• Word of the day
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    Monday, March 05, 2018

    peculate

    verb [pek-yuh-leyt]
    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
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    Sunday, March 04, 2018

    seriocomic

    adjective [seer-ee-oh-kom-ik]
    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

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, March 03, 2018

    tzimmes

    noun [tsim-is]
    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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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, March 02, 2018

    phub

    verb [fuhb]
    Slang. to ignore (a person or one's surroundings) when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device: Hey, are you phubbing me?
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    What is the origin of phub?

    Phub was first recorded in 2010–14. It blends the words phone and snub.

    How is phub used?

    I found myself glancing at my phone in the middle of conversations ... conveniently forgetting how annoyed I felt when other people phubbed me. Catherine Price, How to Break Up with Your Phone, 2018

    What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction. Jo Piazza, How to Be Married, 2017

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, March 01, 2018

    aberration

    noun [ab-uh-rey-shuh n]
    the act of departing from the right, normal, or usual course.
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    What is the origin of aberration?

    The English noun aberration has wandered far from its Latin original. Cicero (106-43 b.c.) is the first (and only) Latin author to use the noun aberrātiō “distraction, diversion, relief (from pain or sorrow).” Aberrātiō is a derivative of the verb aberrāre “to divert, forget for a time; to wander off, go astray, deviate.” Aberration entered English in the 16th century.

    How is aberration used?

    They don't want to believe that the United States is opposed to action on global warming. They’d rather see the Trump administration as an aberration. Lisa Friedman and Brad Plumer, "Introducing Our Newsletter, Climate Fwd:" New York Times, November 15, 2017

    I had never fought or thrown a punch at anyone. It was an aberration to my father, and he had instilled in me this idea of physical violence as an aberration. David Adams Richards, Mercy Among the Children, 2000

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, February 28, 2018

    ufology

    noun [yoo-fol-uh-jee]
    the study of unidentified flying objects.
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    What is the origin of ufology?

    Ufology was first recorded in 1955-60.

    How is ufology used?

    The First International Congress on the U.F.O. Phenomenon, which ended here yesterday, brought the two groups uncomfortably together, and, after a week of heated debate, a single theory of ufology seemed further away tha[n] ever. Alan Riding, "Scientists and Laymen in Conflict At World Conference on U.F.O.'s," New York Times, April 25, 1977

    The history of ufology shows the complex psychology of fringe beliefs. Julie Beck, "What UFOs Mean for Why People Don't Trust Science," The Atlantic, February 18, 2016

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, February 27, 2018

    goldilocks

    adjective [gohl-dee-loks]
    (usually initial capital letter) not being extreme or not varying drastically between extremes, especially between hot and cold: a Goldilocks economy that is neither overheated nor too cold to cause arecession; a goldilocks planet such as Earth.
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    What is the origin of goldilocks?

    Little new or unknown can be said about Goldilocks, but in the late 1980s astronomers began using the phrases Goldilocks planet or Goldilocks zone for planets in our solar system exoplanets that are not too hot, not too cold for supporting life (as we know it on earth).

    How is goldilocks used?

    For future generations to realize the search for distant “Goldilocks planets,” this generation must work harder to protect our own. Alan S. Fintz, "Letter to the Editor: The Good Earth," New York Times, February 1, 2011

    Short-story collections prove to be a solution to folks who are “too busy to read” or are trying to find a way to break up a monotonous commute becoming the “just right” in a Goldilocks situation. Nicole Y. Chung, "9 short-story collections we can't wait to read this fall," Washington Post, September 18, 2017

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