• Word of the day
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    Tuesday, June 04, 2019

    fictioneer

    noun [fik-shuh-neer]
    a writer of fiction, especially a prolific one whose works are of mediocre quality.
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    What is the origin of fictioneer?

    The noun fictioneer is composed of the noun fiction and the noun suffix -eer denoting agency. The suffix is neutral in words like engineer and mountaineer, but it frequently has a pejorative sense, as in profiteer and racketeer. Fictioneer, too, has always had a hint of contempt in it: an early (1901) definition of fictioneer reads “a writer of ‘machine-made’ fiction.” Fictioneer entered English in the early 20th century.

    How is fictioneer used?

    If you were not a fictioneer, if you did not place a monetary value on the efforts of your imagination, I should be inclined to think that you were lying .... Theodore Goodridge Roberts, "The Whisper," Munsey's Magazine, Vol. 54, 1915

    That was long ago, and she's a grandmother today, but still she can toss around the lingo of the Wild West with a fluency that would be the envy of a Hollywood scenarist or a fictioneer of the great open spaces. Jean Ashton, "Revives Glories of 'Wild West'," Windsor Daily Star, August 30, 1941

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, June 03, 2019

    fecund

    adjective [fee-kuhnd, -kuhnd, fek-uhnd, -uhnd]
    very productive or creative intellectually: the fecund years of the Italian Renaissance.
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    What is the origin of fecund?

    The English adjective fecund ultimately comes from Latin fēcundus “fertile, productive,” used of humans, animals, and plants. The first syllable - is a Latin development of the Proto-Indo-European root dhē(i)- “to suck, suckle.” From - Latin forms the derivatives fēlīx “fruitful, productive, fortunate, blessed, lucky” (source of the English name Felix and felicity), fēmina “woman” (originally a feminine participle meaning “suckling”), fētus “parturition, birth, conception, begetting, young (plant or animal), child,” and fīlius and fīlia “son” and “daughter,” respectively (and source of filial). Dhē(i)- appears in Greek as thē(i)-, as in thêsthai “to suckle” and thēlḗ “nipple, teat” (an element of the uncommon English noun thelitis “inflammation of the nipple”). Fecund entered English in the 15th century.

    How is fecund used?

    ... he possesses a fecund imagination able to spin out one successful series after another .... John Koblin, "As the Streaming Wars Heat Up, Ryan Murphy Cashes In," New York Times, February 14, 2018

    He sort of reminded me of Billy Name ... the guy who pretty much functioned as the Factory's foreman during its most fecund years. Mark Leyner, Gone with the Mind, 2016

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, June 02, 2019

    jactation

    noun [jak-tey-shuhn]
    boasting; bragging.
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    What is the origin of jactation?

    Jactation comes straight from the Latin noun jactātiōn- (the inflectional stem of jactātiō) “a flinging or throwing about, a shaking or jolting, tossing of the waves at sea,” and by extension, “frequent changing of one’s mind or attitude, boastfulness, grounds for boasting.” Jactātiō is a derivative of the verb jactāre “to throw, hurl, toss,” a frequentative verb from jacere “to throw, toss, sow (seed), cast (anchor).” Jactation entered English in the 16th century.

    How is jactation used?

    Judge of my mortification, t'other day, when in a moment of jactation, I boasted of being born in that illustrious, ancient, and powerful kingdom! Robert Murray Keith to his sisters, April 10, 1971, in Memoirs and Correspondence of Sir Robert Murray Keith, K.B., Vol. 2, 1849

    Others see in them merely the jactation of a limited wit, which is nothing more. George Saintsbury, A Short History of French Literature, 5th ed., 1901

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, June 01, 2019

    disinvent

    verb (used with object) [dis-in-vent]
    to undo the invention of; to reverse the existence of.
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    What is the origin of disinvent?

    Disinvent is an obvious compound of the prefix dis-, here having a reversing force, and the verb invent. It is quite rare, first appearing in the second half of the 19th century (for the “disinventing” of the telegraph). In the 20th century disinvent has been applied to the impossibility of “disinventing” nuclear or chemical weapons.

    How is disinvent used?

