Word of the Day

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Heiligenschein

[ hahy-li-guhn-shahyn ]

noun

German.

a ring of light around the shadow cast by a person's head, especially on a dewy, sunlit lawn, caused by reflection and diffraction of light rays; halo.

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What is the origin of Heiligenschein?

Heiligenschein in German means “halo (around a saint’s head), nimbus, aureole,” literally, “saint’s shining, saint’s light.” The optical effect is also called Cellini’s halo, after the Italian artist and writer Benevenuto Cellini (1500-71) who first described the phenomenon. Heiligenschein entered English in the 20th century.

how is Heiligenschein used?

The dark figure outlined on the mountain mist may have had a glory around its head, or at least a Heiligenschein, and seemed like ghost to the mountaineer who saw it.

Elizabeth A. Wood,  Science from Your Airplane Window, 1968

You may sometimes have noticed a faint sheen, or increased brightness, around the shadow of your head when this falls on a grass lawn, particularly when the Sun is low, and you cast a long shadow. This sheen is known as a heiligenschein, a German word meaning ‘holy glow.’

John Naylor,  Out of the Blue: A 24-hour Skywatcher's Guide, 2002
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Wednesday, March 06, 2019

nice-nellyism

[ nahys-nel-ee-iz-uhm ]

noun

a euphemism: an evasive style of writing, full of circumlocutions and nice-nellyisms.

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What is the origin of nice-nellyism?

Nice-nellyism is an Americanism dating from the early 1930s. It is a contemptuous derivative of the contemptuous noun and adjective nice nelly (also nice Nelly) “prudish; prudish person,” which dates from the nearly 1920s.

how is nice-nellyism used?

This denial was at least partly a nice-Nellyism from the past, I think.

Kurt Vonnegut, Slapstick; or, Lonesome No More!, 1976

… it had been one of the running jokes of the campus, an exercise in innuendo, misinformation and Victorian nice-nellyism.

T. C. Boyle,  The Inner Circle, 2004
Tuesday, March 05, 2019

voluble

[ vol-yuh-buhl ]

adjective

characterized by a ready and continuous flow of words; fluent; glib; talkative: a voluble spokesman for the cause.

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What is the origin of voluble?

Voluble ultimately comes from the Latin adjective volūbilis “rolling, rotating, spinning (on an axis); (of speech or speakers) fluent.” Volūbilis is a derivative of the verb volvere “to roll, roll over, roll around, grovel; to bring around (seasons, events).” Compounds of volvere are common in Latin and English: ēvolvere “to unroll, open” (English evolve), dēvolvere “to roll down, roll off, sink back” (English devolve), involvere “to roll up, roll in” (English involve), and revolvere “to roll back (something to its source), unroll (a scroll for reading” (English revolve). Other Latin derivatives from the same root include volūmen “roll, papyrus roll” (English volume), volūta “scroll (on a column) (English volute),” vulva, volva “womb, vulva” (English vulva). Voluble entered English in the 16th century.

how is voluble used?

But Wolf Larsen seemed voluble, prone to speech as I had never seen him before.

Jack London, The Sea-Wolf, 1904

And he aged into a voluble and distinctive public character, a roguish charmer in a kufi, operating out of a packed storefront studio, tooling around Memphis in a plush old sedan.

Christopher Bonanos, "The Civil Rights Movement Photographer Who Was Also an F.B.I. Informant," New York Times, January 18, 2019

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