• Word of the day
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    Saturday, August 18, 2018

    prima facie

    adjective [prahy-muh fey-shee-ee, fey-shee, fey-shuh, pree-]
    plain or clear; self-evident; obvious.
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    What is the origin of prima facie?

    The English phrase prima facie is obviously Latin: prīmā faciē (ablative singular in form) means “at first sight.” (Faciēs has very many meanings: "physical or outward appearance, looks, sight, scene, good looks,….") It is not incredible that the English phrase at first blush is a literal translation of the Latin phrase: blush, a noun meaning "glance, sight," is obsolete except for the phrase at (on) (the) first blush. Prima facie entered English in the 15th century.

    How is prima facie used?

    McCain and Palin have been quoting this remark ever since, offering it as prima-facie evidence of Obama’s unsuitability for office. Hendrik Hertzberg, "Like, Socialism," The New Yorker, November 3, 2008

    There was no prima-facie absurdity in his hypothesis—and experiment was the sole means of demonstrating its truth or falsity. Thomas H. Huxley, "William Harvey," Popular Science Monthly, March 1878

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, August 17, 2018

    corpocracy

    noun [kawr-pok-ruh-see]
    a society in which corporations have much economic and political power.
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    What is the origin of corpocracy?

    Corpocracy is an unlovely compound noun formed from corporate or corporation plus the common combining form -cracy, ultimately from the Greek combining form -kratía, formed from krátos “strength, power,” and the noun suffix -ía. Corpocracy is not a recent word: it first appears in print in 1935, right smack in the middle of the Great Depression, during FDR’s first term.

    How is corpocracy used?

    Whether you are in business or government, you will be members of the same corpocracy. In the West, there are tensions between government and business elites. In China, these elites are part of the same social web, cooperating for mutual enrichment. David Brooks, "The Dictatorship of Talent," New York Times, December 4, 2007

    ... David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas” features a futuristic South Korea-inspired “corpocracy,” a hotbed of clones, plastic surgery (“facescaping”), and insurrection. Ed Park, "Sorry Not Sorry," The New Yorker, October 19, 2015

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, August 16, 2018

    anodyne

    noun [an-uh-dahyn]
    anything that relieves distress or pain: The music was an anodyne to his grief.
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    What is the origin of anodyne?

    Anodyne has a surprising etymology. Its Greek original, anṓdynos “painless,” breaks down to the elements an-, ṓd-, -yn-, -os-. The first element, an- “not,” is from the same Proto-Indo-European source as Latin in- and Germanic (English) un-. The second to last element -yn- is from the noun suffix -ýnē; the last element, -os, is an adjective ending. The main element odýnē “pain” (édyna in the Aeolic dialect) consists of ṓd-, a derivative of the Greek root ed-, od- from the Proto-Indo-European root ed-, od- “to eat” (source of Latin edere, Germanic (Old English) etan, Hittite et-, Homeric Greek édmenai, all meaning “eat, to eat.”) In Greek odýnē is something that eats you (cf. colloquial English, “What’s eating you?”). The Germanic languages also have the compound verb fra-etan “to eat up, devour,” which becomes in German fressen “devour, gorge, corrode,” and in Old English fretan “to devour,” English fret, which nowadays usually has only its extended sense “feel worry or pain.” Anodyne entered English in the 16th century.

    How is anodyne used?

    ... he realized that then, and now, work had been an anodyne of sorts. It had occupied his mind. Patrick Taylor, An Irish Country Courtship, 2010

    ... he would run down the great staircase, with its lions of gilt bronze and its steps of bright porphyry, and wander from room to room, and from corridor to corridor, like one who was seeking to find beauty an anodyne from pain, a sort of restoration from sickness. Oscar Wilde, "The Young King," A House of Pomegranates, 1891

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, August 15, 2018

    marplot

    noun [mahr-plot]
    a person who mars or defeats a plot, design, or project by meddling.
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    What is the origin of marplot?

    The noun marplot is a combination of the verb mar “to damage, spoil” and its direct object, the noun plot, formed like the noun pickpocket. Marplot is a character in a farce, The Busie Body, written by Susanna Centlivre, c1667-1723, an English actress, poet, and playwright, and produced in 1709. In the play Marplot is a well-meaning busybody who meddles in and ruins the romantic affairs of his friends.

    How is marplot used?

