Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, December 13, 2021

evanesce

[ ev-uh-nes, ev-uh-nes ]

verb (used without object)

to disappear gradually; vanish; fade away.

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What is the origin of evanesce?

Evanesce “to disappear gradually” comes from the Latin verb ēvānēscere “to disappear,” from the prefix ex- (also ē-) “out of, from” and the verb vānēscere “to fade away.” We already learned about the prefix ex- as part of the recent Word of the Day selection eradicate, while vānēscere derives from the adjective vānus “empty, vain” and the inchoative suffix -ēscere. Vānus is also the source of words such as vanity and vanish, and -ēscere roughly means “to become, start to be,” as we learned from recent Word of the Day selections deliquesce and iridescent, both of which are based on this suffix. Evanesce was first recorded in English circa 1820.

how is evanesce used?

She disappears into the morning air, over a single hill on the far end of Main Street—over the hill, getting consumed by the large homes and the enormous trees that fill that part of town, swallowed up and digested, so that before I know it, as I stand, feet frozen to concrete in the middle of the street, she’s no longer there .… [I] watch as the woman goes, watch as she evanesces over the hill and into the morning’s fog.

Mary Kubica, Don’t You Cry, 2016

Kramer’s book was the source for some of the feeling that the new wave of antidepressants might turn us into other people, people whom we might not want to be. This was the crude set of questions now posed: if Prozac and the other SSRIs did away with ordinary unease, what was left of you per se? What else might evanesce along with sadness? Realism? Profundity? Scepticism? Irony? The milder, more productive kinds of melancholy? The very need to think or write or make art?

Brian Dillon, "Prozac Culture," Granta, October 9, 2017

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Sunday, December 12, 2021

bezoar

[ bee-zawr, -zohr ]

noun

a calculus or concretion found in the stomach or intestines of certain animals, especially ruminants, formerly reputed to be an effective remedy for poison.

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What is the origin of bezoar?

Bezoar “a calculus found in the stomach of ruminants, formerly reputed to be an effective remedy for poison” is derived via Medieval Latin bezahar and Arabic bāzahr from Persian pād-zahr “antidote.” This Persian term is a compound of the elements pād- “protector” and zahr “poison.” Pād- comes from the Proto-Indo-European root pā- “to protect, feed,” which is also the source of food, fodder, and foster (via Old English); forage and fur (via Old French and Germanic); and recent Word of the Day selection repast (via Latin). Zahr also comes from a Proto-Indo-European root, gwhen- “to strike, kill,” which is the source of bane (from Old English bana “slayer”), defend and offend (from Latin dēfendere “to repel, ward off” and offendere “to strike against”), and gun (from Old Norse gunnr “war”). Bezoar was first recorded in English in the 1470s.

how is bezoar used?

Porcupines are being hunted for onion-shaped masses of undigested plant material in their gut known as bezoars …. Demand is predominantly driven by China, where some believe that bezoars, which accumulate in the digestive tract, have potent medicinal properties, including the ability to cure diabetes, dengue fever, and cancer. No scientific evidence exists for any curative properties of bezoars.

Peter Yeung, “Porcupines are being poached for their stomach content,” National Geographic, March 22, 2019

Arabian doctors had been using bezoars since the 8th century, and brought them into western medicine in the 12th century as an antidote to arsenic, a favorite poison used to assassinate European nobles. By the 16th century, use of bezoars was widespread among the very rich—they were valued at 10 times their weight in gold. Queen Elizabeth I even had a bezoar set in a silver ring.

Loraine Fick, "The Magical Medicine of Bezoars," How Stuff Works, February 7, 2019

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Saturday, December 11, 2021

filiopietistic

[ fil-ee-oh-pahy-i-tis-tik ]

adjective

of or relating to reverence of forebears or tradition, especially if carried to excess.

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What is the origin of filiopietistic?

Filiopietistic “of or relating to reverence of forebears” is a compound of the Latin noun fīlius “son” and the adjective pietistic “intense in religious devotion,” the latter of which derives ultimately from Latin pius “pious.” Fīlius is also the source of the English terms affiliate “to bring into close connection,” filial “of or relating to a son or daughter,” and even the Anglo-Norman element Fitz “(illegitimate) son of” that appears in many surnames of English and Irish origin, such as Fitzgerald and Fitzwilliam. Pius is the root of pious as well as expiate “to make amends for” and may be related to pūrus “clear, clean,” the source of pure. Filiopietistic was first recorded in English in the early 1890s.

how is filiopietistic used?

Nationalist historians … wrote in a spirit of respect for their forefathers. Others went far beyond them and created another school of interpretation in which respect became a form of reverence. They inspired critics to coin a new word: “filiopietistic,” having an excess of filial piety .… In some of its forms, filiopietism was benign and highly constructive. It stimulated interest in early American history and supported serious scholarship on the American Revolution .… But in other ways filiopietism could become malignant, when it shifted from celebration of one’s forebears to execration of others.

David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing, 2004

Since Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical became a Broadway sensation and made the 1804 Burr-Hamilton duel “of the moment,” the field of Revolutionary and early republican American history has found itself caught in the crossfire. For those who prefer it that way, the men in powdered wigs are no longer dead white guys; they’re streetwise. It all sounds new, but it’s not. Every generation has refashioned the Founders in its own image, mixing patriotic lore with filiopietistic tales to enshrine America’s cherished ideals.

Nancy Isenberg, "Beneath the Powdered Wig," American Scholar, September 23, 2020

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