Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, February 20, 2021

pharaonic

[ fair-ey-on-ik, far- ]

adjective

impressively or overwhelmingly large, luxurious, etc.

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What is the origin of pharaonic?

The adjective pharaonic, “pertaining to or like a Pharaoh; impressively or overwhelmingly large,” is a derivative of the noun Pharaoh. Pharaoh comes via Late Latin Pharaō (inflectional stem Pharaōn-) from Greek Pharaṓ (inflectional stem Pharaōn-), from Hebrew parʿō, from Egyptian prʿʾ (probably pronounced like the Hebrew parʿō) “great house” (the order is the noun pr-, then the adjective ʿʾ). In Egyptian pr-ʿʾ was not the name of a Pharaoh, but the name of a Pharaoh’s (palatial) residence, very like our own “The White House.” Pharaonic entered English toward the end of the 18th century.

how is pharaonic used?

He retired in 2017 to devote himself to new projects, notably raising funds for a somewhat pharaonic museum dedicated to East Africa’s ecology and its status as a birthplace of prehistoric man.

Jon Lee Anderson, "A Kenyan Ecologist's Crusade to Save Her Country's Wildlife," The New Yorker, January 25, 2021

A teapot bunker retails for just shy of $40,000; a more pharaonic model, complete with swimming pool and hot tub, bowling alley, and home theater, goes for $8 million.

Annie Lowrey, "The Bunker Magnates Hate to Say They Told You So," The Atlantic, September 15, 2020

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Word of the day

Friday, February 19, 2021

snollygoster

[ snol-ee-gos-ter ]

noun

a clever, unscrupulous person.

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What is the origin of snollygoster?

Snollygoster “a clever, unscrupulous person,” is an American slang term that first appears in print in 1845 in Marion County, Indiana. As with many, if not most slang terms, there is no reliable etymology for the word. Some authorities have suggested that snollygoster is a variant of snallygaster, a mythical monster that preys on poultry and children and is supposedly found in Maryland, but the earliest citation for snallygaster is 1940, nearly a century after snollygoster.

how is snollygoster used?

But the people will awaken, and all that will be left of the snollygoster will be an unsavory blotch on the history of American politics.

Fred L. Carr, "College Record," North Carolina University Magazine, November 1893

President Reagan has done for succotash what President Truman did for snollygoster: put the spotlight of pitiless publicity on an obscure Americanism.

William Safire, "The Meaning of Depression," New York Times, April 11, 1982

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Thursday, February 18, 2021

prosopopoeia

[ proh-soh-puh-pee-uh ]

noun

personification, as of inanimate things.

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What is the origin of prosopopoeia?

You can charge a lot for a learned Greek word like prosopopoeia, a term in rhetoric meaning “personification, as of inanimate things; imaging an absent or dead person as speaking or acting.” Prosopoeia is very effective when a master like Demosthenes or Cicero uses it, not so much when it’s badly bungled in a sermon. Prosopoeia comes via Latin prosopopoeia from Greek prosōpoiía “putting speeches in the mouths of characters, dramatization.” Prosōpoiía is composed of the noun prósōpon “face, countenance, person” and the Greek combining form –poiía “making, creating,” a derivative of the verb poieîn “to make” (ultimate source of English poesy and poetry). Prósōpon, literally “opposite the face (of the other),” is composed of the preposition and prefix pros-, pros “toward, in the face of” and the noun ṓps “eye, face, countenance.” Prosopopoeia entered English in the mid-16th century.

how is prosopopoeia used?

Over the 14 lines of the sonnet, the poem moves from making a negative comparison to the Colossus of Rhodes to animating the “new Colossus” with a voice, an instance of what literary critics call personification or, to use the more unwieldy term, prosopopoeia

Walt Hunter, "The Story Behind the Poem on the Statue of Liberty," The Atlantic, January 16, 2018

Lord Byron’s very numerous comparisons, all admirable, and often under the form of a prosopopoeia, are indicative of the warm imagination which clothed inanimate shapes with the breathing realities of life …

"Recollections of Shelley and Byron," Westminster Review, Vol. 69, 1858

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