Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, December 19, 2021

matcha

[ mah-chuh ]

noun

a finely ground powder made from small green tea leaves that have been steamed briefly, then dried, used to make tea and as a flavoring in desserts.

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What is the origin of matcha?

Matcha “a finely ground powder made from small green tea leaves” is a borrowing from Japanese and can also be transliterated as maccha and mattya. The term is a compound of the Japanese verb matsu “to rub, grind” and the noun cha “tea.” Cha is a distant relative of tea; the Japanese and English words both derive from Middle Chinese and have a long and complicated history. As a Wanderwort, a word that has spread as a loanword across a long chain of unrelated languages, tea derives by way of Dutch and Malay from dialectal Chinese (Xiamen) t’e; compare Mandarin chá, which was borrowed via Russian and Turkish into English as chai. From there, te likely derives from a word for “leaf” in Proto-Sino-Tibetan, the reconstructed language ancestral to Burmese, Chinese, and Tibetan. Matcha was first recorded in English in the 15th century.

how is matcha used?

[B]ecause matcha is ground, the entire leaf is consumed in powdered form. This makes matcha tea a highly concentrated version of regular green tea, and only a teaspoon or less of powder is needed to make a bowl …. The leaves are mostly hand-picked, then steamed, air-dried and de-stemmed. They are stored in that dry state for up to a year until the next harvest. Then they are stone-ground.

Laurel Dalrymple, “Tea Tuesdays: Matcha-maker, Matcha-maker, Make Me Some Tea,” NPR, May 12, 2015

In the foyer of a Japanese vegetarian restaurant on East 39th Street, around the corner from several nail salons and the House of Lasagna, a Japanese tea ceremony was unfolding. Kato Riichiro, the manager of Ippodo Tea, had before him a whisk, a sieve, a wooden spoon and, most important, a bowl of vivid green powder. This is matcha, a very particular kind of Japanese tea that is not easy to come across even in such a caffeinated city.

Jackie Snow, "Where Starbucks Meets Matcha: Ippodo Tea in Murray Hill," New York Times, December 12, 2014
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Word of the day

Saturday, December 18, 2021

somersault

[ suhm-er-sawlt ]

noun

an acrobatic movement, either forward or backward, in which the body rolls end over end, making a complete revolution.

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What is the origin of somersault?

Somersault derives from Middle French sombresaut, a nasalized variant of sobresault, which is a borrowing from Old Provençal. Provençal is both a dialect of and another name for Occitan, a Romance language that is still spoken today in the south of France. Sobresault is a compound of sobre “over” and saut “a leap,” from Latin super and saltus, of the same meanings. Super is also the source of sovereign, superior, and supreme and is distantly related to English over, German über, and Ancient Greek hypér. Saltus, from the verb salīre “to leap,” is also the source of assault, result, salacious, salient, and recent Word of the Day selection saltigrade. Somersault was first recorded in English in the 1520s.

how is somersault used?

Usain Bolt was ramping into warp speed when suddenly, stunningly, the sprint turned into a somersault. Fifteen steps into the final homestretch of his final race, something gave in his left hamstring. The World’s Fastest Man skittered to a stop — hopping, skipping, jumping, then finally dropping to the ground and tumbling forward before coming to a rest …. He was certainly every bit as stunned as any of the 60,000-plus who packed the stadium Saturday, or the millions watching one of the world’s most entertaining showmen make his final curtain call in the 4×100-meter relay at world championships.

Eddie Pells, “Bolt takes a tumble and can’t complete final race at worlds,” AP News, August 12, 2017

In a statement, Goodall’s family said they were extremely grateful to all those who were involved in the rescue. ‘It was with a heavy heart Susie left DHL Starlight to fend for herself, before she fills with water and rests on the Pacific Ocean floor. DHL Starlight has been her home for the past few years; a faithful friend who stood up valiantly to all the elements, a guardian until their last moments together …. When she was younger, Susie loved doing somersaults on trampolines. We just never thought she’d do one in a boat…’

Katy Stickland, "Golden Globe Race: Susie Goodall rescued," Yachting Monthly, December 9, 2018
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Word of the day

Friday, December 17, 2021

volant

[ voh-luhnt ]

adjective

engaged in or having the power of flight.

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What is the origin of volant?

Volant “engaged in or having the power of flight” is a borrowing from French, in which it means “flying” and is the present participle of the verb voler “to fly, steal.” Voler derives from Latin volāre “to fly,” which is of mysterious and uncertain origin. Some linguists derive volāre from a Proto-Indo-European root, gwel- “to raise the arm, throw, reach,” under the assumption that the definition could have shifted from “to raise the arm” to “to spread one’s wings,” but this hypothesis is not universally accepted. If volāre does come from this root, it is a cognate of Ancient Greek ballein “to throw” (as in ballistic, parabola, problem, and symbol). Volant was first recorded in English in the first decade of the 1500s.

how is volant used?

More than 160 million years ago, the forests of ancient China were home to a bizarre predator: a tiny dinosaur that glided from tree to tree with leathery, bat-like wings. The newfound fossil, unveiled today in the journal Nature, is just the second feathered dinosaur found with signs of large membranes on its wings ….“The most exciting thing, for me, is that it shows that some dinosaurs evolved very different structures to become volant,” or capable of some form of flight, says lead study author Min Wang, a paleontologist at China’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology.

Michael Greshko, “New species of bat-wing dinosaur discovered,” National Geographic, May 8, 2019

Bats get a bad rap. From horror films to tabloid pages to Halloween, media and cultural depictions of our planet’s only volant, or flying, mammals have long generated and reinforced unfounded fear …. Such hostile attitudes make it harder to conserve bats and thereby safeguard the many critical benefits they provide us. What’s more, persecuting bats because of the diseases they harbor could easily backfire.

Timothy Treuer, Ricardo Rocha, and Cara Brook, "Bats Are Not Our Enemies," Scientific American, May 15, 2020
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