What People Are
cloudy or foggy.
The English adjective nubilous comes straight from Latin nūbilus, a derivative of nūbēs “cloud.” The uncommon Proto-Indo-European root sneudh- “fog, mist, cloud” lies behind the Latin words and appears as well in several Iranian languages, e.g., Avestan snaodha- “clouds” and Baluchi nōd “light clouds, fog”; Greek nythós “dark, dumb,” and Welsh nudd “mist, fog.” Nubilous entered English in the 16th century.
… it seemed, in their arbitrary disposition of the world’s affairs, the Fates had ordained that Peyton’s sky should always be nubilous …
Her azure eyes are nubilous.
lack of honesty or moral scruples.
The English noun improbity comes from Latin improbitās (stem improbitāt-) “dishonesty, unscrupulousness,” a derivative of improbus “inferior, improper.” The parts of improbus break down fairly easily: the prefix im- is a variant of the Latin negative prefix in- used before labial consonants (e.g., b, p) from the same Proto-Indo-European source as Germanic (English) un-, Greek a-, an-, and Sanskrit a-, an-. The element pro- is from the very common (and complicated) Proto-Indo-European prefix and preposition per “forward, through, in front of, early, first.” The -bus is the same ending as in the Latin adjective superbus “proud, haughty” (the ultimate source of English superb) from the Proto-Indo-European root bheu- “to be, exist, grow,” source of Germanic (English) be, Latin fuï “I was, have been” (the perfect of esse “to be”), and Slavic (Polish) być “to be.” The original sense of probus would be “going well, growing well,” and improbus “not going well.” Improbity entered English in the late 16th century.
But apart from these hurtful factors, the Ring itself radiated improbity. It had but recently been said by Henry Ward Beecher that perhaps the government of the City of New York did more harm to its people than all the churches together did good.
“Beelzebub” had been floundering in the sea of improbity, holding by a slender life-line to the respectable world that had cast him overboard.
worried or tormented, as by a witch.
The hag in hagridden has always meant “evil spirit (in female form), ghost, woman who deals with the Devil, a witch; an ugly, repellent, malicious old woman.” The noun is very rare in Middle English (hegge appears once in the 13th century, and hagge once in the 14th) and becomes common only in the 16th century as heg, hegge. Hag is generally believed to descend from Old English hægtesse, hægtis “a fury, witch,” akin to Old High German hagazissa, German Hexe (cf. hex signs on barns, especially in Amish country), from West Germanic hagatusjōn-. Hagridden entered English in the 17th century.
We are a simple people, but we are hagridden by our fear of darkness.
Alas, poor devil! spectres are appointed to haunt him: one age he is hag-ridden, bewitched; the next priestridden, befooled; in all ages, bedevilled.
the practice of misquoting someone by shortening the quotation or by leaving out surrounding words or sentences that would place the quotation in context.
Contextomy is a blend of the words context and -tomy, a Greek suffix meaning “cutting.” In was first recorded in English in 1965–70.
Contextomy can be used to create a false impression of a source’s attitudes in the service of motives as harmless as selling movie tickets or as harmful as character assassination, which is typical of its employment in political advertising.
They engage in what writer Milton Mayer once called “contextomy“: cutting a statement out of context (e.g. John Adams on religion) in order to give a completely misleading impression what what some famous person believes.
an informal talk or chat.
In French the noun causerie means “a chat; a talk (as at a conference).” As a literary style a causerie is a short, topical essay, personal and humorous (there is no one precise English translation for causerie). Causerie is a derivative of the verb causer “to chat, talk, gossip.” The French verb comes from Latin causārī “to plead a case, bring a (legal) action; to plead as an excuse or reason,” a derivative of the noun causa “legal case or proceeding, trial.” Causerie entered English in the 19th century.
I was once booked by my manager to give a causerie in the drawing-room of a New York millionaire.
It hardly seemed a speech when he was at the tribune, more like a causerie, though he told very plain truths sometimes to the peuple souverain.
Hypnopedia is first recorded in Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World (1932), and the word may well be a coinage of his. Hypnopedia is a compound word formed from the Greek nouns hýpnos “sleep” and paideía “child-rearing, education.” Hýpnos is a regular Greek development of the Proto-Indo-European noun sup-nos, from the root swep, swop-, sup- “to sleep.” In preclassical Latin the noun swep-nos becomes swop-nos and finally somnus in classical Latin. The Germanic equivalent root, swef-no-, becomes swefen “sleep, dream” in Old English and sweven in Middle English, e.g., in Piers Plowman and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Paideía is a derivative of the noun país (stem paid-) “child.”
Years of intensive hypnopaedia and, from twelve to seventeen, Malthusian drill three times a week had made the taking of these precautions almost as automatic and inevitable as blinking.
The idea that humans can learn while asleep, a concept sometimes called hypnopedia, has a long and odd history. It hit a particularly strange note in 1927, when New York inventor A. B. Saliger debuted the Psycho-phone. He billed the device as an “automatic suggestion machine.”
British, Australian. a small container or basket for strawberries or other fruit.
In the “Cyclops” episode (chapter 12) of Ulysses, there are 33 parodies in exaggerated, sentimental, or pompous styles. The first of these parodies begins “In Inisfail the fair,” a parody of a poem by the Irish poet James Mangin (1803-49), and contains, among other things, an extravagant list of Irish products: “… pearls of the earth, and punnets of mushrooms and custard marrows….” A punnet is a light, shallow container for fruits or other produce. The word is used in Ireland, England, and Australia but not in America. Its origin is uncertain. Punnet entered English in the 19th century.
Next time you buy strawberries take a look a good look in the punnet. Do the berries still have the stem attached or has it been plucked off leaving only the green hat of leaves called the calyx?
We’ve each got a cardboard tray with twenty-five punnets in, and our job’s to fill each punnet with ripe strawberries, or nearly ripe.