Word of the Day

Word of the day

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

manavelins

[ muh-nav-uh-linz ]

plural noun

miscellaneous scraps or small items, especially of food or gear.

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What is the origin of manavelins?

Manavelins, “miscellaneous pieces of gear and material; odds and ends; leftovers or scraps (of food),” is originally sailors’ slang. Like many slang terms, manavelins has no reliable etymology, which helps explain the many variant spellings, such as manavalins, manarvelins, malhavelins. There is a likely connection between manavelins and the verb manarvel, manavel “to pilfer from a ship’s stores,” another item of nautical slang of unknown origin. Herman Melville was by far the most distinguished author to use manavalins (White-jacket, 1850): “Various sea-rolls, made dishes, and Mediterranean pies…all of which come under the general denomination of Manavalins.” Melville had served as a common sailor on the frigate USS United States in 1843; his publishers, Harper & Bros., sent copies of White-jacket to every member of Congress in order to show the brutality and arbitrariness of flogging. Congress outlawed flogging in 1850. Manavelins entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is manavelins used?

The sailors, however, became his friends. Though he seldom came into contact with them, when he did it was to pass into the forecastle a plate of manavelins–an unconsumed pudding or some such dainty from the cabin table–instead of throwing it overboard, as most deep-water stewards do from sheer laziness.

Morgan Robertson, "The Steward," Cosmopolitan, November, 1910

All around him there was noise—traders calling wares, seamen slinging shanties as they hauled at cables, gulls cawing as they swooped for manavilins of fish ….

Rory Clements, Traitor, 2012

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Word of the day

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

terpsichorean

[ turp-si-kuh-ree-uhn, turp-si-kawr-ee-uhn, -kohr- ]

adjective

pertaining to dancing.

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What is the origin of terpsichorean?

The adjective terpsichorean “pertaining to dancing” is a derivative of the proper name Terpsichore, the muse of dancing and song, especially of dramatic choruses. Terpsichore comes from Greek Terpsichórē, a noun use of the feminine adjective terpsíchoros “delighting in dancing.” The element terpsi– comes from the verb térpein (also térpesthai) “to delight, gladden, cheer”; the second element, –choros, is a combining form of the noun chorós “a round dance, dancing floor, band of dancers, choir.” The etymology of chorós is uncertain: it may come from a Proto-Indo-European root gher-, ghor– “to enclose”; if so, the original meaning of chorós would be “an enclosed space (for dancing).” The root gher-, ghor– is also the source of Greek chórtos “enclosure, court,” Latin hortus “garden” (English horticulture), Sanskrit gṛhá– “house, dwelling place,” Proto-Slavic gordŭ “castle, fortress, town,” source of Russian górod “city, town” (cf. Nóvgorod “New Town”), Old Church Slavonic and South Slavic grad, as in Russian Stalingrad, Serbo-Croatian Beograd “Belgrade, White City.” Terpsichorean entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is terpsichorean used?

Never has a dance been so much discussed, defended and denounced as has the tango, the extraordinary terpsichorean craze which has swept over the whole of Europe and the United States.

"Amazingly Popular Dance Causes Widespread Social Controversy," International Herald Tribune, 1914

They’re quiet enough in the morning hours, / They’re quiet enough in the afternoon, / Reserving their terpsichorean powers / To dance by the light of the Jellicle Moon.

T. S. Eliot, "The Song of the Jellicles," Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, 1939

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Word of the day

Monday, June 14, 2021

billow

[ bil-oh ]

verb

to swell out, puff up, etc., as by the action of wind.

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What is the origin of billow?

The noun billow, “a great wave or surge of the sea,” appears nearly 45 years before its derivative verb billow “to swell out, puff up, as by wind.” Billow appears in print pretty late in English, just after the middle of the 16th century, but it most likely comes from Old Norse bylgja “a billow,” from the Proto-Germanic root balg-, bulg– “to swell.” The root variant bulg– is the source of the Proto-Germanic noun bulgjan, the source of Old Norse bylgja. The root variant balg– forms the Proto-Germanic noun balgiz, source of Old English belg “bag.” Belg becomes beli in Middle English, and belly in modern English. Belgas, the plural of Old English belg, becomes belowes in Middle English, and bellows in modern English.

how is billow used?

Managed by two men, the flag billows within their grasp as though it could unfurl any moment.

Kenneth Hartvigsen, "The Flag in American Art," The American Flag: An Encyclopedia of the Stars and Stripes in U.S. History, Culture and Law, edited by John R. Vile, 2018

Say she stooped breathlessly in her corset to lift up a sodden sheet by its hems, and say that when she had pinned three corners to the lines it began to billow and leap in her hands, to flutter and tremble, and to glare with the light, and that the throes of the thing were as gleeful and strong as if a spirit were dancing in its cerements. That wind!

Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping, 1980

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