Word of the Day

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

megillah

[ muh-gil-uh; Sephardic Hebrew muh-gee-lah ]

noun

a lengthy, detailed explanation or account.

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What is the origin of megillah?

Megillah, a slang term usually meaning “a lengthy, detailed, complicated story, especially a tedious one” comes from Yiddish megile. Megile is part of the Yiddish phrase di gantse megile “the whole (tedious) story.” The Yiddish noun comes from Biblical Hebrew məgillāh “scroll, roll, volume,” a collective noun generally referring to any of the five Biblical books assigned for public recitation in synagogues on certain Jewish feast days, but specifically to the recitation of the Book of Esther during Purim “(the Feast of) Lots,” celebrated in late winter or early spring. Məgillāh is a derivative of the verb gālal “to roll.” Megillah entered English in its liturgical sense in the mid-17th century; its slang sense dates from the early 20th century.

how is megillah used?

It was Bella’s daughter, Liz Abzug, who suggested that Mr. Fierstein create a play about her mother. … (She actually hoped he would write a musical, but that’s a whole other megillah.)

Katherine Rosman, "Being Bella? Harvey Fierstein Doesn't Need a Dress to Try," New York Times, October 10, 2019

It’s long, which is a given when you consider the authorship — clocking in at a shade over 16 hours, this eight-episode megillah’s running time falls somewhere in between Burns’ look at WWII (The War) and his recent exploration of the conflict in Vietnam (The Vietnam War).

David Fear, "Country Music' Review: Ken Burns' Epic, Essential Look at an American Artform," Rolling Stone, September 14, 2019

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Tuesday, April 06, 2021

adminicle

[ ad-min-i-kuhl ]

noun

an aid; auxiliary.

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What is the origin of adminicle?

Adminicle “an aid; auxiliary” comes ultimately from Latin adminiculum “prop (for vines), a stake or pole for support”; in Roman legal usage adminiculum means “an argument supporting a claim.” Adminiculum is a compound beginning with the Latin preposition and prefix ad, ad– “to, toward, at,” and ending with the diminutive suffix –culum, which is the source of the English suffixes –cule (as in molecule and ridicule) and, via Old French, –cle (as in article and canticle). The midsection mini– of adminiculum is problematic, but it is probably related to moenia “defensive walls of a town.” Adminiculum entered English in the mid-16th century.

how is adminicle used?

In fact it is very evident that to Dr. Osgood Classical Mythology is an adminicle to the study of Milton and not a study in itself.

"Brief Mention", American Journal of Philology, Vol. 21 No. 82, 1900

His routine of labor, while so burdened with woe, would have crushed him, were it not for the memory of his love, which was an adminicle to his strength.

Anson D. Eby, Showers of Blessing, 1908

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Monday, April 05, 2021

bricolage

[ bree-kuh-lahzh, brik-uh- ]

noun

a construction made of whatever materials are at hand; something created from a variety of available things.

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What is the origin of bricolage?

The noun bricolage in French means “do it yourself,” formed from the verb bricoler “to do odd jobs, do small chores; make improvised repairs,” from Middle French bricoler “to zigzag, bounce off,” ultimately a derivative of the Old French noun bricole “a trifle.” The French suffix –age, completely naturalized in English –age, as in carriage, marriage, passage, voyage, comes from –āticum, a noun suffix from the neuter of the Latin adjective suffix –āticus. Bricolage entered English in the second half of the 20th century.

how is bricolage used?

Indeed, if we scratch beneath the surface, English is a veritable bricolage of these ‘borrowed’ words.

Tim Lomas, "The Magic of 'Untranslatable' Words," Scientific American, July 12, 2016

So, for now, with my basket in one hand and my daughter’s little palm in the other, we’ll continue to walk the world in search of people, spaces and moments that move our soul and gather them into a living piece of art, a bricolage of memories called home.

Stevie Trujillo, "The Wager of Raising a Child Abroad," New York Times, February 16, 2018

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