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    Monday, July 23, 2018

    leonine

    adjective [lee-uh-nahyn]
    resembling or suggestive of a lion.
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    What is the origin of leonine?

    The English adjective leonine comes from Latin leōnīnus, a derivative of the noun leō (inflectional stem leōn-), a borrowing from Greek léōn (inflectional stem léont-). Léōn is not a Greek word, but it does look somewhat like Hebrew lābhī; both the Greek and the Hebrew nouns may be borrowings from a third language. The Greek historian Herodotus (484?-425? b.c.) and the philosopher Aristotle (384-322 b.c.) both assert that lions were rare in Europe in their day but were still found. Leonine entered English in the 14th century.

    How is leonine used?

    Only a few discerned the inexorable firmness in the depth of his soul, and the magnanimous and leonine qualities of his nature. Plutarch (c46–c120), "Fabius Maximus," Plutarch's Lives, Volume III, translated by Bernadotte Perrin, 1916

    George Clooney was at home in Los Angeles one afternoon in mid-January, a few days before he flew to Sudan in his new role as a United Nations “Messenger of Peace” (an appointment that overlooked reports of a recent public scuffle with Fabio, the leonine model). Ian Parker, "Somebody Has to Be in Control," The New Yorker, April 14, 2008

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, July 22, 2018

    vogie

    adjective [voh-gee, vog-ee]
    Scot. conceited; proud.
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    What is the origin of vogie?

    The adjective vogie is Scottish through and through, and all the citations of the word come from Scottish authors. Vogie has no good etymology: it is tempting to etymologize the word as vogue plus the suffix -ie, but the meanings of vogue and vogie do not match. Vogie entered English in the 18th century.

    How is vogie used?

    ... a most comical character, so vogie of his honours and dignities in the town council that he could not get the knight told often enough what a load aboon the burden he had in keeping a' things douce and in right regulation amang the bailies. John Galt, Ringan Gilhaize; or, The Covenanters, 1823

    My only beast, I had nae mae, / And vow but I was vogie! Robert Burns, "My Hoggie," 1788

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, July 21, 2018

    carte blanche

    noun [kahrt blanch, blahnch]
    unconditional authority; full discretionary power: She was given carte blanche to decorate her room as she wished, perhaps an unwise decision on the part of her parents.
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    What is the origin of carte blanche?

    In the early 18th century carte blanche, literally “blank paper,” was a paper officially signed and given to another party to write in his or her own conditions or terms. By 1766 carte blanche acquired the meaning “full discretionary power, unconditional authority,” its current meaning. By the 19th century carte blanche in some card games, e.g., piquet, also meant "a hand of cards having no face cards, especially in piquet."

    How is carte blanche used?

    If you think this ... grants you carte blanche to stroll willy-nilly through that building asking any question that pops into your head, regardless of its bearing on the matter you are investigating, you are sadly mistaken. Stephen Coonts, America, 2001

    ... what it said should not be interpreted as giving other businesses carte blanche to do what Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, did. German Lopez, "Why you shouldn't freak out about the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling," Vox, June 4, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, July 20, 2018

    tummler

    noun [toom-ler]
    any lively, prankish, or mischievous man.
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    What is the origin of tummler?

    If one has firsthand knowledge of what a tummler is and does—or was and did—then one ain’t a kid no more. A tummler was a comedian and/or social director at a Jewish resort, especially in the Borscht Belt in the Catskills of New York State, between the 1920s and 1970s. Danny Kaye, Henny Youngman, Sid Caesar, and Joan Rivers are some notable tummlers. Tummler comes from the Yiddish tumler, an agent noun from the verb tumlen “to make a racket,” from German tummeln “to romp, stir.” Tummler entered English in the 20th century.

    How is tummler used?

    For there is another, decidedly un-Jamesian Philip Roth: an irreverent, taboo-flouting tummler whose boisterous hi-jinks have offended the sensibilities of some readers while incurring the outright wrath of others. George J. Searles, "Introduction," Conversations with Philip Roth, 1992

    He tried to amuse her with funny walks, crazy faces, and barnyard noises, and when she deigned to laugh his face reddened with happiness. He was her tummler, for crying out loud. Scott Spencer, River Under the Road, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, July 19, 2018

    hoity-toity

    adjective [hoi-tee-toi-tee]
    assuming airs; pretentious; haughty.
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    What is the origin of hoity-toity?

