Word of the Day

Saturday, October 10, 2020

newfangled

[ noo-fang-guhld, -fang-, nyoo- ]

adjective

of a new kind or fashion.

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What is the origin of newfangled?

Newfangled comes from Middle English new– “new,” –fangel, –fangol, an otherwise unrecorded adjective suffix meaning “taken, inclined to take,” and the adjective suffix –ed, the entire adjective meaning “taken by the new, inclined to the new.” The element –fangel, –fangol most likely is from the same root as the British dialect verb fang “to seize, grab” and the standard English noun fang “canine tooth” (that is, “the seizer”), all from fang-, the stem of the Old English verb fōn “to take.” Newfangled entered English at the end of the 15th century.

how is newfangled used?

Both the floss and the AI toothbrush had surprised me. … But they had also sparked a desire for the potentially unnecessary, as newfangled things are prone to do.

Lauren Goode, "Don't Brush Off Mouth Tech As a Passing Fad," Wired, January 24, 2020

YouTube was less than two years old—Justin Bieber had not yet been discovered there—and still resembled a newfangled version of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

Michael Schulman, "Bo Burnham's Age of Anxiety," The New Yorker, June 25, 2018

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Friday, October 09, 2020

discommode

[ dis-kuh-mohd ]

verb (used with object)

to cause inconvenience to; disturb, trouble, or bother.

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What is the origin of discommode?

Discommode, “to cause inconvenience or trouble to,” comes from Middle French discommoder, a compound formed from the Latin prefix dis– “apart, away,” here with a privative or negative force, and the French adjective commode “convenient, easy,” from Latin commodus “of standard size or weight, suitable, convenient.” Commodus is a compound of the Latin prefix com-, here with the intensive force “completely,” and the noun modus, “measured amount, size, or quantity.” Discommode entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is discommode used?

I decided not to discommode him further on walks by abruptly bringing him out into the same car-whizzing streets that had so shivered and terrified him, so when we went outside it was through the back door into a warren of unthreatening urban alleyways.

Gene Weingarten, "The tail of a ruff few days," Washington Post, February 13, 2020

“We didn’t know we were discommoding you so.” Norma liked that word and she said it over under her breath. “Discommode —I wouldn’t want to discommode you, Mr. Gable, but I think you should know…”

John Steinbeck, The Wayward Bus, 1947

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Thursday, October 08, 2020

idiolect

[ id-ee-uh-lekt ]

noun

Linguistics.

a person's individual speech pattern.

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What is the origin of idiolect?

An individual person’s own pattern of speech is called an idiolect, formed from the Greek adjective ídios “private, one’s own, peculiar.” (The English noun idiot comes ultimately from Greek idiṓtēs “private person, a citizen who does not participate in public affairs,” a term of abuse and contempt in Periclean Athens). The combining form –lect, extracted from dialect (from Greek diálektos “speech, language, discourse, accent, manner of speech,” and later “the language of a country or district”), has been promoted to a full word, lect, which in linguistics means “a distinct variety of a language, such as a standard variety or a nonstandard regional dialect.” Idiolect entered English in the mid-20th century.

how is idiolect used?

Vollmann’s idiolect is obsessive, punctilious, twitchy, hyperobservational, and proudly amateurish.

Nathaniel Rich, "The Most Honest Book About Climate Change Yet," The Atlantic, October 2018

There is debate, for example, over whether we each have an “idiolect,” or unique linguistic fingerprint. And if we do, how consistent is it in academic essays or love letters as opposed to, say, e-mails and text messages? Betcha its not!! 🙂

Frances Stead Sellers, "Should texts, e-mail, tweets and Facebook posts be the new fingerprints in court?" Washington Post, February 27, 2015

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