• Word of the day
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    Monday, February 18, 2019

    fourscore

    adjective [fawr-skawr, fohr-skohr]
    four times twenty; eighty.
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    What is the origin of fourscore?

    Americans will recognize the phrase “Fourscore and seven years ago” from the Gettysburg Address (whether they will know what a score of years amounts to is another question). Most Americans will recognize the line from Psalm 90, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten” and will probably guess 70. The noun score comes from Old English scoru “a tally of 20,” from Old Norse skoru “a notch, scratch, tally of 20.” Score is one of the developments from the very complicated Proto-Indo-European root sker-, ker- “to cut.” In Latin the suffixed form ker-sna appears in cēna “dinner,” literally “a slice.” Old Latin also has the form cesnas; Oscan (an Italic language spoken in southern Italy) has the very conservative form kersnu “dinner.” Sker-, ker- in Germanic (English) appears in shear "to cut" and shears "scissors," shard, shirt (from Old English scyrte), and skirt (from Old Norse skyrta). Fourscore entered English at the end of the 13th century.

    How is fourscore used?

    Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. President Abraham Lincoln, "The Gettysburg Address," November 19, 1863

    Of the fish, I need say nothing in this hot weather, but that it comes sixty, seventy, fourscore, and a hundred miles by land-carriage ... Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, 1771

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, February 17, 2019

    milieu

    noun [mil-yoo, meel-]
    surroundings, especially of a social or cultural nature: a snobbish milieu.
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    What is the origin of milieu?

    Milieu is still unnaturalized in English, as its several pronunciations indicate. The French word means “middle, medium, environment.” (In Old French miliu means “the middle.”) Milieu breaks down into the prefix mi- and the noun lieu. Mi- ultimately derives from the Latin adjective medius “middle, middle of, in the middle” (the same prefix occurs in French Midi “midday, the south”). The French noun lieu “place” comes from Latin locus. A lieutenant is literally “a place holder, one who holds the place of another, a substitute” (for a higher authority). Milieu entered English in the mid-19th century.

    How is milieu used?

    ... he grew up in Dagenham, on the eastern outskirts of London, a milieu that he has recalled as “gray and grimy.” Patrick Radden Keefe, "How Mark Burnett Resurrected Donald Trump as an Icon of American Success," The New Yorker, January 7, 2019

    Most crucial, though ... is a deeply informed, deeply immersive essay from Luc Sante, “Beastie Revolution,” that places the then-nascent band amidst the cultural milieu of New York City, and the world at large, in 1981, from the Walkman and Ronald Reagan and Grandmaster Flash getting booed off stage while opening up for the Clash in Times Square to Robert Mapplethorpe and WBLS radio and the Mudd Club and still-cheap rent. Corey Seymour, "The Beastie Boys Book Tour Is as Nutty, Irreverent, and Fun as You think It Would Be," Vogue, October 31, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, February 16, 2019

    snowbird

    noun [snoh-burd]
    Informal. a person who vacations in or moves to a warmer climate during cold weather.
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    What is the origin of snowbird?

    Snowbird has three distinct meanings. The original meaning, “a bird that spends winters in a cold climate,” dates from the late 17th century; the second, “a person who travels from the cold north to spend the winter in the warm, sunny south,” dates from the mid-1920s; the third sense, “a person addicted to heroin or cocaine,” dates from around 1915.

    How is snowbird used?

    I don’t know if I can be a snowbird every year... But I’m going to try, even if it’s only for a week or two: for more winter sunrises, for more sunlight, and even for more — why not? — joyful crying. Jen A. Miller, "How I Became a 37-Year-Old Snowbird," New York Times, February 23, 2018

    As the temperature drops and months of cold weather loom ahead, snowbirds pack up for warmer climates, anticipating sunny days free of freezing ice, snow shoveling and other winter worries. Mary Kane, "Prep Your House for Snowbird Season," Kiplinger's Retirement Report, January 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, February 15, 2019

    onomastic

    adjective [on-uh-mas-tik]
    of or relating to proper names.
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    What is the origin of onomastic?