    The adjective hoity-toity now means “pretentious, haughty”; formerly it meant “frivolous, giddy.” The phrase is probably an alteration and reduplication of hoit, an obsolete verb of obscure origin meaning “to romp, play the fool.” Hoit may also be the source of or akin to hoyden “boisterous, carefree girl, tomboy,” possibly a borrowing from Dutch heiden “rustic, uncivilized person.” Hoity-toity entered English in the 17th century.

    How is hoity-toity used?

    Always crowing about their kid with the straight A's at that hoity-toity school. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex, 2002

    The typeface used for the credits is the kind of hoity-toity cursive writing—in hot pink, no less—one might see on a Tiffany & Co. shower invitation. Laura Jacobs, "The Devil Inside: Watching Rosemary's Baby in the Age of #MeToo," Vanity Fair, Summer 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, July 18, 2018

    cheville

    noun [shuh-vee]
    Prosody. a word or expression whose only function is to fill a metrical gap in a verse or to balance a sentence.
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    What is the origin of cheville?

    Cheville represents the normal northern French phonetic development of Latin clāvīcula “key, tendril, pivot,” a diminutive of clāvis “key, bar, hook.” In French cheville means “ankle, peg, dowel, pin, plug.” It is this latter sense "plug" that gave rise to the English meaning of a filler word or phrase in a sentence or line of verse. Clāvis derives from the Proto-Indo-European root klēu-, klāu- “hook, peg,” the same source of the very many Greek forms, e.g., kleís, klēī́s, klāī́s (all from assumed klāwis, identical to the Latin noun), Celtic (Old Irish) clō “nail,” Baltic (Lithuanian) kliū́ti “to hang, hang on,” and Slavic (Polish) klucz “key.” Cheville entered English in the 19th century.

    How is cheville used?

    The languages were by this time close enough to each other to make this easy, and when there was any difficulty it scarce required the wit of a Chaucer to supply such a cheville as "An emperesse or crowned queen" ... (though it may be observed that "crowned" is a distinct improvement to the sound, if not to the sense of the line) ... George Saintsbury, A History of English Prosody, Volume I, 1906

    But when we discover that ... the word "Sparte" has been dragged in at any cost for the rhyme's sake, we feel that a cheville, like some other concessions to the intractable nature of things, is least offensive when it asks for no admiration. Frederic William Henry Myers, "Victor Hugo," Essays, Modern, 1883

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, July 17, 2018

    magisterial

    adjective [maj-uh-steer-ee-uhl]
    authoritative; weighty; of importance or consequence; of, relating to, or befitting a master: a magisterial pronouncement by the director of the board.
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    What is the origin of magisterial?

    Magisterial comes directly from Late Latin magisteriālis “pertaining to a teacher or magistrate,” a development of Latin magistrālis, a derivative of Latin magister “magistrate, master, teacher.” Magister is formed from the adverb magis “more” and the Proto-Indo-European suffix -ter, used to form natural or opposing pairs, e.g., dexter “right-hand” and sinister “left-hand,” noster “our” and vester “your,” and magister “master,” literally “the bigger guy,” and minister “servant, assistant,” literally “the smaller guy” (from the adverb minus “less”). Magisterial entered English in the 17th century.

    How is magisterial used?

    This is an impressive, magisterial book whose steady, earnest gaze also encompasses the lives of pickpockets and poets. Robert McCrum, "Nightwalking review – an enthralling study of London after dark," Guardian, March 29, 2015

    They heard a magisterial speech from A. Lawrence Lowell: "As wave after wave rolls landward from the ocean, breaks and fades away sighing down the shingle of the beach, so the generations of men follow one another, sometimes quietly, sometimes, after a storm, with noisy turbulence." William Martin, Harvard Yard, 2003

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