Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

neurodiversity

[ noor-oh-di-vur-si-tee, -dahy-, nyoor- ]

noun

the variation and differences in neurological structure and function that exist among human beings, especially when viewed as being normal and natural rather than pathological.

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What is the origin of neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity “the variation in neurological structure and function among human beings” is a recent coinage based on the combining form neuro- and the noun diversity. Neuro- “nerve” derives from Ancient Greek neûron “tendon, nerve,” which is distantly related to Latin nervus “tendon” and may be related to English sinew. Diversity comes from Latin dīversitās “difference,” from the verb dīvertere “to divert.” The ultimate source of dīvertere is the same as that for the recent Word of the Day selection verst: the Proto-Indo-European root wert- “to turn.” Neurodiversity was first recorded in English in the late 1990s.

how is neurodiversity used?

Respecting neurodiversity means challenging assumptions about what intelligence is and how to measure it. It means reminding ourselves that just because a person can’t speak doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. It means not asking someone to prove their intelligence before talking to them in an age-appropriate way or offering them intellectually stimulating opportunities. It means remembering that there can be a huge disconnect between mind and body, and that a person’s actions may not reflect their intentions, especially when they are overwhelmed or upset.

Aiyana Bailin, “Clearing Up Some Misconceptions about Neurodiversity,” Scientific American, June 6, 2019

While diversity metrics such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability are widely tracked among law firms and legal departments, the use of neurodiversity metrics as part of their DEI initiatives currently lags far behind …. It would behoove employers to implement more neurodiversity tracking. Neurodiverse employees often perform better and more efficiently at certain mathematical and computer tasks, which could be beneficial regarding legal tech usage. They can voice creative ideas at meetings and present new ways to approach problem-solving that their neurotypical counterparts may have overlooked. To achieve true diversity, tracking this important metric is essential.

Robert Brown, "Analysis: Why Neurodiversity Remains DEI’s Least-Tracked Metric," Bloomberg Law, November 4, 2021

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Word of the day

Monday, December 13, 2021

evanesce

[ ev-uh-nes, ev-uh-nes ]

verb (used without object)

to disappear gradually; vanish; fade away.

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What is the origin of evanesce?

Evanesce “to disappear gradually” comes from the Latin verb ēvānēscere “to disappear,” from the prefix ex- (also ē-) “out of, from” and the verb vānēscere “to fade away.” We already learned about the prefix ex- as part of the recent Word of the Day selection eradicate, while vānēscere derives from the adjective vānus “empty, vain” and the inchoative suffix -ēscere. Vānus is also the source of words such as vanity and vanish, and -ēscere roughly means “to become, start to be,” as we learned from recent Word of the Day selections deliquesce and iridescent, both of which are based on this suffix. Evanesce was first recorded in English circa 1820.

how is evanesce used?

She disappears into the morning air, over a single hill on the far end of Main Street—over the hill, getting consumed by the large homes and the enormous trees that fill that part of town, swallowed up and digested, so that before I know it, as I stand, feet frozen to concrete in the middle of the street, she’s no longer there .… [I] watch as the woman goes, watch as she evanesces over the hill and into the morning’s fog.

Mary Kubica, Don’t You Cry, 2016

Kramer’s book was the source for some of the feeling that the new wave of antidepressants might turn us into other people, people whom we might not want to be. This was the crude set of questions now posed: if Prozac and the other SSRIs did away with ordinary unease, what was left of you per se? What else might evanesce along with sadness? Realism? Profundity? Scepticism? Irony? The milder, more productive kinds of melancholy? The very need to think or write or make art?

Brian Dillon, "Prozac Culture," Granta, October 9, 2017

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Word of the day

Sunday, December 12, 2021

bezoar

[ bee-zawr, -zohr ]

noun

a calculus or concretion found in the stomach or intestines of certain animals, especially ruminants, formerly reputed to be an effective remedy for poison.

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What is the origin of bezoar?

Bezoar “a calculus found in the stomach of ruminants, formerly reputed to be an effective remedy for poison” is derived via Medieval Latin bezahar and Arabic bāzahr from Persian pād-zahr “antidote.” This Persian term is a compound of the elements pād- “protector” and zahr “poison.” Pād- comes from the Proto-Indo-European root pā- “to protect, feed,” which is also the source of food, fodder, and foster (via Old English); forage and fur (via Old French and Germanic); and recent Word of the Day selection repast (via Latin). Zahr also comes from a Proto-Indo-European root, gwhen- “to strike, kill,” which is the source of bane (from Old English bana “slayer”), defend and offend (from Latin dēfendere “to repel, ward off” and offendere “to strike against”), and gun (from Old Norse gunnr “war”). Bezoar was first recorded in English in the 1470s.

how is bezoar used?

Porcupines are being hunted for onion-shaped masses of undigested plant material in their gut known as bezoars …. Demand is predominantly driven by China, where some believe that bezoars, which accumulate in the digestive tract, have potent medicinal properties, including the ability to cure diabetes, dengue fever, and cancer. No scientific evidence exists for any curative properties of bezoars.

Peter Yeung, “Porcupines are being poached for their stomach content,” National Geographic, March 22, 2019

Arabian doctors had been using bezoars since the 8th century, and brought them into western medicine in the 12th century as an antidote to arsenic, a favorite poison used to assassinate European nobles. By the 16th century, use of bezoars was widespread among the very rich—they were valued at 10 times their weight in gold. Queen Elizabeth I even had a bezoar set in a silver ring.

Loraine Fick, "The Magical Medicine of Bezoars," How Stuff Works, February 7, 2019

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