Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, December 26, 2021

enkindle

[ en-kin-dl ]

verb (used with or without object)

to kindle into flame, ardor, activity, etc.

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What is the origin of enkindle?

Enkindle “to kindle into flame, ardor, or activity” is a compound of the prefix en-, which serves as a transitive marker, and the verb kindle “to start (a fire); cause to begin burning.” Kindle derives from Old Norse kynda and is related to Old Norse kindill “torch, candle.” Despite the phonetic similarity, however, kindle is not related to candle, the latter of which is of Latin origin and comes from the same source as incandescent and incendiary. It is likely that kindle has been influenced in meaning and/or spelling by the unrelated homonym kindle “to bear (young),” which comes from the Old English noun gecynd “offspring.” Enkindle was first recorded in English in the 1540s.

how is enkindle used?

In the cold courts of justice the dull head demands oaths, and holy writ proofs; but in the warm halls of the heart one single, untestified memory’s spark shall suffice to enkindle such a blaze of evidence, that all the corners of conviction are as suddenly lighted up as a midnight city by a burning building, which on every side whirls its reddened brands.

Herman Melville, Pierre, 1852

Scents of Power is illuminating to the benighted, just as it is enlightening to the elite. In it, we identify an ideologue who isn’t a bohemian and one whose trajectory enkindles hope for voices on the fringe and the journalism practice itself. This well written book invites you to take more than a cursory look.

Henry Akubuiro, "The Amanze Obi phenomenon: Journalistic odyssey of a raconteur," Sun Nigeria, October 7, 2021
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Word of the day

Saturday, December 25, 2021

paean

[ pee-uhn ]

noun

any song of praise, joy, or triumph.

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What is the origin of paean?

Paean “any song of praise, joy, or triumph” derives via Latin paeān “religious or festive hymn” from Ancient Greek paián, a song addressed to Apollo in gratitude. This term is a common use of the name Paiā́n, which was originally the name of the physician of the gods but later became a nickname for Apollo. While Paiā́n is of uncertain origin, possibly pre-Greek, it has another floral descendant in English: peony, the state flower of Indiana. Paiā́n is not related to Pan, the name of the Greek god of forests, pastures, and shepherds. Paean was first recorded in English circa 1540.

how is paean used?

[Poet Nikky] Finney’s couplets reference everything from Harriet Tubman to Black Olympians and astronauts, and from inventions by Black Americans to horrifically racist scientific beliefs of the past. Don’t call it a libretto, she says; it’s a paean, a song of praise …. That harmonic tension—between words of absolute love for the rich inner life and accomplishments of Black Americans, and the pain and sadness inflicted on them for four centuries—is what [composer Michael] Abels tried to honor.

Tim Greiving, “Four centuries of Black American history are told in new Kronos Quartet performance,” NPR, November 17, 2021

A very different sort of uneasy calm hovers over Puts’s Silent Night, which received a Pulitzer Prize in 2012. After brief paeans to the “glory of the battle” that marks the beginning of the war, the opera picks out the threads of its multiple storylines. A pregnant French woman rebukes her husband for enlisting. A Scottish soldier persuades his brother—fatefully, as it turns out—to join him. Two lovers, both of them opera singers, are separated after singing in Germany.

Steven Winn, "Two Gripping Operas Go Deep Into the Horrors of War in the 20th Century," San Francisco Classical Voice, December 5, 2021
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Word of the day

Friday, December 24, 2021

wistful

[ wist-fuhl ]

adjective

pensive, especially in a melancholy way.

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What is the origin of wistful?

Wistful “pensive in a melancholy way” is likely a compound of the adjective whist (also wist) “quiet, silent, attentive” and the suffix -ful, perhaps because of the influence of the adjective wishful. As an interjection, whist is used to mean “hush! silence! be still!” Whist is likely of imitative origin and belongs to a class of similar-sounding interjections, along with hist, hush, and sh, that are used to demand silence. The sibilant sounds s and sh appear to be universal sounds indicating silence that appear in disparate languages, from Latin st to Finnish hys and Swahili usu. These widespread, common sounds are not the result of baby talk, as with the recent Word of the Day selection babushka; rather, they are onomatopoeic. Alternatively, wistful could simply be an alteration of the adverb wistly “with close intention.” Wistful was first recorded circa 1610.

how is wistful used?

On holidays, it’s natural to feel a longing for times gone by—a childhood spent singing carols or meals spent with now departed loved ones. Recently scientists have explored the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia, finding that it serves a positive function, improving mood and possibly mental health …. [W]hen subjects were induced to experience wistful reverie via sentimental song lyrics or memories, they reported greater self-continuity …. [N]ostalgia boosted self-continuity by increasing a sense of social connectedness. Sentimental recollections often include loved ones, which can remind us of a social web that extends across people—and across time.

Matthew Hutson, “Why Nostalgia Is Good for You,” Scientific American, November 1, 2016

The novelty of those days, of breaking the routine, of delighting in the outdoors and connecting with nature instead of sitting in a classroom, casts a wistful resonance all these years later. With a few details changed, my kids, now 10 and 12, have roughly mirrored this routine each winter themselves … until their canceled snow day earlier this school year .… Even for the small minority of students who require or prefer remote learning, the value of a surprise snow holiday is still something to be embraced.

David Zweigh, “In Defense of Snow Days,” Wired, May 14, 2021
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