• Word of the day
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    Thursday, January 10, 2019

    impresario

    noun [im-pruh-sahr-ee-oh, -sair-]
    a person who organizes or manages public entertainments, especially operas, ballets, or concerts.
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    What is the origin of impresario?

    Impresario is an Italian noun, still unnaturalized in English (the Italian plural impresarii, impresari still occasionally occurs in English). In Italian an impresario is a contractor (in any kind of business), especially a manager or producer of operas and opera companies. The Italian word is formed from impresa “an undertaking,” a noun use of the past participle impreso from the Italian (and Vulgar Latin) verb imprendere, “to undertake,” and the noun suffix -ario, from Latin -arius. Impresario entered English in the 18th century.

    How is impresario used?

    Liam Neeson plays a world-weary, traveling impresario with but one act to promote: an armless and legless artist (Harry Melling) who recites passages from the Bible and Shakespeare and the Gettysburg Address ... Richard Roeper, "'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs': The Coen brothers go west in 6 diverse ways," Chicago Sun-Times, November 16, 2018

    ... the loveliest moments in the life of the impresario were when the trapeze artist set foot on the rope ladder, and in a flash, was finally hanging back up on his trapeze again. Franz Kafka (1883–1924), "First Sorrow," Konundrum, translated by Peter Wortsman, 2016

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, January 09, 2019

    pawky

    adjective [paw-kee]
    Chiefly British. cunning; sly.
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    What is the origin of pawky?

    Pawky “shrewd, sly” is an uncommon adjective used Irish English, Scots, and northern English dialect. It is a derivative of the noun pawk (also pauk) “a trick, cunning,” but there is no further etymology. Pawky entered English in the 17th century.

    How is pawky used?

    You are developing a certain unexpected vein of pawky humour, Watson, against which I must learn to guard myself. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Valley of Fear, 1915

    And in spite of the pawky fun that has been made of this bureaucracy, it was the Secretariat of America's war and might be led or disciplined but could not be dissolved. Alistair Cooke, The American Home Front, 1941–1942, 2006

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, January 08, 2019

    labyrinthine

    adjective [lab-uh-rin-thin, -theen]
    complicated; tortuous: the labyrinthine byways of modern literature.
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    What is the origin of labyrinthine?

    What treasures lie in labyrinthine! It is obviously a derivative of labyrinth, via Latin labyrinthus “maze, labyrinth, especially the one built by Daedalus in Cnossus,” from Greek labýrinthos. Labýrinthos has long been associated with Greek lábrys “ax,” especially the double-headed ax in Minoan mythology (and built onto Minoan buildings), from Lydian (an extinct language spoken in western Asia Minor). In a Linear B tablet from Knossos (Linear B is a system of syllabic writing used for Greek in Mycenean times), there is the phrase Daburinthoio Potniai “to the Mistress of the Labyrinth (an offering of one amphora)." The confusion of d and l is pretty common: compare Odysseus and Ulysses, Dakota and Lakota, Latin odor “a smell” and olet “it smells.” Labyrinthine entered English in the 17th century.

    How is labyrinthine used?

    ... no one had tried out before then a general theory of chance. ... They revere the judgments of fate, they deliver to them their lives, their hopes, their panic, but it does not occur to them to investigate fate's labyrinthine laws nor the gyratory spheres which reveal it. "Lottery in Babylon," translated by John M. Fein, Prairie Schooner, Fall 1959

    But the sentences in “Music of Time” are often long and labyrinthine, heavily qualified and with dangling modifiers all over the place. Charles McGrath, "How Anthony Powell Wrote His Twelve-Volume Masterpiece," The New Yorker, November 12, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, January 07, 2019

    salvific

    adjective [sal-vif-ik]
    of or relating to redemptive power.
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    What is the origin of salvific?

    Salvific “having redemptive power, redeeming,” comes directly from Late Latin salvificus, formed from salvus “safe” and the combining form -ficus, a suffix for forming adjectives to denote making or causing, and derived from facere “to make.” Not only is salvificus Late Latin, it is specifically Christian Latin, coined and used by Christian authors of the late 4th century and still used exclusively in a Christian sense. Salvific entered English in the 16th century.

    How is salvific used?

    The naming of the predicament of the self by art is its reversal. Hence, the salvific effect of art. Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos, 1983

    “When you idealize financial markets as salvific you embrace the idea that profit is all that matters,” he said. Colin Moynihan, "Wall Street Protest Begins, with Demonstrators Blocked," New York Times, September 17, 2011

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, January 06, 2019

    palladium

    noun [puh-ley-dee-uhm]
    anything believed to provide protection or safety; safeguard.
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    What is the origin of palladium?

    Latin Palladium comes straight from Greek Palládion, a noun use of the adjective Palládios “pertaining to Pallas (Athena),” formed from Pallad-, the stem of Pallas. Pallas may be derived from the Greek verb pállein “to brandish (a weapon).” Palládion was also the name of a small wooden statue of armed Athena that fell from the sky to Troy; possession of this statue ensured the safety of Troy. Palladium entered English in the late 14th century.

    How is palladium used?

    This palladium of our liberties, this charter of our rights, this emblem of Democracy, has been speaking in a voice of thunder, as we knew it would if the people could be aroused from their slumber. "The Ballot Box," Advocate, June 23, 1862

    The abolition of that grand palladium of freedom, the liberty of the press, in the proposed plan of government, and the conduct of its authors, and patrons, is a striking exemplification of these observations. Theodore Dreiser, "Reply to Wilson's Speech: 'Centinel' [Samuel Bryan] II," Freeman's Journal, October 24, 1787

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, January 05, 2019

    douceur

    noun [doo-sur]
    a conciliatory gift or bribe.
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    What is the origin of douceur?

    The French noun douceur “sweetness, a sweet taste,” comes from Late Latin dulcor (stem dulcōr-) with the same meaning. The French noun also means “pleasure, kindness, gift, reward,” and finally “bribe,” much like English sweetener. Douceur entered English in the 14th century.

    How is douceur used?

    And this in spite of the douceur he received at the opening of the campaign. D. A. Bingham, A Selection of Letters and Despatches of the First Napoleon, Volume II, 1884

    Prescott and the other keeper have also received a silver medal and a douceur from the society. Frank Buckland, "The Hippopotamus and Her Baby," Popular Science, May 1873

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, January 04, 2019

    noodle

    verb [nood-l]
    Informal. a. to improvise, experiment, or think creatively: The writers noodled for a week and came up with a better idea for the ad campaign. b. to play; toy: to noodle with numbers as a hobby.
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    What is the origin of noodle?

    The verb noodle “to improvise, think creatively, brainstorm” seems to have originally been American college slang dating from the mid-1940s. Noodle may derive from the German verb nudeln “to sing or play music in a low undertone or in improvisation (as in jazz),” a sense existing in English since the mid-1930s.

    How is noodle used?

    80 percent of surveyed drivers ranked their driving skills as “above average.” Noodle on that one. Tim Herrera, "How to Spot and Overcome Your Hidden Weaknesses," New York Times, April 23, 2018

    On the side, he noodled around with the potentially lucrative idea for a heat pump that would use cheap, abundant water in place of costly environmentally unfriendly refrigerants. "Test yields weapon of mass hydration," The Vindicator, August 9, 1998

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