Word of the Day

Monday, September 07, 2020

Promethean

[ pruh-mee-thee-uhn ]

adjective

creative; boldly original.

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What is the origin of Promethean?

Promethean is the adjective derived from Prometheus, one of the Titans, the race of divine beings that preceded the Olympian gods (there was bad ichor between the two races). The Greek poet Hesiod interpreted Prometheus as “Forethought”; Prometheus’ twin brother Epimetheus was therefore “Afterthought.” Prometheus and Epimetheus (and Atlas, too) were sons of Iapetus, whose Hebrew equivalent, Japheth, is a son of Noah (Genesis 5:32). Promethean entered English towards the end of the 16th century.

how is Promethean used?

While this work suggests man’s helplessness in the face of nature’s relentless power, Cai’s exhibit suggests an ironic thematic reversal: nature’s state of helplessness in the face of modern man’s relentless, Promethean drive to progress.

Orville Schell, "A Chinese Artist Confronts Environmental Disaster," The New Yorker, October 3, 2014

That ambivalence is the divided heart of the novel: Gatsby is a dreamer and a “go-for-broke Promethean overreacher,” but—as Corrigan’s former high school teacher tells her, “Gatsby was looking for the wrong things. . . . Money and clothes and Daisy.” He embodies the best and worst qualities of America, resulting in a novel that is simultaneously buoyant and grim, as Corrigan notes.

Steven Moore, "'So We Read On: How 'The Great Gatsby' Came to Be,' by Maureen Corrigan," Washington Post, September 8, 2014

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Sunday, September 06, 2020

squib

[ skwib ]

noun

a short and witty or sarcastic saying or writing.

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What is the origin of squib?

The noun squib, “a short and witty or sarcastic saying,” dates from the end of the 16th century, a development of its original sense, “a small firework that burns with a hissing noise but doesn’t explode.” The word has no definitive etymology, but it is most likely onomatopoeic. Squib entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is squib used?

After Bush pulled off his carrier stunt before an awestruck cable universe, Maureen Dowd dipped her fingernails in the old acid and banged out a memorable squib questioning the Top Gun’s swagger …

William Powers, "The Call of the Skunk," The Atlantic, May 1, 2003

Throughout it all, he found one way or another to seize the gaze of the media, often by slipping to the press short bits of provocative writing, then known as squibs.

Jack Hitt, "P.T. Barnum, the showman and grifter who held up a funhouse mirror to America," Washington Post, October 18, 2019

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Saturday, September 05, 2020

scherzando

[ skert-sahn-doh, -san- ]

adjective

(in music) playful; sportive.

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What is the origin of scherzando?

Scherzando, “playful,” is an adjective used in music. Like many musical terms, scherzando is of Italian origin, it being the gerund of the verb scherzare “to joke.” The noun scherzo, “a musical movement or passage of light or playful character,” is another derivative from the verb. Italian scherzare is most likely a borrowing from Middle High German scherzen “to jump for joy, enjoy (oneself).” Scherzando entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is scherzando used?

The scherzando character is expressed in rapid gestures high on the guitar, with mercurial changes of tone color, perilous slides, and abrupt silences.

Jonathan Leathwood and Daphne Leong, "Local Frictions and Long-Range Connections in Carter's Changes for Guitar," Performing Knowledge, 2019

After the opening section in the scherzando mood that Rachmaninov does so wonderfully, he presents us with this gorgeous melody.

"Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2, by Stephen Hough," Gramophone, September 5, 2016

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