Word of the Day

Saturday, July 27, 2019

heterography

[ het-uh-rog-ruh-fee ]

noun

the use of the same letter or combination of letters to represent different sounds, as, in English, the use of s in sit and easy.

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What is the origin of heterography?

Orthodoxy “correct belief” is to heterodoxy as orthography “correct writing” is to heterography. The combining form hetero– comes from the Greek adjective héteros “one of two, the other, different.” (Even in ancient authors, words prefixed with hetero– were ambiguous: heterodoxía could mean “difference of opinion” and “error in opinion.”) Heterography originally meant “misspelling, incorrect spelling, bad spelling” (like awsome, kat, miniscule), then “irregular or inconsistent spelling,” which is usual in English: consider the value of c in call and cell, or of –ough in bough, cough, rough, though, or through. Heterography entered English in the late 18th century.

how is heterography used?

… the whole world lies in heresy or schism on the subject of orthography. All climates alike groan under heterography.

Thomas De Quincey, "Orthographic Mutineers," Tait's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. 14, March 1847

Of course everybody recollects the great phonetic mania of some years ago,—and how Mr. Pitman and his followers denounced English spelling as heterography, and organized an orthography of their own …

"Visible Speech," Littell's Living Age, Vol. 83, October 15, 1864
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Friday, July 26, 2019

tripping

[ trip-ing ]

adjective

proceeding with a light, easy movement or rhythm.

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What is the origin of tripping?

The adjective tripping “light and quick, nimble” and, by extension, “proceeding with a light, easy movement or rhythm” is a derivative of the verb trip. The verb comes via Old French treper, triper, tripper “to leap, dance, trample, hit with the feet,” from Low German, and is akin to Middle Dutch trippen “to hop, skip.” Tripping entered English in the 16th century.

how is tripping used?

The one before us has a light, tripping melody in 3/8 rhythm, the treatment of which is remarkably fanciful and delicate throughout.

The Musical Times, review of Wayside Sketches, July 1, 1872

To have the ability to seize upon some little incident of experience and by the exquisite nicety and humor of a few pithy and striking phrases elevate it to the dignity of easy and tripping conversation, that is a feat to which provincial self-complacency can never attain.

The Outlook, "The Spectator," Vol. 86, No. 16, August 17, 1907
Thursday, July 25, 2019

Svengali

[ sven-gah-lee, sfen- ]

noun

a person who completely dominates another, usually with selfish or sinister motives.

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What is the origin of Svengali?

Two terms survive from George du Maurier’s novel Trilby (1894). The first is Svengali, the evil musician who hypnotizes, controls, and exploits Trilby O’Ferrall, a young Irish girl, and makes her a great singer who is unable to perform without his help. In the stage version of the novel, the actress who played Trilby wore a sort of soft felt hat with an indented crown, now called a trilby or trilby hat. The trilby is now commonly mistaken for a different hat, the fedora. Svengali in its extended sense of “a person who completely dominates another, usually with selfish or sinister motives” is recorded by the early 1900s.

how is Svengali used?

Lou Pearlman, who died on Friday in federal prison in Miami, at the age of sixty-two, was arguably the great pop Svengali of our time.

John Seabrook, "We Live in the Pop-Culture World That Lou Pearlman Created," The New Yorker, August 22, 2016

Though he comes across in his own writings as witty and self-aware, the picture that emerges decades later is of a moody, manipulative Svengali, blinded by his ego to what was really happening on the raft.

A. O. Scott, "'The Raft' Review: A Crew of 10 Set Adrift With a Moody Svengali," New York Times, June 6, 2019

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