Word of the Day

Friday, September 20, 2019

galvanize

[ gal-vuh-nahyz ]

verb (used with object)

to startle into sudden activity; stimulate.

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What is the origin of galvanize?

The English verb galvanize comes from the French verb galvaniser “to make muscles contract by application of electrical current,” a discovery made by the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani in 1780, when an assistant touched the exposed sciatic nerve of a dead frog with a metal scalpel that had picked up a charge, which made the dead frog’s leg kick as if alive. Galvanize in its physiological sense entered English in the early 19th century; the figurative sense “to startle into sudden activity” dates to the mid-19th century.

how is galvanize used?

The presence of the enemy seemed to galvanize the growers, underscoring the subtext of Elliot’s message: that their industry was under attack, and they needed D&W’s crisis-management services.

Ruth Ozeki, All Over Creation, 2003

… [Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis] looms as just barely premodern, even though she presided over the start of (and maybe even helped galvanize) the most turbulent social transformation in recent history.

Roger D. Friedman, Michael Hirschorn, Belinda Luscombe, Rebecca Mead, Melissa Morgan, Nancy Jo Sales, and Whitney Scott, "Her Friends Remember Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis," New York, May 30, 1994
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Thursday, September 19, 2019

swashbuckler

[ swosh-buhk-ler, swawsh- ]

noun

a swaggering swordsman, soldier, or adventurer; daredevil.

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What is the origin of swashbuckler?

If one is old enough, the word swashbuckler will call to mind Errol Flynn, the baddest, most romantic swashbuckler of them all during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Others may think of the dueling swordsmen from The Princess Bride. Swashbuckler is a compound whose first element is swash, a verb of imitative origin meaning “to splash loudly or violently, dash about.” A buckler is a small round shield held by a handgrip and having straps through which one’s arm is passed. A swashbuckler is a swaggering hero who makes a racket by striking the bad guy’s shield with his own or with his sword. Swashbuckler entered English in the mid-16th century.

how is swashbuckler used?

Even Johnny Depp, the linchpin of the series as the swishy swashbuckler Captain Jack Sparrow, knew that the last film, directed by Gore Verbinski (as were the first two), had lost its way.

Brooks Barnes, "New Captain for a Series Becalmed," New York Times, May 11, 2011

The fairy tale is about a swashbuckler named Westley (Elwes) who has to rescue his true love, Buttercup (Robin Wright), before she is forced to marry the evil Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon).

Reed Tucker, "Inside the hilarious making of 'The Princess Bride'," New York Post, October 12, 2014
Wednesday, September 18, 2019

à gogo

[ uh goh-goh ]

adverb

as much as you like; to your heart's content; galore: food and drink à gogo.

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What is the origin of à gogo?

The colloquial phrase à gogo comes from the name of a Parisian nightclub and discotheque Whisky à Go-Go “Whisky Galore,” which opened in 1947 and quickly became very hip (or hep). A similar club, Whisky a Go Go, opened in Chicago in 1958, and a third Whisky a Go Go opened in Los Angeles in 1964. The French phrase à gogo means “aplenty, galore”; it derives from a Middle French adverb sense “joyfully, uninhibitedly, extravagantly,” from the preposition à “to” and gogo, probably a reduplicated form of gogue “witticism, fun, amusement.” À gogo first appears in print in 1960.

how is à gogo used?

… go up and out onto the Boulevard St.-Germain with its cafes a gogo for unlikely‐seeming students and unpublished poets.

William A. Krauss, "If You Go See Paris by Metro for $1.50," New York Times, November 5, 1972

I was at my local park the other day, watching my sons playing tennis, and spotted the Mayor of London on another court—blond hair flying, Hawaiian shorts a go-go.

Rosie Millard, "Shame on those who have driven Alec Baldwin from public life," The Independent, February 24, 2014

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