    ... Time is unalterable; he swings his merry bomb through centuries, nor feels a jot the mental agony of us sublunary mortals; therefore is he, to our thinking, a Marplot. , "New Music," The Metropolitan, April 1843

    Humpty is Puss’ childhood frenemy: pal, rival and seemingly inept marplot to our hero’s suave efficiency in a crisis. Richard Corliss, "Antonio Banderas in Puss in Boots: One Cool Cat," Time, October 28, 2011

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, August 14, 2018

    riant

    adjective [rahy-uhnt, ree-]
    laughing; smiling; cheerful.
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    What is the origin of riant?

    The rare adjective riant is a direct borrowing from the French present participle riant “laughing,” from the verb rire, ultimately from Latin rīdēre “to laugh,” which comes from a very complicated Proto-Indo-European root wer- “to twist, bend” (rīdēre would mean “twist the face or mouth”). Wer- has many suffixes and extensions that form some startling words. The meaning of the root extended with the suffix -t is clearly seen in Latin vertere “to turn,” with its many English derivatives, e.g., revert, convert, invert. The Germanic form of wert- is werth-, source of the English suffix -ward(s), as in homeward(s), toward(s). A variant form of wer- with the suffix -m forms Latin vermis “worm” (from its twisting) and Germanic wurmiz (Old English wyrm “dragon, serpent”; English worm). Finally, somewhat related to rīdēre is the Latin noun rictus “wide open mouth, gaping jaws” (English rictus). Riant entered English in the 16th century.

    How is riant used?

    Mistress Marjory bent her head with a murmured assurance of "giving him small trouble," but again the riant eyes belied the lips ... Sara Beaumont Kennedy, "Sweet Marjory," Outing, Volume XXVII, January 1896

    At the head of that open and legal agitation, was a man of giant proportions in body and mind; ... a humor broad, bacchant, riant, genial and jovial ... John Mitchel, Jail Journal; or, Five Years in British Prisons, 1854

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, August 13, 2018

    laeotropic

    adjective [lee-uh-trop-ik, -troh-pik]
    oriented or coiled in a leftward direction, as a left-spiraling snail shell.
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    What is the origin of laeotropic?

    The adjective laeotropic “turning leftward” is restricted to describing snail shells. The second element, -tropic “turning (to),” is common enough in the physical sciences, e.g., geography, meteorology, chemistry. The first element laeo- is rare. It comes from the Greek adjective laiós “left, on the left” (there is one ancient lexicographical reference implying the form laiwós). Laiwós is all but identical to Latin laevus and pretty close to Slavic (Polish) lewy. Outside these three branches of the Indo-European languages (and possibly also Lithuanian, among the Baltic languages), laiwo- does not occur. Laeotropic entered English in the 19th century.

    How is laeotropic used?

    The arms of the cross are slightly oblique; and it is worthy of note that the direction of their inclination is laeotropic, while in Crepidula and Ischnochiton the arms show a slight dexiotropic twist. Samuel J. Holmes, "The Early Development of Planorbis," Journal of Morphology, Volume XVI, February 1900

    ... the direction of corresponding cleavages is the same, i.e., the second cleavage is laeotropic and the third dexiotropic, and so on .... Why should this constancy occur? C. M. Child, "The Significance of the Spiral type of Cleavage and Its Relation to the Process of Differentiation," Biological Lectures from the Marine Biological Laboratory of Woods Holl, 1899

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, August 12, 2018

    Perseid

    noun [pur-see-id]
    Astronomy. any of a shower of meteors appearing in August and radiating from a point in the constellation Perseus.
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    What is the origin of Perseid?

    Perseid may have been introduced into English from Italian Perseidi, coined by the distinguished Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910), who is unfortunately best remembered today for the mistranslation into English of Italian canali “channels” on Mars as “canals,” which has inspired decades and decades of science fiction. Perseid ultimately comes from Greek Perseídēs “offspring or daughters of Perseus,” because the meteors appear to be coming from the constellation Perseus. Perseid entered English in the 19th century.

    How is Perseid used?

    Comet Swift-Tuttle is the largest object known to repeatedly pass by Earth; its nucleus is about 16 miles (26 kilometers) wide. It last passed nearby Earth during its orbit around the sun in 1992, and the next time will be in 2126. But it won't be forgotten in the meantime, because Earth passes through the dust and debris it leaves behind every year, creating the annual Perseid meteor shower. Sarah Lewin, "Perseid Meteor Shower 2018: When, Where & How to See It," Space.com, July 9, 2018

    The Perseids also feature “fireballs,” which are meteors of bright color and longer streaks that sometimes have “magnitudes greater than -3.” Aimée Lutkin, "How to Watch the Perseids Meteor Showers This Season," Lifehacker, July 9, 2018

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