Word Of The Year
The adjective hyerbolic has two distinct senses, both of them from the same Greek word hyperbolḗ “superiority, excess (in geometry), extravagance (in rhetoric),” literally “a throwing beyond.” In rhetoric hyperbolḗ means “an overstrained word or expression, a strong statement,” as in “I could eat a horse!” The geometric sense of hyperbolḗ (via New Latin hyperbola) is the curve formed by the intersection of a plane with a right circular cone when the plane makes a greater angle (that is, the plane makes a hyperbolḗ) with the base than does the generator of the cone. Hyperbolic in the rhetorical sense entered English about 1646; the geometry sense entered English about 1676.
… his hyperbolic rhetoric and his lack of attention to the concrete realities of reform will make it harder for even his sensible ideas to work.
“Ignore the sound of people retching and sobbing and remember to keep your pace constant and very slow,” is the slightly hyperbolic description from Henry Stedman’s guide to climbing the mountain.
contemplation of one's navel as part of a mystical exercise; navel-gazing.
It is not surprising that omphaloskepsis, a noun meaning “contemplating one’s navel” and implying contempt, first occurs in Aldous Huxley’s satirical novel Those Barren Leaves (1925). (The equally dismissive adjective omphaloskeptical is first recorded in 1978). It is easy to deconstruct omphaloskepsis: omphalós in Greek means “navel, bellybutton, a boss on a shield,” which comes from the very common Proto-Indo-European root enebh– with variants embh-, ombh-, nobh-, nōbh-, nebh– “bellybutton, boss of a shield, hub of a wheel.” Enebh– is the source of Latin umbilīcus “bellybutton” (from ombh-) and umbō “the boss of a shield” (also from ombh-); Sanskrit nābhīlam “bellybutton” (from nōbh-); Old Irish imblin, imbliu “bellybutton” (from embh-); Old High German naba and Old English nafu, both meaning “hub” (from nobh-); Old High German nabalo and Old English nafela, both meaning “bellybutton” (English navel).
The Greek noun and combining form sképsis, –skepsis “viewing, perception, examination, speculation” is a derivative of the verb sképtesthai “to look around, look back, consider, survey, spy on.” Sképtesthai comes from much earlier Greek skepjesthai, from the Greek root skep– and the present tense suffix –j– (representing the same sound as in yet). Latin has the verb specere “to look at, see, observe,” whose present tense form speciō shows the same suffix –j-. The Latin root is spec– (i.e., spek-) and the Greek is skep-: which one is “correct”? The answer comes from other languages: Germanic has spehōn “to watch, spy on” (from Proto-Indo-European spek-), Sanskrit has spáśati “he sees” (from the Sanskrit root spaś-, from earlier speś-, from an even earlier spek-). Greek “loses.”
Finally the flesh dies and putrefies; and the spirit presumably putrefies too. And there’s an end of your omphaloskepsis, with all its by-products, God and justice and salvation and all the rest of them.
The court understands that many a writer is writing high-mindedly only for himself. Or herself. Fine! But such an exercise in omphaloskepsis will buy no brioches for breakfast.
influential media pundits collectively.
Punditocracy, originally an American term, composed of pundit “learned person, authority, maven” and the thoroughly naturalized suffix –cracy “rule, government,” is a snarky noun used to refer to the elite members of the news media (also known as the commentariat—another snarky noun). Pundit comes from Sanskrit paṇḍita, an adjective and noun meaning “learned, learned man” (in Sanskrit language and literature, Hindu religion, philosophy, and law), also used as a title like Doctor. Punditocracy entered English in the mid-1980s.
Meanwhile, imagination is in short supply among the energy punditocracy.
Max was the forehead of today’s mass punditocracy, presaging Glenn Beck, Keith Olbermann, and the rest of today’s flesh-and-blood bloviators.
of, relating to, or adapted to a dry environment.
