Word of the Day

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

lese majesty

[ leez maj-uh-stee, lez ]

noun

an attack on any custom, institution, belief, etc., held sacred or revered by numbers of people: Her speech against Mother's Day was criticized as lese majesty.

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What is the origin of lese majesty?

It is not very often that there is a transparent connection between French (and English) and Latin, but lese majesty is such a term. In modern French the term is lèsemajesté, from Middle French laise majeste “a crime against the king, treason.” The French forms derive from Latin laesa mājestās “injured majesty (of the sovereign people, state, or emperor).” Laesa is the past participle of the verb laedere “to hurt, harm” (of uncertain etymology); mājestās is a derivative of the comparative adjective major “greater, larger, bigger.” Lese majesty entered English in the 15th century.

how is lese majesty used?

At the risk of lese-majesty, it [Windsor Castle] reminded me of a toy castle, part Disney, part Austrian schloss.

Nick Glass, "St. George's Chapel: The historic venue where Harry and Meghan are getting married," CNN, May 3, 2018

… his father was in jail for lese majesty—what you call speaking the truth about the Emperor.

Jack London, The Iron Heel, 1907
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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

umami

[ oo-mah-mee ]

noun

a strong meaty taste, often considered to be one of the basic taste sensations along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, imparted by glutamate and certain other amino acids.

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What is the origin of umami?

Umami comes unchanged from Japanese umami “savory taste, delicious taste.” Umami comes from umi-, the inflectional stem of umai “(to be) delicious” and –mi, a suffix forming abstract nouns from adjectives. Umami entered English in the 20th century.

how is umami used?

Complex, creamy and very comforting, its intense umami character was exactly what Ms. Nguyen tried to capture in this garlicky noodle recipe … .

Melissa Clark, "These Generously Buttered Noodles Have Loads of Umami," New York Times, March 15, 2019

Glutamate also occurs naturally in all the foods that we associate with umami: aged hard cheeses, tomatoes, mushrooms, dried and fermented fish and fish sauces, and savory condiments like Marmite and Worcestershire sauce.

Helen Rosner, "An MSG Convert Visits the High Church of Umami," The New Yorker, April 27, 2018
Monday, April 15, 2019

gabelle

[ guh-bel ]

noun

a tax; excise.

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What is the origin of gabelle?

The rare noun gabelle “a tax on salt” comes from Anglo-French (the variety of French used in England after the Norman Conquest) and other Romance languages and dialects from Late and Medieval Latin gabella “tax, salt tax.” Gabella derives ultimately from Arabic qabāla “tax, duty, impost.” There is an understandable confusion in form and meaning between gabelle “a tax on salt,” and gavel “feudal rent, tribute to a superior.” Gavel comes from Old English gafol, a noun that dates from about 725, occurs only in Old English, and derives from the same Germanic root as the verb giveGabelle entered English in the 15th century.

how is gabelle used?

In 1355, the successor of Philip of Valois, John II of France, imposed a gabelle on salt, and again doubled the tax, so that it then rose to eight deniers upon the pound.

Henry Morley, Palissy the Potter: The Life of Bernard Palissy, of Saintes, 1853

They paid a gabelle in order to wear a forbidden ornament and did their best to interfere with the enforcement of the law.

Susan Mosher Stuard, Gilding the Market, 2006

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