Word of the Day

Saturday, August 29, 2020

metrophobia

[ me-truh-foh-bee-uh ]

noun

an irrational or disproportionate fear of poetry: Being forced to read John Donne's sonnets aloud in front of my English class gave me such bad metrophobia that I can't even look at greeting card poetry without getting sweaty palms and a dry mouth.

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What is the origin of metrophobia?

You may think that metrophobia means “fear of big cities” based on the word metropolis. In fact, metrophobia means “fear of poetry,” a compound of Greek métron (inflectional stem metr-) “measure, length, size, meter (of music or poetry)” and –phobia. Metrophobia entered English in the late 20th century.

how is metrophobia used?

“Gross in summer. Cold in winter. Jack-o-lanterns in fall. Bees in spring.” / “That’s like a poem,” she says. / I shiver. I think I might possibly have metrophobia.

Paul Mosier, Summer and July, 2020

This emphasis on the performance of poetry and using whatever medium might suit is surely also a step in the right direction in the fight to cure metrophobia and pull readers back in to the poetry itself.

Shona M. Allan, "The Pull of the Poetry: Juan, Juxtapositions and Alluring Alliteration," Byron's Poetry, 2012

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metrophobia

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Friday, August 28, 2020

schmaltz

[ shmahlts, shmawlts ]

noun

exaggerated sentimentalism, as in music or soap operas.

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What is the origin of schmaltz?

Schmaltz comes from Yiddish shmalts and German Schmaltz, with two meanings: “liquid animal fat, especially chicken fat,” and by extension “exaggerated sentimentalism.” (The adjective schmaltzy, however, means only “exaggeratedly sentimental.”) Before Americans became concerned about their diets, one could go to a Jewish restaurant and find on the table a bottle or cruet filled with schmaltz to make sure diners maintained a proper level of cholesterol in their blood. Schmaltz in its dietary sense entered English at the end of the 18th century; in its critical sense, in the mid-1930s.

how is schmaltz used?

At first it sounded like normal holiday schmaltz: the softest of soft-rock pianos, punched up with a twist of synth. This was joined by the softest of soft-rock voices, which intoned the immortal lyric: “Met my old lover in the grocery store.”

Sam Anderson, "Letter of Recommendation: Dan Fogelberg, 'Same Old Lang Syne,'" New York Times, December 14, 2016

It was a blatant ploy to serve fans … but it’s also a comic-book movie. I say, bring on the schmaltz!

Angela Watercutter, "A Spoiler-Packed Review of Avengers: Endgame's Highlights," Wired, April 27, 2019

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schmaltz

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

vituperate

[ vahy-too-puh-reyt, -tyoo-, vi- ]

verb (used with or without object)

to use or address with harsh or abusive language; revile.

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What is the origin of vituperate?

Vituperate, “to address with harsh language, revile,” comes straight from Latin vituperātus, the past participle of the verb vituperāre “to spoil, blame, criticize adversely, find fault with.” The formation of vituperāre is a little irregular: The first element of this compound appears to be noun vitium “fault, defect, shortcoming” (and via Old French, the source of English vice). Viti– is the combining form of vitium before labial consonants (p, b, m). But the element –perāre is problematic, sometimes explained as a combining form of parāre “to prepare,” sometimes as a verb derivative of the adjective pār “matching, equal” (as in the verb aequiperāre, aequiparāre “to equalize, compare”). Vituperate entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is vituperate used?

He refused to join the “anti-disco crusade,” making the valid point that it isn’t necessary to vituperate the other fellow’s music in order to defend the kind you like.

Phillip Lopate, "Mr. Rotten, Mr. Vicious and Mr. Wagner," New York Times, December 24, 2006

There are moments in life when true invective is called for, when there comes an absolute necessity, out of a deep sense of justice, to denounce, mock, vituperate, lash out, rail at in the strongest possible language.

Charles Simic, "In Praise of Invective," Thumbscrew, Autumn/Winter 1995

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

ikigai

[ ee-kee-gahy ]

noun

one’s reason for being, which in principle is the convergence of one’s personal passions, beliefs, values, and vocation: those who follow the concept of ikigai undertake the activities of their life with willingness and a satisfying sense of meaning.

