Word of the Day

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

moonshot

[ moon-shot ]

noun

a very challenging and innovative project or undertaking.

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What is the origin of moonshot?

Moonshot, “a launching of a spacecraft to the moon,” a transparent compound of moon and shot, entered English in 1949, near the beginning of large-scale rocket development in the U.S. Moonshot in its extended sense “a challenging and innovative project” first appears in 1967.

how is moonshot used?

Jennifer Granholm, the energy secretary, called the U.S. plan to tackle climate change “our generation’s moonshot.”

Lisa Friedman and , "Biden and World Leaders Focus on Innovation for 'Clean Energy Future'," New York Times, May 9, 2021

Moonshots don’t begin with brainstorming clever answers. They start with the hard work of finding the right questions.

Derek Thompson, "Google X and the Science of Radical Creativity," The Atlantic, November 2017

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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

judder

[ juhd-er ]

verb (used without object)

to vibrate violently.

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What is the origin of judder?

Judder as a verb means “to vibrate or shake violently,” and as a noun, “violent shaking.” It is first recorded in 1926 and refers to the shaking of automobiles (or their parts); it was later applied to aircraft. Judder has no precise etymology: it may be a combination of jolt or jerk and shudder, or it may be a variant pronunciation of shudder.

how is judder used?

Huw stalks through both sets of automatic doors, which judder and groan.

Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, The Rapture of the Nerds, 2012

Other times, the vehicle’s robotic brain appeared confused, lingering at an all-way stop and juddering when a group of pedestrians crossed in front.

Ian Duncan, "Autonomous shuttles in Northern Virginia suburb show why the future of robot cars might be slow," Washington Post, October 12, 2019

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Monday, May 17, 2021

pecuniary

[ pi-kyoo-nee-er-ee ]

adjective

of or relating to money.

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What is the origin of pecuniary?

Pecuniary, “relating to money,” comes from the Latin adjective pecūniārius, a derivative of pecūnia “property, possessions, wealth, money,” itself a derivative of pecū “flock, herd, farm animals,” livestock being a very important source of wealth in early farming societies. Pecū and its related nouns are derivatives of the Proto-Indo-European noun peku– “sheep,” from the root pek-, pok- “to pluck, fleece, card (wool, flax).” Peku- is the source of Umbrian pequo “cattle” (Umbrian was an Italic language spoken in Umbria, north of Rome), Greek pókos and pékos “sheep’s wool, fleece,” and Lithuanian pekus “cattle.” By regular phonetic change peku- becomes fehu– in Proto-Germanic, becoming Gothic faihu “possessions, property,” German Vieh “cattle, beast, brute,” Old English feoh, fioh, feh “cattle, property (in cattle),” Middle English fe, feo, feh “livestock, herd of livestock, movable property, wealth, money.” Modern English fee “charge, payment, sum paid, “ but also “landed estate, inherited estate,” comes partly from the Middle English and Old English nouns, but fee in the sense “inherited estate, feudal estate” also comes from Old French fieu, fief “estate in land” and Anglo-French fe, fee, fie, from Germanic fehu. Pecuniary entered English in the early 16th century.

how is pecuniary used?

Whatever Mr. Penson’s civic convictions, he also has a pecuniary interest in the outcome.

Charles V. Bagli, "Owner of Grand Central Vies With Developer Over Skyscraper on an Adjacent Block," New York Times, September 23, 2014

As of last year, nearly half of America’s middle-aged adults found themselves members, willing or not, of what’s been called “the sandwich generation,” so named because these people have a child below them and an aging parent above them. … Given the pecuniary strain involved, it’s surprising that, about 150 years ago, parents might have gone out of their way to set up a situation like this.

Joe Pinsker, "America, the Plannable: How Banks Affect Family Size," The Atlantic, September 25, 2014

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