Word of the Day

Monday, November 25, 2019

horologium

[ hawr-uh-loh-jee-uh m, hor- ]

noun

a timepiece, as a clock or sundial, or a building supporting or containing a timepiece.

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What is the origin of horologium?

There are nearly a score—20!—spellings in Middle English for horologium, and nearly as many in Old French. Horologium comes from the Latin noun hōrologium “an instrument for showing the time, a dial, sundial, hourglass, clock, clepsydra (water clock).” Hōrologium is a Latin borrowing of Greek hōrológion with the same meaning. Greek hōrológion is a compound of hōrológos “teller of time” and the diminutive noun suffix -ion. Hōrológos is a compound of hṓra “year, season, hour, time, time of day, the right time, time of ripening or florescence,” which was taken into Latin wholesale as hōra with all its meanings (hour comes into English via Old French from Latin). The element or word logos “word, speech, account, computation, reason” is very familiar in English as the suffix –logy, as in philology, theology, paleontology. Horologium entered English in the second half of the 14th century.

how is horologium used?

In this Horologium moves the hand or arrow towards the twenty-four, and to the right of the twenty-four it was yesterday, and to the left, today.

Umberto Eco, The Island of the Day Before, translated by William Weaver, 1995

It appears this horologium was an elaborate piece of mechanism furnished with many painted images, which no doubt performed curious evolutions.

Willis I. Milham, Time and Timekeepers, 1923
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Sunday, November 24, 2019

copacetic

[ koh-puh-set-ik, -see-tik ]

adjective

Slang.

fine; completely satisfactory; OK.

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What is the origin of copacetic?

Copacetic first appears in the generation before World War II, in 1919 to be exact. It is a thoroughly American piece of slang, and all the citations of the word come from American writers. Perhaps foreigners avoided copacetic because of all its variant spellings, which include copa, copasetic, copasetty, copesette(e), copissettic, copus, kopacetic, kopasetic, kopasetee…. Many slang terms have no reliable etymology, and copacetic is within that happy group. Some of the more fanciful, not to say outrageous or just plain nutty etymologies for copacetic include; 1) Chinook jargon copasenee “everything is satisfactory (along the waterways of Washington State)”; 2) the excruciating phrase “the cop is on the settee” (i.e., he’s not paying attention), which transmogrified into copacetic and was supposedly used by American gangsters; or 3) an Italian word, but unknown in standard Italian or in any of its many dialects. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson claimed to have coined copacetic (not likely), but he did popularize copacetic in his vaudeville acts, radio programs, and movies he made with Shirley Temple in the 1930s.

how is copacetic used?

The United States of the 1960s experienced many social upheavals. But in one realm, all was copacetic.

Michael Tomasky, "The Real Legacy of the 1970s," New York Times, February 2, 2019

If he signed a paper saying he wouldn’t make any speeches, everything would be copacetic.

Colson Whitehead, John Henry Days, 2001
Saturday, November 23, 2019

gusto

[ guhs-toh ]

noun

hearty or keen enjoyment, as in eating or drinking, or in action or speech in general: to dance with gusto.

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What is the origin of gusto?

Gusto comes from the Italian noun gusto “taste, flavor,” from Latin gustus “tasting, flavor, sense of taste.” Gustus is also the source of Spanish and Portuguese gosto and French goût, all meaning “taste, flavor, relish.” The main current sense of gusto, “keen enjoyment,” first appeared in 1629 but only started to become very common in the early 19th century.

how is gusto used?

She ate with gusto, sending particles of egg flying onto the table as she spoke.

Anna Esaki-Smith, Meeting Luciano, 1999

Anna could hear her father singing with gusto.

D. H. Lawrence, The Rainbow, 1915

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