Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, May 26, 2018

ferly

[ fer-lee ]

noun

something unusual, strange, or causing wonder or terror.

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What is the origin of ferly?

Nowadays ferly is used only in Scottish English as a noun meaning “a wonder, a marvel,” and a verb “to wonder.” The Old English source is the adjective fǣrlīc “sudden,” a derivative of the noun fǣr “fear” (akin to German Gefahr “danger” and gefährlich “dangerous”).

how is ferly used?

As on a May morning, on Malvern hills, / Me befell a ferly of fairy, methought.

William Langland (c1330–c1400), The Vision of Piers Plowman, 1360–99

Many a ferly fares to the fair-eyed …

William Morris, Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair, 1895
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Word of the day

Friday, May 25, 2018

pasquinade

[ pas-kwuh-neyd ]

noun

a satire or lampoon, especially one posted in a public place.

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What is the origin of pasquinade?

English pasquinade comes via French pasquinade from Italian pasquinata “a satire, lampoon,” a derivative of Pasquino, supposedly the name of a local Roman schoolmaster (or tailor, or shoemaker, or barber), and the nickname given to a 3rd-century b.c. fragment of statuary discovered in 1501 (now known to be Menelaus carrying the body of Patroclus). Cardinal Oliviero Carafa (1430-1511), an Italian cleric and diplomat, set the fragment up at the corner of his palace (the Palazzo Orsini, now the Palazzo Braschi), near the Piazza Navona, and began or encouraged the yearly custom to “restore” the fragment on the feast of St. Mark (April 25th) and clothe it in the costume of a mythological or historical character. University professors and their students paid “homage” to the statue by posting Latin verses (pasquinate) on the fragment. Over time these verses became anonymous satires written in Romanesco (the Italian dialect of Rome). Pasquinade entered English in the 17th century.

how is pasquinade used?

When Michaelis’s testimony at the inquest brought to light Wilson’s suspicions of his wife I thought the whole tale would shortly be served up in racy pasquinade

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925

There are several pasquinades up now, commenting on Berlusconi’s recent visit to Washington and his subsequent defense in the Italian Parliament of Italy’s support for the war in Iraq.

, "Ask Pasquino," The New Yorker, June 7, 2004

Word of the day

Thursday, May 24, 2018

antemeridian

[ an-tee-muh-rid-ee-uhn ]

adjective

occurring before noon.

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What is the origin of antemeridian?

The Latin adverbial phrase ante merīdiem means “before midday, before noon.” The noun merīdiēs is a dissimilation of medīdiēs “middle of the day, midday, south,” formed from the adjective medius “middle, middle of” and the noun diēs “day.” The Roman polymath Varro (c116-c27 b.c.) wrote that he saw the archaic or dialectal form medīdiēs on a sundial in Praeneste (modern Palestrina), a town east southeast of Rome. Antemeridian entered English in the 16th century.

how is antemeridian used?

And what, pray tell, is the point of “Twitter”? Seriously, I don’t “get” it. I meanest, I see what people use it for; I simply do not comprehend the urge to share publicly thy basest observations about celebrated thespians during ceremonies of awards and the quality of thy antemeridian coffee …

Teddy Wayne, "My Kingdom for an English Course!" New York Times, November 9, 2013

In the first antemeridian hours there was a lull in the restless hotel night.

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, 1955

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