Word of the Day

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

polyglot

[ pol-ee-glot ]

adjective

a person who speaks, writes, or reads a number of languages.

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What is the origin of polyglot?

Polyglot “one who speaks, writes, or reads several languages,” comes from the Attic Greek polýglōttos “many-tongued (i.e., of an oracle); speaking many languages,” a compound of the prefix poly– “much, many” (from the neuter adjective polý) and familiar in English, for example, in polychrome, polygamous, and polygon. The combining form –glōttos “having a tongue, using a specific tongue or language” is a derivative of glôtta “tongue.” Attic Greek is one of the four Greek dialects in which serious literature is composed, the other dialects being Ionic (Herodotus’ Histories, for example), Aeolic (the lyric poetry of the poets Sappho and Alcaeus), and Doric (the traditional dialect of choral odes in tragedy). The other dialects have the form polýglōssos and the noun glôssa, source of English gloss “a marginal or interlinear translation or explanation of an unusual or difficult word or phrase.” Polyglot entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is polyglot used?

There is a thriving online community of ardent linguaphiles who are, or who aspire to become, polyglots

Judith Thurman, "The Mystery of People Who Speak Dozens of Languages," The New Yorker, August 27, 2018

A taxi cuts you off in Rome. A Mumbai merchant spurns your best offer. A maitre d’ snubs you in Beirut. At times like these, words can fail even the most seasoned polyglot.

James Gibney, "The World's Rudest Hand Gestures," The Atlantic, September 17, 2011

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Monday, February 22, 2021

darg

[ dahrg ]

noun

a day's work.

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What is the origin of darg?

If you know that darg means “a day’s work,” you may be able to figure out that it comes from day and work. Darg comes from Middle English daiwerk, daiwark, daiwork “a day’s work or customary service; a day’s fighting; the amount of land that can be plowed by a team in one day.” The development of the sound seems to be from daiwark to dawark to dark and darg. Darg is the usual form in Scotland and North England. In Australia darg means “a fixed or definite amount of work; a work quota,” a sense that is also found as a coal mining term in mid-19th century Northumberland and Durham, counties in northern England. Darg entered English in the early 15th century.

how is darg used?

I have a lang day’s darg afore me …

Sir Walter Scott, The Heart of Mid-Lothian, 1818

I do not like our slack days …. Always feel as if I were not doing my full ‘darg‘ on such; but they give me time for reading, and one is glad to secure that.

J. A. Dyer, "Letter to Dr. Fry, August 27, 1913," Quarterly Paper, Edinburg Medical Missionary Society,  November 1913

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Sunday, February 21, 2021

decussate

[ verb dih-kuhs-eyt, dek-uh-seyt ]

verb (used with or without object)

to cross in the form of an X; intersect.

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What is the origin of decussate?

The verb decussate “to cross in the form of an X; intersect,” comes from Latin decussāt-, the inflectional stem of decussātus, the past participle of the verb decussāre “to mark with a cross or an X.” Decussāre is a derivative of the noun decussis “a bronze ten-piece coin; the number ten, a decade; an X-shaped mark” (X was the Latin symbol for 10). Decussis is a reduced form of decem “ten” and as (also assis) “a copper coin or monetary unit; a penny.” Decussate entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is decussate used?

So if you decide you want to move your right arm, or your right leg, the signal would leave the motor cortex of the left hemisphere, travel down towards your brainstem, and then at the level of the medulla, it would decussate, or cross over to the right side of the brainstem, and then continue into your spinal cord.

Jason G. Goldman, "Ask a Scienceblogger: Sensation and Perception Basics," Scientific American, June 30, 2010

the leaf-stalks of the second pair decussate with those of the first, and are just so much longer as to bring up that pair nearly, or quite, to a level with the first …

Sir John Lubbock, "On Leaves," Popular Science Monthly, July 1885

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