• Word of the day
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    Monday, October 28, 2019

    macabre

    adjective [muh-kah-bruh, -kahb, -kah-ber]
    gruesome and horrifying; ghastly; horrible.
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    What is the origin of macabre?

    The history of the adjective macabre is confusing. The word is Middle French and first occurs (in French) in 1376, Je fis de Macabré la dance “I made the Dance of Death.” In late Middle English Macabrees daunce meant “Dance of Death.” French Macabré may be an alteration of Macabé “Maccabaeus”; if so, Macabré la dance may be the same as the medieval ritual or procession chorēa Machabaeōrum "dance of the Maccabees," honoring the martyrdom of Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers (II Maccabees). Macabre entered English in the 15th century.

    How is macabre used?

    Their macabre task is swabbing dead animals they find by the side of the road to get hold of their microbiomes—the communities of microorganisms that inhabit these mammals. Jamie Durrani, "Roadkill Animals Are Surprising Sources of Drug Discovery," Scientific American, January 4, 2017

    Vincent (1982) combines Burton’s burgeoning visual aesthetic with his lifelong love of the macabre and interest in stop-motion animation. Aja Romano, "Tim Burton has built his career around an iconic visual aesthetic. Here's how it evolved." Vox, April 17, 2019

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, October 27, 2019

    horripilation

    noun [haw-rip-uh-ley-shuhn, ho-]
    a bristling of the hair on the skin from cold, fear, etc.; goose bumps.
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    What is the origin of horripilation?

    Horripilation “bristling of the hair on the skin from cold or fear,” is a three-dollar word for goose bumps. Horripilation comes from the Late Latin noun horripilātiō (inflectional stem horripilation-), a derivative of the verb horripilāre “to become bristly or hairy.” Horripilātiō first appears in the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible, prepared chiefly by Saint Jerome at the end of the 4th century a.d. Horripilation entered English in the mid-17th century.

    How is horripilation used?

    ... I have often wandered round other reputedly haunted places, especially in the vicinity of mills and local stream meets and in many have experienced that same horripilation of the flesh .... John Hillaby, "Witchcraft and all that," New Scientist, May 8, 1975

    I can’t have been the only person who spent the evening in a pretty much constant state of horripilation. Alexis Soloski, "Review: In 'All Is Calm,' Thrilling Song in the Trenches," New York Times, November 25, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, October 26, 2019

    chthonian

    adjective [thoh-nee-uhn] Classical Mythology.
    of or relating to the deities, spirits, and other beings dwelling under the earth.
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    What is the origin of chthonian?

    Chthonian ultimately derives from the Greek adjective chthónios “of the earth, the underground, the underworld.” Chthónios is a derivative of the noun chthṓn, deriving from a very, very old Proto-Indo-European word meaning "earth" and surviving in most of the “daughter” languages. The original Proto-Indo-European root was dheghm, dhghem-, dhghom-, (dh)ghm- (with various suffixes). From dheghm- Hittite derives tekan (stem tagn-) “earth,” Tocharian A (spoken in central Asia and now part of Xin Jiang) tkaṃ, Sanskrit kṣam-, and Avestan zəm-. From dh(e)ghom Greek has chthṓn, from earlier chthom (Greek also reversed the order of the consonant cluster from thch- to chth-). The suffixed form (dh)ghom-os yields Latin humus (from homos) “earth,” the adjective humilis “low to the ground” (English humble), and the noun humilitās (stem humilitāt-) “lowness of height or position, low condition (English humility). The suffixed form dhgh(e)mōn “one who is on the earth, human being” becomes hemō (stem hemōn-) in Old Latin, homō (stem homin-) in Latin. Latin also derives, somewhat obscurely, from homin- the adjective humānus “of man, human, humane, gentle” (English human and humane). (Hebrew follows a similar semantic development with ādhām “man, mankind, human being, Adam” and ădhāmāh “earth, soil, ground.”) In Germanic (dh)ghm-ōn yields guma “human being, man” in Gothic and Old English. Old English has the noun brȳdguma “young man about to be married or recently married; bridegroom, husband,” which becomes brīdgome in Middle English, and bridegroom in English. The -groom in bridegroom arose in the 16th century due to the influence of groom “boy, young man.” Chthonian entered English in the mid-19th century.

    How is chthonian used?

    The streets throng with crowds of dapper skeletons and chthonian floats. Christopher Orr, "Spectre: Bond Doesn't Need an Origin Story," The Atlantic, November 6, 2015

    This chthonian belief—that the world’s underbelly rumbles with life—guides all the so-called Earth-based faiths. Michael Tortorello, "If a Druid Rings the Doorbell," New York Times, October 30, 2013

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, October 25, 2019

    psychotronic

    adjective [sahy-kuh-tron-ik]
    of or relating to a genre of usually low-budget movies that includes horror, fantasy, science-fiction, and underground films.
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    What is the origin of psychotronic?

    Psychotronic is a word to make you smile. It is composed of the perfectly ordinary combining form psycho-, from the Greek noun psȳchḗ “breath, spirit, soul, mind” and the suffix -tronic, extracted from (elec)tronic. Psychotronic originally (1968) meant “pertaining to psychotronics,” a pseudoscience devoted to the interaction of matter, energy, and human consciousness, especially in parapsychological phenomena such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and telekinesis (think the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats.) In the early 1980s another meaning arose, “relating to a genre of usually low-budget movies that includes horror, fantasy, and science-fiction.”

