Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

doddle

[ dod-l ]

noun

something easily done, fixed, etc.: He was really worried about my finishing the fence repairs on my own, but it was a doddle.

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What is the origin of doddle?

Doddle, “something easy to do or fix,” is a British colloquialism of uncertain origin. Some say it comes from Scottish doddle “a small lump of toffee” (and therefore attractive and easy to make away with). Some say doddle may come from the verb dawdle “to waste time, idle.” Doddle may also be a variant of the verb toddle “to move with short unsteady steps” (as a toddler does). Doddle entered English in the first half of the 20th century.

how is doddle used?

But it is a delusion to think we can solve Earth’s problems by relocating to Mars. I completely disagree with Musk and with my late colleague Stephen Hawking on that, because dealing with climate change on Earth is a doddle compared with terraforming Mars.

Martin Rees, interviewed by Ian Tucker, "Martin Rees: 'Climate change is a doddle compared with terraforming Mars,'" The Guardian, August 18, 2019

This [journey] would have been a doddle on Highway 1 at any other time of year, but a succession of winter storms had blocked the coast road with landslides in half a dozen places.

Jason Lewis, The Seed Buried Deep, 2014

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Word of the day

Monday, September 07, 2020

Promethean

[ pruh-mee-thee-uhn ]

adjective

creative; boldly original.

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What is the origin of Promethean?

Promethean is the adjective derived from Prometheus, one of the Titans, the race of divine beings that preceded the Olympian gods (there was bad ichor between the two races). The Greek poet Hesiod interpreted Prometheus as “Forethought”; Prometheus’ twin brother Epimetheus was therefore “Afterthought.” Prometheus and Epimetheus (and Atlas, too) were sons of Iapetus, whose Hebrew equivalent, Japheth, is a son of Noah (Genesis 5:32). Promethean entered English towards the end of the 16th century.

how is Promethean used?

While this work suggests man’s helplessness in the face of nature’s relentless power, Cai’s exhibit suggests an ironic thematic reversal: nature’s state of helplessness in the face of modern man’s relentless, Promethean drive to progress.

Orville Schell, "A Chinese Artist Confronts Environmental Disaster," The New Yorker, October 3, 2014

That ambivalence is the divided heart of the novel: Gatsby is a dreamer and a “go-for-broke Promethean overreacher,” but—as Corrigan’s former high school teacher tells her, “Gatsby was looking for the wrong things. . . . Money and clothes and Daisy.” He embodies the best and worst qualities of America, resulting in a novel that is simultaneously buoyant and grim, as Corrigan notes.

Steven Moore, "'So We Read On: How 'The Great Gatsby' Came to Be,' by Maureen Corrigan," Washington Post, September 8, 2014

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Word of the day

Sunday, September 06, 2020

squib

[ skwib ]

noun

a short and witty or sarcastic saying or writing.

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What is the origin of squib?

The noun squib, “a short and witty or sarcastic saying,” dates from the end of the 16th century, a development of its original sense, “a small firework that burns with a hissing noise but doesn’t explode.” The word has no definitive etymology, but it is most likely onomatopoeic. Squib entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is squib used?

After Bush pulled off his carrier stunt before an awestruck cable universe, Maureen Dowd dipped her fingernails in the old acid and banged out a memorable squib questioning the Top Gun’s swagger …

William Powers, "The Call of the Skunk," The Atlantic, May 1, 2003

Throughout it all, he found one way or another to seize the gaze of the media, often by slipping to the press short bits of provocative writing, then known as squibs.

Jack Hitt, "P.T. Barnum, the showman and grifter who held up a funhouse mirror to America," Washington Post, October 18, 2019

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