Word of the Day

Thursday, July 30, 2020

evanescent

[ ev-uh-nes-uhnt ]

adjective

vanishing; fading away; fleeting.

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What is the origin of evanescent?

The adjective evanescent, “vanishing, fading,” comes via the French adjective évanescent, from Latin ēvānēscēns (inflectional stem ēvānēscent-), the present participle of the verb ēvānēscere “to disappear, vanish, fade away,” whose root word is the adjective vānus “empty, hollow, illusory,” source of English vain (via Old French). Ēvānēscere is a compound of the preposition and prefix ex-, ē- “out, out of, utterly, completely” and the verb vānēscere “to melt into nothing, vanish.” Ēvānēscere becomes esvanir, evanir in Old French, with a present stem esvaniss-, evaniss-, the source of Middle English vanis(s)hen, “to disappear, disappear suddenly,” English vanish. Evanescent entered English in the early 18th century.

how is evanescent used?

Readers, after enjoying a book, are desperate not to let go of the characters, the evanescent feeling of being in the text.

Deirdre Foley Mendelssohn, "Bottling the Book," The New Yorker, July 15, 2010

The pantomime of head-butting and jabbing, with moments when his whole body crumples as if in grief, lasts mere seconds. Every gesture is sharp but evanescent, vanishing as quickly as it takes shape.

Sarah L. Kaufman, "In pain and rage, a protester approached police. And then he danced," Washington Post, June, 6, 2020

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

whinge

[ hwinj, winj ]

verb (used without object)

British and Australian Informal.

to complain; whine.

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What is the origin of whinge?

The verb whinge, “to complain, whine,” occurs in just about every national variety of English—British, Irish (James Joyce, Samuel Beckett), Scottish (Robert Burns), Australian, New Zealand—but remains lesser known in US English. Indeed, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry’s address at the Dursleys (4 Privet Drive / Little Whinging / Surrey), Whinging had to be glossed for American readers. Whinge comes from Scots and northern England dialect quhynge (these varieties of Middle English often use qu- for standard English wh-, as in quat for what, quere for where); hence quhynge is pronounced whinge. Quhynge comes from Old English hwinsian “to complain” and is related to whine, whisper, and whistle, all of which come from a Germanic root hwei– “to whistle, whisper.” Whinge entered English in the mid-12th century.

how is whinge used?

When an Ohio second grader joins in to whinge about achy pen-holding fingers, handwriting … becomes as hot a topic as in Erasmus’s day.

Jessica Kerwin Jenkins, "The Story of How Handwriting Evolved, and May Soon Die Off," New York Times, August 25, 2016

I wrote in my diary: ‘Here I am in Paris with dreams fulfilled and I whinge because my back hurts! But it bloody does.’

Patti Miller, Ransacking Paris, 2015

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

verecund

[ ver-i-kuhnd ]

adjective

Archaic.

bashful; modest.

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What is the origin of verecund?

The uncommon adjective verecund, “bashful, modest,” comes straight from Latin verēcundus “restrained by or sensitive to scruples or feelings of modesty, shame, or self-respect.” Verēcundus is a compound of the verb verērī “to fear, show reverence for, be in awe of” and the adjective suffix –cundus, which indicates inclination or capacity. Verērī is the root in the very common verb revere (and its derivatives reverent, reverend, and reverence). Verecund entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is verecund used?

Our politics is speckled with men who are so diffident and verecund they never say a word about themselves or their achievements.

"Who's Who—And Why," Saturday Evening Post , February 10, 1912

If there is any perceptible shift between early and later Dickens, then that transition seems to be one where the verecund persona gives way to a performance imbued with Pancksian relish in the double face of wonder and monstrosity.

Julian Wolfreys, Writing London: the trace of the urban text from Blake to Dickens, 1998

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