Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, December 03, 2020

doomscrolling

[ doom-skroh-ling ]

noun

the practice of obsessively checking online news for updates, especially on social media feeds, with the expectation that the news will be bad, such that the feeling of dread from this negative expectation fuels a compulsion to continue looking for updates in a self-perpetuating cycle.

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What is the origin of doomscrolling?

Doomscrolling, one our top word trends in 2020, sounds something like the Doomsday Machine in Stanley Kubrick’s movie Dr. Strangelove (1964). (The phrases doomsday machine and doomsday bomb actually date to 1960.) Doomscrolling and its verb doomscroll are very recent neologisms, modeled on doomsday, the day of the Last Judgment, a belief common to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism. Scroll and scrolling are used in their computer sense “moving text up, down, or across a display screen.”

how is doomscrolling used?

Doomscrolling will never actually stop the doom itself. Feeling informed can be a salve, but being overwhelmed by tragedy serves no purpose.

Angela Watercutter, "Doomscrolling Is Slowly Eroding Your Mental Health," Wired, June 25, 2020

Another trick is to wear a rubber band around your hand while you are reading the news, and when you believe you are succumbing to doomscrolling, snap the rubber band against your wrist …

Brian X. Chen, "You're Doomscrolling Again. Here's How to Snap out of It," New York Times, July 15, 2020

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Wednesday, December 02, 2020

hebetude

[ heb-i-tood, -tyood ]

noun

the state of being dull; lethargy.

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What is the origin of hebetude?

Hebetude comes straight from the Late Latin noun hebetūdō, a derivative of the adjective hebes (inflectional stem hebet-) “blunt, dull (physical or mental), obtuse (angle or person).” Hebetūdō first appears in the Commentary on the “Dream of Scipio” (ca. a.d. 430) by the pagan author Macrobius. Macrobius’ Commentary was so popular and influential in late antiquity and the Middle Ages and so important and invaluable a source for Neoplatonic philosophy that its numerous manuscripts cannot be sorted into families. Hebes has no known etymology; scholars cannot even blame hebes on the Etruscans (their usual go-to for strange Latin words). Hebetude entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is hebetude used?

Why did I take up Latin at this late age? I did so not only to fight off hebetude but also to avoid becoming my mother.

Ann Patty, Living with a Dead Language, 2016

Urban hebetude, he discovers, can be cured at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Richard B. Woodward, "Armchair Traveler," New York Times, October 31, 2008

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Tuesday, December 01, 2020

beneficence

[ buh-nef-uh-suhns ]

noun

the doing of good; active goodness or kindness; charity.

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What is the origin of beneficence?

Beneficence “active goodness or kindness; charity,” comes via French bénéficence from Latin beneficentia “kindness, kind treatment of others,” a derivative of the adjective beneficus “generous, liberal, kind.” Beneficus is a compound composed of the adverb and prefix bene, bene– “well,” a derivative of the adjective bonus “good” (and completely naturalized in English), and the combining form –ficus (English –fic) “making, producing” (as in honorific, pacific) a derivative of the all-purpose, overworked verb facere “to do, make, construct.” Beneficence entered English in the early 15th century.

how is beneficence used?

My general misery was alleviated by what felt like a measure of Victorian beneficence: I had the run of the house’s library.

Thomas Mallon, "Frenemies," The New Yorker, May 25, 2015

Better still would be the inculcation into all our moral considerations of beneficence as an internal good rather than an ethical calculation. Be good for goodness’ sake.

Michael Shermer, "Does the Philosophy of 'the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number' Have Any Merit?" Scientific American, May 1, 2018

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