Word of the Day

Thursday, June 20, 2019

insipience

[ in-sip-ee-uhns ]

noun

Archaic.

lack of wisdom; foolishness.

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What is the origin of insipience?

Insipience “foolishness” comes via Old French from Latin insipientia. The Latin prefix in-, which has a negative or privative force, as in insipientia, is the ordinary Latin development of a reduced form of Proto-Indo-European ne “not,” which is the same source of Germanic (English un-). The Latin stem –sipient– is a reduced and combining form derived from sapientia “reason, soundness of mind, wisdom,” hence insipientia “foolishness, folly, stupidity.” The root word behind sapientia and insipientia is sapere “to taste, taste of, smell of, have good taste, feel, show good sense, be intelligent.” Sapere is the source of Italian sapere, Spanish saber, and French savoir, all meaning “to know.” The Latin noun sapor “flavor, taste, odor, smell” becomes Italian sapore, Spanish sabor, French saveur, and, through French, English savor and its derivative adjective savory. Insipience entered English in the 15th century.

how is insipience used?

Too many prefer the charge of insincerity to that of insipience—Dr. Newman seems not to be of that number.

Charles Kingsley, What, Then, Does Dr. Newman Mean? 1864

It has to be frustrating to know that you’re surrounded by intelligent, earnest individuals who are prone to moments of public insipience, usually when their fingers are on the voting button.

Richard Hellmann, "Plenty of room for city bed tax," The Courier, May 27, 1987
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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

shog

[ shog, shawg ]

verb (used without object)

to jog along.

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What is the origin of shog?

The verb (and noun) shog “to shake, jolt, to jog along” is now used mostly in British dialect. The Middle English verb shogge(n) is possibly a variant of shock “to strike, jar” and is probably related to the Old High German noun scoc “a swinging, a swing,” Middle High German schock “a swing, a seesaw,” and Middle Dutch, Dutch schok “a shake, a jolt.” Shog entered English in the early 15th century.

how is shog used?

If you don’t mind I’ll shog on! I’ve got to walk fast now, or Gerda will be worrying.

John Cowper Powys, Wolf Solent, 1929

Then shog along homeward, chat over the fight / And hear in our dreams the sweet music all night.

Charles Kingsley, "Go Hark!" 1856
Tuesday, June 18, 2019

epiphonema

[ ep-uh-foh-nee-muh ]

noun

Rhetoric.

a sentence that is an exclamation, a general or striking comment, or a succinct summary of what has previously been said.

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What is the origin of epiphonema?

In classical rhetoric, epiphonema is a term for an exclamation or reflection that strikingly sums up a previous passage or discourse—a kind of moral of the story. It comes via Latin epiphōnēma from Greek epiphṓnēma “a witty saying,” from epiphōneîn “to mention by name, call out, address,” composed of a prefixal use of the preposition epí “upon, on” and phōneîn “to make a sound.” Phōneîn is derived from phonḗ “sound, tone, voice,” ultimately seen in a variety of English words, such as Anglophone, microphone, phonetics, phonology, polyphony, and (tele)phone. Oh, what euphonious words derive from ancient Greek!

how is epiphonema used?

To round off his argument, Montaigne reaches for an epiphonema … “Oh, what a sweet and soft and healthy pillow is ignorance and incuriosity, to rest a well-made head!”

Kathy Eden, "Cicero's Portion of Montaigne's Acclaim," Brill's Companion to the Reception of Cicero, 2015

When the Great Teacher wished to recall or rouse attention he employed an epiphonema, saying, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear,” “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” “Hearken unto me every one of you.”

George Winfred Hervey, A System of Christian Rhetoric, for the Use of Preachers and Other Speakers, 1873
Monday, June 17, 2019

caterpillar

[ kat-uh-pil-er, kat-er- ]

noun

a person who preys on others; extortioner.

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What is the origin of caterpillar?

Caterpillar has a complicated history. Late Middle English has catyrpel, catirpiller (and other variants). These are probably alterations of catepelose, an Old North French variant of Old French chatepelose “hairy cat,” from chate “(female) cat,” from Late Latin cattus (masculine) and catta (feminine) “cat” and pelose, pelouse “hairy,” from Latin pilōsus. The Middle English spelling with –yr– is probably due to association with cater “tomcat” (as in caterwaul “to utter long, wailing cries”); the final –er is probably by association with piller “despoiler.” Caterpillar in its original sense “larva of a butterfly or moth” entered English in the 15th century; the sense “extortioner” arose in the late 15th century; the sense “a tractor with two endless steel bands for moving over rough terrain” is a trademark dating from the early years of the 20th century, just in time for World War I.

how is caterpillar used?

