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the number of members of a group or organization required to be present to transact business legally, usually a majority.
Quorum comes from Latin quōrum “of whom.” (To get into the grammatical weeds, quōrum is the masculine genitive plural of the relative and interrogative pronoun and adjective quī, quae, quod “who, which, what.”) In medieval England, the Latin formula for commissioning justices of the peace would mention certain prominent local persons in general, known for their learning, experience, and prudence, and then specify one or more such persons as definitely to be included: Quōrum ūnum N esse volumus “Of whom we want N to be one.” Such commissioned justices were necessary to constitute a bench and were known as justices of the quorum. The current sense, “the number of members of a group or organization required to be present to transact business legally, usually a majority,” dates from the early 17th century. Quorum entered English in the first half of the 15th century.
… new members can only be approved by a twelve-member quorum, and the shrunken Academy now has ten active members instead of its usual eighteen: a Catch-22 if there ever was one.
Along with two pre-existing vacancies, this will shrink what should be a six-member board to three members—one short of the quorum required to hold meetings and perform many basic functions.
a person or thing that illuminates or inspires: The Bible has been our beacon during this trouble.
Beacon comes from Old English bēacen, bēcen, bēcn “a sign, portent; a standard, banner; a signal, signal fire, signal hill or tower, watchtower; lighthouse.” (Most of these senses appear in Beowulf.) Bēacen comes from Germanic baukna– “beacon, signal,” the source of Old Frisian bāken, Old Saxon bōkan, Old High German bouhhan. The derivative Germanic verb bauknjan “to make a sign, signal” becomes bēcnan in Old English and beckon in English.
As is often the case with those who die young, Martin Luther King Jr. has become more symbol than man: pacifist, beacon of nonviolent racial reform.
At first sight we had not rated the American town favorably, but now it seemed a beacon of civilization.
the sport of cross-country skiing.
Langlauf, “cross-country skiing, cross-country skiing race,” is a German compound noun formed from the adjective lang, cognate with English long, and the noun Lauf “run,” related to English leap (from the Old English noun hlȳp) and lope. Langlauf entered English in the 1920s.
“Haven’t you got a boat that’ll cut through the ice?” … “It’s too thick to get through. Langlauf is the easiest way by far.”
Pontresina, a picture-book village tucked just around the mountain from imperious St. Moritz, turns out to be one of the best places in the world to do cross-country skiing—or langlauf as it’s known.
equivalent in meaning; expressing or implying the same idea; having the character of synonyms or a synonym.
Synonymous comes from the Medieval Latin adjective synōnymus, from Greek synṓnymos “having the same name and nature and definition,” a term that Aristotle uses in his logical system. Synṓnymos is a compound of the preposition and prefix syn, syn– “with, together with” and the noun ónyma, ónoma “name, word, noun.” The English metaphysical poet John Donne is the first writer credited with using synonymous in English in 1610.
But for a while there, Netflix was on its way to being like Kleenex or Coke—a brand name that becomes synonymous with an entire product (in this case, streaming video).
Over time, Instagram became synonymous with artfully posed, aspirational photos of everyday life.
a quick, sharp return in speech or action; counterstroke: a brilliant riposte to an insult.
Riposte, earlier risposte, in its “social” sense “a quick, sharp return in speech or action” and its fencing sense “a quick thrust given after parrying a lunge,” comes via French from Old Italian risposta “response, reply” (13th century), which by the mid-16th century had developed its fencing sense. Risposta is a (feminine) noun use of the past participle of the verb rispondere “to answer,” from an unattested Vulgar Latin verb respondere, from Latin respondēre “to speak in answer to, answer, answer back” (the Latin verb has no “touché” sense associated with it). Risposte entered English in the early 18th century, riposte a century later.
George stands humiliated as laughter fills the room, his mind searching frantically for the perfect riposte.
Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, in an annual letter to shareholders, argued that Amazon’s growth has benefited its third-party merchants—a veiled riposte to calls to break up the company.
unyielding; unmerciful; obdurate: a flinty heart.
Flinty is an obvious combination of the noun flint “a hard stone, a type of silica” and the adjective suffix –y, from Old English –ig, cognate with German –ig, and related to Greek –ikos and Latin –icus. One odd element here is that the derived, metaphorical sense “unyielding, unmerciful, obdurate” appears in the first half of the 16th century, about 75 years before the literal sense “consisting of flint stone” (in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 1). A second oddity is that the noun flint, which comes from Old English flint, has impeccable cognates with other Germanic languages (Middle Dutch vlint, Old High German flins, Danish flint, Swedish flinta), from a Proto-Indo-European root (s)plei– “to split, splice.” But flint may be related to Greek plínthos “brick, air-dried brick, squared building stone,” except that a non-Greek language is the usual source of Greek terms associated with building and architecture and nouns with the suffix –inthos, such as asáminthos “bathtub,” terébinthos “terebinth tree, turpentine tree”—the ultimate source of English turpentine. Flinty entered English in the first half of the 16th century.
The section’s editor, Seymour Peck, a flinty New Yorker, had me write columns on movies, theatre, rock music, and television as well as on art, extending my capacities, while cracking down on my flakiness.
I opened my mouth to deny it, and he forestalled me with one lifted finger, his gaze flinty.
an odd gadget; gewgaw; trinket.
Trangam, also spelled trangame, trangram, and trankum, is a rare noun with no obvious etymology. Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) helped revive trangam in The Abbot (1820), one of the earlier Waverley Novels. Trangam entered English in the 17th century.
And meet time it was, when yon usher, vinegar-faced rogue that he is, began to enquire what popish trangam you were wearing …
Go, go your ways, get you gone, and finefy your Knacks and Tranghams …