• Word of the day
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    Monday, July 16, 2018

    garbology

    noun [gahr-bol-uh-jee]
    the study of the material discarded by a society to learn what it reveals about social or cultural patterns.
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    What is the origin of garbology?

    Garbology is proof of the complete naturalization in English of the originally Greek combining form -ología “study of, science of.” The “correct” Greek word for the hybrid garbology is—or would be—tracheliology, from Greek trachḗlia “scraps of meat and gristle from the neck thrown away with offal,” or more simply “scraps, offal,” and -ología. The meaning of trachḗlia coincides very neatly with the meaning of garbage, originally “discarded bits of butchered fowl.” Garbology entered English in the 20th century.

    How is garbology used?

    The thing about garbology at that level, Smith says, is that it lets anyone--kids, teachers, parents--understand their own footprint, as well as their friends'. And once that's understood, it's possible to do something about it. Edward Humes, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, 2012

    Had the Puente Hills landfill called it back in 2007, when the U.S. was on the verge of the Great Recession, perhaps we'd all be singing the praises of garbology as economic indicator. Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley, "Touring the Largest Active Landfill in America," Atlantic, April 5, 2013

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, July 15, 2018

    coeval

    adjective [koh-ee-vuhl]
    of the same age, date, or duration; equally old: Analysis has proved that this manuscript is coeval with that one.
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    What is the origin of coeval?

    The English adjective coeval comes from the Late Latin coaevus “of the same age.” The common Latin prefix co- is a variant of the prefix con-, from the preposition cum “with.” The noun aevum “age, the past, history” comes from the Proto-Indo-European root aiw-, ayu- “life force, long life, vitality,” from which Gothic derives awis “time, eternity,” German ewig “eternal, everlasting,” Old English ā “ever, always,” and Old Norse ei “ever,” the source of English ay (also aye). Coeval entered English in the 17th century.

    How is coeval used?

    An old woman, who seemed coeval with the building ... received us at the gate ... Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, 1749

    ... the Serpent mentioned that very jest, and called it the First Chestnut, and said it was coeval with the creation. Mark Twain, The Private Life of Adam and Eve, 1906

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, July 14, 2018

    amour-propre

    noun [a-moor-praw-pruh]
    French. self-esteem; self-respect.
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    What is the origin of amour-propre?

    The French compound noun amour-propre, literally “self-love, self-regard,” is associated especially with the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), but the phrase is found earlier in the works of Blaise Pascal (1623-62) and François de La Rochefoucauld (1613-80). For Rousseau amour-propre is self-love or self-esteem dependent upon the good opinion of others, as opposed to amour de soi, which also means “self-love” but is directed solely toward one’s own well-being and is not dependent upon the good opinion of others. The English lexicographer Henry W. Fowler (1858-1933), in his A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926), acidly comments about amour-propre, “Vanity usually gives the meaning as well, &, if as well, then better.” Amour-propre entered English in the 18th century.

    How is amour-propre used?

    From the faces round him there fell that glamour by which the amour propre is held captive in large assemblies, where the amour propre is flattered. Edward Bulwar-Lytton, What Will He Do with It?, 1858

    Whatever might be the urgings of his amour propre, in his opinion he had a professional duty to tell the client his findings. Louis Begley, Matters of Honor, 2007

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, July 13, 2018

    vitiate

    verb [vish-ee-eyt]
    to impair or weaken the effectiveness of.
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    What is the origin of vitiate?

    The English verb vitiate comes directly from the Latin past participle vitiātus “spoiled, impaired,” from the verb vitiāre, which is a derivative of the noun vitium “defect, fault,” a word of uncertain etymology. Vitium is the source of Old French vice, English vice. Vitiate entered English in the 15th century.

    How is vitiate used?

    ... some infinitesimal excess or deficiency, some minute accession of heat or cold, some chance adulteration in this or that ingredient, can vitiate a whole course of inquiry, requiring the labour of weeks to be all begun again ... Charles Lever, One of Them, 1861

    In his mad odyssey through the dark side — waterboarding, secret rendition, indefinite detention, unnecessary war and manipulation of C.I.A. analysis — Dick Cheney did his best to vitiate our system of checks and balances. His nefarious work is still warping our intelligence system more than a decade later. Maureen Dowd, "The Spies Who Didn't Love Her," New York Times, March 11, 2014

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, July 12, 2018

    eggbeater

    noun [eg-bee-ter]
    Slang. a helicopter.
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    What is the origin of eggbeater?

    Eggbeater in the sense “small, hand-operated rotary appliance used for beating eggs” has existed in English since the 1830s. Eggbeater in the sense “helicopter” was originally an American slang term used by pilots of fixed-wing aircraft for the newfangled helicopter, the rotary action of whose blades looked to them somewhat like the rotary action of the familiar kitchen appliance. Eggbeater in the aircraft sense dates from the 1930s.

    How is eggbeater used?

    With all aboard, the door of the egg-beater was closed. Harry Lever, "Helicopter Ambulance," Flying, April 1953

    Just keep that eggbeater you're flying below sixty-five thousand feet and you'll be just fine. Dick Couch and George Galdorisi, Out of the Ashes, 2014

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, July 11, 2018

    solecism

    noun [sol-uh-siz-uhm, soh-luh-]
    a nonstandard or ungrammatical usage, as unflammable and they was.
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    What is the origin of solecism?

    The noun solecism ultimately derives from Greek soloikismós “incorrect use of (Attic) Greek; incorrect use of language” (whether of individual words or in syntax), later “incorrect reasoning in logic,” and finally, “awkwardness.” Soloikismós is a derivative of the adjective sóloikos “speaking incorrectly, speaking broken Greek,” then “having bad manners, in bad taste, awkward.” Sóloikos traditionally derives from Sóloi, a colony on the southern shore of modern Turkey, not far from Tarsus where St. Paul was born. Sóloi, however, was not founded by the Athenians (who spoke Attic Greek) but by the Argives and Rhodians, who spoke Doric dialects. Perhaps whichever Athenian colonists were there originally wound up speaking a mixed dialect, or perhaps the Sóloikoi have been getting an undeserved bum rap for the past few millennia. Solecism entered English in the 16th century.

    How is solecism used?

    ... Lee finds in the solecism of “less” for “fewer”—catnip for pedants, and familiar to anyone who has stood in a grocery-store express lane—the inspiration for a beautiful poem about growing old ... Dan Chiasson, "'The Undressing': Poetry of Passion Laid Bare," The New Yorker, March 19, 2018

    And a single word couldn’t be a dead giveaway either, no matter how much people would like to portray the use of pled rather than pleaded as an obvious Trumpian solecism, especially when Dowd himself has been documented using pled at least once. Ben Zimmer, "Can Forensic Linguistics Pin Down the Author of a Trump Tweet?" Atlantic, December 8, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, July 10, 2018

    makebate

    noun [meyk-beyt]
    Archaic. a person who causes contention or discord.
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    What is the origin of makebate?

    The rare noun makebate comes from the common English verb make and the uncommon, obsolete noun bate “strife, discord,” a derivative of the Middle English verb baten “to argue, contend; (of a bird) to beat the wings” (cf. abate), a borrowing from Old French batre “to beat.” Makebate entered English in the 16th century.

    How is makebate used?

    ... he was no makebate or stirrer up of quarrels; he would rather be a peacemaker. Sir Walter Scott, A Legend of Montrose, 1819

    Trying to set you against me, the spiteful old make-bate, and no one knows how long she will be here ... Charlotte Mary Yonge, Under the Storm, 1887

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