The caterpillars of the commonwealth, / Which I have sworn to weed and pluck away.

William Shakespeare, Richard II, 1623

By dismissing the Hanoverians … we shall only send away the caterpillars which devour our victuals …

Statement of the Earl of Chesterfield, January 31, 1744, The Parliamentary History of England, Vol. 13, 1812
Sunday, June 16, 2019

dada

[ dah-dah ]

noun

(sometimes initial capital letter)

the style and techniques of a group of artists, writers, etc., of the early 20th century who exploited accidental and incongruous effects in their work and who programmatically challenged established canons of art, thought, morality, etc.

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What is the origin of dada?

Despite how it sounds, Dada has nothing to do with dads or Father’s Day. It is a reduplication of the familiar, universal baby syllable da, a French reduplication, specifically, chosen as an arbitrary name for the French and German art movement founded in Zurich in 1916, in the middle of World War I, by a group of multinational and multilingual writers, artists, and composers. According to two of Dada’s founders, the word was chosen at random from dada, a headword in a French dictionary, meaning, in baby talk, “horse, hobbyhorse.” The founders were also attracted by the meaninglessness of the two syllables.

how is dada used?

In terms of art, Dada could be said to have had the most wide-ranging post-war impact, a fact which is paradoxical given Dada‘s anti-art inclinations.

David Hopkins, Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction, 2004

… Scramsfield had manufactured enough Dada poetry to fill up the rest of the magazine by copying out random sections of a boiler repair manual into irregular stanzas, knowing that this should be sufficiently confusing to satisfy his patron …

Ned Beauman, The Teleportation Accident, 2012
Saturday, June 15, 2019

fruitlet

[ froot-lit ]

noun

Botany.

a small fruit, especially one of those forming an aggregate fruit, as the raspberry.

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What is the origin of fruitlet?

Fruitlet is a perfectly transparent word, used as a technical term in botany. The first syllable, fruit, comes from Old French fruit, a regular development from Latin frūctus “enjoyment, produce, results.” The diminutive suffix –let comes from Middle French –elet, from Latin –āle (the neuter of the adjective suffix –ālis), or from the Latin diminutive suffix –ellus and the Old French noun suffix –et (-ette). Fruitlet entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is fruitlet used?

… in the raspberry the separate fruitlets are all crowded close together into a single united mass, while in the strawberry they are scattered about loosely, and embedded in the soft flesh of the receptacle.

Grant Allen, The Evolutionist at Large, 1881

… the eyes, or diamond fruitlets, on the surface have soft or smooth tips.

Mimi Sheraton, "A Guide to Choosing a Ripe Pineapple," New York Times, April 21, 1982
Friday, June 14, 2019

undulate

[ uhn-juh-leyt, uhn-dyuh-, -duh- ]

verb (used without object)

to move with a sinuous or wavelike motion; display a smooth rising-and-falling or side-to-side alternation of movement: The flag undulates in the breeze.

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What is the origin of undulate?

Something that undulates, as a flag or rhythm, moves side to side or rises and falls like a wave. Indeed, its origin is Latin unda “wave,” via undulātus “waved, wavy,” composed of ula, a diminutive suffix, and –ātus, a past participle suffix. Unda also yields English abound, abundant, inundate, redound, redundant, and surround. Latin unda in turn comes from the Proto-Indo-European root wed– “water, wet,” ultimate source of the names of two substances that may cause some to undulate, as it were, on their feet: vodka (via Russian) and whiskey (Irish or Scots Gaelic). Best to stay hydrated, another derivative of wed-, via Greek hýdōr “water.” Undulate entered English in the 1600s.

how is undulate used?

At the end, the national anthem is played, and our flag undulates all day on its very tall mast and unfurls as it ascends majestically.

José de la Luz Sáenz (1888–1953), The World War I Diary of José de la Luz Sáenz, translated by Emilio Zamora with Ben Maya, 2014

There is a strange, dull glow to the east, from the sea; it undulates softly, rotates, like a net that has captured nothing.

Lori Baker, The Glass Ocean, 2013

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