Word of the Day

Thursday, September 17, 2020

festinate

[ fes-tuh-neyt ]

verb (used with or without object)

to hurry; hasten.

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What is the origin of festinate?

Festinate, a verb meaning “to hurry, hasten,” comes from Latin festīnātus, the past participle of the verb festīnāre “to make haste, hasten, hurry.” One of the emperor Augustus’s homely sayings was festīnā lentē “make haste slowly.” Festīnāre comes from the Latin root festi-, from an unrecorded Italic root ferst-, from the uncommon Proto-Indo-European root bheres-, bhers– “quick,” source of Irish bras and Welsh brys, both meaning “quick.” In Slavic, bhers– appears in the Polish adverb bardzo “very,” Czech brzo, brzý “early, soon,” and Russian borzóĭ “quick, swift,” also the name of a Russian breed of wolfhound. Festinate entered English as an adverb at the end of the 16th century, and as a verb in the mid-17th.

how is festinate used?

A bagatelle, ailing notes of a typochondriac, something to festinate the coming of spring or to take your mind off The Four Horsemen. Allons!

Joe Morehead, "U. S. Government Documents: A Mazeway Miscellany," Reference Quarterly, Spring 1970

That night he had had the firm belief that he would never need to eat again as long as he lived, and he wandered around in the dark, keeping his legs moving in a desperate attempt to festinate digestion …

Tibor Fischer, Under the Frog, 1992

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

quondam

[ kwon-duhm, -dam ]

adjective

former; onetime: his quondam partner.

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What is the origin of quondam?

The Latin adverb quondam, “formerly, anciently, once (upon a time),” has been used in English as a noun, “the former holder of an office,” as an adverb meaning “formerly, at one time,” and, currently and solely, as an adjective meaning “former, onetime.” All three usages in English occur close together in the first half of the 16th century. Quondam breaks down to the adverbial conjunction cum or quom “at the time that, when.” The particle –dam, however, is of uncertain origin.

how is quondam used?

A few hundred pages after faintly praising me as “a nice enough fellow and I’m sure a very smart guy for a hack,” the book’s narrator (a quondam critic with nothing nice to say about Charlie Kaufman) challenges me to a barroom argument about cinema.

A. O. Scott, "'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' Review: Where to Begin?" New York Times, September 1, 2020

So much has been written of late years about Wordsworth and Shelley, while their quondam rival has been treated with much contumelious silence, that the disdainers of Byron had begun to feel that the ground was entirely their own; and the faithful few, who in secret handed down the old Byron cult, must have fallen into desperation …

Paul Elmore More, "The Wholesome Revival of Byron," The Atlantic, December 1898

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

spang

[ spang ]

adverb

Informal.

directly, exactly.

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What is the origin of spang?

The adverb spang, “directly, exactly, right-on,” dates from the second half of the 18th century. All of its etymologies are speculative. Most has all the markings of an Americanism, but its first (and clearest) occurrence is in a burlesque version of the Iliad by English humorist Thomas Bridges: “Sometimes a brickbat with a bump, / Came spang against his heavy rump.”

how is spang used?

I put down a franc and flew like the wind, the hair on my back standing as high as Queen Anne’s ruff! And I didn’t stop until I found myself spang in the middle of the Musée de Cluny, clutching the rack.

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood, 1936

When a man takes off some three hundred square miles of territory spang in the center of Europe in an atomic explosion, you can’t blame the rest of the world for being a bit skittish about atomic power research.

John W. Campbell, The Planeteers, 1966

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Monday, September 14, 2020

blatherskite

[ blath-er-skahyt ]

noun

a person given to voluble, empty talk.

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What is the origin of blatherskite?

Blatherskite “one who is given to voluble, empty talk,” which dates from the middle of the 19th century, was originally and remains mostly an Americanism. Blatherskite is a variant of Scottish bletherskate, which dates from the mid-17th century and is a compound of the verb blether or blather “to talk nonsense” and the Anglo-American slang word skate “person, contemptible person, broken-down horse.” Another variant, bladderskate, appears in the traditional Scottish song “Maggie Lauder,” which was popular among American soldiers during the American Revolution.

how is blatherskite used?

