Word of the Day

Monday, October 01, 2018

nugacity

[ noo-gas-i-tee, nyoo- ]

noun

triviality; insignificance.

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What is the origin of nugacity?

Nugacity is a direct borrowing from the Late Latin noun nūgācitās (stem nūgācitāt-), which first appears in the letters of St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430 a.d.). Nūgācitās means “worthlessness, frivolity” and is a derivative of the Latin adjective nūgāx (stem nūgāc-) “bungling, incompetent,” itself a derivative of the plural noun nūgae “absurdities, nonsense, frivolities, trifles” (its further etymology is unknown). Nugacity entered English in the 16th century.

how is nugacity used?

For this play that appears to address itself to a serious intellectual problem has almost nothing to say on the subject, and proceeds to disguise its nugacity by resorting to any number of modish–or, rather, outmoded–strategies.

John Simon, "All's Well That Ends 'Good'," New York, October 25, 1982

Somehow before I leave town I should find a graceful way to assure Jason that when I first met him I had had no inkling of that particular Aggrandizement report … even if the disclaimer obliges me to reveal the nugacity of my financial wardrobe.

Jonathan Bayliss, Gloucesterbook, 1992
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Sunday, September 30, 2018

interloper

[ in-ter-loh-per ]

noun

a person who interferes or meddles in the affairs of others.

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What is the origin of interloper?

Interloper originally meant “unauthorized trader who trades on his own account and violates the rights or privileges of a trade monopoly.” It also has a tricky etymology. Inter-, its first element, is obviously the Latin preposition and prefix meaning “between, among.” The problem lies mostly with the second element -loper. Some authorities say that -loper is the same as in landloper “wanderer, vagrant,” an English borrowing from Dutch landlooper dating from about 1570. English interloper dates from the end of the 16th century, but a Dutch dictionary (1767) stated that the Dutch word enterlooper, phonetically equivalent to English interloper, is a borrowing from English. It is also difficult to reconcile an English word composed of the Latin prefix with the Dutch noun looper “runner.” It is more likely that -lope (and -loper) is a Middle English dialect variant of leap, ultimately from Old Norse hlaupa “to leap, spring, climb.” Interloper entered English on the late 16th century; the sense of “meddler” dates from the mid-17th century.

how is interloper used?

Caruso is a veteran narrator who has voiced audiobooks for the works of Joan Didion, Louisa May Alcott, and Jonathan Safran Foer—but to me, in the moment, she was instead an interloper. What was she doing here? Who was she to intrude on my literary shiva?

Arielle Pardes, "Listening Isn't Reading, but Audiobooks Still Resonate," Wired, August 1, 2018

… the Lorax is an environmental activist who wastes no time in berating the axe-wielding Once-ler, a shady money-grabbing interloper who lays waste to the environment to produce peculiar knitted outfits called thneeds.

Nicola Davis, "Dr Seuss's Lorax 'inspired by orange Kenyan monkeys'," Guardian, July 23, 2018
Saturday, September 29, 2018

diapason

[ dahy-uh-pey-zuhn, -suhn ]

noun

Music. a full, rich outpouring of melodious sound.

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What is the origin of diapason?

The English noun diapason comes from the Latin noun diapāsōn “musical interval of the octave,” extracted from the Greek phrase dià pāsôn (chordôn) “through all (the notes),” from the full phrase hē dià pāsôn chordôn symphōnía “the concord through all the notes of the scale.” Diapason entered English in the 14th century.

how is diapason used?

… and from the dell below rose in the night, now the monotonous chanting of the frogs, and now, as some great bull-frog took the note, a diapason worthy of a Brescian organ.

Stanley J. Weyman, Count Hannibal, 1901

… [Harley] concluded a speech which, for popular effect, had never been equalled in that hall, amidst a diapason of cheers that threatened to bring down the rafters.

Edward Bulwer Lytton, My Novel; or, Varieties in English Life, 1853

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