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Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, August 14, 2021

fustian

[ fuhs-chuhn ]

adjective

pompous or bombastic, as language.

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What is the origin of fustian?

The noun fustian has several meanings: “a stout fabric of cotton and flax; fabric of stout cotton or of cotton and low-quality wool; inflated or turgid rhetoric.” Middle English has the forms fustian, fustain, fustein (and still others), all from Old French fustai(g)ne. The Middle English word means only “a kind of cloth made from cotton, flax, or wool (not necessarily coarse or of poor quality); a coverlet of such cloth to be spread over a bed or mattress.” As with many widespread cultural items, such as cloth and clothing, luxury items (wine, perfume), weapons, and foods (rice, turkey), the etymology of fustian is complicated. The Middle English and Old French words come from Medieval Latin fūstāneum, fūstiānum, fūstānum, which may be a derivative of Latin fūstis “stick, cudgel,” used as a loan translation of Greek xýlina lína “cotton,” literally, “wood linen” (the cotton plant is woody, unlike flax, the source of linen). Another suggested source for fūstāneum is Fostat, a suburb of Cairo, where fustian was manufactured. Fustian entered English about 1200. The adjective is derived from the noun.

how is fustian used?

It was said of my friend Molan, and I think it was fairly said, that he has a fustian style that babbles inanities; that obscures issues, swelling empty spaces which if lanced, only an abscess of superficiality comes out[.]

Adamu Kyuka Usman Lilymjok, The Mad Professor of Babeldu, 2012

Dewey Ward’s first novel, “The Unsheltered,” is almost fustian in its melodrama. Though the setting isn’t Egdon Heath or gaslit London but a grim island off the coast of Maine, its granite rocks, turbulent winds and pounding surf intrude into its highly intricate fabric.

Rollene Saal, "Revenge in the Victorian Manner," New York Times, May 12, 1963

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Word of the day

Friday, August 13, 2021

ambisinister

[ am-bi-sin-uh-ster ]

adjective

clumsy or unskillful with both hands.

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What is the origin of ambisinister?

Ambisinister, “clumsy or unskillful with both hands,” is the opposite of ambidextrous, “able to use both hands equally well.” The first element of ambisinister, ambi-, is the familiar Latin prefix ambi– “both, around,” as in ambiguous and ambivalent; the second half of the word, –sinister, comes from the Latin adjective sinister “on the left, left hand, or left side; adverse in influence or nature; unfavorably located.” Ambisinister is a relatively recent word, first recorded in 1849, more than two centuries after ambidextrous (1646).

how is ambisinister used?

During our first lesson, I tried to follow him as he played […] but I could not. I feared I had simply become ambisinister until I realized that his sitar had fewer frets than mine did. He explained that his […] tradition habitually removes several frets to enhance the flow of the bent notes.

Richard D. Connerney, The Upside Down Tree: India's Changing Culture, 2009

Ambidextrous people can do any task equally well with either hand, but it’s exceptionally rare. Ambilevous or ambisinister are awkward with both hands. Our brains are cross-wired meaning the left hemisphere controls the right handed side of the body and vice-versa. So left handers can boast they are always in their right mind.

Rachael Bletchly and Shivali Best, "Lefty or righty? The surprising effects of being right or left-handed." Mirror, August 13, 2018

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Word of the day

Thursday, August 12, 2021

flump

[ fluhmp ]

verb (used with or without object)

to plump down suddenly or heavily; flop.

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What is the origin of flump?

Flump, a verb and noun meaning “to drop or fall suddenly or heavily; the act or sound of flumping,” is a colloquialism dating back to the first half of the 19th century. As with many colloquial and slang terms, its etymology is obscure: some authorities suggest a blend of flop and plump, which have similar meanings; others suggest a purely imitative origin, as with dump and slump.

how is flump used?

I like headstands a lot more than the huff-puff exercises Baba Devanand does with his legs crossed in the lotus position. But right now, if I stay upside down any longer, I’ll break my neck, so I flump to the bed that smells of coriander powder and raw onions and Ma and bricks and cement and Papa.

Deepa Anappara, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, 2020

Horsey Gap is usually a gloriously empty stretch of sand dunes on the crumbling Norfolk coast. At this time of year, however, it is bustling with rowdy grey seals, flumping across the sand and arcing their banana bodies protectively around new pups.

Patrick Barkham, "Mind Norfolk’s Horsey Gap and its seal-related cottage industry," The Guardian, January 8, 2015

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