• Word of the day
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    Monday, February 25, 2019

    evenfall

    noun [ee-vuhn-fawl]
    twilight; dusk; the beginning of evening.
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    What is the origin of evenfall?

    Evenfall, "the beginning of evening, dusk," from its very look is a poetic word. It is reasonable to assume, but impossible to prove, that evenfall was modeled on the earlier nightfall (1700). Evenfall entered English in the 19th century.

    How is evenfall used?

    And now 'tis evenfall in the brave and beautiful Borderland, and long shadows fall across the smooth lawns and fragrant garden ... George MacDonald Fraser, The Reavers, 2007

    James Turner had his own conception of what happiness was ... Mine is to smoke a pipe at evenfall and watch a badger, a rattlesnake, and an owl go into their common prairie home one by one. O. Henry, "What You Want," Strictly Business, 1910

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, February 24, 2019

    halidom

    noun [hal-i-duhm]
    a holy place, as a church or sanctuary.
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    What is the origin of halidom?

    Halidom is a rare word meaning “holy place, sanctuary.” Its Old English form, hāligdōm, is a compound formed of the adjective hālig “holy” and the abstract noun suffix -dōm (English -dom). Hāligdōm originally meant “holiness, sanctity” in Old English, but this sense was obsolete by the 17th century. The concrete senses of hāligdōm, "chapel, sanctuary” and “relic,” are as old as the abstract sense. Halidom entered English before 1000.

    How is halidom used?

    Most nations would reckon it a village, but it had its halidom, assembly hall, market, and busy little industries. Poul and Karen Anderson, "Faith," After the King: Stories in Honor of J. R. R. Tolkien, 1992

    There are few more interesting spots in Great Britain than "Dewisland," or the "halidom" of St. David. W. A. B. Coolidge, "St. David's," The Cathedral Churches of England and Wales, 1884

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, February 23, 2019

    prodigal

    adjective [prod-i-guhl]
    wastefully or recklessly extravagant: prodigal expenditure.
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    What is the origin of prodigal?

    Prodigal ultimately derives from the Late Latin adjective prōdigālis “wasteful,” from the Latin adjective prōdigus (with the same meaning), a derivative of the verb prōdigere “to drive forth or away; to waste, squander.” Prōdigere is a compound of the preposition and combining form pro, pro- “forth, forward” and agere “to drive (cattle), ride (a horse).” Aristotle in Book IV of the Nicomachean Ethics defines the virtue of liberality (with respect to wealth) as the mean between the opposite vices of prodigality and stinginess, the prodigal man being one who wastes money on self-indulgent pleasures. The most famous case of prodigality is from Luke's gospel (15:11-32), the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” Prodigal entered English in the 15th century.

    How is prodigal used?

    ... Kubrick a planned and prodigal expenditure of resources. Annette Michelson, "Bodies in Space: Film as 'Carnal Knowledge'," Artforum, February 1969

    She feels she can never truly write well because she lacks Lila’s wild, prodigal spirit. Lila, she thinks, “possessed intelligence and didn’t put it to use but, rather, wasted it, like a great lady for whom all the riches in the world are merely a sign of vulgarity.” Joan Acocella, "Elena Ferrante's New Book: Art Wins," The New Yorker, September 1, 2015

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, February 22, 2019

    futilitarian

    noun [fyoo-til-i-tair-ee-uhn]
    a person who believes that human hopes are vain, and human strivings unjustified.
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    What is the origin of futilitarian?

    Futilitarian is a humorous blend of futile and utilitarian. The word was coined in scorn for the utilitarian philosophy for the jurist and philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and the philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill (1806-73). Futilitarian entered English in the 19th century.

    How is futilitarian used?

    A lot of artists in America tend to be self-deprecating futilitarians, because we’ve grown up in a culture in which art doesn’t matter except, occasionally, as a high-end investment. Tim Kreider, "When Art Is Dangerous (or Not)," New York Times, January 10, 2015

    For it is significant that much of the work of Bierce seems to be that of what he would have called a futilitarian, that he seldom seems able to find a suitable field for his satire, a foeman worthy of such perfect steel as he brings ot he encounter ... Bertha Clark Pope, "Introduction" to The Letters of Ambrose Bierce, 1922

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, February 21, 2019

    tabula rasa

    noun [tab-yuh-luh rah-suh, -zuh, rey-]
    a mind not yet affected by experiences, impressions, etc.
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    What is the origin of tabula rasa?

