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Word of the Day

Word of the day

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

mishpocha

[ mish-pookh-uh, -paw-khuh ]

noun

an entire family network comprising relatives by blood and marriage and sometimes including close friends; clan.

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What is the origin of mishpocha?

Yiddish mishpocha derives from Hebrew mishpakhá “family,” as Hebrew is the source of a good portion of Yiddish vocabulary. Hebrew belongs to the Semitic family of languages and isn’t related to English, but we’ve nevertheless inherited numerous culture- and religion-related words from Hebrew, such as amen, cherub, jubilee, and hallelujah. Like its Hebrew source, mishpocha means more than just “immediate family”—it’s the collection of all blood relatives and relatives by marriage.

how is mishpocha used?

It’s only natural that they want to meet … their children are going to get married. They are going to be mishpocha for the rest of their lives, so they’re a touch curious about each other.

Judith Krantz, Princess Daisy, 1980

I’d done the Zoom dating, the bread baking, … and all the other socially acceptable coping mechanisms, but Rosh Hashanah was the first holiday I observed that I’d had to spend without the familiar mishpocha of friends and family all around me, yelling, telling jokes, squinting critically at my bangs, and generally filling the room with light.

Emma Specter, "My Jewish Holiday Plans This Year? Nora Ephron Movies and Smoked Fish, for One," Vogue, September 25, 2020

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Word of the day

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

rapprochement

[ rap-rohsh-mahn ]

noun

an establishment or reestablishment of harmonious relations.

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What is the origin of rapprochement?

Rapprochement is a direct borrowing from French, in which the word means “reconciliation” or, more literally, “a state of approaching again.” If you were thinking that rapprochement sounded like reapproach, you’re exactly right; rapprochement is essentially the word approach with the French equivalent of the prefix re- “again,” plus the noun-forming suffix -ment.

how is rapprochement used?

“Elemental” … is a striking structure of tall poles arranged in a circle that evokes a Koyauwe, or a place to parley and resolve conflicts among the Mapuche, an Indigenous population of Chile. It was commissioned by a Mapuche territorial organization as part of a rapprochement process between the group and a forest company in conflict over shared land.

Elisabetta Povoledo, "Solving the World’s Problems at the Venice Architecture Biennale," New York Times, June 2, 2021

Indeed, it was difficult to reach a rapprochement between my girth and the Austrian concept of an economy seat; I ended up with my ass where my back should have been, palms pressed into the seat in front of me.

Gary Shteyngart, Absurdistan, 2006 

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Word of the day

Monday, August 23, 2021

prelapsarian

[ pree-lap-sair-ee-uhn ]

adjective

characteristic of or pertaining to any innocent or carefree period.

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What is the origin of prelapsarian?

Prelapsarian ultimately derives from Latin prae “before” and lāpsus “fall,” which are a reference to the biblical fall from grace and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Lāpsus, from the verb lābī (stem lāps-) “to fall,” is the ultimate source of the English words lapse, elapse, and relapse, which all have to do with falling, whether it’s time falling away or a person falling back to old behaviors.

how is prelapsarian used?

This artificial division between natural and unnatural pervades our understanding of the world…. [It depends] on a conception of nature as something to which humanity has no fundamental link… And it’s a harmful dualism, even if it takes the form of veneration. It keeps us from embracing a robust, engaged environmentalism that is based on something more than gauzy, prelapsarian yearnings.

Andrew Blackwell, “In Brazil, Attacking the Forest to Save It,” Scientific American, September 21, 2012

Jeremy is a master of the urban detail, which for me evinces strong nostalgia for the pre-pandemic city…. It feels sort of scandalous to look at cartoons published in prelapsarian times—it’s hard not to want to chastise all those cartoon characters, within their little boxes, for their social-distancing violations.

Emma Allen and Jeremy Nguyen, "How to Draw a City," The New Yorker, September 9, 2020

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