Word of the Day

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


[ pee-chuh-ree-noh ]


Informal: Older Use.

person or thing that is especially attractive, liked, or enjoyed.

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What is the origin of peacherino?

Slang terms are notoriously difficult to etymologize, and peacherino is a slang term. Peacherino, with the variant spellings or words peachamaroot, peacherine, peachermaroot, is American in origin, formed from peach in the sense “someone or something especially attractive, liked, or enjoyed,” and the suffix –erino, of uncertain origin, but possibly from the suffix –eroo (of uncertain origin itself) augmented by the Spanish or Italian diminutive suffix –ino. The suffix –erino has its own variants, such as –arina, –arino, –erama, –ereeno, –erine. Peacherino entered English in the late 19th century.

how is peacherino used?

“It’s a peacherino!” declared Tom enthusiastically. “Just wait till you see it and listen to the music coming in.”

A. Hyatt Verrill, The Radio Detectives, 1922

Here’s a peacherino: “The dieter who is limited to one slide of bread per meal should divide it into four quarters. This gives him the feeling that he has had access to four slices of bread.”

Earl Wilson, "All the Diet Secrets," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, May 15, 1957
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Monday, August 26, 2019


[ ih-lek-ter-it ]


the body of persons entitled to vote in an election.

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What is the origin of electorate?

Electorate is composed of two elements derived from Latin. The first is elector “voter,” from Late Latin ēlēctor “chooser,” formed from ēligere “to pluck out, pick out, choose” and –tor, a suffix forming agent nouns. The second is –ate, a suffix denoting “office (or person performing it), function, institution, collective body, etc.,” as in professorate (the office of professor, group of professors); –ate is ultimately from Latin –ātus, as seen in augurātus “the office of augur” or senātus “senate (of Rome).” Electorate is first attested in English the late 17th century.

At that time, the elector in electorate referred to a very different voter than the word evokes today: an Elector (German Kurfürst) was a German prince of the Holy Roman Empire who could cast a vote in the election of the German king (Emperor). Elector was a powerful office until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806; the territory the electors oversaw was their electorate, e.g., Elector of Cologne. It wasn’t the late 19th century that electorate was recorded as “body of persons entitled to vote in an election”—a group that was dramatically, and finally, expanded to include women in the U.S. with the certification on August 26, 1920, of the Nineteenth Amendment, which enshrined women’s suffrage in the Constitution.

how is electorate used?

The passage of the Nineteenth Amendment nearly doubled the size of the electorate in the United States.

Heather L. Ondercin, "The Evolution of Women's (and Men's) Partisan Attachments," 100 Years of the Nineteenth Amendment, 2018

… the views of Democrats on social media often bear little resemblance to those of the wider Democratic electorate.

Nate Cohn and Kevin Quealy, "The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate," New York Times, April 9, 2019
Sunday, August 25, 2019


[ dvahn-dvah, dvuhn-dvuh ]



a compound word neither element of which is subordinate to the other, as bittersweet.

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What is the origin of dvandva?

Dvandva, literally meaning “a pair,” is a Sanskrit technical term used exclusively in grammar and linguistics. (By the end of the second millennium b.c., Hindu Brahmans had invented and developed the science of descriptive linguistics, including phonology, phonetics, metrics, grammar, and etymology, in order to preserve the correct pronunciation and oral transmission of the Vedas). Dvandva is a reduplication of dva “two,” closely related to Latin duo, Greek dýo (also dýō and dýwe), Slavic (Czech) dva, Germanic (Gothic) twa, and Old Irish da, all derived from Proto-Indo-European duwo. Dvandva entered English in the 19th century.

how is dvandva used?

These days, it’s hard to tell leftists and liberals apart without an agenda. Hence the increasing popularity of ”liberal-leftist,” which merges categories on the model of compounds like ”toaster-oven” and ”owner-occupier.” (Linguists call those ”dvandvas,” a term invented by the Sanskrit grammarians.)

Geoffrey Nunberg, "Sticks and Stones; The Defanging of a Radical Epithet," New York Times, August 17, 2003

Dvandva compounds can be doubly pluralized, but only when the first noun is irregular: men-children, menfish, menservants, gentlemen-farmers, women writers, and women-doctors, but not boys-kinds, girlsfriends, or players-coaches.

Steven Pinker, Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language, 1999
Saturday, August 24, 2019


[ tekst-ley-shuhn-ship, teks‐ ]



a relationship or association between people who text each other frequently, but rarely if ever interact with each other in person: I thought he was interested in me, but we never even went out—it was just a textlationship.

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What is the origin of textlationship?

In English, the consonant cluster –xtl– in textlationship is awkward and rare. Textlationship is a neologism composed of text (message) and (re)lationship. The electronic medium is new, but a relationship, especially a romantic one, carried on at a distance through letters, has a long history. The word textlationship entered English in the early 21st century.

how is textlationship used?

Harry’s cottoning onto a textlationship might add meaning to one of his other recent stunts—dashing across the finish line of a Brazilian charity run … wearing a paper mask of his brother’s face. Let the soap opera begin!

