Word of the Day

Saturday, February 10, 2018

fiddle-footed

[ fid-l-foo t-id ]

adjective

Informal. restlessly wandering.

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What is the origin of fiddle-footed?

Fiddle-footed was first recorded in 1945-50.

how is fiddle-footed used?

Instead, they just kept moving, a pair of fiddle-footed ramblers, following the wind, until that drifting brought them out here.

Robert Coover, Ghost Town, 1998

Being fiddle-footed was its own peculiar blessing and curse at the same time.

Jon Sharpe, The Trailsman #290: Mountain Mavericks, 2005
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Friday, February 09, 2018

intersectionality

[ in-ter-sek-shuh-nal-i-tee ]

noun

the theory that the overlap of various social identities, as race, gender, sexuality, and class, contributes to the specific type ofsystemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual (often used attributively): Her paper uses a queer intersectionality approach.

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What is the origin of intersectionality?

Intersectionality was coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw. It entered English in 1989.

how is intersectionality used?

Intersectionality tells us that there is no one singular experience for women because of the way gender works in conjunction with race, ethnicity, social class, and sexuality.

Anna Diamond, "Making the Invisible Visible," Slate, September 3, 2015

… flippant or vague references to “intersectionality” abound and can serve to obscure a profound critique of deeply entrenched cognitive habits that inform feminist and antiracist thinking about oppression and privilege.

Anna Carastathis, Intersectionality: Origins, Contestations, Horizons, 2016
Thursday, February 08, 2018

naissance

[ ney-suh ns ]

noun

a birth, an origination, or a growth, as that of a person, an organization, an idea, or a movement.

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What is the origin of naissance?

The English noun naissance comes from Middle French naissance, which is a derivative of the verb naître “to be born.” The French verb comes from the Vulgar Latin nāscere, a regular verb replacing the Latin deponent verb nāscī. Naissance entered English in the late 15th century. The sense of “new style, movement, or development (in the arts)” comes from a French usage of the 20th century.

how is naissance used?

If this was a period of Renaissance for Western Europe, was it not rather a Naissance for Russia?

Mary Platt Parmele, A Short History of Russia, 1899

Nina’s watchful eyes opened wider and wider as she witnessed in Eileen the naissance of an unconscious and delicate coquetry, quite unabashed, yet the more significant for that …

Robert W. Chambers, The Younger Set, 1907
Wednesday, February 07, 2018

lenity

[ len-i-tee ]

noun

the quality or state of being mild or gentle, as toward others.

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What is the origin of lenity?

The English noun lenity is a borrowing of Old French lenité or Latin lēnitat-, the stem of lēnitās “softness, smoothness, gentleness,” a derivative of the adjective lēnis, from which English has lenient and lenition. Lenity entered English in the mid-16th century.

how is lenity used?

He confined the knowledge of governing within very narrow bounds, to common sense and reason, to justice and lenity, to the speedy determination of civil and criminal causes …

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, 1726

… I have relaxed, as I believe I may depend on her observing the rules I have laid down for their discourse. But do not imagine that with all this lenity I have for a moment given up my plan of her marriage …

Jane Austen, Lady Susan, 1871
Tuesday, February 06, 2018

cerebrate

[ ser-uh-breyt ]

verb

to use the mind; think or think about.

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What is the origin of cerebrate?

The verb cerebrate is a back formation from the noun cerebration, which is a derivative of the Latin noun cerebrum “brain, understanding.” Cerebrum is a derivative of a very widespread, very complicated Proto-Indo-European root ker- “uppermost part of the body, head, horn, nail (of the finger or toe).” This root has many variant forms and is related to the Latin noun crābro “hornet” (English hornet comes from the same root), Greek kár “head” and kéras “horn,” and German Hirn “brain.” Cerebrate entered English in the 19th century.

how is cerebrate used?

To think, then, is to cerebrate. To worry is to cerebrate intensely.

George Wharton James, Quit Your Worrying!, 1917

If you simply retire to your own room, shove your backside into an excessively sprung easy chair, and there grimly cerebrate, the chances are that you will eventually do no more than crawl into bed — to wake up six to eight hours later with an unsolved conundrum and a filthy headache.

Michael Innes, An Awkward Lie, 1971
Monday, February 05, 2018

crump

[ kruhmp, kroo mp ]

verb

to make a crunching sound, as in walking over snow, or as snow when trodden on.

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What is the origin of crump?

Crump was first recorded in 1640-50. It is imitative of the sound of something crunching underfoot.

how is crump used?

With the new snow flattening sounds he felt almost deaf or dreaming. His boots crumped down into it.

Adam Foulds, The Quickening Maze, 2009

The horses’ hooves crunched in the snow, the wagon wheels creaked through it and, behind, the march of several hundred feet crumpcrumped along.

Janet Paisley, White Rose Rebel, 2007
Sunday, February 04, 2018

byzantine

[ biz-uh n-teen, -tahyn, bahy-zuh n-, bih-zan-tin ]

adjective

complex or intricate: a deal requiring Byzantine financing.

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What is the origin of byzantine?

The English adjective Byzantine originally applied to the city of Byzantium (later Constantinople) and the art, architecture, and history of the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire. The most common current sense “complex, intricate” dates from the first half of the 20th century. Byzantine entered English in the 18th century.

how is byzantine used?

“We’ve had the process referred to as byzantine, shrouded in secrecy, opaque. Yet this is the process that Congress designed, a process that not only demands confidentiality, but strict confidentiality. This is the system we’re tasked to administer,” Grundmann said.

Joe Davidson, "Hill's workplace rights agency points to Congress for lack of transparency," Washington Post, December 1, 2017

Over the course of two hundred pages I had improvised a byzantine system involving highlighter, underlines, and marginal punctuation marks.

Tom Perrotta, Joe College, 2000

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