    However alarmed we are by those weapons, we cannot disinvent them. The world cannot cancel the knowledge of how to make them. It is an irreversible fact. Margaret Thatcher, "Disarmament with Security: Towards Peace with Freedom," speech to UN General Assembly, June 23, 1982

    A number of science fiction movies have actually had to “disinvent” existing technologies in order to retell the myth of how rebels against “the system” help preserve free and open societies. Mark Hagerott and Daniel Sarewitz, "A Future in Denial," Slate, July 30, 2013

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, May 31, 2019

    persiflage

    noun [pur-suh-flahzh, pair-]
    light, bantering talk or writing.
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    What is the origin of persiflage?

    The origin of persiflage all comes down to sound. English persiflage is borrowed from French persiflage, derived from persifler “to banter” and -age, a noun-forming suffix. Persifler combines per-, an intensive prefix meaning “thoroughly,” and siffler “to whistle, hiss.” Siffler in turn comes from Late Latin sīfilāre, from Latin sībilāre, also “to whistle, hiss.” This perfectly expressive verb yields English sibilate “to hiss” and sibilant “hissing,” which, in phonetics, characterizes such sounds as the -s- and -zh- in persiflage. We can well imagine how the teasing repartee, for example, of two sweethearts in a romantic comedy, sizzles with sibilant sounds, but for all the “hissing” of persiflage, its raillery is light and good-natured. Persiflage entered English in the mid-18th century.

    How is persiflage used?

    He was not an Italian, still less a Frenchman, in whose blood there runs the very spirit of persiflage and of gracious repartee. E. M. Forster, Howards End, 1910

    ... when persons of unrestrained wit devote their attention to airy persiflage, much may be included in their points of view. Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Head of the House of Coombe, 1922

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, May 30, 2019

    foment

    verb [foh-ment]
    to instigate or foster (discord, rebellion, etc.).
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    What is the origin of foment?

    English foment ultimately comes from the Latin noun fōmentum “a soothing dressing or compress (hot or cold), a remedy, alleviation.” Fōmentum is a contraction of an earlier, unrecorded fovimentum or fovementum, a derivative of the verb fovēre “to keep warm, protect from the cold, refresh, ease.” The Latin neuter suffix -mentum is used to form concrete nouns from verbs, such as armāmentum “sailing gear, tackle,” from armāre “to fit out with equipment or weapons.” Foment entered English in the 15th century.

    How is foment used?

    Russian attempts to influence American voters—including ad purchases on social media intended to foment racial division—coexisted with and benefitted from domestic attempts to discourage people from casting a vote. Jelani Cobb, "The House Takes On America's Voting-Rights Problem," The New Yorker, February 10, 2019

    The coordinated attacks, which took place in three Sri Lankan cities and killed more than 300 people, were designed to foment religious strife in a country that has been slowly recovering from a quarter-century-long civil war. Noam Cohen, "Like Guns, Social Media Is a Weapon That Should Be Regulated," Wired, April 23, 2019

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, May 29, 2019

    equity

    noun [ek-wi-tee]
    the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness; impartiality.
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    What is the origin of equity?

    Equity comes via Old French equité from Latin aequitāt-, stem of aequitās “evenness, uniformity, justice, fairness, impartiality.” Aequitās is a noun derivative of the adjective aequus “even, level, flat, just, impartial, reasonable,” of unknown origin. Aequus is the ultimate source of many other familiar English words, including equal, equality, equable, equitable, equation, and equator, as well as the combining form equi-, as in equipoise. Latin also used aequus in compounds, ultimately yielding such English words as equanimity, literally “even mind,” equilateral “having equal sides,” equilibrium “equal weight,” equinox “equal (day and) night,” and equivalent “having equal power.” Equity entered English by the early 14th century.

    How is equity used?

    In general, the female candidates who won foregrounded fundamental issues of equity and access for all Americans, especially regarding health care and education. Margaret Talbot, "How Women Won Big in the Midterms," The New Yorker, November 7, 2018

    But it [universal basic income] should work in tandem with targeted aid motivated by equity over blind equality. Jathan Sadowski, "Why Silicon Valley is embracing universal basic income," The Guardian, June 22, 2016

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