Word of the Day

Sunday, April 19, 2020

kitsch

[ kich ]

noun

something of tawdry design, appearance, or content created to appeal to popular or undiscriminating taste.

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What is the origin of kitsch?

One person’s art is another person’s kitsch. Kitsch is a German noun meaning “trash, rubbish; slapdash, pretentious, sentimental, or tacky work of art.” Kitsch is a derivative of the verb kitschen “to throw together (a work of art),” from German kitschen “to sweep up or scrape up mud from the street,” or from German dialect kitschen “to sell cheaply.” Kitsch entered English in the first half of the 20th century.

how is kitsch used?

When the art critics call me “cornball” and my work “kitsch,” which I’m told is a derogatory term for popular art, I begin to worry. But I always pick up my brushes and go back to work. For better or for worse, I’ll never be a fine arts painter or a modern artist. I’m an illustrator, which is very different. 

Norman Rockwell, My Adventures as an Illustrator, 1960

Allee Willis … lives in a light-pink house north of Hollywood with a bowling-ball garden and a heaving collection of kitsch.

Matthew Schneier, "A Queen of Kitsch Who Made the Whole World Sing," New York Times, June 7, 2018

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Saturday, April 18, 2020

chockablock

[ chok-uh-blok ]

adjective

extremely full; crowded; jammed: a room chockablock with furniture and plants.

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What is the origin of chockablock?

Chockablock is a nautical term describing the position of tackle when the blocks are drawn close together. From the sense of the blocks being pressed tightly together, chockablock develops the sense “extremely full, crowded.” Chock and block are clear enough: they are synonyms for a wedge or other solid, heavy mass for holding something steady. The only problem with chockablock is the –a-: it is likely a reduced form of andChockablock entered English at the end of the 18th century.

how is chockablock used?

I have a steel engraving of the Old Harbor chockablock with ships ….

John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent, 1961

The lyrics and the video are chockablock with suburban Americana signifiers: lawns, pools, divorce.

Spencer Kornhaber, "What Adam Schlesinger Knew About America," The Atlantic, April 3, 2020

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Friday, April 17, 2020

breviloquent

[ bre-vil-uh-kwuhnt ]

adjective

speaking or expressed in a concise or terse style; using brevity of speech.

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What is the origin of breviloquent?

Breviloquent means “speaking in a concise style.” Breviloquent comes from the Latin adjective breviloquēns (inflectional stem breviloquent-), a compound of brevis “short” (inflectional stem brevi-) and loquēns, present participle of loquī “to speak.” Breviloquentia, “brevity of speech,” the noun derivative of breviloquēns, occurs only once—one time!—in all of Latin literature, in a private letter that Cicero wrote to his close childhood friend, Titus Pomponius Atticus. Breviloquent entered English in the 19th century.

how is breviloquent used?

On the contrary, nothing is more remarkable in the Paston correspondence than the extreme and business-like shortness of most of them. They seem to anticipate the breviloquent era of Sir Rowland Hill. 

Herman Merivale, "Are the 'Paston Letters' Authentic?" The Fortnightly, Vol. 2, 1865

Soft-spoken and breviloquent, Nokie Edwards’ gentle manner is contradicted by the quick, clean guitar licks that make him famous as a former member of surf-instro band The Ventures.

Laurie Heuston, "Nokie Edwards and The HitchHiker Band," Mail Tribune, January 20, 2017

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