Word of the Day

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

hardscrabble

[ hahrd-skrab-uhl ]

adjective

providing or yielding meagerly in return for much effort; demanding or unrewarding.

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What is the origin of hardscrabble?

Hardscrabble, “yielding a meager return for much effort,” is an Americanism that originally began as two separate words: the adjective hard “difficult, arduous” and the noun scrabble “scratching, clawing, scramble”; the phrase meant “painful effort under hard conditions,” later applied particularly to farmland that required much work for little reward. By the first half of the 19th century, Hard-Scrabble (variously spelled) was used as a placename for a remote town or region where life was difficult. The current sense “yielding meager results” dates from the second half of the 19th century. Hardscrabble entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is hardscrabble used?

The oil and gas business is full of guys like T. Boone Pickens, self-made men who rose from a hardscrabble life on the prairie to become titans of the industry.

Jeff Goodell, "The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind Aubrey McClendon’s Gas Boom," Rolling Stone, March 1, 2012

Maybe you caught tinges of her vivid, hardscrabble love letter crackling through tinny speakers at a CVS, and paid attention because it’s one of the few songs in the commercially programmed soundtrack of our mundane errands that no one should have objections to.

Hau Chu, "Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car' is a beautiful ballad. This 33-minute cover version takes it to a whole new place." Washington Post, April 3, 2021

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Tuesday, May 04, 2021

thrawn

[ thrawn, thrahn ]

adjective

contrary; peevish; stubborn.

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What is the origin of thrawn?

Scots and Northern Irish thrawn, “contrary; peevish; stubborn,” in origin is the past participle of the verb thraw “to twist, wrench, distort,” the Scots form of throw. The sense “to twist, wrench” is one of the senses of Middle English throuen and Old English thrāwan in addition to the more common sense “to hurl, cast, throw.” Throw and thraw are related to Dutch draaien “to turn, rotate” and German drehen “to twist, turn.” Readers familiar with the “Star Wars” extended universe may recognize thrawn for a different reason: Grand Admiral Thrawn is a character introduced by author Timothy Zahn in the 1991 novel Heir to the Empire. In the “Star Wars” novels, however, the name Thrawn is short for Mitth’raw’nuruodo. While we can’t say whether the name was inspired by the Scots term, it seems fair to classify the character Thrawn as a rather peevish or stubborn fellow. Thrawn entered English in the late 15th century.

how is thrawn used?

He reckons it was his doggedness that got him through. “I’m a very thrawn, determined person so I don’t like to get beat,” he said.

"New exhibition tells 'inside' story of prison riot," Scotsman, September 27, 2017

The trouble was that a narrative structure implied sequence, and any display based upon the accretion of knowledge in a certain order would be vulnerable to thrawn visitor who, human and contrary, enters at the wrong end of a sequence; or, worse, grazes at random.

Charles McKean, The Making of the Museum of Scotland, 2000

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Monday, May 03, 2021

equanimity

[ ee-kwuh-nim-i-tee, ek-wuh- ]

noun

mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness.

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What is the origin of equanimity?

Equanimity, “mental or emotional stability or composure,” ultimately comes from Latin aequanimitās (inflectional stem aequanimitāt-), originally “goodwill, favor,” and later “calmness of mind, tranquillity.” Aequanimitās is a derivative of the rare adjective aequanimis, also aequanimus “calm, composed.” The adjectives are compounds of aequus “even, plain, equal” and the noun animus “mind, spirit, feelings.” The last element of equanimity, –ity, comes via the Old French suffix –ite from the Latin abstract noun suffix –itās, which expresses a state, condition, or quality. Equanimity entered English in the early 17th century.

how is equanimity used?

A truly brave man is ever serene; he is never taken by surprise; nothing ruffles the equanimity of his spirit.

Inazō Nitobe, Bushido: The Soul of Japan, 1899

After all, there are middle schoolers—just as there are some adults and other children—who have weathered the past year with relative equanimity.

Judith Warner, "How to Help Your Adolescent Think About the Last Year," New York Times, April 11, 2021

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