Word of the Day

Friday, January 04, 2019


[ nood-l ]


Informal. a. to improvise, experiment, or think creatively: The writers noodled for a week and came up with a better idea for the ad campaign. b. to play; toy: to noodle with numbers as a hobby.

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What is the origin of noodle?

The verb noodle “to improvise, think creatively, brainstorm” seems to have originally been American college slang dating from the mid-1940s. Noodle may derive from the German verb nudeln “to sing or play music in a low undertone or in improvisation (as in jazz),” a sense existing in English since the mid-1930s.

how is noodle used?

80 percent of surveyed drivers ranked their driving skills as “above average.” Noodle on that one.

Tim Herrera, "How to Spot and Overcome Your Hidden Weaknesses," New York Times, April 23, 2018

On the side, he noodled around with the potentially lucrative idea for a heat pump that would use cheap, abundant water in place of costly environmentally unfriendly refrigerants.

, "Test yields weapon of mass hydration," The Vindicator, August 9, 1998


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Thursday, January 03, 2019


[ ih-lev-uhn-ziz ]


British. (usually used with a plural verb) a midmorning break for refreshments.

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What is the origin of elevenses?

Elevenses is a British colloquialism, familiar to Americans most likely through reading Tolkien (Bilbo Baggins was keen on elevenses) and P.G. Wodehouse. Elevenses was originally a British dialect word, a double plural of eleven (o’clock); it referred to snacks or light refreshments taken at eleven in the morning (as fourses taken about four in the afternoon.) Elevenses entered English in the 19th century.

how is elevenses used?

At other times there were merely lots of people eating and drinking — continuously from elevenses until six-thirty, when the fireworks started.

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954

The other meals during harvest were breakfast, elevenses, dinner and fourses–in some places elevenses was called ‘beaver’ or ‘cheesing’–but there was a good deal of difference in the local significations of these terms and the times at which the meals were eaten.

Thomas Hennell, Change in the Farm, 1934
Wednesday, January 02, 2019


[ nee-uh-ter-ik ]


modern; new; recent.

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What is the origin of neoteric?

English neoteric comes straight from Late Latin neōtericus, straight from Hellenistic Greek neōterikós “young, youthful, modern (in style).” The Greek root is neo- “new” (newo- in some dialects), akin to Latin novus “new” (from newos), Germanic (English) new, and Slavic (Polish) nowy. The Proto-Indo-European suffix -ter- has several functions, one of them showing naturally occurring pairs, e.g., older and younger (as here), right and left, upper and lower. The Latin suffix -icus is of Proto-Indo-European origin, the same source as Greek -ikós, and Germanic -ig- (German -ig, English -y). The most famous of the Greek neōterikói was the poet and critic Callimachus (c310-c240 b.c.); the most famous Latin neōtericus (and the only one whose works has survived) was Catullus (c84-c54 b.c.). Neoteric entered English in the 16th century.

how is neoteric used?

… they call me a singular, a pedant, fantastic, words of reproach in this age, which is all too neoteric and light for my humour.

Charles Lamb, "Fragments from Burton," John Woodvil, 1802

The temporary purpose may be attained; adherents may be gained for some neoteric doctrine; but the world in general is plunged deeper into error, into the misunderstanding of humanity.

Charles F. Horne, The Technique of the Novel, 1908
Tuesday, January 01, 2019


[ aw-spi-keyt ]


to initiate with ceremonies calculated to ensure good luck; inaugurate.

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What is the origin of auspicate?

Romans were addicted to religion, law, and the military (not always sharply differentiated), and no public business could be conducted without first taking the auspices. The basic Latin word is auspex (stem auspic-), literally “bird watcher.” The syllable au- is a reduced form of avi-, the stem of the Latin noun avis “bird”; the suffix -spex means “one who watches or inspects,” a derivative of the verb specere “to observe, watch” (which has many derivatives in English, e.g., expect, inspect, suspect, etc.). The Latin derivative noun auspicium “bird watching” also applied to other forms of divination, e.g., ex caelō, i.e., observing thunder and lightning; ex quadrupedibus, observing the behavior of four-footed animals, e.g. a wolf eating grass; ex dīrīs from observing dreadful, uncanny, or dire signs. There were other forms of auspices too silly to mention, but when the results of public elections were at stake or there was an important, controversial bill being debated in the Senate, why surely the gods had to approve (or not). Auspicate comes from the Latin past participle auspicātus, a derivative of the verb auspicārī “to take the auspices.” Auspicate entered English in the early 17th century.

how is auspicate used?

He was soon in great request to deliver addresses and auspicate new ventures …

, “In Memoriam: Edward Thring,” The Cambridge Review, November 2, 1887

If we are conscious of our station, and glow with zeal to fill our places as becomes our situation and ourselves, we ought to auspicate all our public proceedings on America with the old warning of the church, Sursum corda!

Edmund Burke, Speech of Edmund Burke, Esq. on Moving His Resolutions for Conciliation with the Colonies, 1775
Monday, December 31, 2018


[ tawt-seenz ]


until we meet again; goodbye.

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What is the origin of totsiens?

Totsiens is not a misspelling; in Afrikaans totsiens (tot siens) means “goodbye,” literally “until we see (each other again), au revoir, arrivederci, auf Wiedersehen, do widzenia,” from tot “as far as, until” and sien “see.” Totsiens entered English in the 20th century.

how is totsiens used?

Well Paula I will say ‘totsiens‘ for now …

Emma Brockes, She Left Me the Gun, 2013

Totsiens, Oom, totsiens, Tannie … You know where we live. Come and see us sometime.

Paul-Constant Smit, Gold Never Rusts, 2016
Sunday, December 30, 2018


[ sham-perz ]


British Slang. champagne.

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What is the origin of champers?

Champers is a British slang term for champagne, as the suffix -ers suggests. The suffix originated in the Rugby School (in east Warwickshire) and spread to Oxford University towards the end of the 19th century; champers, therefore, is not old at all, dating from the mid-20th century.

how is champers used?

He was about to take a whisky, when he was distracted by the larger glasses. “Ah, champers, dear boy,” he said, “champers for me.”

Olivia Manning, The Great Fortune, 1960

At its beginning, Champagne scarcely resembled the dry, fine-fizzed champers we know today.

Jane and Michael Stern, "A Kick from Champagne," New York Times, December 25, 2008
Saturday, December 29, 2018


[ guhs-ee ]


Informal. to enhance the attractiveness of in a gimmicky, showy manner (usually followed by up): a room gussied up with mirrors and lights.

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What is the origin of gussy?

The verb gussy is usually followed by up. Gussy up “to dress elaborately, dress up, smarten up” is an American and Canadian slang term, and like many slang terms, its etymology is obscure. Gussy up may derive from gussie, an Australian and American slang term for a weak, effeminate man (first appearing in Australia and the US in 1901 or 1902). The verb phrase gussy up appears in 1906 in Canada and in 1912 in the US.

how is gussy used?

When a not-so-careful writer tries to gussy up his prose with an upmarket word that he mistakenly thinks is a synonym of a common one, like simplistic for simple or fulsome for full, his readers are likely to conclude the worst: that he has paid little attention what he has read, is affecting an air of sophistication on the cheap, and is polluting a common resource.

Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style, 2014

… he was busy helping his dad gussy up the old tractors for the parade.

Gayle Brandeis, Delta GIrls, 2010


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