    How is psychotronic used?

    American International Pictures was the most important company in the world of Psychotronic movies. Michael J. Weldon, The Psychotronic Video Guide, 1996

    Vesley asks viewers to accept that this is a world where ghosts, werewolves, and witches are real—no big deal, a baseline ask for any psychotronic film .... Katie Rife, "It's big trouble for Lil Chano in the wacky fast-food horror comedy Slice," AV Club, September 11, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, October 24, 2019

    numinous

    adjective [noo-muh-nuhs, nyoo-]
    spiritual or supernatural.
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    What is the origin of numinous?

    The Latin source for numinous is the noun numen (inflectional stem nūmin-), derived from the verb -nuere “to nod the head as a signal of assent or command.” The verb -nuere occurs only in compounds such as adnuere (annuere) “to beckon, nod, assent to,” formed from the preverb ad-, an-, meaning “to,” plus -nuere. The phrase annuit coeptis, “He (God) has favored our undertakings,” is the motto on the reverse of the Great Seal of the U.S. and is also printed on the reverse of a one-dollar bill. Annuit coeptis is an adaptation of a line from from Vergil's Aeneid. The Latin neuter noun suffix -men forms concrete nouns from verbs. The meanings of numen range from “a nod of the head, inclination, bias,” to “divine or supernatural power (which also possesses poets and prophets, and offers protection)," to "the expressed will of a god, divinity.” Numinous entered English in the mid-17th century.

    How is numinous used?

    This confrontation becomes more dramatic if the numinous power takes a personified form—of a spirit, ghost, devil, revenant, nightmare, witch or some other human or non-human entity. Ülo Valk and Daniel Sävborg, "Place-Lore, Liminal Storyworld and Ontology of the Supernatural," Storied and Supernatural, 2018

    The Periodic Table, by contrast, was a Jacob’s ladder, a numinous spiral, going up to, coming down from a Pythagorean heaven. Oliver Sacks, "Brilliant Light," The New Yorker, December 20, 1999

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, October 23, 2019

    consternation

    noun [kon-ster-ney-shuhn]
    a sudden, alarming amazement or dread that results in utter confusion; dismay.
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    What is the origin of consternation?

    Consternation comes from the Latin noun cōnsternātiō (inflectional stem cōnsternātiōn-) “unsettlement, confusion, disturbance, disorder,” a derivation of the verb cōnsternāre “to throw into confusion, drive frantic, shock.” Cōnsternāre most likely derives from the verb cōnsternere “to strew over, cover, calm (the sea), bring down, fell,” a compound of the intensive prefix con- (a variant of com-) and the simple verb sternere “to lay out on the ground, spread out,” from the Proto-Indo-European root ster-, sterə-, strē-, steru-, streu- “to spread out, stretch out.” The root is the source of Sanskrit stṛṇā́ti “he throws down, strews,” Greek stornýnai and strōnnýnai “to stretch out, make level, make one’s bed,” Old Irish sernim “I spread out,” Albanian shtrin “I spread out.” The variant streu- lies behind Gothic straujan “strew,” Old English strēowian “to scatter” (English strew), and strēaw “hay, straw” (English straw). Consternation entered English in the early 17th century.

    How is consternation used?

    Deepfakes have inspired much consternation over their potential to destabilize public discourse. Alexis C. Madrigal, "Mark Zuckerberg Is Rethinking Deepfakes," The Atlantic, June 26, 2019

    I was standing shaving at my glass, when I suddenly discovered, to my consternation and amazement, that I was shaving—not myself—I am fifty—but a boy. Charles Dickens, "The Haunted House," All the Year Round, 1859

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, October 22, 2019

    solipsism

    noun [sol-ip-siz-uhm]
    extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one's feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption.
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    What is the origin of solipsism?

    The usual sense of solipsism is “extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one's feelings or desires; egoistic self-absorption,” and not the philosophical sense “the theory that only the self exists or can be proved to exist.” Solipsism comes from New Latin sōlipsismus “extreme self-centeredness,” formed from the Latin adjective sōl(us) “lone, alone,” the pronoun and adjective ips(e) “himself, herself,” and -ismus, a noun suffix borrowed from Greek -ismós, forming action nouns from verbs ending in -ízein (-izāre in Latin), as baptismós “dipping, baptism” (baptismus in Latin), from baptízein (baptizāre in Latin). A literal translation of sōlipsimus would be the ungainly “myselfaloneism.” Solipsism entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

    How is solipsism used?

    Murdoch's fiction frequently offers work as the way out of the self-serving fantasies of solipsism, even simple labor proving therapeutic. Peter J. Reed, "Introduction," 2001,  A Fairly Honourable Defeat, 1970

    “Lady Bird” takes its protagonist through adolescent solipsism to recognition and gratitude .... Richard Brody, "Greta Gerwig's Exquisite, Flawed 'Lady Bird'," The New Yorker, November 2, 2017

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