Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, November 09, 2020

duplicitous

[ doo-plis-i-tuhs, dyoo- ]

adjective

marked or characterized by deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter.

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What is the origin of duplicitous?

“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is the man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another” (Iliad, book 9) is one man’s reaction to duplicity. That man is Achilles, and he is talking about his lord Agamemnon, but Achilles is addressing Odysseus, who himself knows a trick or two about cunning speech. Duplicitous “deceitful in word or deed, as by behaving in different ways with different people about the same affair” is a derivative of the noun duplicity, ultimately from a noun of Latin origin, duplicitās (stem duplicitāt-), formed from the adjective duplex (stem duplic-) “twofold, double, folded double; deceitful.” Duplex is a compound of duo “two” and the Latin adjective suffix –plex (stem –plic-), which has the same function (and same Proto-Indo-European origin) as the English suffix –fold (as in twofold). The first recorded meaning of duplicitous in English is in U.S. law: “including two or more offenses in one count, or charge, as part of an indictment, thus violating the requirement that each count contain only a single offense”; the more common meaning “deceitful” occurs in the late 1950s. Duplicitous entered English in the early 1890s.

how is duplicitous used?

Cambridge Analytica obtained user data through duplicitous means, but similar data sets are widely and legally available; micro-targeting is commonplace on nearly all political campaigns.

Brian Barth, "Big Tech's Big Defector," The New Yorker, November 25, 2019

Rather, like his own duplicitous identity, Twain’s texts are double-voiced, both in form and in their equivocal stances toward freedom.

Lawrence Howe, "Catching Mark Twain's Drift," Mark Twain and the Novel: The Double-Cross of Authority, 1998

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Sunday, November 08, 2020

satisfice

[ sat-is-fahys ]

verb (used without object)

to choose or adopt the first satisfactory option that one comes across.

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What is the origin of satisfice?

It is easiest to take the verb satisfice, “to choose or adopt the first satisfactory option, select or pursue the minimum satisfactory result” as a blend of satis(fy) and (suf)fice. Satisfice contrasts with optimize, “to make as effective or useful as possible; make the best of.” A quote from the International New York Times shows this usage well: “Big business executives don’t really try to maximize profits but ‘satisfice’—that is, they try to make enough profit to keep stockholders and boards of directors happy without bringing the wrath of government regulators, consumer groups or business competitors down on them.” Satisfice, originally a northern English colloquialism, entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is satisfice used?

In the real world, neither people nor firms maximize utility. … What firms do instead is “satisfice,” to use Simon’s term: they content themselves with results that are “good enough.”

Christopher Caldwell, "Select All," The New Yorker, February 23, 2004

Most people fall somewhere in the middle. A person can maximize when it comes to some decisions and satisfice on others.

Elizabeth Bernstein, "How You Make Decisions Says a Lot About How Happy You Are," Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2014

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Saturday, November 07, 2020

ex libris

[ eks -lee-bris, lahy- ]

an inscription in or on a book, to indicate the owner; bookplate.

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What is the origin of ex libris?

Ex libris is a Latin prepositional phrase meaning “out of, from the books (of).” The phrase is composed of the preposition ex “out, out of” (it governs the ablative case), and librīs, the ablative plural of liber (stem libr-) “book,” whose original Latin meaning was and always remained “inner bark of a tree, rind, bast.” Liber comes from an unrecorded Latin luber or lubros, from lubh-, one of the variants of the Proto-Indo-European root leubh-, loubh– (also leub-, leup-) “to peel, peel off.” Leubh– regularly becomes laub– in the Germanic languages, as in Gothic laufs, Old English lēaf “leaf” (from Germanic laufaz). Loubh– forms Lithuanian lubà “board” and lúobas “bark,” and Albanian labë “rind, cork.” The Latin preposition ex comes from Proto-Indo-European eghs “out, out of,” becoming Greek ex, Old Irish ess-, ass-, Welsh eh-, Gaulish ex– (Gaulish is an extinct Celtic language of ancient Gaul), and Old Prussian es(teinu) “from (now on).” Ex libris entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is ex libris used?

[Bookstores] do sell objects imbued with history: a former owner’s ex libris, an inscribed dedication from an unknown well-wisher, an occasional sales receipt used as a bookmark.

Michael Williams, "Like Baseball Cards, but for Funerals," The Atlantic, February 4, 2016

What interested me wasn’t the title or the author but the ex-libris pasted to the inside cover. It incorporated a coat of arms, a motto … and a name engraved beneath in a heavy Gothic script: Anton Schwarz von Steiner.

Ross King, Ex Libris, 1998

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