• Word of the day
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    Wednesday, July 04, 2018

    fizgig

    noun [fiz-gig]
    a type of firework that makes a loud hissing sound.
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    What is the origin of fizgig?

    Fizgig has a very cloudy history. The first syllable, fiz (also fis), may derive from the Middle English noun fise or feist “a fart” (cf. fizzle), from the Proto-Indo-European root pezd- “fart,” source of Latin pēdere, Greek bdeîn, and Polish bździeć, all meaning “to fart,” which well fits the sound made by the firework. Gig may be imitative in origin, but the word or words are very problematic, and it is less difficult to state what gig does not mean than what it does mean: “a flighty, giddy girl (cf. giglet, giggle); a top (i.e., the toy); “odd-looking character, a fool; a joke, merriment.” Fizgig entered English in the 16th century.

    How is fizgig used?

    Neither powder nor pepper (you know) was adulterated in those days, and if you made a fizgig, why it blossomed and starred like a golden thistle, flashed into a myriad sparklets like a tiny fountain for Queen Mab and her troupe to dance round. Frank Fowler, Last Gleanings, 1864

    What sputters green and blue, this fizgig called Fifine! Robert Browning, Fifine at the Fair, 1872

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, July 03, 2018

    Kafkaesque

    adjective [kahf-kuh-esk]
    marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity: Kafkaesque bureaucracies.
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    What is the origin of Kafkaesque?

    Kafkaesque means “having a disorienting, confusing, nightmarish quality; feeling surreal and threatening,” as, for instance, a form letter from the IRS. Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a German-speaking Jew born in Prague, Bohemia (now the capital of the Czech Republic). Kafka received a rigorous secular education: he wrote in both German and Czech and spoke German with a Czech accent but never thought himself fluent in Czech. He began publishing his artistic prose in 1908. Kafka’s father, Hermann Kafka (1854-1931), was a clothing retailer in Prague and employed around a dozen people in his business. Hermann Kafka used the image of a jackdaw (kavka in Czech) as the logo for his business. Kafkaesque entered English in the 20th century.

    How is Kafkaesque used?

    As I see it, there is still another telling Kafkaesque dimension to Watergate now that President Ford has written his version of The End. It is the enormousness of the frustration that has taken hold in America ever since Compassionate Sunday, the sense of waste, futility, and hopelessness that now attaches to the monumental efforts that had been required just to begin to get at the truth. Philip Roth, "Our Castle," Reading Myself and Others, 1975

    What makes the situation positively Kafkaesque is that under the terms of the Consent Decree, which was created in part to prevent songwriters from monopolizing the market, composers are now often compelled to license their songs to these monopolistic behemoths at absurdly low rates. John Seabrook, "Will Streaming Music Kill Songwriting?" The New Yorker, February 8, 2016

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, July 02, 2018

    buttery

    adjective [buht-uh-ree]
    grossly flattering; smarmy.
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    What is the origin of buttery?

    The adjective buttery in the Middle Ages meant “containing butter”; by the 18th century it acquired additional meanings “having the consistency of butter; smeared with butter”; and in the mid-19th century the sense “grossly flattering, smarmy.” Butter, the noun from which buttery derives, is a borrowing of the Latin word būtȳrum “butter,” itself a borrowing from Greek boútyron “butter,” literally “cow cheese.” Būtȳrum was adopted by the West Germanic languages, e.g., Old English butere, English butter, Dutch boter, Old High German butera, and German Butter. Buttery entered English in the 14th century.

    How is buttery used?

    Once Maloney began speaking there seemed no end to the words that poured from his whiskered lips, buttery words, words unreliable, words from which all sincerity had been drained to be replaced by a jovial condescension. Ralph McInerny, Celt and Pepper, 2002

    His face adorned by a seraphic, buttery smile, he stood unmoved, while Miss Higglesby-Browne uttered cyclonic exhortations and reproaches ... Camilla E. L. Kenyon, "Spanish Doubloons," Sunset: The Pacific Monthly, March 1918

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, July 01, 2018

    mind-pop

    noun [mahynd-pop]
    Psychology Informal. a word, phrase, image, or sound that comes into the mind suddenly and involuntarily and is usually related to a recent experience.
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    What is the origin of mind-pop?