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What is the origin of ikigai?

Ikigai, a Japanese word meaning “one’s personal reason for living,” is not easy to define in two minutes. Ikigai is a compound of iki “life, living, being alive” (from the verb ikiru “to live”) and the combining form –gai, from kai “worth, value, benefit.” In Japan in the 1960s, ikigai was for the betterment of society; in the 21st century, however, ikigai seems to focus on the development of oneself for the future, or self-actualization. Ikigai entered English in the early 1970s.

how is ikigai used?

Ikigai resides in the realm of small things. The morning air, the cup of coffee, the ray of sunshine, the massaging of octopus meat and the American president’s praise are on equal footing.

Ken Mogi, Awakening Your Ikigai, 2018

As such, ikigai emphasises process and immersion rather than a final aim.

Iza Kavedžija, "The Japanese concept of ikigai: why purpose might be a better goal than happiness," The Conversation, December 14, 2017

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ikigai

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

aroint

[ uh-roint ]

verb (imperative)

Obsolete.

begone: Aroint thee, varlet!

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What is the origin of aroint?

The obsolete imperative verb or exclamation aroint! or aroint thee! means “begone!” Aroint has no convincing or even plausible etymology. The phrase Aroint thee, witch! first appears in Shakespeare’s King Lear and Macbeth. Aroint thee, witch! next appears in the works of the Scottish author and antiquarian Sir Walter Scott in 1816.

how is aroint used?

Aroynt thee, Witch, the rumpe-fed Ronyon cryes.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 1623

“Well, my power has not reached its height, but I am still strong enough to deal with you. Aroint ye!” She pointed the ivory cain at Mrs. Zimmerman. Nothing happened.

John Bellairs, The House With a Clock In Its Walls, 1973

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aroint

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Monday, August 24, 2020

juberous

[ joo-ber-uhs ]

adjective

uncertain and reluctant; dubious; undecided: I was feeling mighty juberous about crossing that bridge.

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What is the origin of juberous?

The adjective juberous “uncertain, hesitant, reluctant” is supposedly a regionalism of the American Midwest—Indiana, in particular. Juberous is most likely a humorous alteration of dubious. It first occurs in The Hoosier School-Master (1871) by the American author and Methodist clergyman Edward Eggleston.

how is juberous used?

Tell you the truth, I been juberous about that loan proposition ever since Thad put his name to it.

Wendell Berry, "Pray Without Ceasing," The Southern Review, Autumn 1992

I’m kind of juberous about letting you go at it; but maybe, if your sister looked after you, you could do a good job.

Raymond Knister, White Narcissus, 1929

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Sunday, August 23, 2020

inanition

[ in-uh-nish-uhn ]

noun

lack of vigor; lethargy.

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What is the origin of inanition?

Inanition, “exhaustion from lack of food, starvation; lethargy,” comes from Middle English inanicioun, inanisioun, which has a somewhat different meaning, “pathological emptiness of blood, humors, and fluids.” Inanicioun in turn comes from Late Latin inānitiō (stem inānitiōn-) “emptiness,” ultimately a derivative of the adjective inānis “empty, void, hungry.” In medical usage, Late Latin inānitiō and Middle English inanicioun are frequently combined (or contrasted) with replētiō (Latin) and Middle English replecioun, repleccioun, replesioun, “overindulgence in food or drink, satiety; fullness or a pathological fullness of blood and humors.” Inanition entered English at the end of the 14th century.

how is inanition used?

Sparky is never going to amount to anything. He hasn’t been practicing, and now, rather than face the consequences of his inanition, he is going to cheat.

Errol Morris, "The Pianist and the Lobster," New York Times, June 21, 2019

There are a pair of weeping willows in the churchyard, very often rapturously astream in the wind, but which, on a hot, calm day, hang there for a moment in a gust of sudden awful inanition, like the stillness between two beats of one’s heart.

J. R. Salamanca, Southern Light, 1986

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