Word of the Day

Friday, June 25, 2021

neophyte

[ nee-uh-fahyt ]

noun

a beginner or novice.

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What is the origin of neophyte?

Neophyte “a beginner or novice” ultimately comes from Greek neóphytos “newly planted” (grains, vines), a compound of neo-, a combining form of the adjective néos “new,” and –phytós “planted,” a derivative of phýein “to make grow, bring forth, beget.” Neóphytos first appears in the works of the Athenian comic dramatist Aristophanes (died ca. 385 b.c.), and it keeps its literal, agricultural sense down to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible that was completed by the 1st century b.c. Neóphytos in the sense “new convert” (to Christianity) first appears in I Timothy, one of the Pastoral Epistles traditionally ascribed to St. Paul. Neóphytos in its new sense was adopted by Christian Latin authors as neophytus; neophytus was sufficiently established for St. Jerome to use it in his Latin translation from the Greek I Timothy. The general, modern sense “beginner” first appears in Ben Jonson’s play Every Man out of His Humor (1600). Neophyte entered English in the 15th century.

how is neophyte used?

Maybe it takes a ruthless, calculating egoist to transform pain into product. Or maybe all the attention that the neophyte clamors for feels suffocating to the full-grown artist.

Danielle Chapman, "Sweet Bombs," Poetry, October 2006

Macron, who exit polls project as the winner of Sunday’s first round presidential election in France, is a political neophyte.

Krishnadev Calamur, "The Rebuke of France's Political Establishment," The Atlantic, April 23, 2017

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

non sequitur

[ non -sek-wi-ter, -toor ]

noun

something said or written that is unrelated to what immediately precedes.

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What is the origin of non sequitur?

The Latin sentence non sequitur, “it doesn’t follow” in English is used as a noun whose original meaning was “an inference or a conclusion that does not follow from the premises,” i.e., a logical fallacy, a usage established by Cicero in the 1st century b.c. A typical example of such a fallacy is: “If X is true, then Y is true. But Y is true. Therefore, X is true.” Nowadays non sequitur mostly means “a statement containing an illogical conclusion,” especially a conclusion that is amusing, whether intentional or not, or “something said or written that is unrelated to what immediately precedes.”

how is non sequitur used?

And who would want to forget, say, “Mr. F’s Aunt,” whose outbursts of demented rage at poor Arthur Clennam in “Little Dorrit” make no sense at all. “There’s milestones on the Dover Road!” “When we lived at Henley, Barnes’s gander was stole by tinkers.” … Mr. F’s Aunt’s malign non sequiturs would be immortal in whatever book Dickens had chosen to insert them.

Robert Gottlieb, "Robert Gottlieb on Dickensworld — the Great Novelist's Grand Universe," New York Times, November 6, 2020

But every day many people find themselves sitting across the table from a negotiation partner they can’t abandon or replace: their kids. How might parents manage these often fraught, exasperating conversations in which their counterpart, lacking self-awareness, sometimes seems to think it strategic to respond with complete non sequiturs?

Joe Pinsker, "How a Negotiation Expert Would Bargain With a Kid," The Atlantic, June 13, 2019

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

inimical

[ ih-nim-i-kuhl ]

adjective

unfriendly; hostile.

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What is the origin of inimical?

Inimical “unfriendly, hostile” comes from the Late Latin adjective inimīcālis, first used by the 5th-century Christian author Sidonius Apollinaris, a major political, diplomatic, literary, and religious figure of Gaul (now France, more or less)—indeed, of the Western Roman Empire. Sidonius Apollinaris had the delicate task of balancing the waning power of the Roman emperor against the rising power of the new Gothic kingdom comprising most of France and Spain, while at the same time also avoiding religious controversy. Inimīcālis is a derivative of the noun inimīcus, a compound of the negative prefix in– “not, un-” and a form of amīcus “friend”; unsurprisingly an inimīcus is an “unfriend.” Inimical entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is inimical used?

I rolled over and tried to get back to sleep, but I kept seeing faces—the highway robber’s inimical glare, the kid’s grin, the mother’s distorted mouth and wild eyes.

Barbara Michaels, The Dancing Floor, 1997

In 1960, the CIA said 6,500 objects had been reported to the U.S. Air Force over the prior 13 years. The Air Force concluded there was no evidence those sightings were “inimical or hostile” or related to “interplanetary space ships,” the CIA said.

Nomaan Merchant and Calvin Woodward, "'There is stuff': Enduring mysteries trail US report on UFOs," Associated Press, June 5, 2021

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