• Word of the day
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    Monday, June 24, 2019

    ex cathedra

    adjective, adverb [eks kuh-thee-druh, kath-i-druh]
    from the seat of authority; with authority.
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    What is the origin of ex cathedra?

    The relatively uncommon English adjective and adverb ex cathedra “from the seat (of authority), with authority” comes directly from the Latin phrase ex cathedrā. Latin cathedra “armchair with cushions, easy chair (especially for women), a teacher’s or professor’s chair, a sedan chair” is a loanword from Greek kathédra “seat, sitting posture, teacher’s or professor’s chair, imperial throne.” From cathedra Medieval Latin derived the adjective cathedrālis “pertaining to the chair or throne (of a bishop)”; the bishop’s church, where his throne was located, was called a cathedral church and later just cathedral. Ex cathedra entered English in the 17th century.

    How is ex cathedra used?

    There’s no way to maintain an ex cathedra advantage when you’re cavorting in a circus ring. Virginia Heffernan, "When TV tries out new media, everyone can be a star," New York Times, January 1, 2009

    Pope John once said, "I am not infallible. I am infallible only when I speak ex cathedra. But I shall never speak ex cathedra." Kati Marton, "The Paradoxical Pope," The Atlantic Monthly, May 1980

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, June 23, 2019

    demur

    verb (used without object) [dih-mur]
    to make objection, especially on the grounds of scruples; take exception; object: They wanted to make him the treasurer, but he demurred.
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    What is the origin of demur?

    The verb demur comes via Old French demorer, demourer, ultimately from Latin dēmorārī “to linger, delay, hold up,” its original, now obsolete meaning in English. In the 17th century demur acquired its usual senses in contemporary English “to object, take exception to,” and especially its legal sense “to make or interpose a demurral,” which is a pleading that admits the facts of an opponent's proceeding but denies any entitlement to legal relief, and that also causes a delay in the proceedings until the point or pleading is settled. Demur entered English in the 13th century.

    How is demur used?

    Montague is genial but determined, and before I could demur he had me packed into a two-thousand-dollar Gore-Tex dry suit with an unbearably tight collar, highly insulated rubber bootees, and an electric-blue life jacket. Michael Specter, "Inherit the Wind," The New Yorker, May 13, 2013

    ... Sonia had a little changed her mind. Wedge would be very unlikely to demur. Michael Innes, The New Sonia Wayward, 1960

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, June 22, 2019

    apologia

    noun [ap-uh-loh-jee-uh]
    a work written as an explanation or justification of one's motives, convictions, or acts.
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    What is the origin of apologia?

    It is unsurprising that the earliest occurrences of apologia “a defendant’s speech in a trial” appear in 5th-century Athens. The Greek verb apologeîsthai “to speak in defense, defend oneself” and its derivative noun apología are first used by such heavy hitters as Thucydides, Euripides, and Plato. Plato’s Apología Sōkrátous “Apology of Socrates” refers to the three speeches Socrates delivered in his self-defense at his trial in 399 b.c. Apologia is similarly used in Cardinal Newman’s religious autobiography, Apologia pro Vita Sua “Defense of His Own Life” (1864). Apologia entered English in the late 18th century.

    How is apologia used?

    Now Starr has laid out the defining saga of his life in a book. ... “I view it as not an apologia at all,” he says, “but simply: Tell the story.” Dan Zak, "20 years ago, the Starr Report got a president impeached. Ken Starr wants to remind you why." Washington Post, September 11, 2018

    Occasionally, we’ve been accused of writing a show that’s sort of an apologia for the surveillance state. Jonathan Nolan, as quoted in "'Person of Interest': The TV Show That Predicted Edward Snowden," The New Yorker, January 14, 2014

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, June 21, 2019

    summer

    noun [suhm-er]
    a principal beam or girder, as one running between girts to support joists.
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    What is the origin of summer?

    The rare noun summer “horizontal supporting beam” comes from Old French somier, sommier, which had the semantic development “packhorse,” then “a pack, a load,” and finally “a beam, a joist.” The Old French forms come from the Late Latin (c600) adjective saumārius, a variant of Late Latin (c300) sagmārius “pertaining to a packsaddle” (equus sagmārius means “packhorse”). Sagmārius derives from Late Latin (late 4th century) sagma (inflectional stem sagmat-) “packsaddle,” a loanword from Greek ságma “covering, clothing,” later also “packsaddle.” Finally, the derivative noun saumatārius (sagmatārius) “driver of a packhorse” comes into English (via Old French sommetier) as sumpter “packhorse, mule.” Summer entered English in the 14th century.

