Word of the Day

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

marvy

[ mahr-vee ]

adjective

Slang. marvelous; delightful.

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What is the origin of marvy?

Marvy is in origin an American slang term, a shortening of marvelous and the very common adjective suffix -y. Marvy first entered English in the 1930s.

how is marvy used?

You havent heard of privatizing? That’s this fantastically with-it idea the Reagan circle has for getting the government out of government. Isn’t that too marvy?

Russell Baker, "Such a Marvy Idea," New York Times, January 8, 1986

The 22-way adjustable driver seat was marvy.

Dan Neil, "Bentley Bentayga: The Ultimate Luxury SUV," Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2016
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Monday, February 11, 2019

amphiscians

[ am-fish-ee-uhnz, -fish-uhnz ]

plural noun

Archaic. inhabitants of the tropics.

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What is the origin of amphiscians?

Amphiscians is an altogether strange word, at least in its meaning. The English word, a plural noun, comes from Medieval Latin Amphisciī “those who cast a shadow on both sides,” i.e., in the tropics a person’s shadow will fall towards the north or towards the south depending on whether the sun is above or below the equator. Amphisciī is a straightforward borrowing of Greek amphískioi (a plural adjective used as a noun) “casting a shadow or shadowy on both sides,” formed from the preposition and prefix amphí, amphi- “around, about” (akin to Latin ambi- with the same meaning) and the noun skiá “shadow, shade, specter” (from the same Proto-Indo-European root from which English has shine). (Heteroscians is, of course, the opposite of amphiscians.) Amphiscians entered English in the 17th century.

how is amphiscians used?

The amphiscians, whose noon shadows fall on both sides, are the people who live between the two tropics, in the region which the ancients call the middle zone.

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), On the Revolutions, translated by Edward Rosen, 1978

Are we not similar to those amphiscians / whose shadows fall at one season to the north, / but at another to the south?

Evan S. Connell, Notes from a Bottle Found on the Beach at Carmel, 1962
Sunday, February 10, 2019

prebuttal

[ pri-buht-l, pree- ]

noun

an argument constructed in anticipation of a criticism: The alderman began his speech with a question-answer style prebuttal.

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What is the origin of prebuttal?

Prebuttal is a clever combination of the prefix pre- “before” and (re)buttal. It is equivalent to the Latin rhetorical term prolēpsis “anticipation in the form of a brief summary” or Late Latin procatalēpsis “anticipation and rebuttal of an opponent’s arguments,” a borrowing from Greek prolēpsis “(in rhetoric) anticipation” and prokatálēpsis “anticipation and rebuttal of an opponent’s arguments.” Former Vice President Al Gore seems to be the first person to use prebuttal in 1996.

how is prebuttal used?

President Clinton’s White House and campaign team have been drawing favorable reviews for their rapid response operation and penchant for picking off issues before Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) even gets his TelePrompTer warmed up. Vice President Gore calls it “prebuttal.”

Dan Balz, Washington Post, May 26, 1996

Both in the short term and for posterity, Sotomayor’s work will serve as a prebuttal to what Chief Justice John Roberts and company are poised to do.

Andrew Cohen, "Sonia Sotomayor and the Real Lessons of Affirmative Action," Atlantic, January 11, 2013

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