Word of the Day

Monday, September 03, 2018

nepenthe

[ ni-pen-thee ]

noun

anything inducing a pleasurable sensation of forgetfulness, especially of sorrow or trouble.

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What is the origin of nepenthe?

In Greek and English nepenthe and pathos are opposites. Greek nēpenthḗs is an adjective meaning “banishing pain, without sorrow.” Nēpenthḗs breaks down to the (unusual) negative prefix nē- (ultimately from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English un-), the stem penth- of the noun pénthos “pain,” and the adjective suffix -ḗs, -és. The Greek nouns pénthos and páthos “sensation, suffering” are derivatives of the complicated verb páschein, all three words showing variants of the Greek root penth-, ponth-, path- “to suffer, experience.” Nepenthe entered English in the 16th century.

how is nepenthe used?

There must have been in him a remarkable capacity for forgetfulness; he might seem to have drunk every morning a nepenthe that drowned in oblivion all his yesterdays.

Walter Noble Burns, The Saga of Billy the Kid, 1925

Of course, he was feverish and in great pain, despite the draughts of nepenthe he was given …

Steven Saylor, The House of Vestals, 1992
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Sunday, September 02, 2018

plage

[ plahzh ]

noun

a sandy bathing beach at a seashore resort.

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What is the origin of plage?

English plage keeps its French pronunciation (more or less), which shows that plage is still not naturalized. French plage is a borrowing of Italian piaggia, which comes from Late Latin plagia “shore, coast.” Latin plagia is a feminine singular noun, a direct borrowing of Greek plágia, a neuter plural noun meaning “sides (of a mountain), flanks (of an army),” from the adjective plágios “oblique, sloping, sideways.” The Latin and Italian nouns refer particularly to Magna Graecia (those areas of southern Italy and Sicily that were colonized by the Greeks from the 8th to the 4th century b.c.), where there were many seacoast resort towns (with beaches). Plage entered English in the 19th century.

how is plage used?

The place and the people were all a picture together, a picture that, when they went down to the wide sands, shimmered in a thousand tints, with the pretty organisation of the plage, with the gaiety of spectators and bathers, with that of the language and the weather, and above all with that of our young lady’s unprecedented situation.

Henry James, What Maisie Knew, 1897

Sore and breathless, I sat down on one of the benches along the plage.

Janice Law, The Prisoner of the Riviera, 2013
Saturday, September 01, 2018

ultradian

[ uhl-trey-dee-uhn ]

adjective

of or relating to a biorhythm having a period of less than 24 hours.

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What is the origin of ultradian?

The English adjectives ultradian and circadian are close contemporaries—1961 for ultradian, 1959 for circadian. Both adjectives refer to biological or physiological cycles, ultradian meaning “recurring with a period shorter than a day,” and circadian “recurring with a period of approximately 24 hours.” Both adjectives have similar formations: the Latin prefix ultra- meaning “beyond, on the far side of” and circa meaning “around, about.” The element -dian is formed from the Latin noun diēs “day” and the English adjective suffix -an, from Latin -ānus.

how is ultradian used?

Reindeer also ignore the absence of a light-dark cycle during the summer months. Instead, their sleep cycles are governed by ultradian rhythm, which means they sleep whenever they need to digest food.

Kimberly Hickok, "How Does the Summer Solstice Affect Animals?" Live Science, June 21, 2018

They collected records from databases, research articles, field guides and encyclopedias about the behavior of these species, and determined whether their behavior fit into one of five patterns: nocturnal (active at night); diurnal (active in the day); cathemeral (active during both day and night); crepuscular (active only at twilight, around sunrise and sunset); and ultradian (active in cycles of a few hours at a time).

Amina Khan, "If you enjoy sleeping at night instead of the day, thank the dinosaurs for going extinct," Los Angeles Times, November 7, 2017

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