• Word of the day
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    Thursday, March 08, 2018

    Minerva

    noun [mi-nur-vuh]
    a woman of great wisdom.
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    What is the origin of Minerva?

    The Roman goddess Minerva is so completely identified with the Greek goddess Athena that it is difficult to discern what is “native” to Minerva. Minerva (earlier Latin spelling Menerva) was a native Italian goddess of handicrafts (hence easily identified with Athena in that respect). The name Minerva (Menerva) may be of Indo-European origin, from the root men- “to think, bear in mind,” source of English mind, Latin meminī “I remember,” and Greek Méntōr, a proper name meaning “adviser.” The original Latin name will have been Meneswā “intelligent, wise (woman),” related to Sanskrit manasvin “wise” and Manasvinī, the name of the mother of the moon. Alternatively, Meneswā may mean “woman who measures (the phases of the moon),” from the Proto-Indo-European root mē- “to measure,” source of English meal (a Germanic word), as in piecemeal, measure (from Latin), and Greek metron "measure," the source of the English suffix -meter, among other words. Minerva as the name of the goddess entered English in the Old English period; the sense "wise woman" dates from the late 18th century.

    How is Minerva used?

    God, it seems like I'll always have a Minerva by my side being a better person than I am. Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies, 1994

    The notion of such a Minerva as this, whom I saw in public places now and then, surrounded by swarms of needy abbés and schoolmasters, who flattered her, frightened me for some time, and I had not the least desire to make her acquaintance. William Makepeace Thackeray, "The Luck of Barry Lyndon: A Romance of the Last Century," Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country, Volume XXX, July to December, 1844

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, March 07, 2018

    benighted

    adjective [bih-nahy-tid]
    intellectually or morally ignorant; unenlightened: benighted ages of barbarism and superstition.
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    What is the origin of benighted?

    Benighted originally meant, in the 16th century, “overtaken by darkness before one has reached home, lodging, or safety.” Its only modern sense, “intellectually or morally ignorant,” dates from the 17th century.

    How is benighted used?

    Beyond that, the continued association of pregnancy with sickness perpetuates the benighted notion of childbearing as a threat to ordinary human experience when many would argue that it is the singular manifestation of it. Ginia Bellafante, "Paid Parental Leave, Except for Most Who Need It," New York Times, December 1, 2017

    ... it is difficult to have a reasonable conversation with someone who makes no secret about the fact that he thinks you are both benighted and stupid. Bruce Franzese, "The Conversation," The Atlantic, November 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, March 06, 2018

    ergophobia

    noun [ur-guh-foh-bee-uh]
    an abnormal fear of work; an aversion to work.
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    What is the origin of ergophobia?

    Ergophobia, “abnormal fear of or aversion to work,” is formed from two Greek nouns commonly used to form words in English: érgon “work” and the combining form -phobía “fear.” Greek dialects preserve the original form wérgon, which comes directly from Proto-Indo-European wérgom, the source of Germanic werkam (English work). The combining form -phobía is a derivative of phóbos “flight, fear, panic fear,” from Proto-Indo-European bhógwos, a derivative of the root bhegw- “to run,” which appears in Slavic (Polish) biegać “to run.” Ergophobia entered English in the early 20th century.

    How is ergophobia used?

    He was examined by Dr. Wilson, who diagnosed the disease which had attacked him as ergophobia, (fear of work.) "Bad Case of Ergophobia," New York Times, October 13, 1907

    Doctor, I thank thee for the name / That dignifies my soul's complaint, / That silences the voice of blame, / That frees me from the toiler's taint, / That lets me loaf the livelong day-- / Thrice blessed ergophobia! Ross Ellis, "Ergophobia," Munsey's Magazine, Volume LV, June to September, 1915

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, March 05, 2018

    peculate

    verb [pek-yuh-leyt]
    to steal or take dishonestly (money, especially public funds, or property entrusted to one's care); embezzle.
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    What is the origin of peculate?

    Peculate derives from the Latin past participle and noun pecūlātus “embezzled, embezzlement,” derivative of the verb pecūlārī “to embezzle,” and itself a derivative of pecūlium “wealth in cattle, private property.” Latin suffers from an embarras de richesses of terms relating to misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement, and peculation. The Latin root noun behind all the corruption is pecu “cattle, large cattle,” the source of pecūnia “movable property, riches, wealth, money.” Latin pecu comes all but unchanged from Proto-Indo-European pek-, peku- “wealth, livestock, movable property.” Peku- becomes fehu- in Germanic, feoh “cattle, goods, money” in Old English, and fee in English. Peculate entered English in the 18th century.

    How is peculate used?

    The neglect of the Treasurer and the supineness of the President gave him the opportunity to peculate. "A Defaulting Secretary," New York Times, October 14, 1884

    Right off the top of his head, James Madison could think of a lot of good reasons to impeach a President. He ticked off this list: “He might lose his capacity after his appointment. He might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers.” (To peculate is to embezzle.) It’s a very good list. Members of Congress might want to consult it. Jill Lepore, “How Impeachment Ended Up in the Constitution,” The New Yorker, May 18, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, March 04, 2018

    seriocomic

    adjective [seer-ee-oh-kom-ik]
    partly serious and partly comic: a seriocomic play.
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    What is the origin of seriocomic?

    Seriocomic was first recorded in 1775-85. It links the words serious and comic with -o-, the typical ending of the first element of compounds of Greek origin, often used in English as a connective irrespective of etymology.

    How is seriocomic used?

    Suddenly, here toward the year's end, when the new films are plunging toward the wire and the prospects of an Oscar-worthy long shot coming through get progressively more dim, there sweeps ahead a film that is not only one of the best of the year, but also one of the best seriocomic social satires we've had from Hollywood since Preston Sturges was making them. Bosley Crowther, "The Graduate," New York Times, December 22, 1967

    Jonesy had seen representations of him on a hundred "weird mysteries" TV shows, on the front pages of a thousand tabloid newspapers (the kind that shouted their serio-comic horrors at you as you stood prisoner in the supermarket checkout lanes) ... Stephen King, Dreamcatcher, 2001

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, March 03, 2018

    tzimmes

    noun [tsim-is]
    fuss; uproar; hullabaloo: He made such a tzimmes over that mistake!
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    What is the origin of tzimmes?

    Tzimmes comes from Yiddish tsimes and is related to Swabian German zimmes, zimbes “compote, stew” and Swiss German zimis “lunch.” The German noun is a compound word, originally a prepositional phrase, formed from Middle High German z, ze, an unstressed variant of zuo “at, to” (German zu) and the Middle High German noun imbiz, imbīz “snack, light meal” (German Imbiss). Imbiz is a derivative of Old High German enbīzan “to take nourishment,” which is related to English in and bite. Tzimmes entered English in the late 19th century.

    How is tzimmes used?

    Don't make a tzimmes out of it. You gonna upset the children ... Mary Doria Russell, Epitaph, 2015

    Why do you have to make such a tzimmes over the maids' stairs. Péter Nádas, Parallel Stories, translated by Imre Goldstein, 2011

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, March 02, 2018

    phub

    verb [fuhb]
    Slang. to ignore (a person or one's surroundings) when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device: Hey, are you phubbing me?
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    What is the origin of phub?

    Phub was first recorded in 2010–14. It blends the words phone and snub.

    How is phub used?

    I found myself glancing at my phone in the middle of conversations ... conveniently forgetting how annoyed I felt when other people phubbed me. Catherine Price, How to Break Up with Your Phone, 2018

    What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction. Jo Piazza, How to Be Married, 2017

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