• Word of the day
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    Wednesday, April 18, 2018

    omnishambles

    noun [om-nuh-sham-buh lz]
    Chiefly British Informal. a situation, especially in politics, in which poor judgment results in disorder or chaos with potentially disastrous consequences.
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    What is the origin of omnishambles?

    The first element of omnishambles, omni- “all,” is familiar in English in omnibus, omnipotent, omnivorous, and omniscient, derived from the Latin adjective omnis “all.” Shambles has a gorier history. In the 9th century the Old English noun scomol (spelled variously) simply meant “stool, footstool,” derived from Latin scamellum, scamillum “low stool.” By the 10th century the noun also meant “a counter or table for conducting business”; by the 14th century the word acquired the sense “table or counter for selling meat.” During the 16th century shambles came to mean “slaughterhouse; place of wholesale carnage.” Shambles in the sense “a mess, a ruin, scene of disorder” was originally an Americanism, first occurring in print in 1926.

    How is omnishambles used?

    The Budget, dubbed an 'omnishambles' by critics, marked the government's mid-term low point which even the triumph of the London Olympics was unable to dispel. Michael Burton, The Politics of Austerity, 2016

    Iannucci calls these characters "well-meaning but damaged individuals" and by putting them into situations of omnishambles where everything is deeply at stake, he makes a stronger satire of Washington and more entertaining television. Marc Edward Shaw, "Veep's poetics of omnishambles," Politics and Politicians in Contemporary US Television, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, April 17, 2018

    purse-proud

    adjective [purs-proud]
    proud of one's wealth, especially in an arrogant or showy manner.
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    What is the origin of purse-proud?

    Purse-proud was first recorded in 1675–85.

    How is purse-proud used?

    London was still London ... heavy, clumsy, arrogant, purse-proud but not cheap; insular but large; barely tolerant of an outside world, and absolutely self-confident. Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, 1918

    The fellow is a bad neighbour, and I desire, to have nothing to do with him: but as he is purse-proud, he shall pay for his insolence ... Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, 1771

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, April 16, 2018

    ken

    noun [ken]
    knowledge, understanding, or cognizance; mental perception: an idea beyond one's ken.
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    What is the origin of ken?

    English ken comes from the very widespread Proto-Indo-European root gnō- (and its variants gnē-, gen-, and gṇ-) “to know.” The variant gnō- appears in Greek gignṓskein (and dialect gnṓskein), Latin gnōscere, nōscere, and Slavic (Polish) znać “to know.” The variant gnē- forms cnāwan in Old English (and know in English); the variant gṇǝ- (with suffixed schwa) yields cunnan “to know, know how to, be able” in Old English (and can “be able” in English). Ken is recorded in English before 900.

    How is ken used?

    Books, Mr. Taylor thought, should swim into one's ken mysteriously; they should appear all printed and bound, without apparent genesis; just as children are suddenly told that they have a little sister, found by mamma in the garden. Arthur Machen, The Hill of Dreams, 1907

    Little things, trifles, slip out of one's ken, and one does not think it matter for surprise; but how so bulky a thing as the Seal of England can vanish away and no man be able to get track of it again--a massy golden disk ... Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper, 1881

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, April 15, 2018

    pantofle

    noun [pan-tuh-fuh l, pan-tof-uh l, -toh-fuh l, -too-]
    a slipper.
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    What is the origin of pantofle?

    Pantofle “indoor shoe, slipper” comes from Middle French pantoufle, pantophle (and other spellings). The word occurs in other Romance languages, e.g., Occitan and Italian have pantofla (and other spellings), and Spanish has pantufla. Catalan changed the position of the l in original pantofla to plantofa under the influence of planta “sole (of the foot)”; compare English plantar (wart). Further etymology of pantofle is speculative. Pantofle entered English in the late 15th century.

    How is pantofle used?

