• Word of the day
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    Saturday, June 29, 2019

    prismatic

    adjective [priz-mat-ik]
    spectral in color; brilliant: prismatic colors.
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    What is the origin of prismatic?

    Prismatic ultimately comes from the Greek noun prîsma (inflectional stem prísmat-) “something sawed, sawdust, (in geometry) trilateral column, prism.” Prîsma is a derivative of príein “to saw, trephine (skulls), grind or gnash (teeth), cut off (syllables)." Prismatic entered English in the 17th century.

    How is prismatic used?

    He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass. Ambrose Bierce, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," 1890

    We get beautiful effects from wit,—all the prismatic colors,—but never the object as it is in fair daylight. Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table," The Atlantic Monthly, January 1858

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, June 28, 2019

    symposiarch

    noun [sim-poh-zee-ahrk]
    a toastmaster.
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    What is the origin of symposiarch?

    The uncommon noun symposiarch comes straight from Greek symposíarchos “leader or master of a symposium,” extended in English to "toastmaster." The suffix -arch (and prefix arch-) “chief, leader, ruler” is naturalized in English. Sympósion “drinking party” breaks down to the prefix syn- “with, together with” and -posion, a derivative of pósis “drinking, a drink,” from pínein “to drink.” Symposiarch entered English in the early 17th century.

    How is symposiarch used?

    By election, or by some other means, a symposiarch was selected to preside over the mixing and the toasts. James N. Davidson, Courtesans and Fishcakes, 1997

    After dinner, the symposiarch, who acted as master of ceremonies, laid down the rules for the evening and established the order of events. Michael Norris, Greek Art: From Prehistoric to Classical, 2000

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, June 27, 2019

    strawhat

    adjective [straw-hat]
    of or relating to a summer theater situated outside an urban or metropolitan area: strawhat theater; strawhat circuit.
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    What is the origin of strawhat?

    Strawhat used as an attributive or adjective, as in strawhat circuit, was originally an Americanism and referred to the custom, still common, of people wearing straw hats in the summer for comfort. Strawhat entered English in the mid-1930s.

    How is strawhat used?

    Indeed, the strawhat impresario is not only at the mercy of the the customers but he is also subject to the tribulations and vagaries of the actors .... Charlotte Harmon, "Confessions of a Strawhat Impresario," New York Times, June 16, 1957

    After a million-dollar restoration, the old house reopened as a strawhat theater in 1963 with Price, a recent graduate of the Yale Drama School, as general manager. Lynne Baranski, "Michael Price's Goodspeed Opera Doesn't Just Try Out Broadway Hits—It Creates Them," People, November 19, 1979

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, June 26, 2019

    minimoon

    noun [min-ee-moon]
    a short, usually inexpensive honeymoon, often followed by a longer honeymoon later on: They left the courthouse after the ceremony and had a weekend minimoon at The Plaza.
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    What is the origin of minimoon?

    Minimoon is an obvious blend of the combining form mini- and honeymoon. Minimoon entered English between 2005 and 2010.

    How is minimoon used?

    She always knew she would take a mini-moon followed by a second, more-elaborate trip because of the sheer effort involved in planning her 500-guest wedding. Christina Valhouli, "A Little Getaway After the Big Event," New York Times, October 18, 2013

    Bask in post-wedding bliss with a brief off-the-grid vacation that’s close to home, then follow it up a few months later with an epic, far-flung adventure that complements your minimoon experience. Merritt Watts, "The New Way to Honeymoon," Vogue, October 5, 2015

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, June 25, 2019

    venal

    adjective [veen-l]
    open to bribery; mercenary.
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    What is the origin of venal?

    The English adjective venal comes from Latin vēnālis “for sale, for hire, susceptible to or obtainable by bribery,” a derivative of vēnus “sale.” Vēnus comes from an unattested noun wesno-, a Latin derivation of wes- (a variant of the Proto-Indo-European root wes-, wos- “to buy, sell”) and the noun suffix -no. Wes- also appears in Hittite washti “thou buyest.” From the variant wos-, Greek (Attic) has the noun ōnḗ “purchase, purchase price” (Homeric Greek has ônos, Aeolic ónna), all from an unrecorded wosnā. Sanskrit vasná "purchase price, wage” may come from either wes- or wos-. Venal entered English in the 17th century.

    How is venal used?

    ... the perfectly balanced tool in his hands that could be used for the bribing of venal politicians, with a limitless fund for the bribery .... Katherine MacLean, The Man Who Staked the Stars, 1952

    Four years after the street protests that ousted the notoriously venal President Viktor Yanukovych, corruption is the wound that won’t stop bleeding. Daria Kaleniuk and Melinda Harin, "The spirit of reform lives on in Ukraine—but not because of the president," Washington Post, June 27, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, June 24, 2019

    ex cathedra

    adjective, adverb [eks kuh-thee-druh, kath-i-druh]
    from the seat of authority; with authority.
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    What is the origin of ex cathedra?

    The relatively uncommon English adjective and adverb ex cathedra “from the seat (of authority), with authority” comes directly from the Latin phrase ex cathedrā. Latin cathedra “armchair with cushions, easy chair (especially for women), a teacher’s or professor’s chair, a sedan chair” is a loanword from Greek kathédra “seat, sitting posture, teacher’s or professor’s chair, imperial throne.” From cathedra Medieval Latin derived the adjective cathedrālis “pertaining to the chair or throne (of a bishop)”; the bishop’s church, where his throne was located, was called a cathedral church and later just cathedral. Ex cathedra entered English in the 17th century.

    How is ex cathedra used?

    There’s no way to maintain an ex cathedra advantage when you’re cavorting in a circus ring. Virginia Heffernan, "When TV tries out new media, everyone can be a star," New York Times, January 1, 2009

    Pope John once said, "I am not infallible. I am infallible only when I speak ex cathedra. But I shall never speak ex cathedra." Kati Marton, "The Paradoxical Pope," The Atlantic Monthly, May 1980

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, June 23, 2019

    demur

    verb (used without object) [dih-mur]
    to make objection, especially on the grounds of scruples; take exception; object: They wanted to make him the treasurer, but he demurred.
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    What is the origin of demur?

    The verb demur comes via Old French demorer, demourer, ultimately from Latin dēmorārī “to linger, delay, hold up,” its original, now obsolete meaning in English. In the 17th century demur acquired its usual senses in contemporary English “to object, take exception to,” and especially its legal sense “to make or interpose a demurral,” which is a pleading that admits the facts of an opponent's proceeding but denies any entitlement to legal relief, and that also causes a delay in the proceedings until the point or pleading is settled. Demur entered English in the 13th century.

    How is demur used?

    Montague is genial but determined, and before I could demur he had me packed into a two-thousand-dollar Gore-Tex dry suit with an unbearably tight collar, highly insulated rubber bootees, and an electric-blue life jacket. Michael Specter, "Inherit the Wind," The New Yorker, May 13, 2013

    ... Sonia had a little changed her mind. Wedge would be very unlikely to demur. Michael Innes, The New Sonia Wayward, 1960

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