Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, July 22, 2021

furphy

[ fur-fee ]

noun

a false report; rumor.

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What is the origin of furphy?

Furphy, a piece of Australian slang meaning “a false report; rumor,” originated in the early days of World War I and derives from the Furphy carts used to haul water and rubbish for the Australian army. The carts, made of galvanized iron drums mounted on wheels and originally used for hauling water on farms, were invented and manufactured by J. Furphy & Sons in Shepparton, in the state of Victoria. Soldiers gathering around a Furphy cart, like office workers around the water cooler, would hear and spread all the rumors they could absorb, and the drivers of the Furphy carts could then spread rumors among different units. Furphy first appears in print in 1915 in a poem by the English poet Robert Graves entitled On Gallipoli: “To cheer us then a ‘furphy’ passed around… They’re fighting now on Achi Baba’s mound.” Scuttlebutt, “an open cask containing drinking water,” shows a parallel development among American sailors, the scuttlebutt originally being the place where one could get a drink of water, becoming by 1901 “rumor, gossip.”

how is furphy used?

Granted, they’re judged by panels, rather than lone individuals. But the idea that panels make better decisions than individuals is a furphy.

David Free, "Judge a literary prize? No thanks, they're all a giant waste of time," WA Today, July 9, 2021

Some tourism figures in Queensland fear an “in danger” listing will be more bad news that could discourage international visitors from travelling once borders reopen.

“I really think that’s a furphy,” says Dr Jon Day, a former Australian government representative on the world heritage committee and a veteran of the meetings.

Graham Readfearn, "Why Australia's Great Barrier Reef may end up on the world heritage 'in danger' list—and what it means," The Guardian, June 26, 2021

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Word of the day

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

verklempt

[ ver-klempt, vuh-, fer-, fuh- ]

adjective

overly emotional and unable to speak.

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What is the origin of verklempt?

Verklempt, “overcome with emotion and unable to speak,” is an American colloquialism from Yiddish verklempt, farklempt “overcome with emotion,” from German verklemmt “inhibited, uptight,” literally “pinched, squeezed,” the past participle of verklemmen “to become stuck.” Verklempt was popularized by the TV show Saturday Night Live in 1991.

how is verklempt used?

Listening to your story, I’m a little verklempt myself. Give me a second. Talk amongst yourselves (holds it all in). There I feel better.

Linda Richman (played by Mike Myers), "Coffee Talk," Saturday Night Live, October 12, 1991

“I’m so verklempt,” he says. “I need a hug.” She assumes he’s being sarcastic, but when she glances at him he’s teared up for real.

Curtis Sittenfeld, "The Prairie Wife," The New Yorker, February 5, 2017

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Word of the day

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

stentorian

[ sten-tawr-ee-uhn, -tohr- ]

adjective

very loud or powerful in sound.

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What is the origin of stentorian?

Stentorian, “extremely loud; having a powerful voice,” comes from Greek Sténtōr (inflectional stem Sténtor-), the name of a Greek (more properly Achaean) warrior who fought at Troy. Stentor is mentioned in the Iliad only once, in book 5, where Hera “took the likeness of great-hearted Stentor of the brazen voice, whose voice is as the voice of fifty other men” to scold the Achaeans. According to a scholium (an ancient comment or annotation on a Greek or Latin text) on this line in the Iliad, Stentor, like several other Greek heroes who came to similar bad ends, challenged the god Hermes to a shouting contest and was killed for his impudence. Sténtōr is a Greek derivative of the Proto-Indo-European root (s)ten-, (s)ton– “to groan” (thus the literal meaning of Sténtōr is “groaner, moaner” from the verb sténein “to moan, groan, lament”). The root appears in Sanskrit as stánati “(it, he) groans, thunders,” Old English stenan “to groan loudly; roar,” and Russian stonát’ “to groan.” The form without the initial s– (i.e. ten-, ton-) appears in Aeolic Greek (the dialect of the lyric poets Sappho and Alcaeus) as ténnei “(it, he) thunders,” Latin tonāre “to thunder, roar,” Old English thunor (English thunder), and Old Norse Thōrr “Thor” (the deity, literally, “thunder”). Stentorian entered English in the early 17th century.

how is stentorian used?

You may not know much about helium, except that it fills birthday balloons and blimps and can make even the most stentorian voice sound a bit like Donald Duck.

Henry Fountain, "Scientists Devise New Way to Find an Elusive Element: Helium," New York Times, June 28, 2016

It’s been a few days since I wondered, on the basis of a fabulous pre-World War II film clip about San Francisco, why you never heard modern Americans speaking in the formal, stentorian tones so instantly recognizable from newsreels and movies of that era.

James Fallows, "Catching Up With Language Change," The Atlantic, August 12, 2011

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