    In Latin tabula rasa means “erased tablet, a tablet rubbed clean (of writing).” Tabula has many meanings: “flat board, plank, table, notice board, notice, game board, public document, deed, will.” For schoolchildren the schoolmaster’s command Manum dē tabulā "Hand(s) off the tablet!" meant “Pencils down!” Rasa is the past participle of radere “to scrape, scratch, shave, clip.” The inside surfaces of a folded wooden tablet were raised along the edges and filled with wax for writing. The wax could be erased by smoothing with the blunt end of a stylus (more correctly stilus) or by mild heat. The Latin phrase is a translation of Greek pinakìs ágraphos “tablet with nothing written on it, blank tablet,” from Aristotle’s De Anima (Greek Perì Psychês, “On the Soul): “What it [the mind] thinks must be in it just as characters may be said to be on a writing tablet (pinakìs) on which nothing is yet actually written (ágraphos).” Tabula rasa entered English in the 16th century.

    How is tabula rasa used?

    The notion that the brain is a tabula rasa that can be easily transformed by digital technology is, as yet, the stuff of science fiction. Richard A. Friedman, "The Big Myth About Teenage Anxiety," New York Times, September 7, 2018

    The alarm wakes him, and he opens his eyes to a new day. He feels rested, reset, a tabula rasa. Lisa Genova, Inside the O'Briens, 2015

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, February 20, 2019

    behemoth

    noun [bih-hee-muhth, bee-uh-]
    any creature or thing of monstrous size or power: The army's new tank is a behemoth. The cartel is a behemoth that small business owners fear.
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    What is the origin of behemoth?

    The traditional etymology of the Hebrew noun behemoth is that it is an augmentative or intensive plural of bəhēmāh “beast,” a derivative of the West Semitic root bhm “to be dumb.” It is also possible that Hebrew bəhēmāh is an adaptation to Hebrew phonology of Egyptian p-ehe-mau “hippopotamus” (literally “ox of the water”). Behemoth entered English in the 14th century.

    How is behemoth used?

    ... in a play for the ideological high ground, Mr. de Blasio has cast Uber as a corporate behemoth with a singular goal. Matt Flegenheimer, "City Hall, in a Counterattack, Casts Uber as a Corporate Behemoth," New York Times, July 20, 2015

    Power - this one word sums up the rise in concerns on the left about tech behemoth Facebook. Tim Mak, "Congress May Soon Impose New Regulations on Facebook," All Things Considered, NPR, January 15, 2019

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, February 19, 2019

    mare

    noun [mahr-ey, mair-ee]
    Astronomy. any of the several large, dark plains on the moon and Mars: Galileo believed that the lunar features were seas when he first saw them through a telescope.
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    What is the origin of mare?

    Latin mare “sea” is obviously but irregularly derived from Proto-Indo-European mori- “body of water, lake.” The Latin word “ought” to be more (the a is unexplained). The Proto-Indo-European mori- becomes Old Church Slavonic morje “sea, ocean,” Lithuanian marė “lagoon, bay,” and, in the Germanic languages, English mere (i.e., a lake or a pond), German Meer “sea, ocean,” Gothic marei “sea.” Latin mare used to describe the lunar feature first appears in Michael van Langren’s map of the moon (1645). Mare first entered English in the 19th century.

    How is mare used?

    The wheels were large and open, and absorbed the unevenness of the mare; Malenfant felt as if he were riding across the Moon in a soap bubble. Stephen Baxter, Manifold: Space, 2000

    The craft will attempt to retrieve up to 2 kilograms of soil and rock from the Oceanus Procellarum, a vast lunar mare on the near side that has yet to be visited by any spacecraft. Dennis Normile, "Chinese spacecraft successfully lands on moon's far saide and sends pictures back home," Science, January 3, 2019

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