Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, December 29, 2018


[ guhs-ee ]


Informal. to enhance the attractiveness of in a gimmicky, showy manner (usually followed by up): a room gussied up with mirrors and lights.

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What is the origin of gussy?

The verb gussy is usually followed by up. Gussy up “to dress elaborately, dress up, smarten up” is an American and Canadian slang term, and like many slang terms, its etymology is obscure. Gussy up may derive from gussie, an Australian and American slang term for a weak, effeminate man (first appearing in Australia and the US in 1901 or 1902). The verb phrase gussy up appears in 1906 in Canada and in 1912 in the US.

how is gussy used?

When a not-so-careful writer tries to gussy up his prose with an upmarket word that he mistakenly thinks is a synonym of a common one, like simplistic for simple or fulsome for full, his readers are likely to conclude the worst: that he has paid little attention what he has read, is affecting an air of sophistication on the cheap, and is polluting a common resource.

Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style, 2014

… he was busy helping his dad gussy up the old tractors for the parade.

Gayle Brandeis, Delta GIrls, 2010
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Word of the day

Friday, December 28, 2018


[ smak-uh-roo ]


a noisy kiss.

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What is the origin of smackeroo?

Smackeroo is originally (and still usually) an American slang term with three meanings: “something very good or excellent; cash, folding money; a sharp slap or hard blow (accidental or deliberate).” The etymology of smackeroo isn’t very clear: it may come from smacker “a dollar; a loud kiss,” or from the verb smack “to strike sharply; kiss loudly.” The suffix -eroo is an Americanism of uncertain origin, used for forming jocular, gaudy variants of neutral or colorless nouns, e.g., switcheroo for switch. Smackeroo entered English in the mid-20th century.

how is smackeroo used?

Do you grab the first person to cross your path and plant a big wet smackeroo, or leave the party before midnight to avoid the whole issue?

Roxanne Roberts, "A Peck of Advice on the New Year's Eve Kiss," Washington Post, December 30, 1998

I can’t possibly discuss all that action, so let me focus on a few key kisses. First, Mary and Matthew’s very cinematic smackeroo

June Thomas, “Matthew and Mary, Anna and Bates: Downton’s great couples,” Slate, February 12, 2012

Word of the day

Thursday, December 27, 2018


[ mem-er-ist ]


a person who has a remarkably retentive memory.

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What is the origin of memorist?

Memorist is a rare word. When it entered English in the late 17th century, it meant “one who prompts the memory or conscience.” Memorist was revived in the late 19th century as an Americanism meaning “one who has a retentive or prodigious memory.”

how is memorist used?

As a memorist he is phenomenally endowed, his retentiveness so acute that he recites readily without reference or prompting, declamations committed in his schoolboys days more than seventy years ago.

William Travis, A History of Clay County Indiana, Volume II, 1909

… a memorist appeared on a Sunday morning TV show. He was introduced to the 100 or so youngsters in the audience and repeated all of their names back to them at the end of the show.

Ron Fry, Improve Your Memory, 2012

Word of the day

Wednesday, December 26, 2018


[ muhl-i-gruhbz ]


Southern U.S. ill temper; grumpiness.

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What is the origin of mulligrubs?

The extravagant spelling variants of mulligrubs, e.g., mulligrums, mouldy-grubs, merlygrubs, muddigrubs, mullygrumps, murdiegrups,… at least show very plainly that mulligrubs has no sound etymology. Mulligrums “low spirits, bad temper, bad mood” first appears at the end of the 16th century. (Some scholars suggest a relationship between mulligrums and the slightly earlier noun megrims “melancholy, low spirits.”) A quarter of a century later, about 1625, mulligrubs meant “stomachache, diarrhea” and a few years later “ill-tempered or surly person.”

how is mulligrubs used?

Ma has a case of the mulligrubs here lately and some of the kinfolks figure it might be caused by reading the papers too much.

Bob Kyle, "Fiddlin' Around," The Tuscaloosa News June 1, 1983

I think when it comes I will enjoy it. It is just the coming that fills me with the mulligrubs.

Winston Graham, The Twisted Sword, 1990

Word of the day

Tuesday, December 25, 2018


[ noh-el ]



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What is the origin of Noel?

Noel has been in English since the 13th century as a forename and family name (e.g., Nuwel, Nuuel) for those born or baptized on Christmas or during the Christmas season. In the late 14th century, Nowel is used as an exclamation of joy in The Canterbury Tales (this usage remains only in Christmas carols). In the late-14th century alliterative poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Nowel meant “Christmas day, the feast of Christmas, Christmastide.” Middle English shows several spellings, e.g., Newel, Nouel, Nowelle, Nowel, all derived from Anglo-French, Middle French, and Old French forms (Nowel, Nowelle, Nouel, Noel), Noël in French. The spellings with o (e.g., Noel) are a variant of spellings with a (e.g., Nael) that began in the 12th century. Nael is a regular French development from Latin nātālis (in full, diēs nātālis “birthday”).

how is Noel used?

… be sure to wish Tops a joyous Noel.

Ron Goulart, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," 1993

… the special season for such innocent gaiety is the Christmastide when they celebrate Noël with a joyous fervour not to be outdone elsewhere.

J. Macdonald Oxley, "Christmas Games in French Canada," The Canadian Magazine, November 1901 to April 1902

Word of the day

Monday, December 24, 2018


[ hahrt-stringz ]

plural noun

the deepest feelings; the strongest affections: to tug at one's heartstrings.

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What is the origin of heartstrings?

The original meaning of heartstrings was physical, or anatomical to be precise. A heartstring was one of the nerves or tendons that supposedly support and brace the heart; heartstrings (the plural) referred to the aorta and pulmonary artery (no longer in scientific use). By the 16th century the heartstrings were conceived as the source of a person’s feelings and emotions. Heartstring in its original anatomical sense entered English in the 15th century.

how is heartstrings used?

Little kids singing and smiling never failed to tug at the heartstrings.

Susan Wiggs, Candlelight Christmas, 2013

There was no choice now, but to bear the pang of whatever heartstrings were snapt asunder, and that illusive torment … by which a past mode of life prolongs itself into the succeeding one.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance, 1852

Word of the day

Sunday, December 23, 2018


[ stoj ]


to stuff full, especially with food or drink; gorge.

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What is the origin of stodge?

The adjective stodgy “thick, heavy, dull (of food, clothes, books, people)” is fairly common, but not so its source, the verb stodge “to stuff full, gorge; trudge along.” Stodgy appeared in the 19th century and applied to glutinous mud and roads; a quarter of a century later (in the 1850s), stodgy referred to heavy foods like porridge or potatoes; in the 1870s stodgy meant “dull, boring (of people, one’s own life).” The etymology of stodge is unknown; it entered English in the 17th century.

how is stodge used?

A “City man,” on the other hand … stodges his stomach with rich food three times a day …

T. Clifford Allbutt, "Nervous Diseases and Modern Life," Contemporary Review, February 1895

… as he cuts, bolts, and gulps, smacks, sniffs, and stodges, his eyes examine, his eyes observe, the ever-diminishing remnant upon the plate …

Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz, translated by Eugene Jolas, 1931

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