Word of the Day

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Noel

[ noh-el ]

noun

Christmas.

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What is the origin of Noel?

Noel has been in English since the 13th century as a forename and family name (e.g., Nuwel, Nuuel) for those born or baptized on Christmas or during the Christmas season. In the late 14th century, Nowel is used as an exclamation of joy in The Canterbury Tales (this usage remains only in Christmas carols). In the late-14th century alliterative poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Nowel meant “Christmas day, the feast of Christmas, Christmastide.” Middle English shows several spellings, e.g., Newel, Nouel, Nowelle, Nowel, all derived from Anglo-French, Middle French, and Old French forms (Nowel, Nowelle, Nouel, Noel), Noël in French. The spellings with o (e.g., Noel) are a variant of spellings with a (e.g., Nael) that began in the 12th century. Nael is a regular French development from Latin nātālis (in full, diēs nātālis “birthday”).

how is Noel used?

… be sure to wish Tops a joyous Noel.

Ron Goulart, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," 1993

… the special season for such innocent gaiety is the Christmastide when they celebrate Noël with a joyous fervour not to be outdone elsewhere.

J. Macdonald Oxley, "Christmas Games in French Canada," The Canadian Magazine, November 1901 to April 1902
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Monday, December 24, 2018

heartstrings

[ hahrt-stringz ]

plural noun

the deepest feelings; the strongest affections: to tug at one's heartstrings.

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What is the origin of heartstrings?

The original meaning of heartstrings was physical, or anatomical to be precise. A heartstring was one of the nerves or tendons that supposedly support and brace the heart; heartstrings (the plural) referred to the aorta and pulmonary artery (no longer in scientific use). By the 16th century the heartstrings were conceived as the source of a person’s feelings and emotions. Heartstring in its original anatomical sense entered English in the 15th century.

how is heartstrings used?

Little kids singing and smiling never failed to tug at the heartstrings.

Susan Wiggs, Candlelight Christmas, 2013

There was no choice now, but to bear the pang of whatever heartstrings were snapt asunder, and that illusive torment … by which a past mode of life prolongs itself into the succeeding one.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance, 1852
Sunday, December 23, 2018

stodge

[ stoj ]

verb

to stuff full, especially with food or drink; gorge.

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What is the origin of stodge?

The adjective stodgy “thick, heavy, dull (of food, clothes, books, people)” is fairly common, but not so its source, the verb stodge “to stuff full, gorge; trudge along.” Stodgy appeared in the 19th century and applied to glutinous mud and roads; a quarter of a century later (in the 1850s), stodgy referred to heavy foods like porridge or potatoes; in the 1870s stodgy meant “dull, boring (of people, one’s own life).” The etymology of stodge is unknown; it entered English in the 17th century.

how is stodge used?

A “City man,” on the other hand … stodges his stomach with rich food three times a day …

T. Clifford Allbutt, "Nervous Diseases and Modern Life," Contemporary Review, February 1895

… as he cuts, bolts, and gulps, smacks, sniffs, and stodges, his eyes examine, his eyes observe, the ever-diminishing remnant upon the plate …

Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz, translated by Eugene Jolas, 1931

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