Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

lagniappe

[ lan-yap, lan-yap ]

noun

a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; bonus.

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What is the origin of lagniappe?

The word lagniappe “a gratuity, a tip” has wandered a very long way, indeed, from its original home. People rightly associate lagniappe with New Orleans, The Big Easy, renowned for its wonderful food, jazz, etc.; Mark Twain discusses lagniappe in his Life on the Mississippi (1883, chapter 44). Most Americans would think that lagniappe is a French word, which it is, but Louisiana French, not standard French (lagniappe is not a headword in the online Trésor de la Langue Française). Lagniappe comes from Spanish la ñapa, la yapa, la llapa with the same meaning. Ñapa, yapa, llapa in turn comes from Quechua yápa “something a little extra, a bonus,” in Irish English “a tilly” (from Irish Gaelic tuilleadh “an additional item or amount”). Yápa a derivative of the verb yapay “to give more.” Quechua is the language of the Incas, still vigorous and flourishing in the Andes of South America. Lagniappe entered English in the middle of the 19th century.

how is lagniappe used?

During the holidays, New Orleans diners discover a lagniappe (little something extra) at their favorite fine-dining restaurants.

Wanda McKinney, "Where the Good Times Roll," Southern Living, December 2006

Certainly the goody bag is essentially worthless—a few candies and a set of earplugs make up the typical lagniappe.

Damon Darlin, "Flying With Shrieking Children? Give Your Neighbors a Goody Bag," New York Times, August 5, 2016

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Monday, November 09, 2020

duplicitous

[ doo-plis-i-tuhs, dyoo- ]

adjective

marked or characterized by deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter.

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What is the origin of duplicitous?

“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is the man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another” (Iliad, book 9) is one man’s reaction to duplicity. That man is Achilles, and he is talking about his lord Agamemnon, but Achilles is addressing Odysseus, who himself knows a trick or two about cunning speech. Duplicitous “deceitful in word or deed, as by behaving in different ways with different people about the same affair” is a derivative of the noun duplicity, ultimately from a noun of Latin origin, duplicitās (stem duplicitāt-), formed from the adjective duplex (stem duplic-) “twofold, double, folded double; deceitful.” Duplex is a compound of duo “two” and the Latin adjective suffix –plex (stem –plic-), which has the same function (and same Proto-Indo-European origin) as the English suffix –fold (as in twofold). The first recorded meaning of duplicitous in English is in U.S. law: “including two or more offenses in one count, or charge, as part of an indictment, thus violating the requirement that each count contain only a single offense”; the more common meaning “deceitful” occurs in the late 1950s. Duplicitous entered English in the early 1890s.

how is duplicitous used?

Cambridge Analytica obtained user data through duplicitous means, but similar data sets are widely and legally available; micro-targeting is commonplace on nearly all political campaigns.

Brian Barth, "Big Tech's Big Defector," The New Yorker, November 25, 2019

Rather, like his own duplicitous identity, Twain’s texts are double-voiced, both in form and in their equivocal stances toward freedom.

Lawrence Howe, "Catching Mark Twain's Drift," Mark Twain and the Novel: The Double-Cross of Authority, 1998

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Sunday, November 08, 2020

satisfice

[ sat-is-fahys ]

verb (used without object)

to choose or adopt the first satisfactory option that one comes across.

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What is the origin of satisfice?

It is easiest to take the verb satisfice, “to choose or adopt the first satisfactory option, select or pursue the minimum satisfactory result” as a blend of satis(fy) and (suf)fice. Satisfice contrasts with optimize, “to make as effective or useful as possible; make the best of.” A quote from the International New York Times shows this usage well: “Big business executives don’t really try to maximize profits but ‘satisfice’—that is, they try to make enough profit to keep stockholders and boards of directors happy without bringing the wrath of government regulators, consumer groups or business competitors down on them.” Satisfice, originally a northern English colloquialism, entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is satisfice used?

In the real world, neither people nor firms maximize utility. … What firms do instead is “satisfice,” to use Simon’s term: they content themselves with results that are “good enough.”

Christopher Caldwell, "Select All," The New Yorker, February 23, 2004

Most people fall somewhere in the middle. A person can maximize when it comes to some decisions and satisfice on others.

Elizabeth Bernstein, "How You Make Decisions Says a Lot About How Happy You Are," Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2014

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