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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