Word of the Day

Friday, August 09, 2019

fascicle

[ fas-i-kuhl ]

noun

a section of a book or set of books being published in installments as separate pamphlets or volumes.

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What is the origin of fascicle?

The noun fascicle “a bunch, bundle” has always been a technical term, restricted to botany and anatomy. Even in its publishing sense, “a section of a book or set of books published in installments as separate pamphlets or volumes,” fascicle is a technical term. Fascicle comes from Latin fasciculus (also the source of fascicule) “a small bundle, packet, parcel,” a diminutive of the noun fascis “a bundle (e.g., of sticks, wood, books). The fascēs, the plural of fascis, were the bundle of rods about five feet long, bound by red leather bands around an ax that in Republican times was used as an instrument of execution. The fascēs were the primary visible symbol of a higher Roman magistrate’s power and authority. They were carried by lictors: twelve fascēs for consuls and proconsuls (and for kings in the regal period); six fascēs for praetors and Masters of the Horse; and twenty-four fascēs for dictators. Fascis or fascēs becomes fascio in Italian, meaning “bundle of sticks.” The Roman fascēs were adopted as the symbol of the Partito Nazionale Fascista (“National Fascist Party”) organized by Benito Mussolini in 1919, the same year as the appearance of the English noun fascists. Fascicle entered English in the 17th century.

how is fascicle used?

… she gathered her poems into forty homemade books, known as “fascicles,” by folding single sheets of blank paper in half to form four consecutive pages ….

Dan Chiasson, "Emily Dickinson's Singular Scrap Poetry," The New Yorker, November 27, 2016

… he knew what he sought, and found exactly that, the fascicles dwindling like melting ice-shards, verso words showing through ….

William T. Vollmann, "The Cemetery of the World," Last Stories and Other Stories, 2014
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Thursday, August 08, 2019

cat's-paw

[ kats-paw ]

noun

a person used to serve the purposes of another; tool.

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What is the origin of cat's-paw?

In English cat’s-paw originally meant “a person used to serve the purposes of another; tool.” The term comes from a Le Singe et le Chat, “The Monkey and the Cat,” a fable by Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695), the French poet and collector of fairy tales, in which a monkey persuades a cat to pull chestnuts out of hot coals that the chestnuts are roasting in and promises to share the chestnuts with the cat. The cat scoops the chestnuts one by one out of the coals, burning his paw in the process, while the monkey eats up the chestnuts. A maid enters the room, stopping all the action, and the cat gets nothing for its pains. Both nautical senses, “a light breeze on the surface of the water” and “a kind of knot made in the bight of a rope,” date from the second half of the 18th century. Cat’s-paw entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is cat's-paw used?

I believe these people are simply using you as a cats-paw.

Victor Bridges, A Rogue by Compulsion, 1915

… we should not take these fifty-one painters and sculptors … too seriously. In a certain sense they are mere cat’s-paws.

, "Are They Only Cat's-Paws?" New York Times, April 5, 1909
Wednesday, August 07, 2019

manqué

[ mahng-key ]

adjective

having failed, missed, or fallen short, especially because of circumstances or a defect of character; unsuccessful; unfulfilled or frustrated (usually used postpositively): a poet manqué who never produced a single book of verse.

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What is the origin of manqué?

Everything about the adjective manqué is French, including its spelling and syntax (manqué follows its noun, that is, a novelist manqué, not a manqué novelist). Manqué is the French past participle of manquer “to lack, be short of,” a borrowing from Old Italian mancare (early 14th century). Mancare comes from the Latin adjective mancus “having a useless hand, maimed, feeble, powerless,” a derivative of the noun manus “hand.” Manqué entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is manqué used?

I got an e-mail from a fellow-scholar who accused me of being an intellectual manqué.

Jill Lepore, "The Lingering of Loss," The New Yorker, July 1, 2019

At first, I planned to take a degree in psychiatry as many manqué talents do; but I was even more manqué than that …

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, 1955

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