• Word of the day
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    Tuesday, October 16, 2018

    linguaphile

    noun [ling-gwuh-fahyl]
    a language and word lover.
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    What is the origin of linguaphile?

    Linguist has existed in English since the 16th century. It means “one who is adept at learning and using foreign languages; one who is a student of language or linguistics; a translator or interpreter.” Linguaphile has a somewhat different meaning: “one who loves words or languages.” The originally Greek suffix -phile (“lover of”) is completely naturalized in English. Lingua in Latin means “tongue, language”; its Old Latin form was dingua, from Proto-Indo-European dṇghwā, which is also the source of Germanic (English) tongue, and of Celtic (Old Irish) teng, Baltic inžũ-, and Slavic (Polish) język (with Baltic and Slavic loss of initial d-; ę represents a nasalized vowel). Linguaphile entered English in the late 20th century.

    How is linguaphile used?

    The collection has so many good passages — whole paragraphs that move into pages with never a misstep — that any linguaphile could spend a great afternoon in a little spasm of dazzle. Robin Romm, "Baser Instincts," New York Times, July 19, 2013

    In the story “Entourage,” a linguaphile travels to Poland, Denmark, Germany, Turkey, and more, collecting suitcases full of books in their original languages. Nathan Scott McNamara, "Everything Was a Fake," Los Angeles Review of Books, June 8, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, October 15, 2018

    patzer

    noun [paht-ser, pat-]
    a casual, amateurish chess player.
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    What is the origin of patzer?

    Patzer was first recorded in 1955–60. It is probably from German Patzer “bungler,” equivalent to patz(en) “to bungle” (compare Austrian dialect Patzen “stain, blot,” patzen “to make a stain”).

    How is patzer used?

    Anatoly Karpov, the champion before Kasparov, once said the only difference between a prodigy and a patzer was how far into the future a player could look. Mitch Silver, The Bookworm, 2018

    You're a patzer. Look that up in your dictionary. Mark Coggins, The Immortal Game, 2006

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, October 14, 2018

    brightwork

    noun [brahyt-wurk]
    polished metal parts, as on a ship or automobile.
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    What is the origin of brightwork?

    Brightwork is an Americanism dating back to 1835–45.

    How is brightwork used?

    One other mode of passing time while in port was cleaning and polishing your bright-work; for it must be known that, in men-of-war, every sailor has some brass or steel of one kind or other to keep in high order ... Herman Melville, White Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War, 1850

    Under the unblinking gaze of the sun, windshields blazed and brightwork gleamed. Dean Koontz, The Husband, 2006

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, October 13, 2018

    postern

    noun [poh-stern, pos-tern]
    a back door or gate.
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    What is the origin of postern?

    English postern comes from Old French posterne, originally “a concealed exit from a fort, a sally port,” later “a small door, a back door.” Posterne is an alteration of Old French posterle “a back door, back way," from Late Latin posterula “a small back door or gate; back way, byway,” a diminutive noun formed from the adjective posterus “(coming or being) after or in the future” and -ula, the feminine form of the common diminutive noun suffix -ulus. The -n- in posterne is likely due to the influence of the Old French adjectives interne (from Latin internus) and externe (from Latin externus). Postern entered English in the early 14th century.

    How is postern used?

    It was the second gate, a postern in the north wall, that accounted for the most noticeable change. James A. Michener, The Source, 1965

    A practicable postern was ajar on the yellow wood of the studded gates. Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford, Romance, 1903

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, October 12, 2018

    sennachie

    noun [sen-uh-kee]
    Chiefly Scot., Irish. a professional storyteller of family genealogy, history, and legend.
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    What is the origin of sennachie?

    There are several English spellings, e.g., shanachie, seannachie, for the exotic Irish and Scottish noun meaning “storyteller, oral historian, genealogist.” The word in Scots Gaelic is seanachaidh (seanachaidhe in Irish) meaning “historian, antiquarian, chronicler,” from sen “old, ancient” and cūis “matter, affair.” Sen is from Proto-Indo-European sen(o)- “old,” most obvious in Latin senex “old man,” senātus “senate,” and senectūs “old age.” Senos appears in Greek in the noun hénos “year,” and the adjective hénos “last year’s”; and in Baltic (Lithuanian) as sẽnas “old,” and sẽnis “old man.” Sennachie entered English in the 16th century.

    How is sennachie used?

    ... I do not think he could falsify a folk-tale if he tried. At the most he would change it as a few years' passing from sennachie to sennachie must do perforce. William Butler Yeats, "Irish Folk Tales," The National Observer, 1891

    My schoolfellows like my stories well enough-better at least, on most occasions, than they did the lessons of the master; but, beyond the common ground of enjoyment which these ex-tempore compositions furnished to both the "sennachie" and his auditors, our tracts of amusement lay widely apart. Hugh Miller, My Schools and Schoolmasters; or, The Story of My Education, 1854

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, October 11, 2018

    clavier

    noun [kluh-veer, klav-ee-er, kley-vee-]
    any musical instrument having a keyboard, especially a stringed keyboard instrument, as a harpsichord, clavichord, or piano.
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    What is the origin of clavier?

    English clavier comes from Old French clavier “keyholder, keybearer,” as if from Medieval Latin clāviārius (formed from clāvis “key,” which becomes clef or clé in French, and the common noun suffix -ārius, which becomes -ier in Old French). French clavier also meant "a bank or row of keys on a musical instrument, a keyboard," which is the first sense of the word in English, dating from the early 18th century. German and the other Germanic languages specialized the meaning to “keyboard instrument with strings (particularly the clavichord),” which English adopted in the mid-19th century.

    How is clavier used?

    Herr Gleissner composed twelve songs with clavier accompaniment. Alois Senefelder, The Invention of Lithography, translated by J. W. Muller, 1911

    An engraved portrait that a German artist made of Buchinger, in 1710, includes thirteen surrounding vignettes that picture him at tables, bearing his instruments and props, but just one depicts him in action, playing a hammered clavier. Peter Schjeldahl, "Seeing and Believing," The New Yorker, January 25, 2016

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, October 10, 2018

    vulgarian

    noun [vuhl-gair-ee-uhn]
    a vulgar person, especially one whose vulgarity is the more conspicuous because of wealth, prominence, or pretensions to good breeding.
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    What is the origin of vulgarian?

    The Latin noun vulgus (also volgus) meant simply “common people, general public”; it also meant “crowd” and usually had a derogatory sense, but there was nothing of the flashy, tacky nouveau riche in the noun itself or its derivative nouns, adjectives, and verbs, e.g., vulgāre “to make available to the public,” vulgātus ”popular, common, ordinary,” vulgāris “belonging to the common people, conventional.” The Romans claimed to have invented satire, i.e., the genre did not exist among the Greeks. The Romans also created the (literary) type of the current sense of vulgarian “a vulgar person whose vulgarity is the more striking because of wealth, prominence, or pretensions to good breeding.” The first example is Trimalchio, a character in the Satyricon, a Latin novel dating from the mid-first century a.d. written by Gaius Petronius (died ca. 66 a.d.). Trimalchio and most of the Satyricon are familiar nowadays from the movie Fellini Satyricon (1969) by the Italian director Federico Fellini (1920–93). Vulgarian entered English in the early 19th century.

    How is vulgarian used?

    "Why, he is a perfect vulgarian," she replied, "and I am astonished at Ethel for allowing him to be so much with her." Rosa Vertner Jeffrey, Woodburn, 1864

    ... the vulgarian's restless jealousy of the class above him made him, on this score, especially intractable and suspicious. Allan McAulay, The Rhymer, 1900

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