Word of the Day

Sunday, December 27, 2020

fainéant

[ fey-nee-uhnt; French fe-ney-ahn ]

adjective

idle; indolent.

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What is the origin of fainéant?

The English adjective and noun fainéant “indolent, idle; an idler, a do-nothing” is plainly French. The earlier French spelling fait-nient, literally meaning “he does nothing,” is a folk etymology of Old French faignant “idler, sluggard,” the present participle of faindre, feindre “to shirk,” source of English faint and feign. Fainéant entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is fainéant used?

He became a very fainéant Pope, occupying his leisure hours, not discreditably, with literature and learned men, but making of those hours a far larger portion of his life than was consistent with the duty of a supreme head of the Church.

Thomas Adolphus Trollope, The Papal Enclaves, As They Were and As They Are, 1876

The evidence which he presents in such detail continues to produce, if anything, precisely that impression of the faineant President which he has been anxious to dispel.

George Dangerfield, "One in the shade of Jefferson, one in the shade of Adams," New York Times, July 4, 1971

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Saturday, December 26, 2020

fistic

[ fis-tik ]

adjective

of boxing; pugilistic.

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What is the origin of fistic?

Fistic “pertaining to the fists or boxing” is a transparent compound of the English noun fist and the adjective suffix –ic. Fist comes from Old English fȳst and is closely related to Dutch vuist and German Faust. The thoroughly naturalized suffix –ic derives from Latin –icus and Greek –ikos and was originally applied to Latin or Greek nouns (such as metallic, music, poetic, public). Fistic is a facetious synonym of pugilistic, which is a derivative of Latin pugil “fist fighter, boxer.” Pugil is akin to pugna “fist” and its derived verb pugnāre “to fight,” ultimate source of English pugnacious. All of the Latin words are related to the Greek adverb pýx “with the fist,” and the noun pygmḗ “fist, fistfight, boxing,” also a measure of length from the elbow to the knuckles (of the fist). Fistic entered English in the early 19th century.

how is fistic used?

Yes, boxing and the other fistic and grappling arts are still with us, driven by the popularity of mixed martial arts and Ultimate Mixed Fighting bouts.

William Porter, "Metro Denver gyms offer a workout for everyone," Denver Post, July 7, 2014

To continue in fistic phraseology, he had a genius for coming up to the scratch, wherever and whatever it was, and proving himself an ugly customer. … He was certain to knock the wind out of common sense …

Charles Dickens, Hard Times, 1854

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Friday, December 25, 2020

merrymaking

[ mer-ee-mey-king ]

noun

the act of taking part cheerfully or enthusiastically in some festive or merry celebration.

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What is the origin of merrymaking?

Merrymaking “participating in a festive occasion” comes from the verb merrymake, from the verb phrase to make merry. The adjective merry, which these days quickly calls to mind the winter holidays, dates from Old English. Interestingly, the well-known Christmas carol God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen dates from the 16th century, if not earlier, and its first line (notice the position of the comma) originally meant “God keep you joyful, Gentlemen.” During the 18th century, the transitive sense of the verb rest “to keep, preserve” became obsolete, and rest acquired the transitive sense “to grant rest to,” which required a change of punctuation to “God rest you, Merry Gentlemen.” Merrymaking entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is merrymaking used?

We all know that Christmas will look different this year. But while many of our usual sources for merrymaking might be off limits or cancelled, there are still plenty of things we can do outside to make us feel jolly.

Ella Alexander, "8 outdoor Christmas activities you can still do this winter," Harper's Bazaar, November 24, 2020

He walked briskly back to his hole, and stood for a moment listening with a smile to the din in the pavilion, and to the sounds of merrymaking in other parts of the field.

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954

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