Word of the Day

Thursday, December 27, 2018

memorist

[ mem-er-ist ]

noun

a person who has a remarkably retentive memory.

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What is the origin of memorist?

Memorist is a rare word. When it entered English in the late 17th century, it meant “one who prompts the memory or conscience.” Memorist was revived in the late 19th century as an Americanism meaning “one who has a retentive or prodigious memory.”

how is memorist used?

As a memorist he is phenomenally endowed, his retentiveness so acute that he recites readily without reference or prompting, declamations committed in his schoolboys days more than seventy years ago.

William Travis, A History of Clay County Indiana, Volume II, 1909

… a memorist appeared on a Sunday morning TV show. He was introduced to the 100 or so youngsters in the audience and repeated all of their names back to them at the end of the show.

Ron Fry, Improve Your Memory, 2012
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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

mulligrubs

[ muhl-i-gruhbz ]

noun

Southern U.S. ill temper; grumpiness.

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What is the origin of mulligrubs?

The extravagant spelling variants of mulligrubs, e.g., mulligrums, mouldy-grubs, merlygrubs, muddigrubs, mullygrumps, murdiegrups,… at least show very plainly that mulligrubs has no sound etymology. Mulligrums “low spirits, bad temper, bad mood” first appears at the end of the 16th century. (Some scholars suggest a relationship between mulligrums and the slightly earlier noun megrims “melancholy, low spirits.”) A quarter of a century later, about 1625, mulligrubs meant “stomachache, diarrhea” and a few years later “ill-tempered or surly person.”

how is mulligrubs used?

Ma has a case of the mulligrubs here lately and some of the kinfolks figure it might be caused by reading the papers too much.

Bob Kyle, "Fiddlin' Around," The Tuscaloosa News June 1, 1983

I think when it comes I will enjoy it. It is just the coming that fills me with the mulligrubs.

Winston Graham, The Twisted Sword, 1990
Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Noel

[ noh-el ]

noun

Christmas.

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What is the origin of Noel?

Noel has been in English since the 13th century as a forename and family name (e.g., Nuwel, Nuuel) for those born or baptized on Christmas or during the Christmas season. In the late 14th century, Nowel is used as an exclamation of joy in The Canterbury Tales (this usage remains only in Christmas carols). In the late-14th century alliterative poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Nowel meant “Christmas day, the feast of Christmas, Christmastide.” Middle English shows several spellings, e.g., Newel, Nouel, Nowelle, Nowel, all derived from Anglo-French, Middle French, and Old French forms (Nowel, Nowelle, Nouel, Noel), Noël in French. The spellings with o (e.g., Noel) are a variant of spellings with a (e.g., Nael) that began in the 12th century. Nael is a regular French development from Latin nātālis (in full, diēs nātālis “birthday”).

how is Noel used?

… be sure to wish Tops a joyous Noel.

Ron Goulart, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," 1993

… the special season for such innocent gaiety is the Christmastide when they celebrate Noël with a joyous fervour not to be outdone elsewhere.

J. Macdonald Oxley, "Christmas Games in French Canada," The Canadian Magazine, November 1901 to April 1902

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