Word of the Day

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

gallimaufry

[ gal-uh-maw-free ]

noun

Chiefly Literary.

a hodgepodge; jumble; confused medley.

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What is the origin of gallimaufry?

Gallimaufry is an unusual but delightful word for “a hodgepodge; jumble; confused medley.” It was borrowed into English in the mid-1500s from Middle French galimafree, a kind of stew or hash, apparently concocted from a mishmash of ingredients. Galimafree may be its own etymological jumble, probably a conflation of French galer “to amuse oneself” and Picard mafrer (Picard is a language spoken in northern France) “to gorge oneself.” Like gallimaufry, other terms for a “confused medley” originally named food items composed of a mix of ingredients, including farrago, hodgepodge, and potpourri.

how is gallimaufry used?

Luncheons at Retta’s home were ridiculous affairs … There would be a gallimaufry of ices and trifles and toasts ….

Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things, 2013

Yet this gallimaufry of satire, real history, fake history, and score-settling … never loses that relentless, fatiguing quality that is the hallmark of all books written out of an obsession.

David Leavitt, "The Making of Larry Kramer's Americans," The New Yorker, May 19, 2015

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Monday, November 11, 2019

devoir

[ duh-vwahr, dev-wahr; French duh-vwar ]

noun

something for which a person is responsible; duty.

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What is the origin of devoir?

Devoir “something for which a person is responsible; duty” is an archaic word commonly found in the construction to do one’s devoir, as in, “She did her devoir as queen to ensure peace in the kingdom.” While its spelling and pronunciation have varied since it was recorded in Middle English (by the 1300s), devoir is ultimately from Old French devoir, from Latin dēbēre “to owe,” source of English debt. Devoir also appeared in the Middle English phrase putten in devoir “to make an effort, assume responsibility.” This phrase produced the verb endeveren, which became endeavor.

how is devoir used?

Mightily he strove to do his devoir in the field, for the fairer service and honour of his lord.

Wace, Roman de Brut (1155), translated by Eugene Mason, 1912
[He] commanded the herald to stand forth and do his devoir.

Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, 1819
Sunday, November 10, 2019

cucullate

[ kyoo-kuh-leyt, kyoo-kuhl-eyt ]

adjective

resembling a cowl or hood.

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What is the origin of cucullate?

While cucullate may sound like it refers to the call of some bird, it actually means “resembling a cowl or hood,” an adjective emerging in the late 1700s, used especially to describe the shape of petals, sepals, leaves, etc. Cucullate derives from Latin Latin cucullātus “having a hood,” based on cucullus “covering, hood, cowl.” Cowl, the hooded garment worn by monks, also ultimately comes from Latin cucullus.

how is cucullate used?

The proximal portion of such “cucullate” petals may be hood-shaped and then forms a chamber enclosing the anthers.

C. Bayer and K. Kubitzki, "Malvaceae," The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants, Vol. 5, 2003

Transplantation experiments in Norway showed that when the normal form was moved to a quieter site it grew a new blade that was cucullate in form.

Colin Little and J. A. Kitching, The Biology of Rocky Shores, 1996
Saturday, November 09, 2019

strepitous

[ strep-i-tuhs ]

adjective

boisterous; noisy.

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What is the origin of strepitous?

Strepitous comes from Latin strepitus “noise,” from strepere “to make noise, rattle, clatter.” Strepere also yields (through the verb obstrepere “to make noise at”) the Latin adjective obstreperus “clamorous.” Obstreperus is the source of a more familiar synonym for strepitous: obstreperous. Strepitous entered English in the late 1600s.

how is strepitous used?

The New Orleans-based songwriter … leans into more explicitly gospel territory here, letting his strepitous guitar take a backseat to an upright-piano melody and choral harmonies.

Rachel Horn, "Songs We Love: Benjamin Booker, 'Witness (Feat. Mavis Staples)'," NPR, March 9, 2017

The fair in its last years degenerated into the usual thing we understand nowadays as a fair: … a gaudy and strepitous saturnalia of roundabouts and mountebanks.