Bridget Arsenault and Sarah Ball, "Royal Watch: Kate Plays Field Hockey in Colored Denim, Harry and Pippa's Textlationship," Vanity Fair, March 15, 2012

Friendships can dwindle to textlationships, but it’s especially frustrating when a former or potential lover keeps you at arm’s length.

Ariel Zeitlin, "10 Online Dating Terms You Need to Know Now," Reader's Digest, June 21, 2019
Friday, August 23, 2019


[ snoot ]

verb (used with object)

to behave disdainfully toward; condescend to: New arrivals in the town were snooted by older residents.

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What is the origin of snoot?

The English noun snoot is a Scottish variant of snout “the nose, muzzle.” Snout and snoot are akin to Middle Low German and Middle Dutch snute, German Schnauze, and more remotely to Old English gesnot “nasal mucus” (English snot), Middle Low German and Middle Dutch snotte, and German schneuzen “to blow one’s nose.” The verb snoot “to behave disdainfully toward; condescend to,” a derivative of the noun snoot, is an Americanism dating only to the late 1920s. The noun snoot entered English in the early 1860s.

how is snoot used?

“I happen to be one of those people who knows what they’re talking about,” he snoots. The ghastly oil paintings in Rae Smith’s design suggest otherwise.

Matt Trueman, "London Theater Review: David Hare's 'The Moderate Soprano'," Variety, October 30, 2015

His retention of old tropes is no more inherently sentimental than the myth of progress that led some modernists to snoot him.

Peter Schjeldahl, "The Stubborn Genius of Auguste Rodin," The New Yorker, October 2, 2017
Thursday, August 22, 2019


[ hahy-per-bol-ik ]



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What is the origin of hyperbolic?

The adjective hyerbolic has two distinct senses, both of them from the same Greek word hyperbolḗ “superiority, excess (in geometry), extravagance (in rhetoric),” literally “a throwing beyond.” In rhetoric hyperbolḗ means “an overstrained word or expression, a strong statement,” as in “I could eat a horse!” The geometric sense of hyperbolḗ (via New Latin hyperbola) is the curve formed by the intersection of a plane with a right circular cone when the plane makes a greater angle (that is, the plane makes a hyperbolḗ) with the base than does the generator of the cone. Hyperbolic in the rhetorical sense entered English about 1646; the geometry sense entered English about 1676.

how is hyperbolic used?

… his hyperbolic rhetoric and his lack of attention to the concrete realities of reform will make it harder for even his sensible ideas to work.

James Surowieki, "Morales's Mistake," The New Yorker, January 15, 2006

“Ignore the sound of people retching and sobbing and remember to keep your pace constant and very slow,” is the slightly hyperbolic description from Henry Stedman’s guide to climbing the mountain.

Nadia Drake, "The Gear That Got Me to the Top of Kilimanjaro," Wired, September 21, 2015
Wednesday, August 21, 2019


[ om-fuh-loh-skep-sis ]


contemplation of one's navel as part of a mystical exercise; navel-gazing.

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What is the origin of omphaloskepsis?

It is not surprising that omphaloskepsis, a noun meaning “contemplating one’s navel” and implying contempt, first occurs in Aldous Huxley’s satirical novel Those Barren Leaves (1925). (The equally dismissive adjective omphaloskeptical is first recorded in 1978). It is easy to deconstruct omphaloskepsis: omphalós in Greek means “navel, bellybutton, a boss on a shield,” which comes from the very common Proto-Indo-European root enebh– with variants embh-, ombh-, nobh-, nōbh-, nebh– “bellybutton, boss of a shield, hub of a wheel.” Enebh– is the source of Latin umbilīcus “bellybutton” (from ombh-) and umbō “the boss of a shield” (also from ombh-); Sanskrit nābhīlam “bellybutton” (from nōbh-); Old Irish imblin, imbliu “bellybutton” (from embh-); Old High German naba and Old English nafu, both meaning “hub” (from nobh-); Old High German nabalo and Old English nafela, both meaning “bellybutton” (English navel).

The Greek noun and combining form sképsis, –skepsis “viewing, perception, examination, speculation” is a derivative of the verb sképtesthai “to look around, look back, consider, survey, spy on.” Sképtesthai comes from much earlier Greek skepjesthai, from the Greek root skep– and the present tense suffix –j– (representing the same sound as in yet). Latin has the verb specere “to look at, see, observe,” whose present tense form speciō shows the same suffix –j-. The Latin root is spec– (i.e., spek-) and the Greek is skep-: which one is “correct”? The answer comes from other languages: Germanic has spehōn “to watch, spy on” (from Proto-Indo-European spek-), Sanskrit has spáśati “he sees” (from the Sanskrit root spaś-, from earlier speś-, from an even earlier spek-). Greek “loses.”

how is omphaloskepsis used?

Finally the flesh dies and putrefies; and the spirit presumably putrefies too. And there’s an end of your omphaloskepsis, with all its by-products, God and justice and salvation and all the rest of them.

Aldous Huxley, Those Barren Leaves, 1925

The court understands that many a writer is writing high-mindedly only for himself. Or herself. Fine! But such an exercise in omphaloskepsis will buy no brioches for breakfast.

James J. Kilpatrick, "You Should Write to Be Understood," The Free-Lance Star, January 14, 2006

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