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former; onetime: his quondam partner.
The Latin adverb quondam, “formerly, anciently, once (upon a time),” has been used in English as a noun, “the former holder of an office,” as an adverb meaning “formerly, at one time,” and, currently and solely, as an adjective meaning “former, onetime.” All three usages in English occur close together in the first half of the 16th century. Quondam breaks down to the adverbial conjunction cum or quom “at the time that, when.” The particle –dam, however, is of uncertain origin.
A few hundred pages after faintly praising me as “a nice enough fellow and I’m sure a very smart guy for a hack,” the book’s narrator (a quondam critic with nothing nice to say about Charlie Kaufman) challenges me to a barroom argument about cinema.
So much has been written of late years about Wordsworth and Shelley, while their quondam rival has been treated with much contumelious silence, that the disdainers of Byron had begun to feel that the ground was entirely their own; and the faithful few, who in secret handed down the old Byron cult, must have fallen into desperation …
The adverb spang, “directly, exactly, right-on,” dates from the second half of the 18th century. All of its etymologies are speculative. Most has all the markings of an Americanism, but its first (and clearest) occurrence is in a burlesque version of the Iliad by English humorist Thomas Bridges: “Sometimes a brickbat with a bump, / Came spang against his heavy rump.”
I put down a franc and flew like the wind, the hair on my back standing as high as Queen Anne’s ruff! And I didn’t stop until I found myself spang in the middle of the Musée de Cluny, clutching the rack.
When a man takes off some three hundred square miles of territory spang in the center of Europe in an atomic explosion, you can’t blame the rest of the world for being a bit skittish about atomic power research.
a person given to voluble, empty talk.
Blatherskite “one who is given to voluble, empty talk,” which dates from the middle of the 19th century, was originally and remains mostly an Americanism. Blatherskite is a variant of Scottish bletherskate, which dates from the mid-17th century and is a compound of the verb blether or blather “to talk nonsense” and the Anglo-American slang word skate “person, contemptible person, broken-down horse.” Another variant, bladderskate, appears in the traditional Scottish song “Maggie Lauder,” which was popular among American soldiers during the American Revolution.
This appeared to deeply offend Deputy Gregorig, who shouted back at Iro, “You cowardly blatherskite, say that again!”
Ms. Murphy had already developed, for one reason or another, a reputation for fragility, and the blatherskites around Broadway began whispering.
verb (used with or without object)
to turn into stone.
The relatively rare verb lapidify, “to turn into or become stone, petrify,” comes via French lapidifier from Medieval Latin lapidificāre. Lapidificāre is a transparent compound of Latin lapid– (the inflectional stem of lapis “stone”) and the Latin verb-forming suffix –ficāre, ultimately a derivative of facere “to make, do.” The resemblance between lapis and Greek lépas “bare rock” is “hardly accidental,” as the pros say: Both words probably come from a Mediterranean (non-Indo-European) language. Lapidify entered English in the mid-17th century.
Perhaps in a few months a slow seepage, rich in minerals, would return to these passages and gradually glue their bodies to the rocks where they sat, to seal their crypt and lapidify their bones.
The rule of the Abang, in an age when the techniques existed to lapidify any rule to permanency, was, because of the very rise of a party, doomed.
the third in a series of literary works, movies, etc.; a second sequel: The first two films in this underworld anthology were cinematic gems, but the threequel was at best a disappointment.
Threequel, “the third in a series of literary works, movies, etc.; a second sequel,” is a very recent neologism dating from around 1980. Threequel is an obvious compound of three and (se)quel. The term pops up in amusingly dismissive reviews of Jaws 3-D (a.k.a. Jaws III and Jaws 3), Rambo III, and RoboCop 3.
Threequels present a unique challenge: audiences expect the exact same cast to make them feel the exact same way the first two installments did, but with an entirely new and original storyline.
2011’s five top-grossing films tell a very different story: one sequel (The Hangover Part II), one threequel (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), two fourquels (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides)—and one eightquel (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2).
incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible.
Ineffable ultimately comes from Latin ineffābilis “(of a word) unpronounceable,” and in Late Latin and Christian Latin “(of the divine name) that cannot or must not be spoken.” Ineffābilis is a compound of in-, the Latin negative prefix that is equivalent to English un– (as in unspoken), and the verb effārī “to speak, speak out, speak solemnly, declare” (itself a compound of the preposition and prefix ex, ex– “out, out of” and fārī “to speak”). Another English derivative, infant, comes from Latin infāns (inflectional stem infant-) “small child, infant,” literally “nonspeaking,” formed from the same prefix in– and fāns, the present participle of fārī. Ineffable entered English in the late 14th century.
As a child, I loved reading the dictionary in search of the precise words for everything. Reading this poem, whose title is a Japanese word often translated as ‘‘sunshine filtering through leaves,’’ I felt that wonder again—how the language of poetry can move us closer to naming what is ineffable.
Again, I was listening very hard to jazz and hoping, one day, to translate it into language, and Shakespeare’s bawdiness became very important to me since bawdiness was one of the elements of jazz and revealed a tremendous, loving and realistic respect for the body, and that ineffable force which the body contains …
the world, or mortal or earthly life: this vale of tears.
Vale may be familiar to some readers from the woeful expression vale of tears, which casts the world as a place of sorrow and difficulty. Vale, “a valley, a low-lying piece of land usually having a brook,” comes from Middle English val, valle, vaile (and more variants), from Old French val, vau, vauls (and more variants), from Latin vallēs (inflectional stem valli-) “valley.” Vale in its literal sense as a geographical feature dates from the second half of the 14th century; the extended, figurative sense, “the world, mortal life, earthly existence,” dates from the first half of the 15th century.
all he really wanted to do in company was to make jokes, to turn the world upside down and laugh at it, to enrich and enliven this vale of tears with a little fantasy.
As Keats witnessed more and more suffering—his brother Tom’s death; the infectious illnesses sweeping London—he connected his aesthetic vision to lived experience, and wrote in a letter that life is “a vale of soul-making”: “Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?”