Word of the Day

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Kafkaesque

[ kahf-kuh-esk ]

adjective

marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity: Kafkaesque bureaucracies.

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What is the origin of Kafkaesque?

Kafkaesque means “having a disorienting, confusing, nightmarish quality; feeling surreal and threatening,” as, for instance, a form letter from the IRS. Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a German-speaking Jew born in Prague, Bohemia (now the capital of the Czech Republic). Kafka received a rigorous secular education: he wrote in both German and Czech and spoke German with a Czech accent but never thought himself fluent in Czech. He began publishing his artistic prose in 1908. Kafka’s father, Hermann Kafka (1854-1931), was a clothing retailer in Prague and employed around a dozen people in his business. Hermann Kafka used the image of a jackdaw (kavka in Czech) as the logo for his business. Kafkaesque entered English in the 20th century.

how is Kafkaesque used?

As I see it, there is still another telling Kafkaesque dimension to Watergate now that President Ford has written his version of The End. It is the enormousness of the frustration that has taken hold in America ever since Compassionate Sunday, the sense of waste, futility, and hopelessness that now attaches to the monumental efforts that had been required just to begin to get at the truth.

Philip Roth, "Our Castle," Reading Myself and Others, 1975

What makes the situation positively Kafkaesque is that under the terms of the Consent Decree, which was created in part to prevent songwriters from monopolizing the market, composers are now often compelled to license their songs to these monopolistic behemoths at absurdly low rates.

John Seabrook, "Will Streaming Music Kill Songwriting?" The New Yorker, February 8, 2016
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Monday, July 02, 2018

buttery

[ buht-uh-ree ]

adjective

grossly flattering; smarmy.

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What is the origin of buttery?

The adjective buttery in the Middle Ages meant “containing butter”; by the 18th century it acquired additional meanings “having the consistency of butter; smeared with butter”; and in the mid-19th century the sense “grossly flattering, smarmy.” Butter, the noun from which buttery derives, is a borrowing of the Latin word būtȳrum “butter,” itself a borrowing from Greek boútyron “butter,” literally “cow cheese.” Būtȳrum was adopted by the West Germanic languages, e.g., Old English butere, English butter, Dutch boter, Old High German butera, and German Butter. Buttery entered English in the 14th century.

how is buttery used?

Once Maloney began speaking there seemed no end to the words that poured from his whiskered lips, buttery words, words unreliable, words from which all sincerity had been drained to be replaced by a jovial condescension.

Ralph McInerny, Celt and Pepper, 2002

His face adorned by a seraphic, buttery smile, he stood unmoved, while Miss Higglesby-Browne uttered cyclonic exhortations and reproaches …

Camilla E. L. Kenyon, "Spanish Doubloons," Sunset: The Pacific Monthly, March 1918
Sunday, July 01, 2018

mind-pop

[ mahynd-pop ]

noun

Psychology Informal. a word, phrase, image, or sound that comes into the mind suddenly and involuntarily and is usually related to a recent experience.

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What is the origin of mind-pop?

Mind-pop was coined by Austrian psychologist George Mandler (1924–2016). It was first recorded in 2000–05.

how is mind-pop used?

Mind-pops are more often words or phrases than images or sounds and they usually happen when someone is in the middle of a habitual activity that does not demand much concentration—perhaps when they are brushing their teeth or tying their shoes.

Ferris Jabr, "Mind-Pops: Psychologists Begin to Study an Unusual form of Proustian Memory," Scientific American, May 23, 2012

… researchers can now see that having a mind pop activates the same region of the brain that’s engaged when you’re open to experience. … Even when they are mixed and conflicted, they are signs of your creative brain in action.

Srini Pillay, Tinker Dabble Try, 2017
Saturday, June 30, 2018

armamentarium

[ ahr-muh-muhn-tair-ee-uhm, -men- ]

noun

the aggregate of equipment, methods, and techniques available to one for carrying out one's duties: The stethoscope is still an essential part of the physician's armamentarium.

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What is the origin of armamentarium?

English armamentarium is taken straight from the Latin noun armāmentārium “armory, arsenal, storehouse for military equipment.” The base of the Latin compound noun is the neuter plural noun arma “arms, weapons,” from which the verb armāre “to fit or equip with weapons” derives. From the verb armāre and the suffix -mentum, used to form concrete objects, the noun armāmentum is formed. The resulting armāmentum is completed by the very common adjective and noun suffix -ārium (from -arius), showing location. Armamentarium entered English in the 17th century in the sense “arsenal.” The broader sense of armamentarium dates from the 19th century.

how is armamentarium used?

By identifying a fresh target for therapy—the TB bacterium’s waxy outer jacket—the new research lays the groundwork for adding to the armamentarium against TB …

Melissa Healy, "Scientists have a promising new approach for treating drug-resistant tuberculosis," Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2018

With such powerful tastes and bold sauces in the chef’s armamentarium, one has to expect that not every dish will work.

Peter Kaminsky, "Tompkins Square Riot," New York, March 25, 1996
Friday, June 29, 2018

flexitarian

[ flek-si-tair-ee-uhn ]

noun

a person whose diet is mostly vegetarian but sometimes includes meat, fish, or poultry.

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What is the origin of flexitarian?

Flexitarian was first recorded in 1990-95. It’s a portemanteau of the words flexible and vegetarian.

how is flexitarian used?

A flexitarian is someone who rarely, though occasionally, consumes meat, including red meat, poultry, and seafood. A climatarian is someone who eats less meat—especially the most energy-consuming meats, like beef and lamb—specifically for environmental reasons.

Brian Kateman, "Beyond 'Vegetarian'," Atlantic, March 14, 2016

The moderate, conscious eater—the flexitarian—knows where the goal lies: a diet that’s higher in plants and lower in both animal products and hyperprocessed foods, the stuff that makes up something like three-quarters of what’s sold in supermarkets.

Mark Bittman, "Healthy, Meet Delicious," New York Times, April 23, 2013
Thursday, June 28, 2018

transmundane

[ trans-muhn-deyn, tranz-; trans-muhn-deyn, tranz- ]

adjective

reaching beyond or existing outside the physical or visible world.

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What is the origin of transmundane?

Transmundane was first recorded in 1770-80. It combines Latin trans- “beyond” and mundane, which finds its roots in the Latin word meaning “world.”

how is transmundane used?

Below me along the lifelines I was aware of many sailors joining in these observations, gazing dumbstruck at it as something transmundane.

William Brinkley, The Last Ship, 1988

… a common labourer and a travelling tinker had propounded and discussed one of the most ancient theories of transmundane dominion and influence on mundane affairs.

George Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, 1859
Wednesday, June 27, 2018

farouche

[ fa-roosh ]

adjective

French. sullenly unsociable or shy.

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What is the origin of farouche?

The adjective farouche, accented on the second syllable, shows that it is still an unnaturalized borrowing from French. The Old French adjective faroche, forasche derives from the Late Latin forāsticus “belonging outside or out of doors” (i.e., not fit to be inside), a derivative of the adverb and preposition forās (also forīs) “(to the) outside, abroad.” A similar semantic development can be seen in savage, from Middle French salvage, sauvage, from Medieval Latin salvāticus (Latin silvāticus) “pertaining to the woods.” Farouche entered English in the 18th century.

how is farouche used?

He’s a bit farouche, but I like the way he enthuses about what interests him. It’s not put on.

Richard Aldington, Death of a Hero, 1929

Many of the women in these stories are farouche–they’re outsiders, they’re troubled, they lack polish, they dream too much.

Joy Williams, "Introducion" Fantastic Women: 18 tales of the surreal and the sublime from Tin House, 2011

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