Word of the Day

Thursday, November 07, 2019

picayune

[ pik-ee-yoon, pik-uh- ]

adjective

Informal.

of little value or account; small; trifling: a picayune amount.

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What is the origin of picayune?

In the early 1800s in Louisiana, Florida, and other Southern U.S. states, the noun picayune designated a coin equal to a Spanish half-real, which was worth a mere six-and-one-quarter cents. Picayune comes from Provençal picaioun (compare French picaillons “money”), a type of copper coin from the historical region of Savoy in southeastern France. While the picayune, as currency, fell out of circulation in the U.S., the word picayune did not. Picayune—on the basis of the coin’s paltry sum—extended as an adjective meaning “of little value or account; small; trifling.” The name of the former coin also survives in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which cost one picayune when the newspaper was established (as The Picayune) in 1837.

how is picayune used?

The point is less to dwell on the picayune details of what was once known as the “browser wars” than to show how hard it is to escape the hold these companies’ ecosystems have on our lives.

Jacob Silverman, "Breaking up Big Tech may be impossible. It's still worth trying." Washington Post, June 5, 2019

“My client is determined to have his day in court.” “But why?” Swan said. “It’s such a picayune amount of money.”

Matt Braun, Dodge City, 2006
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Wednesday, November 06, 2019

turophobia

[ tur-uh-foh-bee-uh ]

noun

an irrational or disproportionate fear of cheese.

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What is the origin of turophobia?

People who desperately avoid cheese may at least be pleased to learn there is a word they can use for their experience: turophobia “an irrational or disproportionate fear of cheese.” This term is formed on tur-, a variant of Greek tȳrós “cheese” and -phobia, a combining form meaning “fear,” itself from Greek phóbos “fear, panic.” Fear not, cheese lovers: a turophile is a connoisseur or lover of cheese, with –phile a Greek-derived combining form meaning “lover of.” Turophobia is fairly new formation in English, recorded in the early 2000s.

how is turophobia used?

Stossel’s own fears include turophobia, a fear of cheese; asthenophobia, a fear of fainting; and claustrophobia.

, "Fear of Fainting, Flight And Cheese: One Man's 'Age of Anxiety'," NPR, January 6, 2014

What is your main character’s worst fear? Is it something universal, like the death of a loved one? Or a rare phobia, like turophobia (fear of cheese).

Sarah Ockler, "10 Prompts to Get You Out of a NaNoWriRut," The NanoWriMo Blog, November 6, 2015
Tuesday, November 05, 2019

thither

[ thith-er, thith- ]

adverb

to or toward that place or point; there.

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What is the origin of thither?

The adverb thither “to or toward that place or point; there” is an old one in English. Its original form in Old English was thæder, altered to thider (among other forms) due to hider. This adverb hider evolved into a word thither frequently appears together with: hither, as in hither and thither “here and there.” Thither was largely replaced by there (as hither was by here). If you go back far enough in time, you’ll find that thither and there share a common root, as do many humble English function words beginning with th-, including that, this, and the.

how is thither used?

We told them that we were travelling, that we had been transported thither, and that they had nothing to fear from us.

Emanuel Swedenborg, Earths in the Universe, 1758, translated 1860

He was a thorough-going old Tory … who seldom himself went near the metropolis, unless called thither by some occasion of cattle-showing.

Anthony Trollope, The Small House at Allington, 1864

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