Word of the Day

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

postiche

[ paw-steesh, po- ]

noun

a false hairpiece.

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What is the origin of postiche?

Postiche, like many cultural terms derived from the Romance languages, has a complicated etymology, what with the borrowing and lending of forms and meanings between Latin, Late Latin, Medieval Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The English word postiche, from French postiche, has two original meanings: as an adjective, it is a term used in architecture and sculpture and means “added on, especially inappropriately; artificial, counterfeit”; as a noun, it means “a hairpiece made of false hair.” The French word may come from Spanish postizo “artificial, substitute,” or from Italian posticcio with the same meanings. The Spanish and Italian forms most likely derive from Late Latin apposticius “placed beside or on” (and equivalent to Latin appositus “adjacent, near at hand, suitable”).

how is postiche used?

… the Goulet postiche is guaranteed to blend imperceptibly with the wearer’s own hair, for I refuse to settle for anything less than a perfect match.

Catherine Chidgey, The Transformation, 2003

… when the hair had been thoroughly dyed it could only recover its natural colour by this slow process, but that usually the effect was concealed by a postiche

Laurence Oliphant, Piccadilly, 1870
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Tuesday, December 04, 2018

brusquerie

[ broos-kuh-ree ]

noun

abruptness and bluntness in manner; brusqueness.

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What is the origin of brusquerie?

Brusquerie, which still feels like a French word, is a derivative of the adjective brusque. The French adjective comes from Italian brusco “rough, tart,” a special use of the noun brusco “butcher’s broom” (the name of a shrub). Brusco may come from Latin bruscum “a knot or growth on a maple tree”; or brusco may be a conflation of Latin ruscus, ruscum “butcher’s broom” and Vulgar Latin brūcus “heather.” Brusquerie entered English in the mid-18th century.

how is brusquerie used?

… I could see that she was doing her best to irritate me with the brusquerie of her answers.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Gambler (1866), translated by C. J. Hogarth, 1917

I hope you have not been so foolish as to take offence at any little brusquerie of mine …

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Gold-Bug," Philadelphia Dollar Magazine, 1843
Monday, December 03, 2018

beanfeast

[ been-feest ]

noun

Chiefly British Slang. (formerly) an annual dinner or party given by an employer for employees.

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What is the origin of beanfeast?

Beanfeast is a perfectly ordinary compound of the humble bean and feast. A beanfeast was originally an annual dinner given by employers for their employees, but the word acquired the sense “festive occasion” by the end of the 19th century. Beanfeast entered English in the early 19th century.

how is beanfeast used?

In August the annual outing, or, as it was called, the bean-feast, at the works took place.

G. A. Henty, Sturdy and Strong, 1888

Why do we come? … Simply from the primordial love of a bean-feast!

W. W. Blair-Fish, "Because We Are Conventional," The Rotarian, June 1930
Sunday, December 02, 2018

candelabrum

[ kan-dl-ah-bruhm, -ab-ruhm ]

noun

an ornamental branched holder for more than one candle.

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What is the origin of candelabrum?

Candelabrum comes straight from Latin candēlābrum, formed from the noun candēla “a candle, taper” (from the verb candēre “to shine, gleam”) and -brum, a variant of -bulum, a suffix for forming neuter nouns for tools or places. English candle (Old English candel, condel) had already been in Old English long enough to become part of its poetic vocabulary, e.g., Glād ofer grundas / Godes condel beorht “God’s bright candle glided over the grounds” in the magnificent poem “The Battle of Brunanburh” recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (c. 955). Candelabrum entered English in the 19th century.

how is candelabrum used?

The menorah is an eight-branched candelabrum that is symbolic of the celebration of Hanukkah.

José Antonio Burciaga, "An Anglo, Jewish, Mexican Christmas," Weedee Peepo, 1988

… I bade Pedro to close the heavy shutters of the room … to light the tongues of a tall candelabrum which stood by the head of my bed–and to throw open far and wide the fringed curtains of black velvet which enveloped the bed itself.

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Oval Portrait," Graham's Magazine, April 1842
Saturday, December 01, 2018

shrievalty

[ shree-vuhl-tee ]

noun

the office, term, or jurisdiction of a sheriff.

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What is the origin of shrievalty?

Shrievalty, “the office, term, or jurisdiction of a sheriff,” is a rare word. Shrieve is one of many, many spelling variants of the Late Middle English compound noun shire-reeve. A shire is “the office of administration, jurisdiction of an office or county,” and a reeve is “a high official in charge of an administrative district.” Sheriff is an ordinary outcome of shire-reeve. The suffix -alty is taken from such political and legal terms as mayoralty (from mayoral and the suffix -ty, from Old French -tet, ultimately from Latin -tās, a suffix for forming abstract nouns from adjectives). The equally rare but more transparent noun sheriffalty was also formed from sheriff and -alty. Shrievalty entered English in the 16th century.

how is shrievalty used?

You must give up your shrievalty immediately and I will get the Shire Court to appoint a caretaker sheriff in your place until the will of the King is known.

Bernard Knight, Witch Hunter, 2004

Judges, small magistrates, officers large and small, the shrievalty, the water office, the tax office, all were to come within its purview.

Theodore Dreiser, The Titan, 1914
Friday, November 30, 2018

modish

[ moh-dish ]

adjective

in the current fashion; stylish.

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What is the origin of modish?

The adjective modish is formed from the noun mode “fashion, current fashion” and the suffix -ish. Modish, very common in the 17th and 18th centuries, entered English in the 17th century.

how is modish used?

It’s a work both modish and antique, apparently postmodern in emphasis but fed by the exploratory energies of the Renaissance.

James Wood, "'Flights,' A Novel That Never Settles Down," The New Yorker, October 1, 2018

Describing hairstyles is not my forte, I lack the vocabulary, but there was something of the fifties film star to it, what my mother would call ‘a do’, yet it was modish and contemporary too.

David Nicholls, Us, 2014
Thursday, November 29, 2018

keek

[ keek ]

verb

Scot. and North England. to peep; look furtively.

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What is the origin of keek?

Keek “to peep” is a verb used in Scotland and northern England. It does not occur in Old English but is related to, if not derived from, Middle Dutch and Middle Low German kīken “to look.” Keek dates from the late 14th century, first appearing in The Canterbury Tales.

how is keek used?

I will be near by him, and when he keeks round to spy ye, I will bring him such a clout as will gar him keep his eyes private for ever.

Alfred Ollivant, "Danny," Everybody's Magazine, Volume 6, January to June, 1902

And at that he keeks out o’ the wee back window, plainly fearing that old Hornie himself was on the tracks o’ him.

Michael Innes, From London Far, 1946

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