Word of the Day

Thursday, May 09, 2019

perspicacity

[ pur-spi-kas-i-tee ]

noun

keenness of mental perception and understanding; discernment; penetration.

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What is the origin of perspicacity?

Perspicacity ultimately comes from the Late Latin noun perspicācitās (inflectional stem perspicācitāt-) “sharp-sightedness, discernment,” a derivative of the Latin adjective perspicāx (inflectional stem perspicāc-) “sharp-sighted, penetrating, acute.” Perspicāx is a derivative of the verb perspicere “to inspect thoroughly, examine, look through, see through.” The prefix per– here is both literal (“to see or look through”) and intensive (“to examine thoroughly”). The combining form –spicere comes from specere “to see, observe, keep an eye on,” a Latin derivative of the Proto-Indo-European root spek-, spok– “look at closely, examine.” Greek metathesizes the root to skep– and skop– (as in the English derivatives skeptic and horoscope). The Germanic form of the root, speh-, is the source of English spy and espionage. Perspicacity entered English in the 16th century.

how is perspicacity used?

How well she deceived her father we shall have occasion to learn; but her innocent arts were of little avail before a person of the rare perspicacity of Mrs. Penniman.

Henry James, Washington Square, 1880

This early work shows that Saramago had yet to achieve his radical style, but his perspicacity and wit were already fully formed.

Carmela Ciuraru, "Newly Released Books; Skylight," New York Times, December 24, 2014
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Wednesday, May 08, 2019

blossom

[ blos-uhm ]

verb

to flourish; develop: a writer of commercial jingles who blossomed out into an important composer.

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What is the origin of blossom?

Blossom in both the noun and the verb senses dates back to Old English. The Old English verb blōstmian “to bloom, blossom, effloresce” is a derivative of the noun blōstm, blōstma, blōsma “blossom, flower.” The English words blossom, bloom, and blow (“a yield or display of blossoms”) are all Germanic derivatives of the Proto-Indo-European root bhel-, bhlē-, bhlō– (and other variants) “to thrive, bloom.” In Latin the root appears in flōs (inflectional stem flōr-) “flower“ (which via Old French yields English flower, flour, and flourish). English florescent comes straight from Latin flōrescent-, the inflectional stem of flōrescēns, the present participle of flōrescere “to come into bloom.” Other English derivatives from Latin include floral and folium “leaf,” which becomes, again through Old French, English foil. Greek has the noun phýllon “leaf,” whose most common English derivative is probably chlorophyll.

how is blossom used?

… the beauty of their island only blossomed the further through time they moved away from it.

Roxane Gay, An Untamed State, 2014

This bit of utilitarian Web ephemera [the hashtag], invented with functionality squarely in mind, has blossomed into a marvelous and underappreciated literary device.

Julia Turner, "#InPriaseOfTheHashtag," New York Times Magazine, November 2, 2012
Tuesday, May 07, 2019

camp

[ kamp ]

noun

something that provides sophisticated, knowing amusement, as by virtue of its being artlessly mannered or stylized, or self-consciously artificial and extravagant.

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What is the origin of camp?

Many explanations have been offered, but the etymology of camp “something that provides sophisticated, knowing amusement, as by virtue of its being artlessly mannered or stylized, or self-consciously artificial and extravagant” remains obscure. The term entered English in the early 1900s.

how is camp used?

Indeed the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.

Susan Sontag, "Notes on 'Camp'," Partisan Review, Vol. 31, No. 4, 1964

From “RuPaul’s Drag Race” to the current celebration of all things Warhol and Banksy’s self-destructing painting, Mr. Bolton sees the explosion of camp as a partial riposte to the corresponding rise of extreme conservatism and populism.

Vanessa Friedman, "Met Costume Institute Embraces 'Camp' for 2019 Blockbuster Show," New York Times, October 9, 2018

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