Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, March 05, 2018

peculate

[ pek-yuh-leyt ]

verb

to steal or take dishonestly (money, especially public funds, or property entrusted to one's care); embezzle.

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What is the origin of peculate?

Peculate derives from the Latin past participle and noun pecūlātus “embezzled, embezzlement,” derivative of the verb pecūlārī “to embezzle,” and itself a derivative of pecūlium “wealth in cattle, private property.” Latin suffers from an embarras de richesses of terms relating to misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement, and peculation. The Latin root noun behind all the corruption is pecu “cattle, large cattle,” the source of pecūnia “movable property, riches, wealth, money.” Latin pecu comes all but unchanged from Proto-Indo-European pek-, peku- “wealth, livestock, movable property.” Peku- becomes fehu- in Germanic, feoh “cattle, goods, money” in Old English, and fee in English. Peculate entered English in the 18th century.

how is peculate used?

The neglect of the Treasurer and the supineness of the President gave him the opportunity to peculate.

, "A Defaulting Secretary," New York Times, October 14, 1884

Right off the top of his head, James Madison could think of a lot of good reasons to impeach a President. He ticked off this list: “He might lose his capacity after his appointment. He might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers.” (To peculate is to embezzle.) It’s a very good list. Members of Congress might want to consult it.

Jill Lepore, “How Impeachment Ended Up in the Constitution,” The New Yorker, May 18, 2017
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Word of the day

Sunday, March 04, 2018

seriocomic

[ seer-ee-oh-kom-ik ]

adjective

partly serious and partly comic: a seriocomic play.

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What is the origin of seriocomic?

Seriocomic was first recorded in 1775-85. It links the words serious and comic with -o-, the typical ending of the first element of compounds of Greek origin, often used in English as a connective irrespective of etymology.

how is seriocomic used?

Suddenly, here toward the year’s end, when the new films are plunging toward the wire and the prospects of an Oscar-worthy long shot coming through get progressively more dim, there sweeps ahead a film that is not only one of the best of the year, but also one of the best seriocomic social satires we’ve had from Hollywood since Preston Sturges was making them.

Bosley Crowther, "The Graduate," New York Times, December 22, 1967

Jonesy had seen representations of him on a hundred “weird mysteries” TV shows, on the front pages of a thousand tabloid newspapers (the kind that shouted their serio-comic horrors at you as you stood prisoner in the supermarket checkout lanes) …

Stephen King, Dreamcatcher, 2001

Word of the day

Saturday, March 03, 2018

tzimmes

[ tsim-is ]

noun

fuss; uproar; hullabaloo: He made such a tzimmes over that mistake!

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What is the origin of tzimmes?

Tzimmes comes from Yiddish tsimes and is related to Swabian German zimmes, zimbes “compote, stew” and Swiss German zimis “lunch.” The German noun is a compound word, originally a prepositional phrase, formed from Middle High German z, ze, an unstressed variant of zuo “at, to” (German zu) and the Middle High German noun imbiz, imbīz “snack, light meal” (German Imbiss). Imbiz is a derivative of Old High German enbīzan “to take nourishment,” which is related to English in and bite. Tzimmes entered English in the late 19th century.

how is tzimmes used?

Don’t make a tzimmes out of it. You gonna upset the children …

Mary Doria Russell, Epitaph, 2015

Why do you have to make such a tzimmes over the maids’ stairs.

Péter Nádas, Parallel Stories, translated by Imre Goldstein, 2011

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