    How is summer used?

    The summer was a heavy beam spanning the middle of a large room ... and it served as an intermediate support for the floor joists of the story above .... Hugh Morrison, Early American Architecture, 1952

    The cross beams were known as girders, summers or somers, and dormants: one of them carried the chimney, and so was called the "bressummer," that is the breast girder. C. F. Innocent, The Development of English Building Construction, 1916

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, June 20, 2019

    insipience

    noun [in-sip-ee-uhns] Archaic.
    lack of wisdom; foolishness.
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    What is the origin of insipience?

    Insipience “foolishness” comes via Old French from Latin insipientia. The Latin prefix in-, which has a negative or privative force, as in insipientia, is the ordinary Latin development of a reduced form of Proto-Indo-European ne “not,” which is the same source of Germanic (English un-). The Latin stem -sipient- is a reduced and combining form derived from sapientia “reason, soundness of mind, wisdom,” hence insipientia “foolishness, folly, stupidity.” The root word behind sapientia and insipientia is sapere “to taste, taste of, smell of, have good taste, feel, show good sense, be intelligent.” Sapere is the source of Italian sapere, Spanish saber, and French savoir, all meaning “to know.” The Latin noun sapor “flavor, taste, odor, smell” becomes Italian sapore, Spanish sabor, French saveur, and, through French, English savor and its derivative adjective savory. Insipience entered English in the 15th century.

    How is insipience used?

    Too many prefer the charge of insincerity to that of insipience—Dr. Newman seems not to be of that number. Charles Kingsley, What, Then, Does Dr. Newman Mean? 1864

    It has to be frustrating to know that you're surrounded by intelligent, earnest individuals who are prone to moments of public insipience, usually when their fingers are on the voting button. Richard Hellmann, "Plenty of room for city bed tax," The Courier, May 27, 1987

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, June 19, 2019

    shog

    verb (used without object) [shog, shawg]
    to jog along.
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    What is the origin of shog?

    The verb (and noun) shog “to shake, jolt, to jog along” is now used mostly in British dialect. The Middle English verb shogge(n) is possibly a variant of shock “to strike, jar” and is probably related to the Old High German noun scoc “a swinging, a swing,” Middle High German schock “a swing, a seesaw,” and Middle Dutch, Dutch schok “a shake, a jolt.” Shog entered English in the early 15th century.

    How is shog used?

    If you don't mind I'll shog on! I've got to walk fast now, or Gerda will be worrying. John Cowper Powys, Wolf Solent, 1929

    Then shog along homeward, chat over the fight / And hear in our dreams the sweet music all night. Charles Kingsley, "Go Hark!" 1856

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, June 18, 2019

    epiphonema

    noun [ep-uh-foh-nee-muh] Rhetoric.
    a sentence that is an exclamation, a general or striking comment, or a succinct summary of what has previously been said.
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    What is the origin of epiphonema?

    In classical rhetoric, epiphonema is a term for an exclamation or reflection that strikingly sums up a previous passage or discourse—a kind of moral of the story. It comes via Latin epiphōnēma from Greek epiphṓnēma “a witty saying,” from epiphōneîn “to mention by name, call out, address,” composed of a prefixal use of the preposition epí “upon, on” and phōneîn “to make a sound.” Phōneîn is derived from phonḗ “sound, tone, voice,” ultimately seen in a variety of English words, such as Anglophone, microphone, phonetics, phonology, polyphony, and (tele)phone. Oh, what euphonious words derive from ancient Greek!

    How is epiphonema used?

    To round off his argument, Montaigne reaches for an epiphonema ... "Oh, what a sweet and soft and healthy pillow is ignorance and incuriosity, to rest a well-made head!" Kathy Eden, "Cicero's Portion of Montaigne's Acclaim," Brill's Companion to the Reception of Cicero, 2015

    When the Great Teacher wished to recall or rouse attention he employed an epiphonema, saying, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," "Verily, verily, I say unto you," "Hearken unto me every one of you." George Winfred Hervey, A System of Christian Rhetoric, for the Use of Preachers and Other Speakers, 1873

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