Word of the Day

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

exonumia

[ ek-suh-noo-mee-uh, -nyoo- ]

plural noun

items, as tokens or medals, that resemble money but are not intended to circulate as money.

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What is the origin of exonumia?

Exonumia, a relatively new noun meaning “items such as subway tokens or bus tokens that resemble money but do not circulate as money,” is formed from the originally Greek adverb and combining form éxō “out, outside, without” and the first syllable of numismatics “the study or collecting of coins, medals, or paper money.” Numismatics in turn is a derivative of the Late Latin noun numisma (stem numismat-) from Latin nomisma “coin, medal, token,” from Greek nómisma “established usage, custom, current coin.” The final element –ia is the noun suffix (-ia in Latin, –ía in Greek), familiar in learned English words like agoraphobia and anesthesia. Exonumia entered English in the early 1960s.

how is exonumia used?

In addition to the display of the Roman Emperor set, the conventions will also host auctions of U.S. and foreign coins, ancient coins, medals and exonumia–the weird beasts of numismatics.

Jed Stevenson, "Pastimes; Coins," New York Times, April 29, 1990

A hobby organization that celebrates taxes, or at least exonumia connected to taxes, celebrates a milestone anniversary this year. In 1971, the American Tax Token Society was created by numismatists who share an interest in collecting Depression-era tokens.

Larry Jewett, "Tax token club turns 50 years old in 2021," Coin World, March 18, 2021

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Monday, April 26, 2021

sumpsimus

[ suhmp-suh-muhs ]

noun

adherence to or persistence in using a strictly correct term, holding to a precise practice, etc., as a rejection of an erroneous but more common form.

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What is the origin of sumpsimus?

The odd noun sumpsimus, “adherence to a correct word or practice while rejecting an erroneous but more common one; a person who stubbornly adheres to such correctness,” has an equally odd history. Sumpsimus is actually a Latin verb form “we have taken,” the first person plural perfect indicative of sūmere “to take, take up.” Sumpsimus is part of the priest’s postcommunion prayer in the old Latin liturgy before the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and the entire sentence reads Quod ōre sūmpsimus, Domine, pūrā mente capiāmus “What we have taken by mouth, O Lord, may we keep with a pure mind.” The traditional story behind sumpsimus is that Erasmus, the Dutch humanist and scholar, wrote a letter in 1516 about an English priest who, when he was corrected about his use of incorrect mumpsimus for the correct sūmpsimus, said he would not change his old mumpsimus for the new sumpsimus. Thus mumpsimus, the opposite of sumpsimus, means “adherence to an incorrect word or practice while rejecting the correct one, or a person who persists in a mistaken expression or practice.” Sumpsimus (and mumpsimus) entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is sumpsimus used?

But some, like the venerable Dr. Hayek, sturdily adhere to the true faith of Adam Smith, refusing, like the legendary medieval priest, to change his mumpsimus for the new-fangled sumpsimus.

George Ball, "An Overdose of Economists," Washington Post, April 7, 1980

It would, I am sure, move his pity to think how many old dogs he hath set to learn new tricks, how many venerable parrots he hath addled by vain attempts to exchange their old Mumpsimus for his new Sumpsimus.

Sir Walter Scott, The Monastery, 1820

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Sunday, April 25, 2021

celluloid

[ sel-yuh-loid ]

adjective

of or involving motion pictures.

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What is the origin of celluloid?

The primary meaning nowadays of the adjective celluloid is “pertaining to the movies.” The noun celluloid refers to the hard, explosively flammable plastic that formerly was used to make movies until about 1950 (it was discontinued because of its flammability and tendency to decompose). Celluloid was originally a trademark (1869), a word composed of cellulose and the familiar suffix -oid “resembling, like”: Celluloid is something that resembles cellulose. Some people may remember from literature or the movies (or from Looney Tunes) the celluloid dickeys (pieces of clothing made to look like the front or collar of a shirt) that would pop out of a man’s waistcoat or cummerbund and roll up to his throat. Krusty the Klown of The Simpsons wore a dickey in an act of his that bombed badly (The Last Temptation of Krust, February 22, 1998). Celluloid entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is celluloid used?

My wife and I knew Hollywood couldn’t be trusted. Chances were that the true story of the Von Trapps bore only a passing resemblance to the celluloid version.

Jay Copp, "Move over, Julie. We search for the real 'Sound of Music.'" Christian Science Monitor, June 24, 2003

The story of dashed celluloid dreams became a journalistic genre—the flip side of the overnight-discovery tale, and, in its way, an equal testament to the power of Hollywood.

Margaret Talbot, "The Screen Test," The New Yorker, September 24, 2012

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