Word of the Day

Saturday, March 30, 2019

nadir

[ ney-der, ney-deer ]

noun

the lowest point; point of greatest adversity or despair.

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What is the origin of nadir?

Nadir comes via Middle French and Late Latin nadir “point opposite the sun, point opposite the zenith” from Arabic naẓīr (as-samt) “opposite (the zenith).” Arabic samt is the source of zenith. Nadir (and zenith) entered English in the late 14th century.

how is nadir used?

At the nadir of the global stock market crash in March 2009, the kronor hit a low of 8.48 euro cents per kronor ….

Heather Farmbrough, "After Sweden's Election, What Next for the Kronor?" Forbes, September 8, 2018

… [the] fragment was hurled from what had seemed the nadir of horror to black, clutching pits of a horror still more profound.

H. P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price, "Through the Gates of the Silver Key," Weird Tales, July 1934
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Friday, March 29, 2019

metathesis

[ muh-tath-uh-sis ]

noun

the transposition of letters, syllables, or sounds in a word, as in the pronunciation aks for ask.

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What is the origin of metathesis?

In linguistics, metathesis is the transposition of two consecutive letters or sounds of a word, as in the now nonstandard pronunciation aks for ask (Old English has the verbs áscian and axian, and Middle English has asken and axen). Every well-disciplined schoolboy knows that in Greek quantitative metathesis is the change of long vowel + short vowel, e.g., ēo, to short vowel + long vowel, . Metathesis comes via Late Latin metathesis “transposition of the letters of a word,” from Greek metáthesis “change, change of position, transposition,” a compound formed of the common Greek preposition and prefix metá, meta– “with, in the middle of, among” (metá is related to German mit and Old English mid “with,” as in the first syllable of midwife). Thésis “placing, location, setting” is a derivative of the verb tithénai “to put, place,” from the very common Proto-Indo-European root dhē– “to place, put,” and the source of Latin facere “to do” and English do. Metathesis entered English in the 16th century.

how is metathesis used?

”NOO-kyuh-luhr”-sayers, who number in the many millions, in fact, move the l in nuclear to the final syllable and thus avoid the unusual pattern. (Linguists refer to this sound-switching process as metathesis.)

Frank Abate, "On Language: Nuclear," New York Times Magazine, January 12, 2003

Remember this when the next time you hear someone complaining about aks for ask or nucular for nuclear, or even perscription. It’s called metathesis, and it’s a very common, perfectly natural process.

David Shariatmadari, "8 pronunciation errors that made the English language what it is today," The Guardian, March 11, 2014
Thursday, March 28, 2019

knackered

[ nak-erd ]

adjective

British Slang.

exhausted; very tired: He is really knackered after work.

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What is the origin of knackered?

The verb knacker originally meant “to tire, kill, castrate,” a verb derived either from the noun knacker “a tradesman who buys animal carcasses or slaughters useless livestock” or from the plural noun knackers, a slang word for “testicles, courage.” Knackered in the sense “exhausted” entered English in 19th century.

how is knackered used?

She was completely knackered. All she wanted was a shower and twelve hours of sleep.

Elizabeth George, Playing for the Ashes, 1994

When they’re knackered like that they start crying.

Patrick O'Keeffe, The Visitors, 2014

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