This appeared to deeply offend Deputy Gregorig, who shouted back at Iro, “You cowardly blatherskite, say that again!”

Mark Twain, "Stirring Times in Austria," Harper's Magazine, March 1898

Ms. Murphy had already developed, for one reason or another, a reputation for fragility, and the blatherskites around Broadway began whispering.

Campbell Robertson, "No Ill Feelings: Producers Bet on a 'Superwoman,'" New York Times, April 30, 2007

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Sunday, September 13, 2020

lapidify

[ luh-pid-uh-fahy ]

verb (used with or without object)

Archaic.

to turn into stone.

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What is the origin of lapidify?

The relatively rare verb lapidify, “to turn into or become stone, petrify,” comes via French lapidifier from Medieval Latin lapidificāre. Lapidificāre is a transparent compound of Latin lapid– (the inflectional stem of lapis “stone”) and the Latin verb-forming suffix –ficāre, ultimately a derivative of facere “to make, do.” The resemblance between lapis and Greek lépas “bare rock” is “hardly accidental,” as the pros say: Both words probably come from a Mediterranean (non-Indo-European) language. Lapidify entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is lapidify used?

Perhaps in a few months a slow seepage, rich in minerals, would return to these passages and gradually glue their bodies to the rocks where they sat, to seal their crypt and lapidify their bones.

David Brin, Earth, 1990

The rule of the Abang, in an age when the techniques existed to lapidify any rule to permanency, was, because of the very rise of a party, doomed.

Anthony Burgess, The Enemy in the Blanket, 1958

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Saturday, September 12, 2020

threequel

[ three-kwuhl ]

noun

the third in a series of literary works, movies, etc.; a second sequel: The first two films in this underworld anthology were cinematic gems, but the threequel was at best a disappointment.

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What is the origin of threequel?

Threequel, “the third in a series of literary works, movies, etc.; a second sequel,” is a very recent neologism dating from around 1980. Threequel is an obvious compound of three and (se)quel. The term pops up in amusingly dismissive reviews of Jaws 3-D (a.k.a. Jaws III and Jaws 3), Rambo III, and RoboCop 3.

how is threequel used?

Threequels present a unique challenge: audiences expect the exact same cast to make them feel the exact same way the first two installments did, but with an entirely new and original storyline.

Seth Grossman, "This Wasn’t Even Good Reality TV," New York Times, October 20, 2016

2011’s five top-grossing films tell a very different story: one sequel (The Hangover Part II), one threequel (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), two fourquels (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides)—and one eightquel (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2).

Scott Meslow, "Between 'Potter' and 'Hunger Games,' a Spotty Decade for Teen-Lit Films," The Atlantic, March 22, 2012

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Friday, September 11, 2020

ineffable

[ in-ef-uh-buhl ]

adjective

incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible.

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What is the origin of ineffable?

Ineffable ultimately comes from Latin ineffābilis “(of a word) unpronounceable,” and in Late Latin and Christian Latin “(of the divine name) that cannot or must not be spoken.” Ineffābilis is a compound of in-, the Latin negative prefix that is equivalent to English un– (as in unspoken), and the verb effārī “to speak, speak out, speak solemnly, declare” (itself a compound of the preposition and prefix ex, ex– “out, out of” and fārī “to speak”). Another English derivative, infant, comes from Latin infāns (inflectional stem infant-) “small child, infant,” literally “nonspeaking,” formed from the same prefix in– and fāns, the present participle of fārī. Ineffable entered English in the late 14th century.

how is ineffable used?

As a child, I loved reading the dictionary in search of the precise words for everything. Reading this poem, whose title is a Japanese word often translated as ‘‘sunshine filtering through leaves,’’ I felt that wonder again—how the language of poetry can move us closer to naming what is ineffable.

Natasha Trethewey, "'Komorebi,' by Caitriona O'Reilly," New York Times Magazine, November 20, 2015

Again, I was listening very hard to jazz and hoping, one day, to translate it into language, and Shakespeare’s bawdiness became very important to me since bawdiness was one of the elements of jazz and revealed a tremendous, loving and realistic respect for the body, and that ineffable force which the body contains …

James Baldwin, "This Nettle, Danger ..." Show, Vol. 4, February 1964

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