Word of the Day

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

hocus-pocus

[ hoh-kuhs-poh-kuhs ]

noun

unnecessarily mysterious or elaborate activity or talk to cover up a deception, magnify a simple purpose, etc.

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What is the origin of hocus-pocus?

Hocus-pocus is a pseudo-Latin rhyming formula used by jugglers and magicians. It was first recorded in 1615–25.

how is hocus-pocus used?

Maybe the English are right: [writer’s] block is just a hocus-pocus covering life’s regular, humbling facts.

, "Blocked," The New Yorker, June 14, 2004

How, exactly, does the president’s budget propose to use the surplus to “save” Social Security? With accounting hocus-pocus.

Allan Sloan, "Reading Between the Budget Lines," Washington Post, February 10, 1998
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Monday, October 29, 2018

diablerie

[ dee-ah-bluh-ree ]

noun

diabolic magic or art; sorcery; witchcraft.

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What is the origin of diablerie?

English diablerie is a borrowing from French diablerie “mischief,” from Old French diablerie, deablerie “an act inspired by the devil, sorcery.” French diable comes from Late Latin diabolus “the devil” (in the Vulgate and church fathers), from Greek diábolos “slanderer; enemy, Satan” (in the Septuagint), “the Devil” (in the Gospels). Diablerie entered English in the 17th century.

how is diablerie used?

This tragedy, which, considering the wild times wherein it was placed, might have some foundation in truth, was larded with many legends of superstition and diablerie, so that most of the peasants of the neighbourhood, if benighted, would rather have chosen to make a considerable circuit, than pass these haunted walls.

Sir Walter Scott, Guy Mannering, 1815

He was, to one friend, “cometlike from some other world of diablerie, burning himself out upon our skies.”

David Bourdon, "Beardsley back in bloom again," Life, February 24, 1967
Sunday, October 28, 2018

ossature

[ os-uh-cher, -choor ]

noun

the arrangement of bones in the skeleton or a body part.

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What is the origin of ossature?

Ossature is a borrowing from French ossature, probably modeled on French musculature. The base of ossature is the Latin noun os (stem oss-) “bone,” which comes from the Proto-Indo-European root ost- “bone.” Greek derives from the same root ostéon “bone” (as in osteology), óstrakon “potsherd” (as in ostracize), and óstreon “oyster” (the English noun comes from Greek via Old French and Latin). Ossature entered English in the 19th century.

how is ossature used?

The ossature of its wings had been like the exquisite work of some Japanese cabinet-maker …

James Hopper, "On the Back of the Dragon," Everybody's Magazine, July 1910

… thus the whole vault was furnished with an ossature or skeleton of ribs which was clothed upon by filling in with with arched masonry the triangular spaces or panels between rib and rib.

T. G. Jackson, Reason of Architecture, 1906

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