Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, August 19, 2018

lunula

[ loo-nyuh-luh ]

noun

something shaped like a narrow crescent, as the small, pale area at the base of the fingernail.

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What is the origin of lunula?

The uncommon noun lunula is restricted to anatomy, biology, and archaeology or art history. It’s a straightforward borrowing of Latin lūnula, literally “little moon,” but meaning “crescent-shaped ornament” (one of its senses in English). The only common meaning for this uncommon noun is the pale, crescent-shaped are at the base of a fingernail or toenail. Lūnula is a diminutive of lūna “moon,” which is disconcertingly similar to Russian luná “moon.” (The cognate Polish łuna means “glow.”) Both the Slavic and the Latin nouns derive from the same Proto-Indo-European source, louksnā, the same source as Avestan raoxshna- “shining; a light.” (Raoxshna is also used as a proper female name that in Greek is rendered Rhōxánē “Roxane.” The “original” Raoxshna/Roxane was a Bactrian princess born c340 b.c.; she married Alexander the Great in 327 b.c., and was poisoned in prison in 310 b.c.). Proto-Indo-European louksnā becomes in Old Prussian the plural noun lauxnos “stars,” and Middle Irish luan “moon.” All of these forms derive from the very common Proto-Indo-European root leuk- and its variants louk- and luk- “light, bright.” Lunula entered English in the 16th century.

how is lunula used?

It refuses to grow back, the nail of this one finger, the lunula destroyed, a moon permanently obliterated by one smash of his interrogator’s pistol.

Vaddey Ratner, Music of the Ghosts, 2017

I … wore only a simple shift of amber-and-brown plaid wool, and only ghillies, ovals of calfskin, laced around my feet. No golden tore, no silver lunula, nor am I royal of stature or of mien.

Nancy Springer, “The Kingmaker,” Firebird Soaring, 2009
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Word of the day

Saturday, August 18, 2018

prima facie

[ prahy-muh fey-shee-ee, fey-shee, fey-shuh, pree- ]

adjective

plain or clear; self-evident; obvious.

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What is the origin of prima facie?

The English phrase prima facie is obviously Latin: prīmā faciē (ablative singular in form) means “at first sight.” (Faciēs has very many meanings: “physical or outward appearance, looks, sight, scene, good looks,….”) It is not incredible that the English phrase at first blush is a literal translation of the Latin phrase: blush, a noun meaning “glance, sight,” is obsolete except for the phrase at (on) (the) first blush. Prima facie entered English in the 15th century.

how is prima facie used?

McCain and Palin have been quoting this remark ever since, offering it as prima-facie evidence of Obama’s unsuitability for office.

Hendrik Hertzberg, "Like, Socialism," The New Yorker, November 3, 2008

There was no prima-facie absurdity in his hypothesis—and experiment was the sole means of demonstrating its truth or falsity.

Thomas H. Huxley, "William Harvey," Popular Science Monthly, March 1878

Word of the day

Friday, August 17, 2018

corpocracy

[ kawr-pok-ruh-see ]

noun

a society in which corporations have much economic and political power.

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What is the origin of corpocracy?

Corpocracy is an unlovely compound noun formed from corporate or corporation plus the common combining form -cracy, ultimately from the Greek combining form -kratía, formed from krátos “strength, power,” and the noun suffix -ía. Corpocracy is not a recent word: it first appears in print in 1935, right smack in the middle of the Great Depression, during FDR’s first term.

how is corpocracy used?

Whether you are in business or government, you will be members of the same corpocracy. In the West, there are tensions between government and business elites. In China, these elites are part of the same social web, cooperating for mutual enrichment.

David Brooks, "The Dictatorship of Talent," New York Times, December 4, 2007

… David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas” features a futuristic South Korea-inspired “corpocracy,” a hotbed of clones, plastic surgery (“facescaping”), and insurrection.

Ed Park, "Sorry Not Sorry," The New Yorker, October 19, 2015

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