Word of the Day

Word of the day

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

impedimenta

[ im-ped-uh-men-tuh ]

plural noun

baggage or other things that retard one's progress, as supplies carried by an army: the impedimenta of the weekend skier.

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What is the origin of impedimenta?

Scores of millions of Americans will smile (or moan) at the recollection of reading (with the assistance of a pony or trot) Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War in their sophomore year high school Latin class, and seeing their old friend (or nemesis) impedīmenta “baggage train, traveling equipment” loaded with ablatives absolute and subjunctives in indirect discourse. Impedīmenta is a neuter plural noun formed from the verb impedīre “to restrict, hobble, impede” and –mentum, a neuter noun suffix for concrete objects. Impedīre is a compound of the preposition and prefix in, in– “in, into” and ped-, the inflectional stem of the noun pēs “foot”; impedīmenta therefore being the things that get caught in your feet, weigh you down. Impedimenta entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is impedimenta used?

Games impedimenta–hockey sticks, boxing gloves, a burst football, a pair of sweaty shorts turned inside out–lay all over the floor …

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949

Every man was piled up with impedimenta–broken, torn, soiled and cobbled impedimenta.

Arnold Bennett, Over There, 1915
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Word of the day

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

skimble-scamble

[ skim-buhl-skam-buhl; skim-uhl-skam-uhl ]

adjective

rambling; confused; nonsensical: a skimble-scamble explanation.

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What is the origin of skimble-scamble?

The rare adjective skimble-scamble shows the same, common vowel alteration in a reduplicated word as in mish-mash or pitter-patter. The reduplicated word is the verb scamble, of unknown etymology, and now obsolete or dialectal, meaning “to struggle or scramble with others for food or money tossed to a crowd,” now replaced by scramble. The lexicographer Samuel Johnson was not keen on skimble-scamble, calling it a “cant word,” one of his favorite terms of abuse. Skimble-scamble entered English at the end of the 16th century.

how is skimble-scamble used?

He complained bitterly of his reporters, saying that the skimblescamble stuff which they published would “make posterity think ill of his understanding, and that of his brethren on the bench.”

John Campbell, The Lives of the Chief Justices of England,  Vol. III, 1873

And such a deal of skimble-skamble stuff, /
As puts me from my faith.

William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1, 1623
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Word of the day

Monday, March 25, 2019

optics

[ op-tiks ]

noun

the way a situation, action, event, etc., is perceived by the public or by a particular group of people.

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What is the origin of optics?

The noun optics originally referred to that branch of physics dealing with light or other electromagnetic radiation and with the sense of sight. The now common sense “the way a situation, action, or event is perceived by the public or in a particular context, especially a political one,” was originally an Americanism first recorded in 1973. Optics entered English in the 16th century.

how is optics used?

The sentence has to be in double figures. The optics are lousy if it’s anything less.

Robert Rotenberg,  The Guilty Plea, 2011

For Romney, there is little value in trying to compete with the optics of Obama’s trip.

Dan Balz, "Romney slams Obama on eve of foreign trip," Washington Post, July 24, 2012
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