Word of the Day

Sunday, January 24, 2021

flocculent

[ flok-yuh-luhnt ]

adjective

like a clump or tuft of wool.

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What is the origin of flocculent?

Flocculent “like a clump or tuft of wool, fleecy” comes from the Latin noun floccus “tuft of wool” (of uncertain etymology) and the adjective suffix –lentus, naturalized in English as –lent. Flocculent is used in the physical sciences, such as physical chemistry, zoology, botany, and meteorology. Flocculent entered English about 1800.

how is flocculent used?

A vast, flocculent cloud darkened and devitalized the city, mimicking the family mood like weather does in memories.

Andrew Ridker, The Altruists, 2019

In flocculent spirals, fluffy patches of stars and dust show up here and there throughout their disks. Sometimes the tufts of stars are arranged in a generally spiraling form, as with NGC 3521, but illuminated star-filled regions can also appear as short or discontinuous spiral arms.

"Hubble Shears a 'Woolly' Galaxy," NASA.gov, September 25, 2015

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Saturday, January 23, 2021

belly-wash

[ bel-ee-wosh, -wawsh ]

noun

any barely drinkable liquid or beverage, as inferior soda, beer, coffee, or soup.

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What is the origin of belly-wash?

Belly-wash is an obvious slang term with several meanings: a barely drinkable liquid (such as soup) or beverage (alcoholic or nonalcoholic); it also means nonsense, rather like hogwash. Belly-wash, an Americanism, entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is belly-wash used?

Mr. Nevins, the head of Great Waters of France, which is running the campaign to make America fizz with Perrier, made the company’s objective even clearer … to capture part of the $10 billion a year Americans spend on what used to be called bellywash.

James F. Clarity, "Perrier, the Snob's Drink, Soon to Come in Six-Packs," New York Times, April 27, 1977

He drinks Bordeaux claret and hock. Bellywash, I call it, bellywash.

Edgar Jepson, Sibyl Falcon, 1895

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Friday, January 22, 2021

cause célèbre

[ kawz suh-leb-ruh, -leb; French kohz sey-leb-ruh ]

noun

any controversy that attracts great public attention.

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What is the origin of cause célèbre?

Cause célèbre is a French phrase still unnaturalized in English, meaning “famous (legal) case.” French cause comes from Latin causa “legal proceedings, trial”; célèbre comes from Latin celeber (inflectional stem celebr-) “crowded, busy, well-attended, famous.” Causes célèbres in the U.S. include the Scopes Trial, maybe more commonly known as the Monkey Trial (1925) about the teaching of evolution, and the O.J. Simpson Trial (1994–95). The term is also used more broadly to refer to any controversy that attracts great public attention. Cause célèbre entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is cause célèbre used?

The case eventually became a global cause célèbre; Bob Dylan wrote a song about it, Denzel Washington starred in a movie about it.

Jonathan Dee, "Nelson Algren's Street Cred," The New Yorker, April 8, 2019

Krajnc’s case became a cause celebre among animal protection activists, some of whom have established groups modeled on Toronto Pig Save, and attracted the support of celebrities including the singer Moby, who offered financial support.

Karin Brulliard, "Activist who gave water to pigs is found not guilty of a crime," Washington Post, May 5, 2017

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