Word of the Day

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

ergophobia

[ ur-guh-foh-bee-uh ]

noun

an abnormal fear of work; an aversion to work.

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What is the origin of ergophobia?

Ergophobia, “abnormal fear of or aversion to work,” is formed from two Greek nouns commonly used to form words in English: érgon “work” and the combining form -phobía “fear.” Greek dialects preserve the original form wérgon, which comes directly from Proto-Indo-European wérgom, the source of Germanic werkam (English work). The combining form -phobía is a derivative of phóbos “flight, fear, panic fear,” from Proto-Indo-European bhógwos, a derivative of the root bhegw- “to run,” which appears in Slavic (Polish) biegać “to run.” Ergophobia entered English in the early 20th century.

how is ergophobia used?

He was examined by Dr. Wilson, who diagnosed the disease which had attacked him as ergophobia, (fear of work.)

, "Bad Case of Ergophobia," New York Times, October 13, 1907

Doctor, I thank thee for the name / That dignifies my soul’s complaint, / That silences the voice of blame, / That frees me from the toiler’s taint, / That lets me loaf the livelong day– / Thrice blessed ergophobia!

Ross Ellis, "Ergophobia," Munsey's Magazine, Volume LV, June to September, 1915
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Monday, March 05, 2018

peculate

[ pek-yuh-leyt ]

verb

to steal or take dishonestly (money, especially public funds, or property entrusted to one's care); embezzle.

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What is the origin of peculate?

Peculate derives from the Latin past participle and noun pecūlātus “embezzled, embezzlement,” derivative of the verb pecūlārī “to embezzle,” and itself a derivative of pecūlium “wealth in cattle, private property.” Latin suffers from an embarras de richesses of terms relating to misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement, and peculation. The Latin root noun behind all the corruption is pecu “cattle, large cattle,” the source of pecūnia “movable property, riches, wealth, money.” Latin pecu comes all but unchanged from Proto-Indo-European pek-, peku- “wealth, livestock, movable property.” Peku- becomes fehu- in Germanic, feoh “cattle, goods, money” in Old English, and fee in English. Peculate entered English in the 18th century.

how is peculate used?

The neglect of the Treasurer and the supineness of the President gave him the opportunity to peculate.

, "A Defaulting Secretary," New York Times, October 14, 1884

Right off the top of his head, James Madison could think of a lot of good reasons to impeach a President. He ticked off this list: “He might lose his capacity after his appointment. He might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers.” (To peculate is to embezzle.) It’s a very good list. Members of Congress might want to consult it.

Jill Lepore, “How Impeachment Ended Up in the Constitution,” The New Yorker, May 18, 2017
Sunday, March 04, 2018

seriocomic

[ seer-ee-oh-kom-ik ]

adjective

partly serious and partly comic: a seriocomic play.

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What is the origin of seriocomic?

Seriocomic was first recorded in 1775-85. It links the words serious and comic with -o-, the typical ending of the first element of compounds of Greek origin, often used in English as a connective irrespective of etymology.

how is seriocomic used?

Suddenly, here toward the year’s end, when the new films are plunging toward the wire and the prospects of an Oscar-worthy long shot coming through get progressively more dim, there sweeps ahead a film that is not only one of the best of the year, but also one of the best seriocomic social satires we’ve had from Hollywood since Preston Sturges was making them.

Bosley Crowther, "The Graduate," New York Times, December 22, 1967

Jonesy had seen representations of him on a hundred “weird mysteries” TV shows, on the front pages of a thousand tabloid newspapers (the kind that shouted their serio-comic horrors at you as you stood prisoner in the supermarket checkout lanes) …

Stephen King, Dreamcatcher, 2001

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