Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, July 10, 2021

droke

[ drohk ]

noun

a valley with steeply sloping sides.

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What is the origin of droke?

The rare noun droke has two meanings: “a valley with steeply sloping sides” and “a thicket of small trees or bushes.” Droke is restricted pretty much to Canada—the Atlantic Provinces (New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island) and the Northwest Territories. Droke has no established etymology; but the dialects of the West Country, a loosely defined area of southwest England comprising Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset (at least), record the nouns drock “a wooden part of a plow” and droke “a furrow or ditch; an underground watercourse.” Droke entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is droke used?

We sometimes went berry picking in nearby areas, but we were cautioned not to wander too far because in certain drokes, small valleys, lived fairies who might spirit us away.

"Johnny Miller: A dance or ring game from Brigus, 1971," manuscript collection, Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive

There’s more, but they’re not all worth a mention. Except for me and Mom over in Frogmarsh. And Jas Kelly, he’s up the droke a piece.

Michael Winter, The Big Why, 2004

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Word of the day

Friday, July 09, 2021

infinitesimal

[ in-fin-i-tes-uh-muhl ]

adjective

immeasurably small; less than an assignable quantity.

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What is the origin of infinitesimal?

Infinitesimal comes from New Latin infīnītēsimālis, infīnītēsimus, a compound of Latin infīnītus “unspecified, indefinite, unrestricted, unlimited, infinite” and the adjective suffix –ēsimus, which was extracted from vīcēsimus “twentieth” (where the suffix is original) and applied to form ordinal numbers from 20 to 1,000; thus infinitesimal literally means “infinitieth.” Infinitesimal entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is infinitesimal used?

The story is both pleasantly seamy and inconsequential, as pat and flimsy as a mad-science soap opera. Its psychological dimensions are infinitesimal; its social context is nonexistent.

Richard Brody, "A Lost Orson Welles TV Pilot That's As Groundbreaking as 'Citizen Kane'," The New Yorker, December 11, 2020

The problem with the intentional walk isn’t just that it robs baseball’s best players of a chance to hit. The issue is that it’s a waste of time in an already plodding game. … But major leaguers keeping going through the motions on the almost infinitesimal chance that the pitcher might get the yips and throw it away.

Eric Levenson, "Is There a More Pointless Play in Sports Than the Extra Point?" The Atlantic, January 21, 2014

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Word of the day

Thursday, July 08, 2021

omnium-gatherum

[ om-nee-uhm-gath-er-uhm ]

noun

a miscellaneous collection.

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What is the origin of omnium-gatherum?

Omnium-gatherum, “a miscellaneous collection,” has a pretty long history, considering its awkward etymology. A similar word, omnegadrium, occurs about 1430 in Middle English with the meaning “a miscellaneous collection of items in a manuscript.” Omnegadrium is a compound of the familiar Latin combining form omni– “all,” the Middle English verb gaderen “to assemble” (English gather), and the familiar Latin noun suffix –ium. Omnegadrium was re-formed to modern omnium-gatherum, which is a compound of Latin omnium “of all” (the genitive plural of omnis) and the pseudo-Latin word gatherum “a gathering,” formed from gather and the Latin noun suffix –um. Omnium-gatherum entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is omnium-gatherum used?

This person wore a large cocked-hat, set rather jauntily on one side, and a black coat, which seemed an omnium-gatherum of all abominations that had come in its way for the last ten years, and which appeared to advance equal claims … to the several dignities of the art military and civil, the arma and the toga ….

Edward Bulwer Lytton, Pelham; or, Adventures of a Gentleman, 1828

She is best known for collecting dictionaries that represent the very living and breathing edge of the English language: the ragged and ill-defined omnium-gatherum of informal, witty, clever, newborn, and usually impermanent words that constitute what for the past two centuries has been known as slang.

Simon Winchester, "The Mongrel Speech of the Streets," New York Review of Books, March 8, 2012

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