Word of the Day

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

facetiae

[ fuh-see-shee-ee ]

plural noun

amusing or witty remarks or writings.

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What is the origin of facetiae?

Facētiae is a Latin plural noun meaning “skillfulness, cleverness, wittiness.” It is a derivative of the adjective facētus “clever, good-humored, whimsical,” which has no reliable etymology. In the olden days, in less enlightened and progressive times than our ownsay about 1850facetiae was used in book catalogs as a euphemism for pornography (now also called erotica). Facetiae entered English in the 16th century.

how is facetiae used?

Even the facetiae of the gallant expressman who knew everybody’s Christian name along the route, who rained letters, newspapers, and bundles from the top of the stage … failed to interest me.

Bret Harte, "A Night at Wingdam," The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Tales, 1871

… you had better beware how you excite that comic vein to its fullest current of facetiae.

Thomas Peckett Prest, The Brigand; or, The Mountain Chief, 1851
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Monday, March 11, 2019

myopic

[ mahy-op-ik, -oh-pik ]

adjective

unable or unwilling to act prudently; shortsighted.

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What is the origin of myopic?

Myopic ultimately comes from the Greek noun myōpía “nearsightedness,” which in Greek has no extended or metaphorical meaning. (The suffix –ic is English, not Greek, i.e., there is no Greek adjective myōpikós.) Myōpía is a compound formed of the verb mýein “to close the eyes or mouth,” which is close kin to the Latin mūtus “inarticulate, dumb, silent” (English mute). The same mýein appears in the noun mystḗrion “secret, secret rite” (English mystery) and its adjective mystikós “connected with the mysteries” (English mystic). The second element of myopia, –ōpía, is a combining form of ṓps (stem ōp-) “eye, face, countenance.” Myopic in its original sense entered English at the end of the 18th century; the sense “unable or unwilling to act prudently” developed in English at the end of the 19th century.

how is myopic used?

The belief that simply running a data set will solve for every challenge and every bias is problematic and myopic.

Yael Eisenstat, "The Real Reason Tech Struggles With Algorithmic Bias," Wired, February 12, 2019

Science provides us with a new perspective on our place in the cosmos and a better understanding of ourselves as human beings. It helps us overcome our otherwise myopic preconceptions about how the world works.

Lawrence M. Krauss, "What Is Science Good For?" The New Yorker, April 21, 2017
Sunday, March 10, 2019

temporize

[ tem-puh-rahyz ]

verb

to be indecisive or evasive to gain time or delay acting.

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What is the origin of temporize?

The current, somewhat negative, meaning of temporize, “to be indecisive or evasive to gain time or delay acting,” is a relatively modern development of Middle French temporiser “to pass the time, await one’s time,” from Medieval Latin temporizāre “to delay,” equivalent to Medieval Latin temporāre “to delay, put off the time.” All of the medieval words are derivatives of Latin tempor-, the inflectional stem of tempus “time,” which has no certain etymology. Temporize entered English in the 16th century.

how is temporize used?

I’ll temporise till we are all dead and buried.

Charles Reade, A Perilous Secret, 1884

He is as likely as any man I know to temporize—to calculate what will be likely to promote his own reputation and advantage …

Alexander Hamilton to James A. Bayard, January 16, 1801, in Letters of Alexander Hamilton, Volume 25, 1977

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