• Word of the day
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    Wednesday, March 13, 2019

    diffidence

    noun [dif-i-duhns]
    the quality or state of lacking confidence in one's ability, worth or fitness; timidity.
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    What is the origin of diffidence?

    Diffidence is a straightforward borrowing from the Latin noun diffīdentia “distrust, mistrust, lack of confidence.” In the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible prepared chiefly by Saint Jerome at the end of the 4th century a.d., diffīdentia also meant “lack of faith, disobedience (to God).” The original sense of diffīdentia, “distrust of other people,” is obsolete; the current sense “distrust of one’s own ability or worth,” shading off to “modesty, retiring nature,” dates from the mid-16th century. Diffidence entered English in the 15th century.

    How is diffidence used?

    For an artist, insofar as modesty implies diffidence, an unwillingness to exhibit oneself or one's work, it's a virtue so dubious as to be a handicap. Ursula K. Le Guin, "The Conversation of the Modest," The Wild Girls, 2011

    I write with great diffidence, but it seems to me that there is no unfairness in punishing people for their misfortunes, or rewarding them for their sheer good luck ... Samuel Butler, Erewhon, 1872

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, March 12, 2019

    facetiae

    plural noun [fuh-see-shee-ee]
    amusing or witty remarks or writings.
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    What is the origin of facetiae?

    Facētiae is a Latin plural noun meaning “skillfulness, cleverness, wittiness.” It is a derivative of the adjective facētus “clever, good-humored, whimsical,” which has no reliable etymology. In the olden days, in less enlightened and progressive times than our ownsay about 1850facetiae was used in book catalogs as a euphemism for pornography (now also called erotica). Facetiae entered English in the 16th century.

    How is facetiae used?

    Even the facetiae of the gallant expressman who knew everybody's Christian name along the route, who rained letters, newspapers, and bundles from the top of the stage ... failed to interest me. Bret Harte, "A Night at Wingdam," The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Tales, 1871

    ... you had better beware how you excite that comic vein to its fullest current of facetiae. Thomas Peckett Prest, The Brigand; or, The Mountain Chief, 1851

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, March 11, 2019

    myopic

    adjective [mahy-op-ik, -oh-pik]
    unable or unwilling to act prudently; shortsighted.
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    What is the origin of myopic?

    Myopic ultimately comes from the Greek noun myōpía “nearsightedness,” which in Greek has no extended or metaphorical meaning. (The suffix -ic is English, not Greek, i.e., there is no Greek adjective myōpikós.) Myōpía is a compound formed of the verb mýein “to close the eyes or mouth,” which is close kin to the Latin mūtus “inarticulate, dumb, silent” (English mute). The same mýein appears in the noun mystḗrion “secret, secret rite” (English mystery) and its adjective mystikós “connected with the mysteries” (English mystic). The second element of myopia, -ōpía, is a combining form of ṓps (stem ōp-) “eye, face, countenance." Myopic in its original sense entered English at the end of the 18th century; the sense “unable or unwilling to act prudently” developed in English at the end of the 19th century.

    How is myopic used?

    The belief that simply running a data set will solve for every challenge and every bias is problematic and myopic. Yael Eisenstat, "The Real Reason Tech Struggles With Algorithmic Bias," Wired, February 12, 2019

    Science provides us with a new perspective on our place in the cosmos and a better understanding of ourselves as human beings. It helps us overcome our otherwise myopic preconceptions about how the world works. Lawrence M. Krauss, "What Is Science Good For?" The New Yorker, April 21, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, March 10, 2019

    temporize

    verb [tem-puh-rahyz]
    to be indecisive or evasive to gain time or delay acting.
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    What is the origin of temporize?

    The current, somewhat negative, meaning of temporize, “to be indecisive or evasive to gain time or delay acting,” is a relatively modern development of Middle French temporiser “to pass the time, await one’s time,” from Medieval Latin temporizāre “to delay,” equivalent to Medieval Latin temporāre “to delay, put off the time.” All of the medieval words are derivatives of Latin tempor-, the inflectional stem of tempus “time,” which has no certain etymology. Temporize entered English in the 16th century.

    How is temporize used?

    I'll temporise till we are all dead and buried. Charles Reade, A Perilous Secret, 1884

    He is as likely as any man I know to temporize—to calculate what will be likely to promote his own reputation and advantage ... Alexander Hamilton to James A. Bayard, January 16, 1801, in Letters of Alexander Hamilton, Volume 25, 1977

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, March 09, 2019

    eyewinker

    noun [ahy-wing-ker]
    an eyelash.
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    What is the origin of eyewinker?

    Eyewinker is a very rare noun, originally Scottish and now mostly an American regionalism. Eye needs no explanation; winker has several meanings: "eyelash, eyelid, eye, something that gets in the eye and makes one blink." Eyewinker entered English in the early 19th century.

    How is eyewinker used?

    "Last nightat dinner"Mrs. Appel eyed him accusingly"I foundan eyewinkerin the hard sauce." Caroline Lockhart,  The Dude Wrangler, 1921

    Not even an eyewinker was left to her. Stewart Edward White, Gold, 1913

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, March 08, 2019

    regina

    noun [ri-jahy-nuh, -jee-]
    queen.
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    What is the origin of regina?

    The Latin noun rēgīna “queen” is obviously related to the Latin noun rēx (inflectional stem rēg-) “king,” but how rēgīna is derived from rēx is tricky. There is also a deceptive resemblance between rēx and rēgīna and Sanskrit rā́jan- “rajah, king” and rā́jñī- “queen, ranee” (rēgīna and rā́jñī- are not directly related). There is a definite connection, however, between Latin rēx (rēg-), rēgīna and the Celtic words for king, e.g., Old Irish (from rīks), and its stem ríg (from rīg-os). Rígain, the Old Irish word for queen, is cognate with rēgīna. Regina dates from Old English times.

    How is regina used?

    He represented the rule of law, and in Miromara the law bowed to no one, not even the regina herself. Jennifer Donnelly,  Sea Spell, 2016

    "Mother of heaven, regina of the clouds ... ." Wallace Stevens, "Le Monocle de Mon Oncle,"  Others, 1918

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, March 07, 2019

    Heiligenschein

    noun [hahy-li-guhn-shahyn] German.
    a ring of light around the shadow cast by a person's head, especially on a dewy, sunlit lawn, caused by reflection and diffraction of light rays; halo.
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    What is the origin of Heiligenschein?

    Heiligenschein in German means “halo (around a saint’s head), nimbus, aureole,” literally, “saint's shining, saint’s light.” The optical effect is also called Cellini’s halo, after the Italian artist and writer Benevenuto Cellini (1500-71) who first described the phenomenon. Heiligenschein entered English in the 20th century.

    How is Heiligenschein used?

    The dark figure outlined on the mountain mist may have had a glory around its head, or at least a Heiligenschein, and seemed like ghost to the mountaineer who saw it. Elizabeth A. Wood,  Science from Your Airplane Window, 1968

    You may sometimes have noticed a faint sheen, or increased brightness, around the shadow of your head when this falls on a grass lawn, particularly when the Sun is low, and you cast a long shadow. This sheen is known as a heiligenschein, a German word meaning 'holy glow.' John Naylor,  Out of the Blue: A 24-hour Skywatcher's Guide, 2002

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