Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, March 22, 2020

hypermnesia

[ hahy-perm-nee-zhuh ]

noun

the condition of having an unusually vivid or precise memory.

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What is the origin of hypermnesia?

Hypermnesia, a medical or psychological term meaning “the condition of having an unusually vivid or precise memory,” is composed of the familiar prefix hyper-, which usually implies excess or exaggeration, the Greek noun mnêsis “memory,” and the Greek abstract noun suffix –ia. Hypermnesia entered English in the late 19th century.

how is hypermnesia used?

Psychologists have investigated some persons with exceptional memories – said to exhibit “hypermnesia”. The most famous of these was a Russian, code-named “S”, who could recall long random series of numbers or words without error, many years later.

Alun Rees, "If only I could remember her name," New Scientist, December 24, 1994

This sharpened memory is called hypermnesia. A frequent experience in dreaming is a hypermnesia with regard to childhood scenes.

Frederick Peterson, "The New Divination of Dreams," Harper's Magazine, Vol. 115, June 1907

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

bromide

[ broh-mahyd ]

noun

a platitude or trite saying.

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What is the origin of bromide?

The original meaning of bromide was “a chemical compound of two elements: bromine and a second element, such as potassium or sodium.” Potassium bromide and sodium bromide are used in medicine as sedatives and anticonvulsants. The extended use of bromide, “platitude or trite saying” (from its sedative effect), was originally an Americanism, first appearing in print in the early 20th century. Bromide entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is bromide used?

the work is its own reward. That may sound like just another bromide, but Gilbert’s love of creativity is infectious ….

Jennifer Reese, "'Big Magic': Elizabeth Gilbert's advice on how you, too, can eat, pray, love," Washington Post, September 17, 2015

I’m intrigued by the way in which his political success … contradicts bromides about the importance, professionally, of making friends and using honey instead of vinegar.

Frank Bruni, "'Nobody Likes' Bernie Sanders. It Doesn't Matter," New York Times, February 26, 2020

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Friday, March 20, 2020

stir-crazy

[ stur-krey-zee ]

adjective

Slang.

restless or frantic because of confinement, routine, etc.: I was stir-crazy after just two months of keeping house.

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What is the origin of stir-crazy?

Feeling a little stir-crazy? Unpleasant though it may be, the restlessness that this familiar term calls to mind today is a far cry from the state of literal imprisonment it named upon entering English. A 1908 dictionary of unsavory terms called Criminal Slang defined stir-crazy (noun) as “a man whose mind has become affected by serving long sentences.” By the mid-1900s, stir-crazy was being used as an adjective to mean “mentally ill because of long imprisonment.” The stir in stir-crazy does not suggest movement or agitation, as one might presume based the verb stir to move around briskly” or “to be emotionally affected”; here, stir is a slang term for prison. The origin of stir is uncertain, but some sources suggest it as a shortening of the Romani noun sturiben “prison” or verb staripen “to imprison”; others connect it to the Start, a nickname for the Newgate prison in London, which later broadened to mean prison more generally.

how is stir-crazy used?

By now, let’s hope you’re safely ensconced at home—going a little stir-crazy, perhaps, but doing your part to “flatten the curve.”

Gregory Barber, "How Long Does the Coronavirus Last on Surfaces," Wired, March 14, 2020

You may be trying to work from home with your stir-crazy children, and all your previous rules about screen time may need to get tossed.

Jessica Grose, "Parents Need Stress Relief, Too," New York Times, March 18, 2020

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