Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, September 19, 2021

freebooter

[ free-boo-ter ]

noun

a person who goes about in search of plunder; pirate; buccaneer.

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What is the origin of freebooter?

Freebooter may appear to be an English-language compound, but in fact, it’s Anglicized from the Dutch term vrijbuiter, a combination of vrij “free” and buit “booty”—a compound word about treasure that is well suited for a pirate-related term. Buit and its English cognate booty derive from a Germanic source meaning “exchange” or “sharing of the spoils.” Freebooter has one other relative in English, and an unexpected one: filibuster, in the historical sense of “unauthorized military adventurer.” While freebooter is a direct borrowing from Dutch, plus a spelling change, filibuster is a borrowing of Spanish filibustero, one of several words meaning “pirate,” via French from the same Dutch term, vrijbuiter. Freebooter entered English in the late 1500s.

how is freebooter used?

[A]lmost as soon as the larger world became aware of Tribeca, in rushed developers and syndicators and builders and realtors … A certain type of family arrived, drawn by that safety and the faux-bohemianism of Downtown, driving out the actual bohemians. … We are cosseted, a warm little precinct, connected to the rest of the city, but for all our interaction with it, it feels as if there are drawbridges that keep out the would-be brigands and freebooters.

Karl Taro Greenfeld, Triburbia, 1995

Buccaneers were adventurers who settled in Hispaniola, the island today divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. They lived off the meat of wild cattle, which they preserved using an Indigenous smoking method called bouccan. In the mid-17th century they started to engage in piracy, just like the freebooters, a term deriving from the Dutch word vrijbuiter, “a person who freely takes booty.”

María Lara Martínez, "Ahoy! It's the real pirates of the Caribbean—and the Carolinas," National Geographic, July 2, 2020

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Word of the day

Saturday, September 18, 2021

yore

[ yawr, yohr ]

noun

time past.

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What is the origin of yore?

Yore has a long history in the English language, first appearing as geāra in Old English. While its origin is uncertain, a popular theory is that geāra comes from the same source as the phonetically similar word year (Old English gēar). If true, this means that yore and year derive from the Indo-European root yēr- “year,” which is also the origin of Yiddish yor (as in Yahrzeit, the anniversary of a relative’s passing) and Ancient Greek hṓrā “part of a year, time of day,” the source of horoscope. Hṓrā was borrowed into Latin as hōra “hour,” which is the source of the words for “hour,” “now,” “still,” and “again” in many Romance languages.

how is yore used?

And the warden explained to me that when the architects designed the facility at Halden Prison, that it was really important to them to have the prison feel as though it was set in nature. And there’s historical precedent for this, even in our own country—asylums and hospitals in days of yore. It was seen to be really critical that people had fresh air and fresh water and a beautiful view.

Christine Montross, as quoted in “Psychiatrist: America's ‘Extremely Punitive’ Prisons Make Mental Illness Worse,” NPR, July 16, 2020

Some beer companies are trying to create new, innovative ways to hold their cans together without trapping marine animals in any resulting refuse. Unlike plastic straws, however, viable alternatives aren’t always readily available. When the straw was first commercially produced, it was made of paper, making the move away from plastic simply a return to the straws of yore.

Sarah Gibbens, “Are Plastic Six-Pack Rings Still Ensnaring Wildlife?” National Geographic, September 19, 2018

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Word of the day

Friday, September 17, 2021

wampum

[ wom-puhm, wawm- ]

noun

cylindrical beads made from shells, pierced and strung, used by North American Indians as a medium of exchange, for ornaments, and for ceremonial and sometimes spiritual purposes.

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What is the origin of wampum?

Wampum is a shortened form of wampumpeag, also spelled variously as wampampeak and wampompeage, and was borrowed from the Massachusett language, in which it roughly meant “white strings.” Massachusett was one of the original Indigenous languages of New England, along with Narragansett, Mohegan, Mahican, Maliseet, and Abenaki, among others; of all these, only Abenaki and Maliseet survive today. However, a dialect of Massachusett, Wampanoag (also known as Wôpanâak), is currently undergoing revitalization. These languages belong to the greater Algonquian family, which includes Cree and Ojibwe in Canada, Arapaho and Cheyenne in the Plains, and even Delaware and Powhatan along the East Coast. Wampum entered English in the early 1600s.

how is wampum used?

Wampum is Indigenous, sacred and symbolic. Made from the purple and white shells of the quahog and whelk, the beads carry the history, culture and name of the Wampanoag people of Massachusetts, whose ancestors met the passengers of the Mayflower in 1620 and ensured their survival.

"'Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America' Joins Mayflower 400 Exhibition This Summer at The Box In Plymouth, UK", ArtfixDaily, April 25, 2021

Cornplanter’s Pipe was gifted by Washington, between 1790 and 1794, most likely in 1792, during one of the Seneca delegation’s meetings in Philadelphia. It was a part of an elaborate exchange of medals, pipes, wampum and other tangible symbols of amity between the Haudenosaunee and the U.S. An integral part of Treaty making and diplomacy, gifts were vital signs of heroic labor to achieve and maintain peaceful relations.

Suzan Shown Harjo, "Three-century whodunnit: Gifted, burned, stolen and mailed. Cornplanter’s Pipe comes home," Indian Country Today, March 31, 2019

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