Word of the Day

Monday, August 26, 2019

electorate

[ ih-lek-ter-it ]

noun

the body of persons entitled to vote in an election.

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What is the origin of electorate?

Electorate is composed of two elements derived from Latin. The first is elector “voter,” from Late Latin ēlēctor “chooser,” formed from ēligere “to pluck out, pick out, choose” and –tor, a suffix forming agent nouns. The second is –ate, a suffix denoting “office (or person performing it), function, institution, collective body, etc.,” as in professorate (the office of professor, group of professors); –ate is ultimately from Latin –ātus, as seen in augurātus “the office of augur” or senātus “senate (of Rome).” Electorate is first attested in English the late 17th century.

At that time, the elector in electorate referred to a very different voter than the word evokes today: an Elector (German Kurfürst) was a German prince of the Holy Roman Empire who could cast a vote in the election of the German king (Emperor). Elector was a powerful office until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806; the territory the electors oversaw was their electorate, e.g., Elector of Cologne. It wasn’t the late 19th century that electorate was recorded as “body of persons entitled to vote in an election”—a group that was dramatically, and finally, expanded to include women in the U.S. with the certification on August 26, 1920, of the Nineteenth Amendment, which enshrined women’s suffrage in the Constitution.

how is electorate used?

The passage of the Nineteenth Amendment nearly doubled the size of the electorate in the United States.

Heather L. Ondercin, "The Evolution of Women's (and Men's) Partisan Attachments," 100 Years of the Nineteenth Amendment, 2018

… the views of Democrats on social media often bear little resemblance to those of the wider Democratic electorate.

Nate Cohn and Kevin Quealy, "The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate," New York Times, April 9, 2019
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Sunday, August 25, 2019

dvandva

[ dvahn-dvah, dvuhn-dvuh ]

noun

Grammar.

a compound word neither element of which is subordinate to the other, as bittersweet.

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What is the origin of dvandva?

Dvandva, literally meaning “a pair,” is a Sanskrit technical term used exclusively in grammar and linguistics. (By the end of the second millennium b.c., Hindu Brahmans had invented and developed the science of descriptive linguistics, including phonology, phonetics, metrics, grammar, and etymology, in order to preserve the correct pronunciation and oral transmission of the Vedas). Dvandva is a reduplication of dva “two,” closely related to Latin duo, Greek dýo (also dýō and dýwe), Slavic (Czech) dva, Germanic (Gothic) twa, and Old Irish da, all derived from Proto-Indo-European duwo. Dvandva entered English in the 19th century.

how is dvandva used?

These days, it’s hard to tell leftists and liberals apart without an agenda. Hence the increasing popularity of ”liberal-leftist,” which merges categories on the model of compounds like ”toaster-oven” and ”owner-occupier.” (Linguists call those ”dvandvas,” a term invented by the Sanskrit grammarians.)

Geoffrey Nunberg, "Sticks and Stones; The Defanging of a Radical Epithet," New York Times, August 17, 2003

Dvandva compounds can be doubly pluralized, but only when the first noun is irregular: men-children, menfish, menservants, gentlemen-farmers, women writers, and women-doctors, but not boys-kinds, girlsfriends, or players-coaches.

Steven Pinker, Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language, 1999
Saturday, August 24, 2019

textlationship

[ tekst-ley-shuhn-ship, teks‐ ]

noun

Slang.

a relationship or association between people who text each other frequently, but rarely if ever interact with each other in person: I thought he was interested in me, but we never even went out—it was just a textlationship.

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What is the origin of textlationship?

In English, the consonant cluster –xtl– in textlationship is awkward and rare. Textlationship is a neologism composed of text (message) and (re)lationship. The electronic medium is new, but a relationship, especially a romantic one, carried on at a distance through letters, has a long history. The word textlationship entered English in the early 21st century.

how is textlationship used?

Harry’s cottoning onto a textlationship might add meaning to one of his other recent stunts—dashing across the finish line of a Brazilian charity run … wearing a paper mask of his brother’s face. Let the soap opera begin!

Bridget Arsenault and Sarah Ball, "Royal Watch: Kate Plays Field Hockey in Colored Denim, Harry and Pippa's Textlationship," Vanity Fair, March 15, 2012

Friendships can dwindle to textlationships, but it’s especially frustrating when a former or potential lover keeps you at arm’s length.

Ariel Zeitlin, "10 Online Dating Terms You Need to Know Now," Reader's Digest, June 21, 2019

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