Word of the Day

Friday, April 03, 2020

personalia

[ pur-suh-ney-lee-uh, -neyl-yuh ]

plural noun

biographical data, personal reminiscences, or the like: He could never keep the personalia out of his essays.

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What is the origin of personalia?

Personalia is a noun use of the neuter plural form of the Latin adjective persōnālis “personal.” Persōnālis is not very common in Latin, being restricted to the law, as in beneficium persōnāle “personal benefit,” and grammar, as in verbum persōnāle “personal verb” (that is, a verb with three persons in both numbers). The modern English sense of personalia is a New Latin sense that first appeared in the 19th century.

how is personalia used?

Simply for its pictures of that old life, for its vivid anecdote, for its riches of personalia, and for its manly tone, the narrative is readable and delightful to a wonderful degree.

Royal Cortissoz, "Significant Art Books," The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 37, January 1906

But if the show is a bit hard to read (which is which?), the lavish catalog is a pleasure. With texts for each plate slyly sending up our fascination with personality and personalia, it is as engrossing as any new fiction.

, "Softly Treading Between Taste and Art," New York Times, March 16, 2008

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Thursday, April 02, 2020

aperçu

[ a-per-sy ]

noun

French.

an immediate estimate or judgment; understanding; insight.

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What is the origin of aperçu?

Aperçu, “a hasty glance or glimpse; an insight; an outline or summary,” is not at all naturalized in English, even retaining its French spelling (the cedilla under the c). Aperçu is the past participle of the verb apercevoir “to perceive, see, catch sight of,” a compound of the prefix a– (from Latin ad– “to,” here indicating direction or tendency) and the Old French verb perçoivre (Middle French, French percevoir), from Latin percipere “to obtain, seize, gather (crops), collect (taxes).” Percipere is a compound verb composed of the preposition and prefix per, per– “through,” here with an intensive meaning, and the simple verb capere “to take, take hold of, seize, capture.” Aperçu entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is aperçu used?

I once heard an author of young adult fiction being asked what her novel was about, and instead of explaining its adventure plot or sophisticated science- fiction premise, she said: “Kissing”. This was clearly self-deprecation, but it was also an aperçu about the pleasure that draws readers to a huge array of books ….

Sandra Newman, "The Binding by Bridget Collins review – magical tale of supernatural books," The Guardian, January 4, 2019

Kottke has been an engaging, likable omnipresence on the scene for as long as it has existed, serving up a daily blend of clean-crafted personal aperçus and fresh, literate links to tech, pop, and political news that is as brisk and cozy as Folgers in your cup.

Julian Dibbell, "Pay You, Pay Me," Village Voice, February 22, 2005

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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

credulous

[ krej-uh-luhs ]

adjective

willing to believe or trust too readily, especially without proper or adequate evidence; gullible.

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What is the origin of credulous?

Credulous comes from the Latin adjective crēdulus “inclined to believe or trust, trustful, credulous, rash.” The first part of crēdulus comes from the verb crēdere “to believe, trust, entrust,” most likely a compound of Proto-Indo-European kerd-, kred- (and other variants) “heart” and -dere, a combining form meaning “to put, place,” from the root dhē-, dhō-, with the same meaning. Latin crēdere “to place my heart” is a very ancient religious term that has an exact correspondence with Sanskrit śrad-dadhāti “he trusts,” and Old Irish cretim “I trust.” The second part of crēdulus is the diminutive noun and adjective suffix –ulus, which frequently has a pejorative sense, as in rēgulus “petty king, chieftain.” Credulous entered English in the mid-16th century.

how is credulous used?

When the British news network aired a three-minute segment about Swiss spaghetti farmers plucking long strands of pasta straight from tree branches, hundreds of credulous viewers wrote in asking how they could cultivate their own spaghetti tree.

Sarah Kaplan, "A brief, totally sincere history of April Fools' Day," Washington Post, March 31, 2016

I did not believe half of what she told me: I pretended to laugh at it all; but I was far more credulous than I myself supposed.

Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey, 1847

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