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Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, September 26, 2021

perfidy

[ pur-fi-dee ]

noun

deliberate breach of faith or trust; faithlessness; treachery.

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What is the origin of perfidy?

Perfidy “deliberate breach of faith or trust” derives from Latin perfidia “faithlessness,” from the adjective perfidus, literally meaning “through faith” but more accurately translated as “beyond the limits of faith.” The base of perfidus is fidēs “trust, honesty, faith,” which is related to the verb fīdere “to trust,” and both terms are the source of numerous trust-related words, such as confidence, defiance, fealty, and fidelity. Perfidy was first recorded in English in the late 1500s.

how is perfidy used?

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat [sic] the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

Thomas Jefferson, et al., The Declaration of Independence, July, 4, 1776

Perhaps the only thing stranger than my circuitous locution in English is my sheepishness in ordering General Tso’s in Chinese in front of other Chinese people, uttering a name that is simultaneously so evidently Chinese and not-Chinese that its very pronunciation presents, at least to this neurotic immigrant, a paralyzing problem of cultural fidelity and perfidy.

Jiayang Fan, "Searching for America with General Tso," The New Yorker, March 12, 2015

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Word of the day

Saturday, September 25, 2021

codicil

[ kod-uh-suhl ]

noun

any supplement; appendix.

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What is the origin of codicil?

Codicil “any supplement; appendix” derives via Late Latin cōdicillus from Latin cōdex (stem cōdic-) “bound book” or, earlier, “piece of wood” or “tree trunk.” This semantic shift from “part of a tree” to “book” is rather common in world languages; the word book is likely connected to the beech tree, and Latin liber “book” originally referred to the inner bark of a tree. Cōdex is a variant of caudex, with the same meaning, of uncertain origin, though a connection to Latin cauda or cōda “tail” has been suggested. An additional theory is a derivation from the Proto-Indo-European root kau- “to hit, strike,” as a tree must be struck and cut down to obtain wood; if this theory is correct, caudex would be a cognate of the English words hew “to strike forcibly with an ax” and hay “grass cut and dried for use as forage.” Codicil was first recorded in English in the late 1300s or early 1400s.

how is codicil used?

William Ernest Hocking, an emeritus professor of philosophy at Harvard … considered the First Amendment “glorious” but “potentially mischievous,” and he took it upon himself to recalibrate it. Initially he proposed adding a codicil to the Bill of Rights stating that its freedoms extend only to those who exercise them responsibly. Other commission members resisted a rewrite of the Constitution, so he came up with a way to reconceive it without changing the text.

Stephen Bates, “The Man Who Wanted to Save the First Amendment by Inverting It,” The Atlantic, October 7, 2020

I’m still on board with the scientists who believe that advances in AI will make life better for all of us. Ultimately, using the power of computation for cognition is a great and historic human enterprise. But may I add a codicil to that declaration? Always check the printouts.

Stephen Levy, "What Deep Blue Tells Us About AI in 2017," Wired, May 23, 2017

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Word of the day

Friday, September 24, 2021

butte

[ byoot ]

noun

an isolated hill or mountain rising abruptly above the surrounding land.

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What is the origin of butte?

Butte “an isolated hill or mountain rising abruptly above the surrounding land” is a borrowing from French, in which it means “small hill, mound.” ​​In Old French, butte referred specifically to a mound or structure used for archery practice and also to the target itself, which is why modern French but means “aim, goal.” Despite its enduring place in the French language, butte was originally a borrowing from a Germanic source such as Frankish or Old Norse, in which the word meant something like “piece” or “end part.” Butte was first recorded in English in the mid-1600s.

how is butte used?

Bears are a common thread among the Indigenous tribal stories about the origins of this iconic butte, and most Indigenous names for the tower reference bears. A Kiowa legend tells of seven girls who were attacked by bears. One of the girls prayed to the rock for help, and the rock began to grow, pushing the girls out of the bears’ reach. When the bears jumped to reach the girls, they fell to the ground, scratching the rock and creating the deep grooves you see in the butte.

Amber Share, Subpar Parks: America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors, 2021

You need a map to find Paris’s Butte aux Cailles, but that’s one of the best things about it….Incidentally, at an elevation of about 190 feet, it’s not much of a butte—just high enough up to feel better off than the rest of this rapidly changing part of Paris.

Deborah Baldwin, "Oui Oui, Hon: Baltimore in Paris," Washington Post, Sunday, July 13, 1997

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