Charles G. Harper, The Old Inns of Old England, Vol. 1, 1906
Friday, November 08, 2019

salutary

[ sal-yuh-ter-ee ]

adjective

promoting or conducive to some beneficial purpose; wholesome.

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What is the origin of salutary?

Salutary ultimately comes from Latin salūs (inflectional stem salūt-) “health, welfare, safety.” In its sense of “promoting or conducive to some beneficial purpose; wholesome,” salutary entered English in the late 1400s. Salutary, in its sense of “favorable to or promoting health; healthful,” emerged in the mid-1600s. A synonym for salutary (“healthful”) is salubrious, which is also rooted in Latin salūs. Salūs could also mean “greeting,” as in greeting someone with “best wishes (for their well-being).” This meaning of salūs gave rise to the verb salūtāre “to greet, hail,” source of the English noun and verb salute.

how is salutary used?

After Gutenberg, books became widely available, setting off a cascade of salutary movements and innovations, including but not limited to the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the steam engine, journalism, modern literature, modern medicine, and modern democracy.

Andrew Marantz, "The Dark Side of Techno-Utopianism," The New Yorker, September 23, 2019

However salutary these tactics may be with regard to the evaporation of the national debt in the countries just mentioned, the fact is nevertheless incontestable that the gold mentality of the world remains unaffected.

Henry Miller, "Money and How It Gets That Way," Stand Still Like the Hummingbird, 1962
Thursday, November 07, 2019

picayune

[ pik-ee-yoon, pik-uh- ]

adjective

Informal.

of little value or account; small; trifling: a picayune amount.

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What is the origin of picayune?

In the early 1800s in Louisiana, Florida, and other Southern U.S. states, the noun picayune designated a coin equal to a Spanish half-real, which was worth a mere six-and-one-quarter cents. Picayune comes from Provençal picaioun (compare French picaillons “money”), a type of copper coin from the historical region of Savoy in southeastern France. While the picayune, as currency, fell out of circulation in the U.S., the word picayune did not. Picayune—on the basis of the coin’s paltry sum—extended as an adjective meaning “of little value or account; small; trifling.” The name of the former coin also survives in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which cost one picayune when the newspaper was established (as The Picayune) in 1837.

how is picayune used?

The point is less to dwell on the picayune details of what was once known as the “browser wars” than to show how hard it is to escape the hold these companies’ ecosystems have on our lives.

Jacob Silverman, "Breaking up Big Tech may be impossible. It's still worth trying." Washington Post, June 5, 2019

“My client is determined to have his day in court.” “But why?” Swan said. “It’s such a picayune amount of money.”

Matt Braun, Dodge City, 2006
Wednesday, November 06, 2019

turophobia

[ tur-uh-foh-bee-uh ]

noun

an irrational or disproportionate fear of cheese.

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What is the origin of turophobia?

People who desperately avoid cheese may at least be pleased to learn there is a word they can use for their experience: turophobia “an irrational or disproportionate fear of cheese.” This term is formed on tur-, a variant of Greek tȳrós “cheese” and -phobia, a combining form meaning “fear,” itself from Greek phóbos “fear, panic.” Fear not, cheese lovers: a turophile is a connoisseur or lover of cheese, with –phile a Greek-derived combining form meaning “lover of.” Turophobia is fairly new formation in English, recorded in the early 2000s.

how is turophobia used?

Stossel’s own fears include turophobia, a fear of cheese; asthenophobia, a fear of fainting; and claustrophobia.

, "Fear of Fainting, Flight And Cheese: One Man's 'Age of Anxiety'," NPR, January 6, 2014

What is your main character’s worst fear? Is it something universal, like the death of a loved one? Or a rare phobia, like turophobia (fear of cheese).

Sarah Ockler, "10 Prompts to Get You Out of a NaNoWriRut," The NanoWriMo Blog, November 6, 2015

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