenser as a noun phrase meaning “manhood and chivalry,” and Spenser’s mistake was picked up and passed on by writers and historians like Sir Walter Scott. Derring-do entered English (spelled durring don) in the 14th century, Spenser’s derring-doe in the second half of the 16th century.

how is derring-do used?

Lancelot, naturally, had performed the bravest deeds; Galahad, the most noble. The rest scrambled for attention with various feats of derring-do, most of which were exaggerated, to say the least.

Matt Phelan, Knights vs. Dinosaurs, 2018

Summer revealed woollen tank-style swimwear and lakeside derring-do: balcony dives, greased-pole logrolling (“we don’t allow that anymore”), jousting in rowboats (“another thing we don’t allow”).

Sarah Larson, "When Toscanini Went to Mohonk," The New Yorker, December 9, 2019

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Friday, May 14, 2021

pulchritudinous

[ puhl-kri-tood-n-uhs, -tyood- ]

adjective

physically beautiful.

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What is the origin of pulchritudinous?

Pulchritudinous, “physically beautiful,” first occurs in 1877 in Puck, the first successful American humor magazine, and all the occurrences of pulchritudinous are facetious or humorous. Pulchritudinous is formed from the Latin noun pulchritūdō (inflectional stem pulchritūdin-) “beauty” and the adjective suffix –ous.

how is pulchritudinous used?

And now, ladies and gentlemen, a very big round of applause for our next act! Captain Boytom and his pulchritudinous pachyderms!

Chaplin, directed by Richard Attenborough, 1992

As Moira Rose might say, what a pulchritudinous eventide!

E. Alex Jung, "Dan Levy on Schitt's Creek's Fulsome, Splendrous Emmys Night," New York, September 22, 2020

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Thursday, May 13, 2021

sine die

[ sahy-nee -dahy-ee, sin-ey-dee-ey; Latin si-ne -dee-e ]

adverb

without fixing a day for future action or meeting.

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What is the origin of sine die?

Sine die in English means “without a day (set for resuming business).” It is a Latin phrase composed of the preposition sine “without” (sine governs the ablative case) and diē, the ablative singular of the noun diēs “day.” Sine diē is not a technical term in Roman law, political procedure, or religion; it is a Latin phrase used nearly exclusively in modern British and American legislative, court, and corporate procedures. Sine die entered English in the 17th century.

how is sine die used?

I seized the opportunity to imply some mild annoyance and postpone the interview sine die. I’d had enough.

Colbert Kearney, The Consequence, 1993

On the last day of arguments, May 13, she announced that the court was adjourned “sine die,” a Latin phrase indicating it was uncertain, because of the pandemic, when the court would next meet in a public session.

Jessica Gresko, "2 female firsts at the Supreme Court announce retirements," Associate Press, July 7, 2020

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