Word of the Day

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Perseid

[ pur-see-id ]

noun

Astronomy. any of a shower of meteors appearing in August and radiating from a point in the constellation Perseus.

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What is the origin of Perseid?

Perseid may have been introduced into English from Italian Perseidi, coined by the distinguished Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910), who is unfortunately best remembered today for the mistranslation into English of Italian canali “channels” on Mars as “canals,” which has inspired decades and decades of science fiction. Perseid ultimately comes from Greek Perseídēs “offspring or daughters of Perseus,” because the meteors appear to be coming from the constellation Perseus. Perseid entered English in the 19th century.

how is Perseid used?

Comet Swift-Tuttle is the largest object known to repeatedly pass by Earth; its nucleus is about 16 miles (26 kilometers) wide. It last passed nearby Earth during its orbit around the sun in 1992, and the next time will be in 2126. But it won’t be forgotten in the meantime, because Earth passes through the dust and debris it leaves behind every year, creating the annual Perseid meteor shower.

Sarah Lewin, "Perseid Meteor Shower 2018: When, Where & How to See It," Space.com, July 9, 2018

The Perseids also feature “fireballs,” which are meteors of bright color and longer streaks that sometimes have “magnitudes greater than -3.”

Aimée Lutkin, "How to Watch the Perseids Meteor Showers This Season," Lifehacker, July 9, 2018
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Saturday, August 11, 2018

decorous

[ dek-er-uhs, dih-kawr-uhs, -kohr- ]

adjective

characterized by dignified propriety in conduct, manners, appearance, character, etc.

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What is the origin of decorous?

The English adjective decorous ultimately derives from Latin decōrus “acceptable, fitting, proper.” The adjective decōrus is a derivative of the noun decus (inflectional stem decor-) “esteem, honor.” The Latin words derive from the Proto-Indo-European root dek-, dok- “to accept, take,” from which Latin also derives the verb decēre “to be acceptable, be fitting,” whose present participle stem decent- is the source of English decent. From the root dok- Latin forms the verb docēre “to teach (i.e., to make acceptable, make fitting).” The English derivatives of docēre include doctrine and docent. The same root appears in Greek dokeîn “to expect, suppose, imagine, seem, seem good,” and its derivative nouns dógma “what seems good, opinion, belief,” source of English dogma, and dóxa “expectation, opinion, estimation, repute,” and in the Septuagint and the New Testament, “glory, splendor,” which forms the first element in doxology “hymn of praise.” Decorous entered English in the 17th century.

how is decorous used?

If you think British historical dramas are all decorous whisperings about how one should behave upon meeting the queen, this mini-series is here to prove that notion wrong …

Joanna Scutts, "The Very Real Story Behind A Very English Scandal," Slate, July 4, 2018

The normally decorous Senate has been rocked by heated confrontations this week as fellow Republicans have traded personal and profane insults over how much loyalty to show President Trump.

Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim, "Animosity in the Senate as GOP trades insults over criticism of Trump," Washington Post, June 14, 2018
Friday, August 10, 2018

agora

[ ag-er-uh ]

noun

the place where a popular political assembly met in Ancient Greece, originally a marketplace or public square.

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What is the origin of agora?

In Greek agorá originally meant “assembly,” especially of the common people, not of the ruling class. Agorá gradually developed the meanings “marketplace, the business that goes on in the marketplace, public speaking.” The Greek noun is a derivative of the verb ageírein “to gather,” from the Proto-Indo-European root ger-, gere- “to gather, collect,” source also of Latin grex “flock, herd,” with its English derivatives aggregate, egregious, and gregarious. Agora entered English in the late 16th century.

how is agora used?

In the fall of 1964, left-wing students at U.C. Berkeley demanded the right to hand out antiwar literature on Sproul Plaza, the red brick agora at the center of the campus.

Andrew Marantz, "How Social-Media Trolls Turned U.C. Berkeley Into a Free-Speech Circus," The New Yorker, July 2, 2018

… it has become a commonplace among ancient historians to single out the agora as the political centre of the polis where the people met to make all important decisions or, in oligarchies and tyrannies, to rubber stamp the decisions made by the rulers.

, "The Agora as the Political Centre of the Polis," The Polis as an Urban Centre and as a Political Community, Symposium, August 29–31, 1996

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