Word of the Day

Thursday, December 19, 2019

flâneur

[ flah-nœr ]

noun

idler; dawdler; loafer.

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What is the origin of flâneur?

Flâneur “idler; dawdler; loafer” is borrowed directly from French flâneur, an agent noun of the verb flâner “to stroll, saunter aimlessly; lounge.” The ultimate origin of French flâner is obscure. In 19th-century France, the flâneur was a figure for a type of wealthy, foppish man-about-town who leisurely wandered the boulevards of Paris and lounged at its cafés. In the early 1900s, German literary critic Walter Benjamin, inspired in great part by the writing of Charles Baudelaire, helped develop the flâneur into a symbol of the modern artist and writer, at once immersed in and alienated by the hustle and bustle of urban life. English borrowed another noun from French to describe the disposition of the flâneur: flânerie “idleness, dawdling.” Flâneur entered English in the mid-1800s.

how is flâneur used?

It was, after all, the age of the flaneur: a foppish, solvent young man who would roam the colonnades of Paris from dawn to dusk, idly though publicly observing the quotidian pathos of the working men around him.

Paul Llewellyn, "America's Walk of Shame," Spy, July/August 1997

Oscar Wilde is a flaneur, but not William Wordsworth. It happens in crowds, in great capital cities, in man-made environments.

Peter Bradshaw, "A walk on the Wilde side: 'The Flaneur'," Independent, October 9, 1994
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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

deipnosophist

[ dahyp-nos-uh-fist ]

noun

a person who is an adept conversationalist at a meal.

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What is the origin of deipnosophist?

No dinner party is complete without a deipnosophist “a person who is an adept conversationalist at a meal.” This is the type of person who, at least as dictionary editors hope, regales fellow feasters with the origin of such an intriguing word as deipnosophist. Deipnosophist is based on Deipnosophistaí, the title of a literary work by Athenaeus, a Greek philosopher and rhetorician writing in Naucratis, Egypt, in the late 200s a.d. Deipnosophistaí is the plural of deipnosophistḗs, literally “an expert in the affairs of the kitchen,” and the work features a banquet where learned men discuss food and a wide range of other topics. Deipnosophistḗs is formed on Greek deîpnon “meal, dinner” and sophistḗs “expert, wise person.” Sophistḗs is the source of English sophist, which historically refers to a type of professional teacher in ancient Greece and later, a person who argues cleverly but speciously. Sophistḗs is related to Greek sophía “skill, wisdom,” source of the –sophy in philosophy. Deipnosophist is recorded in English by the 1600s.

how is deipnosophist used?

Mr. MacPherson, a self-described “deipnosophist” (a fancy word for an adept dinner conversationalist), said the hearth is a good place to start for putting guests at ease.

Rima Suqi, "Tending the Hearth," New York Times, March 18, 2009

Its author, one Upton Uxbridge Underwood (1881—1937), was a deipnosophist, clubman, and literary miscellanist with a special interest in tonsorial subjects.

Gilbert Alter-Gilbert, Commentary on Poets Ranked by Beard Weight: The Commemorative Edition, 2011
Tuesday, December 17, 2019

tintinnabulation

[ tin-ti-nab-yuh-ley-shuhn ]

noun

the ringing or sound of bells.

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What is the origin of tintinnabulation?

Tintinnabulation is a fittingly tuneful term meaning “the ringing or sound of bells.” This noun was notably sounded by Edgar Allan Poe in his 1849 poem “The Bells”: “Keeping time … / To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells / From the bells, bells, bells, bells …” English tintinnabulation is formed on Latin tintinnābulum “bell.” Tintinnābulum is composed of –bulum, a suffix that indicates agency, and tintinnāre “to ring,” a verb that apparently imitates the sound of jingling bells. And, if you can’t get rid of that ringing in your ears? You may have what medicine calls tinnitus “a ringing or similar sensation of sound in the ears.” Tinnitus is ultimately from a Latin verb related to tintinnāre: tinnīre “to ring, tinkle.” Tintinnabulation entered English in the early 1800s.

how is tintinnabulation used?

To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells / From the bells, bells, bells, bells / bells, bells, bells— / From the jingling and tinkling of the bells.

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Bells," Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art, November 1849

I walked as fast as possible on one shoe toward the far-off tintinnabulation of the bells.

Jim Harrison, Dalva, 1988

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