Of The Day
the capability of being molded, receiving shape, or being made to assume a desired form: the plasticity of social institutions.
Plasticity is made up of plastic and the noun suffix –ity. Plastic comes via Latin plasticus “for molding or modeling,” from Greek plastikós with the same meanings. Plastikós is a derivative of the verb plássein, pláttein “to mold, form.” Other derivatives from the Greek include plaster, from Medieval Latin plastrum “plaster (both medical and building senses),” ultimately an alteration of Greek émplaston “molded on, daubed”; plastid “an organelle of plant cells”; plastique (as in the explosive); and plastron “a piece of armor; part of a turtle’s shell.” Plasticity entered English in the 18th century.
Studies reveal adolescence to be a period of heightened “plasticity” during which the brain is highly influenced by experience.
Comic actors, like dramatic ones, have their comfortable niches, from Bill Murray’s sardonic schlubbism to Jim Carrey’s manic plasticity.
an abnormal fear of flowers.
Anthophobia, “an abnormal fear of flowers,” is surely one of the odder phobias, as opposed to acrophobia “an abnormal fear of heights” or arachnophobia “an abnormal fear of spiders” or—a good one!—chiroptophobia “an abnormal fear of bats (the flying mammal).” Anthophobia is composed of two Greek nouns: ánthos “flower” and the combining form –phobíā “fear.” Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) suffered from anthophobia, especially of a fear of roses, which has no technical name. Anthophobia entered English in the 19th century.
And if you dislike the task of summer gardening, you may even be a victim of anthophobia, the fear of flowers, although that’s a rare malady indeed.
Queen Elizabeth I is said to have been terrorized by roses, a subcategory of anthophobia, a generalized fear of flowers.
a hypothetical collection of identical or diverse universes, including our own.
Multiverse, a combination of the common prefix multi– and (uni)verse, nowadays means “a hypothetical collection of identical or diverse universes, ours included,” a sense first suggested in 1952 by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961). Multiverse, however, was coined by the American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842–1910). Multiverse to James was an alternative to or an opposite of universe and meant “the universe imagined as lacking order, unity, or a single ruling and guiding power.” James used multiverse in a lecture “Is Life Worth Living?” in 1895.
Multiverse proponents advocate the idea that there may exist innumerable other universes, some of them with totally different physics and numbers of spatial dimensions; and that you, I and everything else may exist in countless copies.
Ten days before he died, Stephen Hawking sent one more written insight out into the cosmos—a paper, co-written with physicist Thomas Hertog of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, tackling the problem of a multiverse.
the character defect that causes the downfall of the protagonist of a tragedy; tragic flaw.
In Greek the noun hamartíā means “failure, fault, error (of judgment), guilt, sin.” Hamartia, if familiar at all, will be familiar as the term that the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 b.c.) uses in his Poetics for the personal defect or frailty—the tragic flaw—that brings about the ruin of a prosperous or eminent man who is neither utterly villainous nor totally good, like, for instance, Oedipus. Hamartíā is a derivative of the verb hamartánein “(of a spear) to miss the mark, (in general) to fail in one’s purpose, fall short, go wrong.” Hamartánein with its derivatives and related words, like about 60 percent of Greek vocabulary, has no known etymology. Hamartia entered English in the late 19th century.
Every person was felt to have his or her hamartia—a tragic flaw, or potential for error in judgment that would frequently destroy an otherwise promising career. The most common among these flaws was hubris ….
… his hamartia (“error”) leads to the loss of all that matters to him, as well as to a puncturing of his former worldview.
to relate, describe, or treat (something) in the form of poetry.
Versify comes via Old French versifier from Latin versificāre “to write or compose verse.” Versificāre is partly composed of the noun versus “a line of writing, a line of poetry, a sequence of notes.” The basic meaning of versus is “a circular movement (in a dance), twirl” and is a derivative of the verb vertere “to turn, revolve, pass through a cycle.” The combining form –ficāre means “doing, making, causing” and ultimately derives from the verb facere “to make, build, construct.” Versify entered English in the 14th century.
… the energetic singer who cannot repress the impromptu urge to versify the mundane things going on around him.
He served in Africa, southern France and Italy during World War II, a period that he said led him to “versify in earnest.”
a dish made of fruit, scalded or stewed, crushed and mixed with cream or the like: gooseberry fool.
Fool, “a dessert made of scalded or stewed fruit, crushed and mixed with cream,” is just the sort of word to cause an etymological food fight. Fool is probably a specialized sense of fool “a silly or stupid person.” In the late 16th century, trifle, now meaning “something of little value, consequence, or importance,” was a synonym for fool (the dessert), though the dessert we call trifle is now something different. Another (discredited) etymology derives fool from Old French foulex, fole, “a pressing, treading,” from fouler, foler “to press, tread.” Fool (the dessert) entered English in the 16th century.
The fool, one of the oldest English desserts, is basically nothing more than a mixture of puréed fruit, sugar, and thick cream, the simplest thing in the world.
One of the simplest ways to prepare strawberries when you want a departure from serving them plain is to chop them into a Fool.
having a soft, velvety surface, as certain plants.
Velutinous, “having a soft, velvety surface or hairs,” is a very rare adjective, a technical term used in botany and entomology. Velutinous comes directly from the New Latin adjective velūtīnus “velvety,” from Medieval Latin velūtum “velvet.” Velūtum possibly comes from assumed Vulgar Latin villūtus, from Latin villus “shaggy nap.” Velutinous entered English in the 19th century.
He picked up his bread, pulled open the crust so the soft velutinous white inside was exposed, pushed it into a piece of omelet, then lifted the dripping morsel to his lips and bit upon it.
The deep shag of a plush carpet was beneath our feet and velutinous purple flocked wallpaper covered the walls.