Word of the Day

Friday, May 25, 2018

pasquinade

[ pas-kwuh-neyd ]

noun

a satire or lampoon, especially one posted in a public place.

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What is the origin of pasquinade?

English pasquinade comes via French pasquinade from Italian pasquinata “a satire, lampoon,” a derivative of Pasquino, supposedly the name of a local Roman schoolmaster (or tailor, or shoemaker, or barber), and the nickname given to a 3rd-century b.c. fragment of statuary discovered in 1501 (now known to be Menelaus carrying the body of Patroclus). Cardinal Oliviero Carafa (1430-1511), an Italian cleric and diplomat, set the fragment up at the corner of his palace (the Palazzo Orsini, now the Palazzo Braschi), near the Piazza Navona, and began or encouraged the yearly custom to “restore” the fragment on the feast of St. Mark (April 25th) and clothe it in the costume of a mythological or historical character. University professors and their students paid “homage” to the statue by posting Latin verses (pasquinate) on the fragment. Over time these verses became anonymous satires written in Romanesco (the Italian dialect of Rome). Pasquinade entered English in the 17th century.

how is pasquinade used?

When Michaelis’s testimony at the inquest brought to light Wilson’s suspicions of his wife I thought the whole tale would shortly be served up in racy pasquinade

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925

There are several pasquinades up now, commenting on Berlusconi’s recent visit to Washington and his subsequent defense in the Italian Parliament of Italy’s support for the war in Iraq.

, "Ask Pasquino," The New Yorker, June 7, 2004
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Thursday, May 24, 2018

antemeridian

[ an-tee-muh-rid-ee-uhn ]

adjective

occurring before noon.

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What is the origin of antemeridian?

The Latin adverbial phrase ante merīdiem means “before midday, before noon.” The noun merīdiēs is a dissimilation of medīdiēs “middle of the day, midday, south,” formed from the adjective medius “middle, middle of” and the noun diēs “day.” The Roman polymath Varro (c116-c27 b.c.) wrote that he saw the archaic or dialectal form medīdiēs on a sundial in Praeneste (modern Palestrina), a town east southeast of Rome. Antemeridian entered English in the 16th century.

how is antemeridian used?

And what, pray tell, is the point of “Twitter”? Seriously, I don’t “get” it. I meanest, I see what people use it for; I simply do not comprehend the urge to share publicly thy basest observations about celebrated thespians during ceremonies of awards and the quality of thy antemeridian coffee …

Teddy Wayne, "My Kingdom for an English Course!" New York Times, November 9, 2013

In the first antemeridian hours there was a lull in the restless hotel night.

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, 1955
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

flubdub

[ fluhb-duhb ]

noun

pretentious nonsense or show; airs.

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What is the origin of flubdub?

There is no etymology other than “fanciful coinage” or “of unknown origin” for flubdub. It is used as a common noun but first appears in print as a surname in 1885.

how is flubdub used?

He had, by intently listening to lawyers who had delivered him from justice in the 43 times he had stood prisoner before city and county courts, acquired an astonishing hash of legalistic flubdub.

Meyer Berger, "Murder Inc.: Justice Overtakes the Largest and Most Cruel Gang of Killers in U.S. History," Life, September 30, 1940

Next to seeing a ballgame, the best thing is to sit in the studio with Mr. Barber and watch and listen as he takes the skeletonized report of a game coming over the telegraph wire and wraps up the bare bones with flubdub and pads it out and feeds it to the customers so it sounds as though he, and they, were seeing the plays.

Red Smith, "It's All Genuine, Although Synthetic," New York Herald Tribune, August 28, 1946

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