    "I've lost a pantofle!" he whispered desperately. Sally Watson, The Outrageous Oriel, 2006

    ... your art / Can blind a jealous husband, and, disguised / Like a milliner or shoemaker, convey / A letter in a pantofle or glove, / Without suspicion, nay at his table ... Philip Massinger, The Emperor of the East, 1632

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, April 14, 2018

    carking

    adjective [kahr-king]
    Archaic. distressful.
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    What is the origin of carking?

    Carking derives from Norman French carquier “to load, burden,” from Late Latin carcāre, carricāre “to load.” In Old French, i.e., Parisian French, the dialect spoken in the île de France (the region of France that includes Paris), Late Latin carcāre becomes chargier (which becomes charge in English). Norman French does not palatalize c (representing the sound k) before a, which Old French does; thus in English we have the doublets cattle (from Norman French) and chattel from Parisian French. Late Latin carcāre becomes cargar “to load” in Spanish, the source of English cargo. Carking entered English in the early 14th century.

    How is carking used?

    Laranger's answering smile showed no trace of the carking anxiety and deadly uncertainty which filled him at the thought of the future. Joseph B. Ames, "The Secret of Spirit Lake," Boys' Life, September 1927

    If we get our victuals daily we can lift our voices gaily / In a song that chants farewell to carking care. Anonymous, "Cheer Up," The Rotarian, June 1920

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, April 13, 2018

    tub-thump

    verb [tuhb-thuhmp]
    Informal. to promote something or express opinions vociferously.
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    What is the origin of tub-thump?

    Tub-thump, a very rare word, is a back formation of tub-thumper “a vociferous supporter of a cause.” The verb tub-thump was coined by the British author Herman C. McNeile (1888–1937), whose pen name was “Sapper," and who wrote the series of thrillers whose hero was Bulldog Drummond. The only other author to use the verb tub-thump was the American poet and editor Ezra Pound (1885-1972). Tub-thump entered English in 1920.

    How is tub-thump used?

    Ever eager to tub-thump America's vast superiority, local civic chauvinists wanted our homegrown exposition to outstrip them all. Jean Zimmerman, Savage Girl, 2014

    Whereas the United States and many other countries are finding pollution control easier to tub-thump with than to implement, Britain has the existing machinery of the Alkali Inspectorate, the Clean Air Acts and the river authorities whose ambitious programmes were well under way before the word environment was heard in Westminster. Jon Tinker, "Environmental politician," New Scientist, April 22, 1971

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, April 12, 2018

    mercurial

    adjective [mer-kyoor-ee-uh l]
    changeable; volatile; fickle; flighty; erratic: a mercurial nature.
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    What is the origin of mercurial?

    The English adjective mercurial ultimately comes from the Latin adjective mercuriālis “of or pertaining to Mercurius“ (i.e., the god Mercury), whose original function was as god of commerce, transporters of goods (especially of grain), and shopkeepers. Latin also has the plural noun, derived from the adjective, Mercuriālēs, the name of a guild of merchants. Mercurius is related to merx (stem merc-) “goods, wares, commodities” (and the ultimate source of English merchant and merchandise). By classical times Mercury was completely identified with the Greek god Hermes—the messenger of the gods because he was fast-moving, and always on the move, negotiating, fast-talking, making deals, flimflamming, playing tricks. Mercurius also acquired the meaning “pertaining to the planet Mercury” (Stella Mercuriī, “Star of Mercury,” a translation of Greek astḕr toû Hermoû), the fastest moving of the planets. Mercurial entered English in the 14th century in the sense “pertaining to the planet Mercury.”

    How is mercurial used?

    A mercurial woman, elusive in her lifetime, Anne is still changing centuries after her death, carrying the projections of those who read and write about her. Hilary Mantel, "Author's Note," Bring Up the Bodies, 2012

    Agriculture, which was most of all to have profited from inflation, on the theory that the mercurial crop-prices would rise faster than anything else, actually suffered the most of all ... Sinclair Lewis, It Can't Happen Here, 1935

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