Word of the Day

Saturday, March 09, 2019

eyewinker

[ ahy-wing-ker ]

noun

an eyelash.

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What is the origin of eyewinker?

Eyewinker is a very rare noun, originally Scottish and now mostly an American regionalism. Eye needs no explanation; winker has several meanings: “eyelash, eyelid, eye, something that gets in the eye and makes one blink.” Eyewinker entered English in the early 19th century.

how is eyewinker used?

“Last nightat dinner”Mrs. Appel eyed him accusingly“I foundan eyewinkerin the hard sauce.”

Caroline Lockhart,  The Dude Wrangler, 1921

Not even an eyewinker was left to her.

Stewart Edward White, Gold, 1913

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Friday, March 08, 2019

regina

[ ri-jahy-nuh, -jee- ]

noun

queen.

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What is the origin of regina?

The Latin noun rēgīna “queen” is obviously related to the Latin noun rēx (inflectional stem rēg-) “king,” but how rēgīna is derived from rēx is tricky. There is also a deceptive resemblance between rēx and rēgīna and Sanskrit rā́jan– “rajah, king” and rā́jñī– “queen, ranee” (rēgīna and rā́jñī– are not directly related). There is a definite connection, however, between Latin rēx (rēg-), rēgīna and the Celtic words for king, e.g., Old Irish (from rīks), and its stem ríg (from rīgos). Rígain, the Old Irish word for queen, is cognate with rēgīna. Regina dates from Old English times.

how is regina used?

He represented the rule of law, and in Miromara the law bowed to no one, not even the regina herself.

Jennifer Donnelly,  Sea Spell, 2016

“Mother of heaven, regina of the clouds … .”

Wallace Stevens, "Le Monocle de Mon Oncle,"  Others, 1918
Thursday, March 07, 2019

Heiligenschein

[ hahy-li-guhn-shahyn ]

noun

German.

a ring of light around the shadow cast by a person's head, especially on a dewy, sunlit lawn, caused by reflection and diffraction of light rays; halo.

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What is the origin of Heiligenschein?

Heiligenschein in German means “halo (around a saint’s head), nimbus, aureole,” literally, “saint’s shining, saint’s light.” The optical effect is also called Cellini’s halo, after the Italian artist and writer Benevenuto Cellini (1500-71) who first described the phenomenon. Heiligenschein entered English in the 20th century.

how is Heiligenschein used?

The dark figure outlined on the mountain mist may have had a glory around its head, or at least a Heiligenschein, and seemed like ghost to the mountaineer who saw it.

Elizabeth A. Wood,  Science from Your Airplane Window, 1968

You may sometimes have noticed a faint sheen, or increased brightness, around the shadow of your head when this falls on a grass lawn, particularly when the Sun is low, and you cast a long shadow. This sheen is known as a heiligenschein, a German word meaning ‘holy glow.’

John Naylor,  Out of the Blue: A 24-hour Skywatcher's Guide, 2002
Wednesday, March 06, 2019

nice-nellyism

[ nahys-nel-ee-iz-uhm ]

noun

a euphemism: an evasive style of writing, full of circumlocutions and nice-nellyisms.

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What is the origin of nice-nellyism?

Nice-nellyism is an Americanism dating from the early 1930s. It is a contemptuous derivative of the contemptuous noun and adjective nice nelly (also nice Nelly) “prudish; prudish person,” which dates from the nearly 1920s.

how is nice-nellyism used?

This denial was at least partly a nice-Nellyism from the past, I think.

Kurt Vonnegut, Slapstick; or, Lonesome No More!, 1976

… it had been one of the running jokes of the campus, an exercise in innuendo, misinformation and Victorian nice-nellyism.

T. C. Boyle,  The Inner Circle, 2004
Tuesday, March 05, 2019

voluble

[ vol-yuh-buhl ]

adjective

characterized by a ready and continuous flow of words; fluent; glib; talkative: a voluble spokesman for the cause.

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What is the origin of voluble?

Voluble ultimately comes from the Latin adjective volūbilis “rolling, rotating, spinning (on an axis); (of speech or speakers) fluent.” Volūbilis is a derivative of the verb volvere “to roll, roll over, roll around, grovel; to bring around (seasons, events).” Compounds of volvere are common in Latin and English: ēvolvere “to unroll, open” (English evolve), dēvolvere “to roll down, roll off, sink back” (English devolve), involvere “to roll up, roll in” (English involve), and revolvere “to roll back (something to its source), unroll (a scroll for reading” (English revolve). Other Latin derivatives from the same root include volūmen “roll, papyrus roll” (English volume), volūta “scroll (on a column) (English volute),” vulva, volva “womb, vulva” (English vulva). Voluble entered English in the 16th century.

how is voluble used?

But Wolf Larsen seemed voluble, prone to speech as I had never seen him before.

Jack London, The Sea-Wolf, 1904

And he aged into a voluble and distinctive public character, a roguish charmer in a kufi, operating out of a packed storefront studio, tooling around Memphis in a plush old sedan.

Christopher Bonanos, "The Civil Rights Movement Photographer Who Was Also an F.B.I. Informant," New York Times, January 18, 2019
Monday, March 04, 2019

pettifog

[ pet-ee-fog, -fawg ]

verb

to bicker or quibble over trifles or unimportant matters.

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What is the origin of pettifog?

The verb pettifog is a back formation from the noun pettifogger, originally “ambulance chaser, shyster, fixer.” Pettifogger is a compound of the adjective petty “of minor importance” and fogger “a middleman.” Fogger itself probably derives ultimately from Fugger, the name of a prominent family of German bankers of the 15th and 16th centuries. The family name became a common noun in German and Dutch, meaning “rich man, monopolist, usurer.” Pettifog entered English in the 17th century.

how is pettifog used?

Marius, my boy, you are a baron, you are rich, don’t pettifog—I beg of you.

Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, translated by Charles Edwin Wilbour, 1862

The way for the President to protect his prerogatives of office is not to pettifog about war powers but to go to the nation with his case.

William Safire, "In Harm's Way," New York Times, May 25, 1987
Sunday, March 03, 2019

melic

[ mel-ik ]

adjective

intended to be sung.

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What is the origin of melic?

Melic comes from the Greek adjective melikós “lyric (poetry, poet),” a derivative of the noun mélos “limb (of a body), member, musical member, musical phrase, music, song.” Melic is not a common word, unlike its cousin melody, from mélos and ōidḗ “song” (the source of English ode). Melic entered English at the end of the 17th century.

how is melic used?

… anapaests are commonly used either as a sung form, “melic anapaests”, or chanted, a form sometimes called “marching anapaests.”

Simon Goldhill,  Sophocles and the Language of Tragedy, 2012

The earliest discussions call this kind of verse ‘melic’ (the Greek melos means ‘song’), and roughly distinguish sung poems from epic and tragedy.

Colin Burrow, "Ohs and Ahs, Zeros and Ones," London Review of Books, Vol. 39 No. 17, September 7, 2017

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