Word of the Day

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

harbinger

[ hahr-bin-jer ]

noun

anything that foreshadows a future event; omen; sign.

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What is the origin of harbinger?

The modern spelling harbinger “an omen, sign, or herald,” has an internal –n– from the Middle English variant spellings herbengar, herbenger, which arose in the second half of the 15th century. This –n– also appears, for example, in messenger (from message) and passenger (from passage). The many Middle English spellings include herbeg(e)our, herberger, herbergio(u)er. The noun originally referred to an officer of a king or nobleman who assigned lodgings to guests or rode ahead to arrange lodgings, or to a military officer who laid out encampments, or to a soldier who was part of the vanguard. Harbinger later came to mean simply “host, hospitable person.” The Middle English forms come from Old French herbergeor, herberg(i)ere “one who offers lodging, host, innkeeper,” from Frankish heriberga “lodging, inn” (in Old Saxon and Old High German “shelter for an army”). The Old English equivalent, herebeorg “quarters, shelter, lodgings,” survives in English as harbor. Harbinger entered English in the second half of the 12th century.

how is harbinger used?

Last Groundhog Day, Phil did not see his shadow, a supposed harbinger of an early spring. Yet, bitter cold and snow affected the eastern U.S. deep into March.

Jason Samenow, "Groundhog Day 2014: Punxsutawney Phil sees shadow, 6 more weeks of winter," Washington Post, February 2, 2014

The collapse of MDC Energy’s business turned out to be a harbinger of things to come. The coronavirus pandemic has brought a wave of bankruptcies to the oil and gas industry—even as industry executives first reward themselves with multimillion-dollar bonuses.

Hiroko Tabuchi, "What oil and gas bankruptcies leave behind," New York Times, July 15, 2020

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Monday, February 01, 2021

diegetic

[ dahy-uh-jet-ik ]

adjective

happening within or being the created world of a story.

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What is the origin of diegetic?

Diegetic, “happening within or being the created world of a story,” is a technical term used in literary criticism, both in ancient Greek and in modern English. Its Greek original is diēgētikόs, a variant of diēgēmatikόs “pertaining to a narrative;” Aristotle uses both variants in the Poetics with the noun poíēsis “poetry” (i.e., “narrative poetry”). Both adjectives are derivatives of the noun diḗgēsis “narration, narrative” and derive from the verb diēgeîsthai “to set out in detail, describe.” Diegetic entered English in the second half of the 20th century.

how is diegetic used?

The choir ceases being underscore and becomes diegetic—that is, part of the movie’s fictional space, hearable by its characters. The emperor’s malignant music has seeped out of the soundtrack and into the world of the film.

Frank Lehman, "How John Williams’s Star Wars Score pulls us to the dark side," Washington Post, December 13, 2019

Scholars speak of two types of film music: diegetic, in which characters in a movie either perform music or listen to it (“Play it, Sam”), and non-diegetic, which is music that accompanies the film’s action—in other words, music which we hear but which the characters don’t.

Russell Plat, "Benjamin Britten's 'Moonrise Kingdom'," The New Yorker, August 6, 2012

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Sunday, January 31, 2021

holophrase

[ hol-uh-freyz, hoh-luh- ]

noun

a word functioning as a phrase or sentence, as the imperative Go!

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What is the origin of holophrase?

A holophrase is “a word functioning as a phrase or sentence”; it comes from the Greek adjective hόlos (combining form holo-) “whole, entire,” and the noun phrásis “speech, way of speaking, expression.” Holophrases are the usual form of speech when children are learning to talk, as when your toddler stands in front of you with raised arms, and says “Up,” meaning “Pick me up.” Holophrase entered English at the end of the 19th century.

how is holophrase used?

In dispensing with parts of speech, and in presenting a total situation in one symbol, the holophrase might be called a ‘word gesture.’

Floyd Henry Allport, Social Psychology, 1924

The VC community seems to love its holophrases: “incubate,” “accelerate,” “longtail,” “freemium,” and of course, the mythical “unicorn.” These are all words that serve as shorthand for more involved concepts central to the investment universe.

Ajay Raju, "The Next Silicon Valley Will Be … Philly?" Philadelphia Citizen, October 23, 2018

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