Word of the Day

Friday, February 16, 2018

messan

[ mes-uh n ]

noun

Scot. a lap dog; small pet dog.

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What is the origin of messan?

The English noun messan “small dog, lap dog” comes from Scots Gaelic measan “small dog,” cognate with Irish Gaelic measán, both of which are diminutives of Gaelic mess “favored (one).” Messan entered English in the late 15th century.

how is messan used?

They are good enough lads, Sholto and Laurence both, but they will be for ever gnarring and grappling at each other like messan dogs round a kirk door.

S. R. Crockett, The Black Douglas, 1899

Here, sisters, here is my trusty and well-beloved Dame de Ste. Petronelle, who takes such care of me that she dogs my footsteps like a messan.

Charlotte Mary Yonge, Two Penniless Princesses, 1890

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

SOS

[ es-oh-es ]

noun

any call for help: We sent out an SOS for more typists.

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What is the origin of SOS?

SOS comes from the Morse code alphabet, in which three dots (or short clicks) represents the letter S and three dashes (or long clicks) represents the letter O.

how is SOS used?

When an SOS is heard, there is an immediate response by almost anyone who is in a position to be of assistance and a prayerful response by those are unable to assist.

Gilbert P. Pond, "SOS ... SAS," The Rotarian, July 1955

SOS is not only a signal of despair, it is a larger symbol of hope.

, "SOS," New York Times, December 24, 1956
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

ship

[ ship ]

verb

to take an interest in or hope for a romantic relationship between (fictional characters or famous people), whether or not the romance actually exists: I’m shipping for those guys—they would make a great couple!

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What is the origin of ship?

The verb ship, originally meaning “to discuss or portray a romantic couple in fiction, especially in a serial” is a shortening of (relation)ship and dates only from 1996.

how is ship used?

The characters are ‘shipped by enough people that the duo has a name: Reylo.

Alexis Rhiannon, "Kylo Ren & Rey's 'Last Jedi' Relationship Is Tearing The Fandom Apart & Here's Why," Bustle, December 2017

It’s a popular misunderstanding that one can only ship two characters who are not already romantically involved on a show. In fact, it’s perfectly appropriate to ship, for example, Jim and Pam from “The Office.”

Jonah Engel Bromwich, "Who Do You Ship? What Tumblr Tells Us About Fan Culture," New York Times, December 4, 2017
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Aesopian

[ ee-soh-pee-uh n, ee-sop-ee- ]

adjective

conveying meaning by hint, euphemism, innuendo, or the like: In the candidate's Aesopian language, “soft on Communism” was to be interpreted as “Communist sympathizer.”

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What is the origin of Aesopian?

The English adjective Aesopian has multiple origins. The Latin adjective has the forms Aesōpīus and Aesōpēus, from Greek Aisṓpeios, derivative adjective of the proper name Aísōpos (Aesop). Aesop was a Greek slave who supposedly lived c620 b.c.–c560b.c. on the island of Samos and told animal fables that teach a lesson, e.g., “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Aesopian entered English in the late 17th century.

how is Aesopian used?

Gauss taught that past political thinkers wrote in a kind of code–an Aesopian language of double or multiple meanings–in order to avoid persecution in their own day and to communicate with contemporaries and successors who knew how to read between the lines, as it were.

Terence Ball, Rousseau's Ghost, 1998

By then, some Soviet writers had learned to use the Aesopian language, with its hints and euphemisms, to get their books into print.

Elena Gorokhova, "Beyond Banned: Books That Survived the Censors," NPR, March 30, 2011
Monday, February 12, 2018

madeleine

[ mad-l-in, mad-l-eyn ]

noun

something that triggers memories or nostalgia: in allusion to a nostalgic passage in Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.

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What is the origin of madeleine?

The etymology of madeleine (in full, gâteau à la Madeleine), which is named after an 18th-century cook named Madeleine Paulnier or Paumier, is dubious. Madeleines (the small cakes) are popular today, but perhaps the word madeleine “something that evokes a memory or nostalgia” has more significance from the use of madeleine in this sense in Swann’s Way (1922), the first volume of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (À la recherche du temps perdu), also known in English as Remembrance of Things Past.

how is madeleine used?

… thus temporarily bringing the sounds and smells of his dream world to him, a madeleine of the ever-postponed future.

Jane DeLynn, Real Estate, 1988

To reread this is like scenting a Madeleine of the drama and struggle that once was.

Mustapha Marrouchi, Edward Said at the Limits, 2004
Sunday, February 11, 2018

berceuse

[ French ber-sœz ]

noun

Music. a cradlesong; lullaby.

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What is the origin of berceuse?

Berceuse, not yet naturalized in English, still retains its French pronunciation or a semblance of it. Berceuse is an agent noun in French, meaning “girl or woman who rocks a cradle, lullaby,” the feminine of berceur “a cradle rocker.” In English, berceuse is restricted to “lullaby,” especially as a musical composition in 6/8 time, as, e.g., “Brahms’ Lullaby.” Berceuse entered English in the 19th century.

how is berceuse used?

The berceuse is so soothing, it ought to send your husband to sleep …

A. R. Goring-Thomas, Wayward Feet, 1912

I love soft songs that soothe me–something cradle-like–a Berceuse, you understand.

Fergus Hume, The Man with a Secret, 1890
Saturday, February 10, 2018

fiddle-footed

[ fid-l-foo t-id ]

adjective

Informal. restlessly wandering.

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What is the origin of fiddle-footed?

Fiddle-footed was first recorded in 1945-50.

how is fiddle-footed used?

Instead, they just kept moving, a pair of fiddle-footed ramblers, following the wind, until that drifting brought them out here.

Robert Coover, Ghost Town, 1998

Being fiddle-footed was its own peculiar blessing and curse at the same time.

Jon Sharpe, The Trailsman #290: Mountain Mavericks, 2005

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