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incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible.
Ineffable ultimately comes from Latin ineffābilis “(of a word) unpronounceable,” and in Late Latin and Christian Latin “(of the divine name) that cannot or must not be spoken.” Ineffābilis is a compound of in-, the Latin negative prefix that is equivalent to English un– (as in unspoken), and the verb effārī “to speak, speak out, speak solemnly, declare” (itself a compound of the preposition and prefix ex, ex– “out, out of” and fārī “to speak”). Another English derivative, infant, comes from Latin infāns (inflectional stem infant-) “small child, infant,” literally “nonspeaking,” formed from the same prefix in– and fāns, the present participle of fārī. Ineffable entered English in the late 14th century.
As a child, I loved reading the dictionary in search of the precise words for everything. Reading this poem, whose title is a Japanese word often translated as ‘‘sunshine filtering through leaves,’’ I felt that wonder again—how the language of poetry can move us closer to naming what is ineffable.
Again, I was listening very hard to jazz and hoping, one day, to translate it into language, and Shakespeare’s bawdiness became very important to me since bawdiness was one of the elements of jazz and revealed a tremendous, loving and realistic respect for the body, and that ineffable force which the body contains …
the world, or mortal or earthly life: this vale of tears.
Vale may be familiar to some readers from the woeful expression vale of tears, which casts the world as a place of sorrow and difficulty. Vale, “a valley, a low-lying piece of land usually having a brook,” comes from Middle English val, valle, vaile (and more variants), from Old French val, vau, vauls (and more variants), from Latin vallēs (inflectional stem valli-) “valley.” Vale in its literal sense as a geographical feature dates from the second half of the 14th century; the extended, figurative sense, “the world, mortal life, earthly existence,” dates from the first half of the 15th century.
all he really wanted to do in company was to make jokes, to turn the world upside down and laugh at it, to enrich and enliven this vale of tears with a little fantasy.
As Keats witnessed more and more suffering—his brother Tom’s death; the infectious illnesses sweeping London—he connected his aesthetic vision to lived experience, and wrote in a letter that life is “a vale of soul-making”: “Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?”
Somnambulism, “sleepwalking,” comes via French somnambulisme from New Latin somnambulismus, a pretty transparent compound of the noun somnus “sleep” and the verb ambulāre “to walk, take a walk, stroll,” source of English amble. Somnus is the Latin result of the very common Proto-Indo-European root swep-, swop-, sup– “to sleep.” In Latin, the derivative noun swepnos (or swopnos) becomes sopnos, then somnus. The derivative noun supnos becomes hýpnos in Greek. Another derivative noun, swep–os-, becomes sopor– “sleep” in Latin (via swop–os-, then sopor-), as in English soporific “causing sleep.” Swepnos becomes swefn “sleep, dream” in Old English and sweven “dream, dream-vision” in Middle English. William Langland, usually considered to be the author of Piers Plowman, fell into a merveilouse swevene, a “curious dream,” one May morning in the Malvern Hills in Hereford and Worcestershire, England, and Piers Plowman is the narrative of his dream. Somnambulism entered English at the end of the 18th century.
Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, doesn’t always involve walking. A person is said to be sleepwalking if they are performing a complex task—talking, sitting up in bed, getting dressed—while in a state of deep sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Out and about, I spotted drowsy or dozing people everywhere; and I realized that a kind of mechanized mass somnambulism is an essential component of modern life ….
something easily done, fixed, etc.: He was really worried about my finishing the fence repairs on my own, but it was a doddle.
Doddle, “something easy to do or fix,” is a British colloquialism of uncertain origin. Some say it comes from Scottish doddle “a small lump of toffee” (and therefore attractive and easy to make away with). Some say doddle may come from the verb dawdle “to waste time, idle.” Doddle may also be a variant of the verb toddle “to move with short unsteady steps” (as a toddler does). Doddle entered English in the first half of the 20th century.
But it is a delusion to think we can solve Earth’s problems by relocating to Mars. I completely disagree with Musk and with my late colleague Stephen Hawking on that, because dealing with climate change on Earth is a doddle compared with terraforming Mars.
This [journey] would have been a doddle on Highway 1 at any other time of year, but a succession of winter storms had blocked the coast road with landslides in half a dozen places.
creative; boldly original.
Promethean is the adjective derived from Prometheus, one of the Titans, the race of divine beings that preceded the Olympian gods (there was bad ichor between the two races). The Greek poet Hesiod interpreted Prometheus as “Forethought”; Prometheus’ twin brother Epimetheus was therefore “Afterthought.” Prometheus and Epimetheus (and Atlas, too) were sons of Iapetus, whose Hebrew equivalent, Japheth, is a son of Noah (Genesis 5:32). Promethean entered English towards the end of the 16th century.
While this work suggests man’s helplessness in the face of nature’s relentless power, Cai’s exhibit suggests an ironic thematic reversal: nature’s state of helplessness in the face of modern man’s relentless, Promethean drive to progress.
That ambivalence is the divided heart of the novel: Gatsby is a dreamer and a “go-for-broke Promethean overreacher,” but—as Corrigan’s former high school teacher tells her, “Gatsby was looking for the wrong things. . . . Money and clothes and Daisy.” He embodies the best and worst qualities of America, resulting in a novel that is simultaneously buoyant and grim, as Corrigan notes.
a short and witty or sarcastic saying or writing.
The noun squib, “a short and witty or sarcastic saying,” dates from the end of the 16th century, a development of its original sense, “a small firework that burns with a hissing noise but doesn’t explode.” The word has no definitive etymology, but it is most likely onomatopoeic. Squib entered English in the first half of the 16th century.
After Bush pulled off his carrier stunt before an awestruck cable universe, Maureen Dowd dipped her fingernails in the old acid and banged out a memorable squib questioning the Top Gun’s swagger …
Throughout it all, he found one way or another to seize the gaze of the media, often by slipping to the press short bits of provocative writing, then known as squibs.
(in music) playful; sportive.
Scherzando, “playful,” is an adjective used in music. Like many musical terms, scherzando is of Italian origin, it being the gerund of the verb scherzare “to joke.” The noun scherzo, “a musical movement or passage of light or playful character,” is another derivative from the verb. Italian scherzare is most likely a borrowing from Middle High German scherzen “to jump for joy, enjoy (oneself).” Scherzando entered English in the second half of the 18th century.
The scherzando character is expressed in rapid gestures high on the guitar, with mercurial changes of tone color, perilous slides, and abrupt silences.
After the opening section in the scherzando mood that Rachmaninov does so wonderfully, he presents us with this gorgeous melody.