Xeric is an adjective used in ecology, botany, and biology in general to characterize a very dry environment or an organism that can grow in such an environment. Xeric comes from Greek xērós “dry, withered,” and it appears to be obviously related to the Greek noun xerón “dry land, mainland,” but the long ē and the short e are problematic. If xērós and xerón are related, they will come from the Proto-Indo-European root kser– (also ksēr-) “dry,” source of Latin serescere “to become dry,” serēnitās “dry, bright, clear weather or sky” (English serenity), and serēnus “clear, cloudless, fine” (English serene). Xeric entered English in the first half of the 20th century.
At the island’s opposite end is the Southeast Peninsula, a wilderness of salt ponds and xeric vegetation.
These increasingly xeric (hot and dry) conditions restricted the range of large game animals and this, coupled with human predation and environmental stress, drove many game species … to extinction.
a person who has attained eminence in his or her field or is an inspiration to others: one of the luminaries in the field of medical science.
English luminary comes from Middle English luminari(e) “light (especially of the sun or moon), lamp, source of spiritual light, shining example of holiness, earthly glory,” from Old French luminarie, luminaire, from Medieval Latin lūmināria (plural of lūmināre), from Late Latin lūmināria “lights, lamps,” used in the Vulgate for the lights in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and in Christian churches. (The Vulgate is the Latin version of the Bible, prepared chiefly by St. Jerome at the end of the 4th century a.d.). In Latin of the classical period, lūmināre meant merely “window, window shutter.” Luminary entered English in the late 15th century.
I have been accustomed to consider him a luminary too dazzling for the darkness which surrounds him ….
She had been a luminary of the British folk revival in the nineteen-fifties and sixties—a ballad singer with a steady, almost austere approach to melody, a demure presence, and a true, heartbreaking voice.
that is to be feared; formidable.
English redoubtable comes from Middle English redoutable “terrible, frightening, worthy of honor, venerable,” ultimately from Old French redotable, redoubtable, a derivative of the verb redouter “to fear, dread.” Redouter is formed from a French use of the prefix re– as an intensive (for instance, in refine), a use that Latin re– does not have, and from Latin dubitāre “to doubt, hesitate, waver” (but not “to fear”). Redoubtable entered English in the first half of the 15th century.
Isabelle may not realize it for a while, but she’s become a redoubtable opponent, Vincent.
“They are as redoubtable a gang of pirates as ever sailed the Spanish Main,” Cannon said in introduction to his remarks about the Florida delegation.
a gratuitous or officious display or exercise of authority, as by petty officials.
Beadledom, “a gratuitous or officious display or exercise of authority, as by petty officials,” is a compound of beadle and the noun suffix –dom. In Old English a býdel meant “a herald, proclaimer, preacher,” from an original Germanic budilaz “a herald,” akin to Old High German butyl and German Büttel “bailiff, beadle.” The Germanic word was adopted into Romance, becoming bidello in Italian, bedel in Spanish and Old French, and bidellus or bedellus in Medieval Latin.
Nowadays a beadle is a minor officer in a parish who acts as an usher and maintains order during services, a sense the word has had since the late 16th century. The Middle English forms, such as budel, beodel, bidell (deriving from Old English býdel), were gradually replaced by French bedel beginning in the early 14th century; the modern spelling beadle dates from the early 17th century.
The abstract noun suffix –dom, indicating a state or condition, as in wisdóm “wisdom” and cyningdóm “kingdom,” is akin to Old English and Old Saxon –dóm, German –tum (as in Heiligtum “sanctuary, shrine, relic”), and was originally an independent noun meaning “putting, position, stature, judgment,” a derivative of the verb do. Beadledom entered English in the 1840s.
… I shall endeavor to limit the occupation of the Beadle of Golden Square to pure beadledom, by prohibiting him from waiting at the evening parties of the trustees, and beating the door-mats of the inhabitants.
The music of beadledom has an attire uniformly officious, sublimely unmeaning.