Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, March 16, 2020

muzz

[ muhz ]

verb (used with object)

to confuse (someone); make (someone) muzzy.

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What is the origin of muzz?

It is only fitting that the etymology of the verb muzz “to confuse,” is itself obscure. Most authorities connect muzz with the adjective muzzy “confused, lazy, mentally dull,” but muzzy itself has no reliable etymology. Other authorities connect muzz with the verb muse “to think or meditate in silence.” Muzz entered English in the 18th century.

how is muzz used?

I must have sufficiently muzzed you with my singular critique upon poor, injured, honest John.

Mary Morgan, A Tour to Milford Haven, 1795

With a very heavy cold on me, which muzzed my head, and a mass of work by day … I have been very far from comfortable.

Henry Bradshaw, A Memoir of Henry Bradshaw by George Walter Prothero, 1888

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Word of the day

Sunday, March 15, 2020

scordatura

[ skawr-duh-toor-uh; Italian skawr-dah-too-rah ]

noun,

Music.

the tuning of a stringed instrument in other than the usual way to facilitate the playing of certain compositions.

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What is the origin of scordatura?

The musical term scordatura comes, as many musical terms do, from Italian. In English and Italian, scordatura is the tuning of a stringed instrument in an unusual way to facilitate the playing of certain compositions. Italian scordatura is a derivative of scordato “out of tune,” past participle of the verb scordare “to be out of tune.” Scordare is a somewhat reduced form of Latin discordāre “to be at variance, quarrel, disagree,” formed from the prefix dis- “apart, asunder” and cord-, the stem of the noun cor “heart.” Scordatura entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is scordatura used?

The alternative tuning, known as scordatura, is not some minor technical detail. Each new configuration is a secret key to an invisible door, unlocking a different set of chordal possibilities on the instrument, opening up alternative worlds of resonance and vibration.

Jeremy Eichler, "Reciting a Rosary, but in Sonata Form," New York Times, November 14, 2004

Scordatura in some violin concertos provides additional evidence for Vivaldi’s tendency to extend the advantages of playing on open strings to additional keys.

Bella Brover-Lubovsky, Tonal Space in the Music of Antonio Vivaldi, 2008

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Word of the day

Saturday, March 14, 2020

à la mode

[ ah luh mohd, al-uh-; French a la mawd ]

adjective

(of pie or other dessert) served with a portion of ice cream, often as a topping: apple pie à la mode.

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What is the origin of à la mode?

In French the phrase à la mode “in the current fashion” is a shortening of à la mode de “in the style of (X),” a meaning extant in U.S. English. But to most Americans à la mode means a dessert, typically a wedge of pie, topped with ice cream, a meaning that has been current in U.S. English since the early 1890s but not in British English. À la mode entered English in the 17th century.

how is à la mode used?

If your server mentions apple-and-caramel pie a la mode, don’t hesitate.

Tom Snyder, The Two-Lane Gourmet, 2007

You can find a hotel, convenience store, and pay-per-use showers there; more important, though, you can find blueberry pie a la mode.

Rebecca Flint Marx, "10 Pies to Eat on a Cross-Country Road Trip from New York to San Francisco," Bon Appétit, June 12, 2013

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