Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, January 03, 2020

hibernaculum

[ hahy-ber-nak-yuh-luhm ]

noun

winter quarters, as of a hibernating animal.

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What is the origin of hibernaculum?

Hibernaculum comes directly from Latin hībernāculum, a derivative of the adjective hībernus “wintry,” itself a derivative of hiems “winter.” Nowadays hibernaculum is restricted pretty much to zoology, especially referring to the winter quarters of a hibernating animal (some students of Latin may recall reading about Julius Caesar leading his troops to safety, if not comfort, into their hībernācula “winter quarters”). The inflectional stem of hiems is hiem-, which is close to Sanskrit hima– in himālaya “abode of snow,” a compound of himá– “snow” and ālaya “dwelling, abode.” Hibernaculum entered English in the late 17th century.

how is hibernaculum used?

It retires to its hibernaculum when the cold weather has fairly set in, and comes generally out in early Spring.

J. Duns, "Hibernation of Mammals," Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly, January 1885

The bears spent the winter in a hibernaculum—basically a big box.

Joe Palca, "Hibernating Bears 'A Metabolic Marvel'," NPR, February 18, 2011
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Word of the day

Thursday, January 02, 2020

splore

[ splawr, splohr ]

noun

Scot.

a frolic; revel; carousal.

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What is the origin of splore?

The Scots excel at having words and phrases of obscure origin, and splore is one of them, but because Robert Burns uses the word, it’s a keeper. Splore may be a shortening of explore, but that is just a guess. Splore entered English in the 18th century.

how is splore used?

… it’s only a hunter’s shanty, but it has seen many a merry splore in its time ….

Phillip Ruysdale, A Pilgrimage Over the Prairies, 1863

The morn’s Auld Yule, you know, and like enough the folk have kept him to join in some splore.

Charles Gibbon, For Lack of Gold, 1873

Word of the day

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

twenty-twenty

[ twen-tee-twen-tee, twuhn-tee-twuhn-tee ]

adjective

keenly or acutely perceptive: an opinion based on twenty-twenty hindsight.

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What is the origin of twenty-twenty?

Twenty-twenty “keenly or acutely perceptive,” as is often remarked of the advantages of hindsight, has its roots in vision. In ophthalmology, twenty-twenty means “having normal visual acuity,” and is based on the Snellen chart developed by Dutch ophthalmologist Herman Snellen in 1862. Many will recognize this chart as the array of letters one reads when taking an eye test. Snellen calculated fractions to determine visual acuity, or the clarity or sharpness of one’s vision, and twenty-twenty refers to the fraction that corresponds to what someone considered to have normal vision can see at a distance of 20 feet. By the middle of the 20th century, twenty-twenty was a jazz term meaning excellent. By the early 1960s, the disillusioned, regretful expression twenty-twenty hindsight had emerged in the business world.

how is twenty-twenty used?

Yes, well don’t forget, sir, we’re viewing this with twenty-twenty hindsight, but at the time no one gave a thought to geckos or what they ate—they were just another fact of life in the tropics.

T. C. Boyle, "Top of the Food Chain," Harper's, April 1993

And sure, with twenty-twenty hindsight, I know I could have swum out from underneath the boat, but at that moment it didn’t occur to me.

Jodi Picoult, House Rules, 2010

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