Word of the Day

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

minimoon

[ min-ee-moon ]

noun

a short, usually inexpensive honeymoon, often followed by a longer honeymoon later on: They left the courthouse after the ceremony and had a weekend minimoon at The Plaza.

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What is the origin of minimoon?

Minimoon is an obvious blend of the combining form mini– and honeymoon. Minimoon entered English between 2005 and 2010.

how is minimoon used?

She always knew she would take a mini-moon followed by a second, more-elaborate trip because of the sheer effort involved in planning her 500-guest wedding.

Christina Valhouli, "A Little Getaway After the Big Event," New York Times, October 18, 2013

Bask in post-wedding bliss with a brief off-the-grid vacation that’s close to home, then follow it up a few months later with an epic, far-flung adventure that complements your minimoon experience.

Merritt Watts, "The New Way to Honeymoon," Vogue, October 5, 2015
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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

venal

[ veen-l ]

adjective

open to bribery; mercenary.

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What is the origin of venal?

The English adjective venal comes from Latin vēnālis “for sale, for hire, susceptible to or obtainable by bribery,” a derivative of vēnus “sale.” Vēnus comes from an unattested noun wesno-, a Latin derivation of wes– (a variant of the Proto-Indo-European root wes-, wos– “to buy, sell”) and the noun suffix –no. Wes– also appears in Hittite washti “thou buyest.” From the variant wos-, Greek (Attic) has the noun ōnḗ “purchase, purchase price” (Homeric Greek has ônos, Aeolic ónna), all from an unrecorded wosnā. Sanskrit vasná “purchase price, wage” may come from either wes– or wos-. Venal entered English in the 17th century.

how is venal used?

… the perfectly balanced tool in his hands that could be used for the bribing of venal politicians, with a limitless fund for the bribery ….

Katherine MacLean, The Man Who Staked the Stars, 1952

Four years after the street protests that ousted the notoriously venal President Viktor Yanukovych, corruption is the wound that won’t stop bleeding.

Daria Kaleniuk and Melinda Harin, "The spirit of reform lives on in Ukraine—but not because of the president," Washington Post, June 27, 2018
Monday, June 24, 2019

ex cathedra

[ eks kuh-thee-druh, kath-i-druh ]

adjective, adverb

from the seat of authority; with authority.

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What is the origin of ex cathedra?

The relatively uncommon English adjective and adverb ex cathedra “from the seat (of authority), with authority” comes directly from the Latin phrase ex cathedrā. Latin cathedra “armchair with cushions, easy chair (especially for women), a teacher’s or professor’s chair, a sedan chair” is a loanword from Greek kathédra “seat, sitting posture, teacher’s or professor’s chair, imperial throne.” From cathedra Medieval Latin derived the adjective cathedrālis “pertaining to the chair or throne (of a bishop)”; the bishop’s church, where his throne was located, was called a cathedral church and later just cathedral. Ex cathedra entered English in the 17th century.

how is ex cathedra used?

There’s no way to maintain an ex cathedra advantage when you’re cavorting in a circus ring.

Virginia Heffernan, "When TV tries out new media, everyone can be a star," New York Times, January 1, 2009

Pope John once said, “I am not infallible. I am infallible only when I speak ex cathedra. But I shall never speak ex cathedra.”

Kati Marton, "The Paradoxical Pope," The Atlantic Monthly, May 1980
Sunday, June 23, 2019

demur

[ dih-mur ]

verb (used without object)

to make objection, especially on the grounds of scruples; take exception; object: They wanted to make him the treasurer, but he demurred.

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What is the origin of demur?

The verb demur comes via Old French demorer, demourer, ultimately from Latin dēmorārī “to linger, delay, hold up,” its original, now obsolete meaning in English. In the 17th century demur acquired its usual senses in contemporary English “to object, take exception to,” and especially its legal sense “to make or interpose a demurral,” which is a pleading that admits the facts of an opponent’s proceeding but denies any entitlement to legal relief, and that also causes a delay in the proceedings until the point or pleading is settled. Demur entered English in the 13th century.

how is demur used?

Montague is genial but determined, and before I could demur he had me packed into a two-thousand-dollar Gore-Tex dry suit with an unbearably tight collar, highly insulated rubber bootees, and an electric-blue life jacket.

