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Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, August 23, 2021

prelapsarian

[ pree-lap-sair-ee-uhn ]

adjective

characteristic of or pertaining to any innocent or carefree period.

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What is the origin of prelapsarian?

Prelapsarian ultimately derives from Latin prae “before” and lāpsus “fall,” which are a reference to the biblical fall from grace and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Lāpsus, from the verb lābī (stem lāps-) “to fall,” is the ultimate source of the English words lapse, elapse, and relapse, which all have to do with falling, whether it’s time falling away or a person falling back to old behaviors.

how is prelapsarian used?

This artificial division between natural and unnatural pervades our understanding of the world…. [It depends] on a conception of nature as something to which humanity has no fundamental link… And it’s a harmful dualism, even if it takes the form of veneration. It keeps us from embracing a robust, engaged environmentalism that is based on something more than gauzy, prelapsarian yearnings.

Andrew Blackwell, “In Brazil, Attacking the Forest to Save It,” Scientific American, September 21, 2012

Jeremy is a master of the urban detail, which for me evinces strong nostalgia for the pre-pandemic city…. It feels sort of scandalous to look at cartoons published in prelapsarian times—it’s hard not to want to chastise all those cartoon characters, within their little boxes, for their social-distancing violations.

Emma Allen and Jeremy Nguyen, "How to Draw a City," The New Yorker, September 9, 2020

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Word of the day

Sunday, August 22, 2021

beastie

[ bee-stee ]

noun

a small animal, especially one toward which affection is felt.

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What is the origin of beastie?

It should come as no surprise that beastie literally means “little beast”; the ending –ie is what is known as a diminutive suffix, a suffix that indicates smallness or, in certain contexts, either affection or condescension. Diminutive suffixes exist in many world languages; you may recognize the suffix –ito in Spanish burrito “little donkey,” or Italian graffito, the singular of graffiti—or the French suffix –ette in kitchenette “little kitchen,” or statuette “small statue.” English has several diminutives, such as –kin, as in napkin “little nape (tablecloth),” and –ling, as in darling “little dear” and gosling “little goose,” but it’s the suffix –ie, which also appears as –y, that’s the most widespread and the most productive.

how is beastie used?

Mammals of the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous were small, to be sure, but they counted swimmers, climbers, diggers, gliders, and more in their fuzzy family. They didn’t just live alongside the dinosaurs. They thrived. And the latest wee beastie to be added to their ranks is a spiky mammal uncovered from the 125 million year old rock of Spain.

Riley Black, "New Spiky-Haired Mammal Roamed During Dinosaurs’ Heyday," National Geographic, October 15, 2015

As Joel, [Dylan O’Brien’s] a happy-go-lucky guy who just wants to help his fellow postapocalyptic survivors slay the giant mutated insectoidal horribles that have taken over the planet. Trouble is, in the face of any such beastie he panics and practically pees himself. It’s all very relatable.

Jason Kehe, "One Thing Covid Didn’t Smash to Pieces? Monster Movies," Wired, May 10, 2021

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Word of the day

Saturday, August 21, 2021

arete

[ ahr-i-tey ]

noun

the aggregate of qualities, as valor and virtue, making up good character.

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What is the origin of arete?

Not every word has a direct translation in other languages, and arete falls into this category; though it is frequently translated as “excellence,” using “excellence” alone ignores all the nuances, such as bravery, intellect, and productivity, that arete implies in the original Greek. You may also know that Ancient Greek had multiple words for “love,” and “love” alone can’t fully communicate how philia is a type of brotherly love, how eros signifies passion and desire, or how agape refers to the love between spouses or for fellow humans. These translation issues also arise with philosophical terms such as pathos, which can be translated succinctly as “feeling”–its intended meaning in compounds such as apathy, empathy, and sympathy. However, pathos is more than another word for “emotion”; it refers to the feelings of pity, sorrow, or compassion that result when hearing, seeing, or listening to another person’s story or experiences. As with arete, no single English word can capture all these subtle meanings.

how is arete used?

Arete can most easily be recognized on the playing field, where outstanding performance can be judged quickly and succinctly. But arete was not the exclusive possession of the winner. Anyone who exceeded the performance reasonably expected of him could be said to have shown his arete, and arete was essentially an individual, rather than a collective, characteristic.

Stephen G. Miller, Ancient Greek Athletics, 2004

Flourishing starts with knowing who you are and what your job is. If you’re not in an ideal job yet, consider your strengths and weaknesses and what you want to achieve. Also known as arete, virtue or excellence is about more than earning money.

Bryan Collins, "This Unusual Greek Word Reveals The Secret To Finding Happiness At Work," Forbes, July 11, 2019

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