    Mind-pop was coined by Austrian psychologist George Mandler (1924–2016). It was first recorded in 2000–05.

    How is mind-pop used?

    Mind-pops are more often words or phrases than images or sounds and they usually happen when someone is in the middle of a habitual activity that does not demand much concentration—perhaps when they are brushing their teeth or tying their shoes. Ferris Jabr, "Mind-Pops: Psychologists Begin to Study an Unusual form of Proustian Memory," Scientific American, May 23, 2012

    ... researchers can now see that having a mind pop activates the same region of the brain that's engaged when you're open to experience. ... Even when they are mixed and conflicted, they are signs of your creative brain in action. Srini Pillay, Tinker Dabble Try, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, June 30, 2018

    armamentarium

    noun [ahr-muh-muhn-tair-ee-uhm, -men-]
    the aggregate of equipment, methods, and techniques available to one for carrying out one's duties: The stethoscope is still an essential part of the physician's armamentarium.
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    What is the origin of armamentarium?

    English armamentarium is taken straight from the Latin noun armāmentārium “armory, arsenal, storehouse for military equipment.” The base of the Latin compound noun is the neuter plural noun arma “arms, weapons,” from which the verb armāre “to fit or equip with weapons” derives. From the verb armāre and the suffix -mentum, used to form concrete objects, the noun armāmentum is formed. The resulting armāmentum is completed by the very common adjective and noun suffix -ārium (from -arius), showing location. Armamentarium entered English in the 17th century in the sense “arsenal.” The broader sense of armamentarium dates from the 19th century.

    How is armamentarium used?

    By identifying a fresh target for therapy—the TB bacterium's waxy outer jacket—the new research lays the groundwork for adding to the armamentarium against TB ... Melissa Healy, "Scientists have a promising new approach for treating drug-resistant tuberculosis," Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2018

    With such powerful tastes and bold sauces in the chef's armamentarium, one has to expect that not every dish will work. Peter Kaminsky, "Tompkins Square Riot," New York, March 25, 1996

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, June 29, 2018

    flexitarian

    noun [flek-si-tair-ee-uhn]
    a person whose diet is mostly vegetarian but sometimes includes meat, fish, or poultry.
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    What is the origin of flexitarian?

    Flexitarian was first recorded in 1990-95. It’s a portemanteau of the words flexible and vegetarian.

    How is flexitarian used?

    A flexitarian is someone who rarely, though occasionally, consumes meat, including red meat, poultry, and seafood. A climatarian is someone who eats less meat—especially the most energy-consuming meats, like beef and lamb—specifically for environmental reasons. Brian Kateman, "Beyond 'Vegetarian'," Atlantic, March 14, 2016

    The moderate, conscious eater—the flexitarian—knows where the goal lies: a diet that’s higher in plants and lower in both animal products and hyperprocessed foods, the stuff that makes up something like three-quarters of what’s sold in supermarkets. Mark Bittman, "Healthy, Meet Delicious," New York Times, April 23, 2013

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, June 28, 2018

    transmundane

    adjective [trans-muhn-deyn, tranz-; trans-muhn-deyn, tranz-]
    reaching beyond or existing outside the physical or visible world.
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    What is the origin of transmundane?

    Transmundane was first recorded in 1770-80. It combines Latin trans- “beyond” and mundane, which finds its roots in the Latin word meaning “world.”

    How is transmundane used?

    Below me along the lifelines I was aware of many sailors joining in these observations, gazing dumbstruck at it as something transmundane. William Brinkley, The Last Ship, 1988

    ... a common labourer and a travelling tinker had propounded and discussed one of the most ancient theories of transmundane dominion and influence on mundane affairs. George Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, 1859

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