Michael Specter, "Inherit the Wind," The New Yorker, May 13, 2013

… Sonia had a little changed her mind. Wedge would be very unlikely to demur.

Michael Innes, The New Sonia Wayward, 1960
Saturday, June 22, 2019

apologia

[ ap-uh-loh-jee-uh ]

noun

a work written as an explanation or justification of one's motives, convictions, or acts.

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What is the origin of apologia?

It is unsurprising that the earliest occurrences of apologia “a defendant’s speech in a trial” appear in 5th-century Athens. The Greek verb apologeîsthai “to speak in defense, defend oneself” and its derivative noun apología are first used by such heavy hitters as Thucydides, Euripides, and Plato. Plato’s Apología Sōkrátous “Apology of Socrates” refers to the three speeches Socrates delivered in his self-defense at his trial in 399 b.c. Apologia is similarly used in Cardinal Newman’s religious autobiography, Apologia pro Vita Sua “Defense of His Own Life” (1864). Apologia entered English in the late 18th century.

how is apologia used?

Now Starr has laid out the defining saga of his life in a book. … “I view it as not an apologia at all,” he says, “but simply: Tell the story.”

Dan Zak, "20 years ago, the Starr Report got a president impeached. Ken Starr wants to remind you why." Washington Post, September 11, 2018

Occasionally, we’ve been accused of writing a show that’s sort of an apologia for the surveillance state.

Jonathan Nolan, as quoted in "'Person of Interest': The TV Show That Predicted Edward Snowden," The New Yorker, January 14, 2014
Friday, June 21, 2019

summer

[ suhm-er ]

noun

a principal beam or girder, as one running between girts to support joists.

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What is the origin of summer?

The rare noun summer “horizontal supporting beam” comes from Old French somier, sommier, which had the semantic development “packhorse,” then “a pack, a load,” and finally “a beam, a joist.” The Old French forms come from the Late Latin (c600) adjective saumārius, a variant of Late Latin (c300) sagmārius “pertaining to a packsaddle” (equus sagmārius means “packhorse”). Sagmārius derives from Late Latin (late 4th century) sagma (inflectional stem sagmat-) “packsaddle,” a loanword from Greek ságma “covering, clothing,” later also “packsaddle.” Finally, the derivative noun saumatārius (sagmatārius) “driver of a packhorse” comes into English (via Old French sommetier) as sumpter “packhorse, mule.” Summer entered English in the 14th century.

how is summer used?

The summer was a heavy beam spanning the middle of a large room … and it served as an intermediate support for the floor joists of the story above ….

Hugh Morrison, Early American Architecture, 1952

The cross beams were known as girders, summers or somers, and dormants: one of them carried the chimney, and so was called the “bressummer,” that is the breast girder.

C. F. Innocent, The Development of English Building Construction, 1916
Thursday, June 20, 2019

insipience

[ in-sip-ee-uhns ]

noun

Archaic.

lack of wisdom; foolishness.

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What is the origin of insipience?

Insipience “foolishness” comes via Old French from Latin insipientia. The Latin prefix in-, which has a negative or privative force, as in insipientia, is the ordinary Latin development of a reduced form of Proto-Indo-European ne “not,” which is the same source of Germanic (English un-). The Latin stem –sipient– is a reduced and combining form derived from sapientia “reason, soundness of mind, wisdom,” hence insipientia “foolishness, folly, stupidity.” The root word behind sapientia and insipientia is sapere “to taste, taste of, smell of, have good taste, feel, show good sense, be intelligent.” Sapere is the source of Italian sapere, Spanish saber, and French savoir, all meaning “to know.” The Latin noun sapor “flavor, taste, odor, smell” becomes Italian sapore, Spanish sabor, French saveur, and, through French, English savor and its derivative adjective savory. Insipience entered English in the 15th century.

how is insipience used?

Too many prefer the charge of insincerity to that of insipience—Dr. Newman seems not to be of that number.

Charles Kingsley, What, Then, Does Dr. Newman Mean? 1864

It has to be frustrating to know that you’re surrounded by intelligent, earnest individuals who are prone to moments of public insipience, usually when their fingers are on the voting button.

Richard Hellmann, "Plenty of room for city bed tax," The Courier, May 27, 1987

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