Word of the Day

Monday, April 15, 2019

gabelle

[ guh-bel ]

noun

a tax; excise.

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What is the origin of gabelle?

The rare noun gabelle “a tax on salt” comes from Anglo-French (the variety of French used in England after the Norman Conquest) and other Romance languages and dialects from Late and Medieval Latin gabella “tax, salt tax.” Gabella derives ultimately from Arabic qabāla “tax, duty, impost.” There is an understandable confusion in form and meaning between gabelle “a tax on salt,” and gavel “feudal rent, tribute to a superior.” Gavel comes from Old English gafol, a noun that dates from about 725, occurs only in Old English, and derives from the same Germanic root as the verb giveGabelle entered English in the 15th century.

how is gabelle used?

In 1355, the successor of Philip of Valois, John II of France, imposed a gabelle on salt, and again doubled the tax, so that it then rose to eight deniers upon the pound.

Henry Morley, Palissy the Potter: The Life of Bernard Palissy, of Saintes, 1853

They paid a gabelle in order to wear a forbidden ornament and did their best to interfere with the enforcement of the law.

Susan Mosher Stuard, Gilding the Market, 2006
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Sunday, April 14, 2019

conlang

[ kon-lang ]

noun

an artificially constructed language used by a group of speakers, as opposed to one that has naturally evolved: conlangs such as Esperanto and Klingon.

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What is the origin of conlang?

Conlang, a blend of con(structed) and lang(uage), dates only from around 1991, but the idea of an artificially constructed international auxiliary language has been around since at least the second half of the 19th century. The most famous of these 19th-century conlangs is Esperanto (invented in 1887); other such languages include Volapük (invented about 1879). Twentieth-century conlangs include Ido, derived from Esperanto and developed in 1907; Interlingua (developed between 1924 and 1951); and the half dozen or so languages that J.R.R. Tolkien invented for his trilogy Lord of the Rings. Speakers of conlangs range from those who would like to see them in wide use, e.g., Esperanto, to the aficionados of sci-fi conventions, who delight in the extravagances of, say, Klingon.

how is conlang used?

A good conlang takes time to develop, and a conlanger who works on their own has all the time in the world.

David J. Peterson, The Art of Language Invention, 2015

… I want figurative language. I’ve been pushing for this in Klingon for 20 years. Because if you really are driving your conlang, then you should be able to use metaphors in that language and be understood.

Lawrence M. Schoen, "How the Klingon and Dothraki Languages Conquered Hollywood," Wired, October 4, 2014, from Geek's Guide to the Galaxy, Episode 119, September 30, 2014
Saturday, April 13, 2019

tootle

[ toot-l ]

verb

to move or proceed in a leisurely way.

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What is the origin of tootle?

Tootle, an English frequentative verb from the verb toot, means “to keep tooting.” Frequentative in grammar and linguistics means “pertaining to a verb that expresses repetition of an action.” In the Slavic languages, e.g., Polish and Russian, frequentative verbs are very common, very complex, and very vexing for the learner. Latin has cantāre “to keep singing,” the source of chant, a frequentative of canere, the “plain” verb meaning “to sing”; and visitāre “to keep seeing, call upon, visit,” a frequentative of vidēre “to see.” Frequentative verbs are no longer productive in English, which uses only –er and –le as frequentative suffixes, as in patter from pat, putter from putt, crackle from crack, and tootle from toot. Tootle entered English in the 19th century.

how is tootle used?

Dash responded with the message “Yay!” and a winsome shimmy, then tootled off at one and a half miles an hour—maybe in search of someone’s job.

Patricia Marx, "Learning to Love Robots," The New Yorker, November 26, 2018

Behind them, the band Kiss tootled down the street on a black float, in its trademark makeup.

Sarah Maslin Nir, "At Macy's Parade, Band, Balloons and, This Thanksgiving, Protesters," New York Times, November 27, 2014

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