Word of the Day

Saturday, September 21, 2019

prévenance

[ prey-vuh-nahns ]

noun

French.

special care in anticipating or catering to the needs and pleasures of others.

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What is the origin of prévenance?

Every breakroom in every restaurant in the U.S. should have prominently displayed a great big poster in bold sans serif caps: “prévenance, special care in anticipating or catering to the needs and pleasures of others.” Prévenance is a French noun meaning “thoughtfulness.” Prévenance is a derivative of the verb prévenir, one of whose meanings is “to anticipate.” Prévenir comes from Latin praevenīre “to come before, anticipate,” a compound of the preposition and prefix prae, prae– “before, in advance” and venīre “to come.” Praevenīre does mean “to anticipate,” but in the sense “to forestall, prevent.” Prévenance entered English in the 18th century.

how is prévenance used?

A much older and far wiser woman would have been persuaded to believe, as she believed, that in all this delicate prévenance for her pleasures and her preferences the tenderest love had spoken.

Ouida (Maria Louise Ramé), Princess Napraxine, 1884

My father I fear, was not remarkable in general for his tenderness or his prévenance for the poor girl whom fortune had given him to protect; but from time to time he would wake up to a downright sense of kinship and duty ….

Henry James, "Gabrielle de Bergerac," 1869
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Friday, September 20, 2019

galvanize

[ gal-vuh-nahyz ]

verb (used with object)

to startle into sudden activity; stimulate.

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What is the origin of galvanize?

The English verb galvanize comes from the French verb galvaniser “to make muscles contract by application of electrical current,” a discovery made by the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani in 1780, when an assistant touched the exposed sciatic nerve of a dead frog with a metal scalpel that had picked up a charge, which made the dead frog’s leg kick as if alive. Galvanize in its physiological sense entered English in the early 19th century; the figurative sense “to startle into sudden activity” dates to the mid-19th century.

how is galvanize used?

The presence of the enemy seemed to galvanize the growers, underscoring the subtext of Elliot’s message: that their industry was under attack, and they needed D&W’s crisis-management services.

Ruth Ozeki, All Over Creation, 2003

… [Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis] looms as just barely premodern, even though she presided over the start of (and maybe even helped galvanize) the most turbulent social transformation in recent history.

Roger D. Friedman, Michael Hirschorn, Belinda Luscombe, Rebecca Mead, Melissa Morgan, Nancy Jo Sales, and Whitney Scott, "Her Friends Remember Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis," New York, May 30, 1994
Thursday, September 19, 2019

swashbuckler

[ swosh-buhk-ler, swawsh- ]

noun

a swaggering swordsman, soldier, or adventurer; daredevil.

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What is the origin of swashbuckler?

If one is old enough, the word swashbuckler will call to mind Errol Flynn, the baddest, most romantic swashbuckler of them all during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Others may think of the dueling swordsmen from The Princess Bride. Swashbuckler is a compound whose first element is swash, a verb of imitative origin meaning “to splash loudly or violently, dash about.” A buckler is a small round shield held by a handgrip and having straps through which one’s arm is passed. A swashbuckler is a swaggering hero who makes a racket by striking the bad guy’s shield with his own or with his sword. Swashbuckler entered English in the mid-16th century.

how is swashbuckler used?

Even Johnny Depp, the linchpin of the series as the swishy swashbuckler Captain Jack Sparrow, knew that the last film, directed by Gore Verbinski (as were the first two), had lost its way.

Brooks Barnes, "New Captain for a Series Becalmed," New York Times, May 11, 2011

The fairy tale is about a swashbuckler named Westley (Elwes) who has to rescue his true love, Buttercup (Robin Wright), before she is forced to marry the evil Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon).

Reed Tucker, "Inside the hilarious making of 'The Princess Bride'," New York Post, October 12, 2014

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