Word of the Day

Friday, February 21, 2020

farthing

[ fahr-thing ]

noun

something of very small value: I don't care a farthing for your opinion.

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What is the origin of farthing?

A farthing was formerly an English coin of the smallest denomination, worth a quarter of a penny. Originally the coin was made of silver, then of a copper alloy, and finally of bronze. The coin was discontinued in 1961. The Middle English name for the coin was ferthing, farthing (with still more variants), made of silver, and came from Old English fēorthing, fēorthung “a quarter, a fourth part, a farthing.” The Old English forms are derivatives of fēortha “fourth” and the noun suffix –ing “one belonging to, descended from,” sometimes used to form diminutives, as here. Farthing entered English before a.d. 1000.

how is farthing used?

… when he cares not a farthing for the general good, and will sell his vote for a dollar … then his vote becomes a public pest.

Francis Parkman, "The Failure of Universal Suffrage," North American Review, July–August, 1878

Most of the tunes are pegged to the show-within-the-show, which we couldn’t give a farthing about.

Scott Brown, "Theater Review: The Mystery of Edwin Drood," New York, November 13, 2012
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Thursday, February 20, 2020

phronesis

[ froh-nee-sis ]

noun

Philosophy.

wisdom in determining ends and the means of attaining them.

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What is the origin of phronesis?

Phronesis, “wisdom in determining ends and the means of attaining them, practical understanding, sound judgment,” comes from Latin phronēsis, from Greek phrónēsis, meaning “practical wisdom, prudence in government and public affairs” in Plato, Aristotle, and other heavy hitters. Phrónēsis is a derivative of the verb phroneîn “to think, be minded, be wise”; phroneîn in turn is a derivative formed from the noun phrēn (stem phren-), whose myriad meanings include “midriff, diaphragm, heart (as seat of the passions and bodily appetites), mind (seat of the mental faculties and perception).” Phronesis entered English in the 16th century.

how is phronesis used?

[Aristotle’s] concept of practical wisdom or phronesis involved constantly weighing the relative value of arguments in the face of decisions and actions.

Michelle Mielly and Sharon Crost, "Fake news meets fact in an Oxford-style debate revival," The Conversation, May 21, 2018

… courage also requires us to apply what Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics calls “phronesis” or practical wisdom.

The best analysis of practical wisdom I know of occurs in the chorus of “The Gambler” … “You got to know when to hold ‘em / Know when to fold ‘em / Know when to walk away / Know when to run.”

Bruce Weinstein, "A Royal Question: When Do Leaders Have A Duty To Step Back?" Forbes, January 11, 2020
Wednesday, February 19, 2020

détente

[ dey-tahnt; French dey-tahnt ]

noun

a relaxing of tension, especially between nations, as by negotiations or agreements.

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What is the origin of détente?

Détente, “a relaxation of tension, especially between nations,” still feels like a French word, as its spelling and pronunciation show. French détente comes from Old French destente, a derivative of destendre “to relax,” a compound of the prefix des– “apart, away” (from the Latin prefix dis– with the same meanings) and the verb tendre “to stretch” (from Latin tendere). Détente entered English in 1908 at the time of the détente between Great Britain and France.

how is détente used?

There is hope that the U.S. and China will at least reach some sort of detente on trade.

Justin Lahart, "A Perfect Storm for Business Investment," Wall Street Journal, October 24, 2019

The fairly stunning detente in what was shaping up to be a protracted war of digital assistants for ultimate domination of the smart home could lead to any number of smart home innovations now that the two systems are being allowed to work in tandem.

Adario Strange, "Alexa and Cortana will now be able to talk to each other to control your smart home," Mashable, August 30, 2017

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