Word of the Day

Saturday, December 07, 2019

fastigiate

[ fa-stij-ee-it, -eyt ]

adjective

having branches that are erect and parallel, tapering to a pointed top.

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What is the origin of fastigiate?

The rare adjective fastigiate, “having branches that are erect and parallel, tapering to a pointed top, like a Lombardy poplar,” is used only in botany and zoology. It comes from Medieval Latin fastīgātus “high, lofty,” from Latin fastīgium “height, highest point, summit, taper.” Fastigiate entered English in the 17th century.

how is fastigiate used?

Most gardeners, looking for vertical features in a border, will turn to some conifer or other fastigiate shrub …

Christopher Lloyd, "Alternative means of support," Horticulture, November 1995

When one of two fastigiate oaks by her front door blew down in a hurricane, she watched it right itself, then called an arborist to prune its slender, upright branches.

Anne Raver, "Gardens in the Buff," New York Times, January 29, 2004
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Friday, December 06, 2019

bonhomie

[ bon-uh-mee, bon-uh-mee ]

noun

frank and simple good-heartedness; a good-natured manner; friendliness; geniality.

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What is the origin of bonhomie?

The English noun bonhomie, “frank and simple good-heartedness, friendliness,” still feels French and foreign. The French original, bonhomie, bonhommie, which appeared only 40 years before the English noun, has the same meaning as the English. Bonhomie is a derivative of the Middle and Old French bon homme, bonhom, literally “good man” and later “commoner, peasant.” Even today in French-speaking countries bonhomme is a respectful form of address. Bon homme comes from Latin bonus homō; its plural, bonī hominēs, especially referred to the Albigensian heretics (also Cathars or Cathari), who were exterminated in the 13th century by the Inquisition. Bonhomie entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is bonhomie used?

Lennon would fire up his fellow Beatles with a bit of call-and-response bonhomie. “Where are we going, fellas?” he’d ask, to which Paul, George, and Ringo would respond, “To the toppermost of the poppermost, Johnny!”

Andrew Romano, "Lennon's Other Legacy," Newsweek, December 13, 2010

Einstein’s manner was full of charm and bonhomie.

Jacob Epstein, Let There Be Sculpture, 1940
Thursday, December 05, 2019

spoonerism

[ spoo-nuh-riz-uhm ]

noun

the transposition of initial or other sounds of words, usually by accident, as in a blushing crow for a crushing blow.

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What is the origin of spoonerism?

Spoonerisms, often hilarious, are named after the 19th-century Anglican clergyman William Archibald Spooner, warden of New College, Oxford University. The Reverend Spooner himself claimed as his only spoonerism “The Kinquering Congs Their Titles Take” (1879), a mangling of the name of the hymn “The Conquering Kings Their Titles Take.” In American English the most famous spoonerism must be the one made by the old-time radio announcer Harry von Zell, who in a live broadcast in 1931 announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Hoobert Heever.” Spoonerism entered English about 1900.

how is spoonerism used?

Spoonerisms are the comfortable shoes of slips of the tongue: when it comes time to illustrate the universality speech errors, they’re so familiar and broken in, they always get a laugh.

Michael Erard, Um ... : Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Really Mean, 2007

Other words the BFG coins are from errors. For example, in spoonerisms snapperwhipper, dory-hunky and catasterous disastrophe, the initial syllables have been swapped.

Simon Horobin, "The BFG reminds us that wordplay is part of learning and mastering language," The Conversation, July 22, 2016

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