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[ hoh-kuhm ] [ ˈhoʊ kəm ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


out-and-out nonsense; bunkum.

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More about hokum

Hokum “out-and-out nonsense” is an Americanism, a word first recorded in American English, and as with many Americanisms, hokum has quite the peculiar backstory. Though its origins are disputed, many linguists consider hokum to be a combination of hocus-pocus and prior Word of the Day bunkum “insincere talk.” Hocus-pocus is a fake Latin term used by magicians and jugglers that may have been based on the real Latin phrase hoc est (enim) corpus (meum) “(for) this is (my) body,” but that is a fringe theory. Bunkum is a namesake of Buncombe County, North Carolina (county seat Asheville), which Felix Walker represented in the House of Representatives from 1817 to 1823. During a debate over what eventually became the Missouri Compromise, Walker attempted to deliver a speech, speaking “to Buncombe” rather than to the House, that was so lengthy and irritating that his colleagues shouted at him until he stopped talking. The name Buncombe (respelled phonetically as bunkum) soon developed the meaning of “insincere speechmaking by a politician intended merely to please local constituents.” Hokum was first recorded in English in the late 1910s.

how is hokum used?

Students should get an introduction to logic. They should learn a bit about cognitive science to understand some of the biases and mental shortcuts we all subconsciously employ …. Critical thinking is as much about problem solving and extracting meaning from complexity as it is about not falling for hokum.

Scott K. Johnson, “Re-thinking the way colleges teach critical thinking,” Scientific American, December 14, 2012

There were always a few people around who had it figured that the witch superstition was hokum, but they weren’t scientific rationalists. According to Hugh Trevor-Roper here (in his book of historical essays, “The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century”) they were mostly lawyers, medical doctors and mystical philosophers.

Bruce Sterling, “Enlightened skeptics during the witch-craze,” Wired, August 9, 2018
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[ raht-skel-er, rat-, rath- ] [ ˈrɑtˌskɛl ər, ˈræt-, ˈræθ- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a restaurant patterned on the cellar of a German town hall, usually located below street level.

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More about rathskeller

Rathskeller “a restaurant patterned on the cellar of a German town hall,” which is spelled Ratskeller in modern German, is not related to rats. Instead, Rathskeller is based on Rathaus “town hall” (with the -aus cropped off) and Keller “cellar.” In Rathaus, the Rat- element means “advice, counsel” or “council” and is related to the names Conrad (literally meaning “brave advice”) and Ralph (earlier Radulf, literally “wolf advice”). The -haus part of Rathaus is a cognate of English house and is used much like how English features house in terms such as bathhouse, clubhouse, and coffeehouse simply to mean “building.” German Keller and English cellar both come from Latin cellārium “storeroom,” which is related to English cell (from Latin cella “room”). Rathskeller was first recorded in English in the early 1860s.

how is rathskeller used?

The building dates to the 1860s, and tin sheathing on the wall pre-dates the 1920s, Stewart said. They found horsehair in parts of the masonry. Wood-fired stove chutes are still notched in the wall. The place is a little less than 3,500 square feet plus a basement that will be refurbished and shows promise as a potential rathskeller, they said.

Marc Bona, “Bookhouse Brewing to add to West 25th Street brewing district,”, February 15, 2018

He descended the stairs to the ground floor of the hotel and wandered aimlessly about through the lobby into the billiard room, and finally to a plate glass door upon which was lettered the word “Rathskeller.” What a Rathskeller might be he did not know, but, as there was another set of letters on the door and those spelled “Push,” he pushed. The Rathskeller was a large room, with a bar at one end and many little tables scattered about.

Joseph C. Lincoln, Cap'n Dan's Daughter, 1914
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[ struh-veyg ] [ strəˈveɪg ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

verb (used without object)

to wander aimlessly.

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More about stravage

Stravage (also stravaig) “to wander aimlessly” may seem a little odd in its spelling and pronunciation, but the word has a far more familiar (and expensive) relative: extravagant “spending much more than is wise.” The reasoning here is that stravage is formed by shortening the Medieval Latin verb extrāvagarī “to wander out of bounds”—which also came into English as extravagate, of the same meaning—and English extravagant uses a more figurative sense of its Latin source, with the wandering beyond bounds based in finances rather than physically moving around. Latin extrāvagarī is based on extrā “outside” and vagarī “to wander,” which is the root of or related to vague, vagrant, and vagus (the name of a nerve). Stravage was first recorded in English in the first decade of the 19th century.

how is stravage used?

A buzzard over Ballyowen when I set out from Dualla to Derrynaflan during lockdown and stravaging the roads like an emissary monk intent from Cashel. Beyond Ballinure a sense of the west widening, apparition of stone walls and good land lowering to bad, a bog basin stretched to eternity.

Joseph Woods, “Derrynaflan,” Irish Times, August 29, 2020

The fact was that one grey Sunday afternoon in the March of that year, I went for a long walk with a friend. I was living in Gray’s Inn in those days, and we stravaged up Gray’s Inn Road …. I don’t think that there was any definite scheme laid down; but we resisted manifold temptations.

Arthur Machen, The House of Souls, 1922
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