Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, July 11, 2021

gormless

[ gawrm-lis ]

adjective

lacking in vitality or intelligence; stupid, dull, or clumsy.

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What is the origin of gormless?

The British adjective gormless, “lacking in vitality or intelligence; stupid, dull, or clumsy,” with the variant spellings gaumless and gawm(b)less, is probably a respelling of gaumless by r-less speakers. Gaumless comes from the Northern English and Scots noun gaum “heed, attention,” from Old Norse gaumr, with the same meaning. Gormless entered English in the mid-18th century.

how is gormless used?

[Matilda’s] mind was so nimble and she was so quick to learn that her ability should have been obvious even to the most half-witted of parents. But Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood were both so gormless and so wrapped up in their own silly little lives that they failed to notice anything unusual about their daughter.

Roald Dahl, Matilda, 1988

Lockdown is lifting—hooray. But oh, no. Back come the phombies, and more gormless than ever. You remember the phone zombies. Maybe you call them wexters, people who walk and text simultaneously, oblivious to traffic or the old ladies they knock into bus shelters because they must reply to “U out l8er?” right here, right now.

Carol Midgley, "The phone zombies are back, dafter than ever," The Times, April 17, 2021

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Word of the day

Saturday, July 10, 2021

droke

[ drohk ]

noun

a valley with steeply sloping sides.

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What is the origin of droke?

The rare noun droke has two meanings: “a valley with steeply sloping sides” and “a thicket of small trees or bushes.” Droke is restricted pretty much to Canada—the Atlantic Provinces (New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island) and the Northwest Territories. Droke has no established etymology; but the dialects of the West Country, a loosely defined area of southwest England comprising Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset (at least), record the nouns drock “a wooden part of a plow” and droke “a furrow or ditch; an underground watercourse.” Droke entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is droke used?

We sometimes went berry picking in nearby areas, but we were cautioned not to wander too far because in certain drokes, small valleys, lived fairies who might spirit us away.

"Johnny Miller: A dance or ring game from Brigus, 1971," manuscript collection, Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive

There’s more, but they’re not all worth a mention. Except for me and Mom over in Frogmarsh. And Jas Kelly, he’s up the droke a piece.

Michael Winter, The Big Why, 2004

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Word of the day

Friday, July 09, 2021

infinitesimal

[ in-fin-i-tes-uh-muhl ]

adjective

immeasurably small; less than an assignable quantity.

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What is the origin of infinitesimal?

Infinitesimal comes from New Latin infīnītēsimālis, infīnītēsimus, a compound of Latin infīnītus “unspecified, indefinite, unrestricted, unlimited, infinite” and the adjective suffix –ēsimus, which was extracted from vīcēsimus “twentieth” (where the suffix is original) and applied to form ordinal numbers from 20 to 1,000; thus infinitesimal literally means “infinitieth.” Infinitesimal entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is infinitesimal used?

The story is both pleasantly seamy and inconsequential, as pat and flimsy as a mad-science soap opera. Its psychological dimensions are infinitesimal; its social context is nonexistent.

Richard Brody, "A Lost Orson Welles TV Pilot That's As Groundbreaking as 'Citizen Kane'," The New Yorker, December 11, 2020

The problem with the intentional walk isn’t just that it robs baseball’s best players of a chance to hit. The issue is that it’s a waste of time in an already plodding game. … But major leaguers keeping going through the motions on the almost infinitesimal chance that the pitcher might get the yips and throw it away.

Eric Levenson, "Is There a More Pointless Play in Sports Than the Extra Point?" The Atlantic, January 21, 2014

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