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[ dif-thawng-ahyz, dip- ] [ ˈdɪf θɔŋˌaɪz, ˈdɪp- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

verb (used with object)

to change into or pronounce as one unsegmentable, gliding speech sound, as the oi sound of toy and boil.

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More about diphthongize

Diphthongize “to change into one gliding speech sound” is a verb based on diphthong, a sound that comprises two vowels merged into one. A sound containing one vowel is a monophthong, containing two is a diphthong, and containing three is a triphthong. Diphthong is equivalent to Ancient Greek di- “two” and phthóngos “voice, sound.” The prefix di-, from dís “twice, double,” is a distant relative of English two as well as Latin duo “two” and bis (earlier duis) “twice,” as in dual and bi-, respectively. Phthóngos may come from a long-lost language that was spoken in Greece long before the Greek language swept in; the consonant cluster phth- is rare (yet not impossible) according to the sound laws of the Indo-European language family. Diphthongize was first recorded in English in the late 1860s.

how is diphthongize used?

[T]he English have no final short stressed vowels, such as are found in bouquet, beau; hence their tendency to lengthen as well as diphthongize these sounds, while the French will stress the final syllable of recent loans, such as jury, reporter.

Otto Jespersen, Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin, 1922

Southern speech also has a tendency to “diphthongize” sounds .… Southern speech has tons of diphthongs, even some triphthongs (that’s a three-part vowel), way more than other dialects in North America, which is part of the reason why Southerners have a reputation for “drawling” or speaking slowly. It’s not actually slower, Southern vowels just have more stuff crammed into them.

Dan Nosowitz, "Why Justin Timberlake Sings ‘May’ Instead of ‘Me,’" Atlas Obscura, November 10, 2016
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[ vahr-muhnt ] [ ˈvɑr mənt ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


an objectionable or undesirable animal, usually predatory, as a coyote or bobcat.

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More about varmint

Varmint “an undesirable animal” is a variant of vermin most common today in Southern and Appalachian English. There are two sound changes at play here: vowel backing and excrescence. Vowel backing is when a vowel sound moves farther back in the mouth, as the front/central vowel e in vermin migrates to become the back vowel a in varmint. A similar shift happened with argal (from ergo) and parson (from person). As we learned from the recent Word of the Day enumerate, excrescence is the addition of a consonant, such as the final t in varmint; compare the evolution of Old English thunor into modern English thunder. Despite its association with dialectal American English, varmint was first recorded in English in the 1530s.

how is varmint used?

When European colonists encountered the [coyote] species, they were of two minds, heralding it as an icon of the expansive West and vilifying it as the ultimate varmint, the bloodthirsty bane of sheep and cattle ranchers.

Carol Kaesuk Yoon, “Mysteries That Howl and Hunt,” The New York Times, September 27, 2010

Back in early February, [the groundhog] Phil said we’d have six more weeks of winter. Well, that deadline has passed, and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has told the varmint that time’s up… it’s “seeking the apprehension of Punxsutawney Phil for deception.”

Doyle Rice, “Groundhog crime: Arrest warrant issued for Punxsutawney Phil for ‘deception,’” USA Today, March 26, 2018
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[ meel-yuh-riz-uhm, mee-lee-uh- ] [ ˈmil yəˌrɪz əm, ˈmi li ə- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


the doctrine that the world tends to become better or may be made better by human effort.

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More about meliorism

Meliorism “the doctrine that the world becomes better by human effort” is based on the Latin adjective melior “better,” which is also the source of the English verb ameliorate “to make or become better” as well as French meilleur, Italian migliore, Portuguese melhor, and Spanish mejor, all meaning “better” or “best,” depending on context. Just as better and best are the comparative and superlative of good even though good is not related to them, Latin melior and optimus “best” correspond to bonus “good.” This use of unrelated words as forms of one another is known as suppletion, as we learned from the recent Words of the Day laisser-aller and jovial. Meliorism was first recorded in English in the late 1850s.

how is meliorism used?

The novelist George Eliot (she who fashioned ‘frustrating’ for us) is also credited with formulating, in a letter she wrote in 1885, something rather less negative in its outlook and attitude: the term ‘meliorism,’ or the belief that the world’s suffering is healable if we all work together for that end …. We can meet together in a great disco of the mind, fuelled by the conviction that one day, in the not-too-distant future, that beautiful, fragile, craved-for togetherism we all so desperately miss, will resume again for real.

Kelly Grovier, “The women who created a new language,” BBC, May 7, 2020

The cheerful meliorism that has guided past accomplishments–a fundamental belief that life does and will get better–has been replaced by a gloomy cynicism, or at best a respectful ritualisation of our decline: dressing up in sombre outfits to watch sombrely dressed orchestras play the complicated soundtracks of our golden age; queuing round the block to study the tortured brushstrokes of bygone eras, and finding genius in their pain.

Peter Aspden, “iPod therefore I am,” Financial Times, January 23, 2009
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