Word of the Day

Thursday, April 25, 2019

frisson

[ free-sohn; French free-sawn ]

noun,

a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion; thrill: The movie offers the viewer the occasional frisson of seeing a character in mortal danger.

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What is the origin of frisson?

Frisson is still unnaturalized in English, as its pronunciation shows. In French frisson means “shudder, shiver.” Frisson comes from Old French friçons, a plural noun meaning “trembling (as before the onset of a fever).” Friçons in turn comes from Latin frictiōn-, the stem of frictiō, an irregular derivative (as if from the verb fricāre “to rub,” with a short i) of the verb frīgēre (with a long i) “to be cold, lack vigor.” Frisson entered English in the 18th century.

how is frisson used?

Musical passages that include unexpected harmonies, sudden changes in volume, or the moving entrance of a soloist are particularly common triggers for frisson because they violate listeners’ expectations in a positive way …

Mitchell Colver, "Why do only some people get 'skin orgasms' from listening to music?" The Conversation, May 24, 2016

That first dinner triggers hope, a frisson of discovery.

Gael Greene, "Patric's Day," New York, March 23, 1992
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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

rhubarb

[ roo-bahrb ]

noun

a quarrel or squabble.

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What is the origin of rhubarb?

Rhubarb has a complicated origin. There are several odd Middle English spellings (as one would expect), e.g., reubarb, reubard, reubarbe, etc., from Anglo-French or Middle French reubarbe, rubarbe, reu barbare, all from Late Latin reubarbarum, rheubarbarum. The Latin forms are probably from Greek rhêon bárbaron “foreign rhubarb.” Rhêon is a variant of rhâ “the dried root of rhubarb used as a medicine,” perhaps ultimately related to Persian (an Iranian language) rewend “rhubarb.” Ancient Greek authors also associated rhâ (or Rhâ) with the Scythian (another Iranian language) name for the Volga River. The baseball slang meaning of rhubarb “a loud quarrel on the field, especially between a player and an umpire,” dates from about 1938. Rhubarb entered English in the late 14th century.

how is rhubarb used?

Power, newly acquired from the Minnesota Twins, was accused of the action during a rhubarb with the umpire on a play at third base.

Jet, "'Spitting' Accusation May Cost Vic Power $1,750," July 30, 1964

… Tom Meany stopped in a tavern the day after this thing happened … and the bartender said, “We had quite the rhubarb last night, Mr. Meany.”

Red Barber and Robert Creamer, Rhubarb in the Catbird Seat, 1968
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

bardolatry

[ bahr-dol-uh-tree ]

noun

great or excessive adoration of or reverence for William Shakespeare: I crossed the line into bardolatry halfway through my thesis on the psyche of Lady Macbeth.

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What is the origin of bardolatry?

Bardolatry, an excessive devotion to “the Bard” (William Shakespeare), is a combination of bard, from common Celtic bardos (Old Irish bard, Welsh bardd), and the combining form –latry, from Greek latreía “service, worship.” Bardolatry was coined by George Bernard Shaw in 1901.

how is bardolatry used?

So much for Bardolatry!

George Bernard Shaw, "Better Than Shakespear?" Three Plays for Puritans, 1901

… a fellow who’d been sizing up Aaron’s Bardolatry credentials had boasted that he himself had disproven all three leading theories about the identities of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady and Fair Youth, and would soon be the one to unearth the true identities of Shakespeare’s female and male paramours.

Rachel Kadish, The Weight of Ink, 2017

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