    English onomastic comes straight from the Greek adjective and noun onomastikós, which has quite a few meanings: “pertaining to a name, naming, special name; (in grammar) nominative (case); vocabulary (organized by subject and not by letter).” Onomastikós is a derivative of the verb onomázein “to name, call by name,” itself a derivative of the noun ónoma, the Greek development of Proto-Indo-European nomen-, which appears in Latin as nōmen, Germanic (English) name, and Sanskrit nā́ma. One of the things that make Greek Greek is the presence of prothetic vowels (prothetic means “put in front”) at the beginning of a word, such as the o- in ónoma, the a- in ástron “star” (akin to English star and Latin stella, from assumed sterla), the e- in ennéa “nine” (Latin novem, Sanskrit náva). Some of the prothetic vowels can be explained according to Indo-European linguistics, others not; they are a source of endless research and speculation. Onomastic entered English in the 18th century.

    How is onomastic used?

    Today’s baseball rosters are filled with names, not nicknames, not like the ones that used to be. The N.B.A. playoffs are equally devoid of onomastic pleasures, just cheap echoes of Magic and the Mailman, Tiny and Tree, Chief and Cornbread. John Branch, "Like Magic, Great Sports Nicknames Are Disappearing," New York Times, May 10, 2011

    ... the survey found that mothers’ top reason for onomastic discontent was that they hadn’t been bold enough ... Ruth Graham, "A Lot of Mothers Regret the Names They Gave Their Children, According to a New Survey," Slate, September 1, 2016

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, February 14, 2019

    attractancy

    noun [uh-trak-tuhn-see]
    the capacity, especially of a pheromone, to attract.
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    What is the origin of attractancy?

    Attractant is to attractance and attractancy as repellent is to repellence and repellency. Both sets of words are used mostly in biochemistry to describe chemicals, such as pheromones or insectifuges, that attract, drive away, or affect the behavior of other creatures. Attractancy entered English in the 20th century.

    How is attractancy used?

    From these various investigations it became very clear that numerous components of the cotton plant had some attractancy for the boll weevil, although their effects were often short-ranged. Richard L. Ridgway, May N. Inscoe, and Willard A. Dickerson, "Role of the Boll Weevil Pheromone in Pest Management," Behavior-Modifying Chemicals for Insect Management, 1990

    The attractancy of the brown-rot fungus was discovered by Dr. Glenn Esenther, an entomologist at the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin. T. Allan Wolter, "Your Wayne National Forest," Sunday Times-Sentinel, July 27, 1975

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, February 13, 2019

    synastry

    noun [si-nas-tree, sin-uh-stree]
    Astrology. the comparison of two or more natal charts in order to analyze or forecast the interaction of the individuals involved.
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    What is the origin of synastry?

    English synastry is an astrological term coming ultimately from Greek synastría, a noun compounded of the Greek preposition and prefix syn, syn- “with,” completely naturalized in English, the Greek noun ástro(n) “star,” familiar in astronomy, astronaut, and astrology, and the abstract noun suffix -ia, which is also native to Latin, becoming the noun suffix -y in English. Synastry entered English in the 17th century.

    How is synastry used?

    ... she matches people according to chart comparison, a branch of astrology called Synastry. Rick Smith, "Astrologer makes matches in heavens," The Daily Reporter, April 9, 1984

    I find this sad because the synastry was really pretty good. Eugenia Last, "The Last Word in Astrology," The Register-Guard, June 7, 1997

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, February 12, 2019

    marvy

    adjective [mahr-vee]
    Slang. marvelous; delightful.
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    What is the origin of marvy?

    Marvy is in origin an American slang term, a shortening of marvelous and the very common adjective suffix -y. Marvy first entered English in the 1930s.

    How is marvy used?

    You havent heard of privatizing? That's this fantastically with-it idea the Reagan circle has for getting the government out of government. Isn't that too marvy? Russell Baker, "Such a Marvy Idea," New York Times, January 8, 1986

    The 22-way adjustable driver seat was marvy. Dan Neil, "Bentley Bentayga: The Ultimate Luxury SUV," Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2016

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