Word of the Day

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

raffish

[ raf-ish ]

adjective

mildly or sometimes engagingly disreputable or nonconformist; rakish: a matinee idol whose raffish offstage behavior amused millions.

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What is the origin of raffish?

Raffish is protean in its meanings and possible origins. Its meanings include “mildly, engagingly nonconformist, rakish; gaudy, vulgar, tawdry.” Raffish is obviously a derivative of the noun raff, but it is with raff that real problems arise. Raff means “rabble, the lower sort of people, riffraff.” Raff may be a shortening of riffraff (earlier riffe raffe), from Middle English rif and raf, a catchall phrase of very uncertain origin meaning “everything, every particle, things of slight value, everyone, one and all.” Related phrases or idioms exist in other languages: Walloon French has rif-raf “fast and sloppy”; Middle Dutch has rijf ende raf “everything, everyone, one and all; Italian has di riffa o di raffa “one way or another.” Raffish entered English in the late 18th century.

how is raffish used?

In trying to look like raffish characters, American men spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on hairpieces, urban cowboy clothes, disco lessons, imported sports cars, aviator glasses, tailored jogging suits or jump suits, health club memberships, and sex manuals.

Mike Royko, "Jay's Bottom Line," Chicago Sun-Times, September 24, 1980

He was wearing a dark suit and a collar and tie, but he had that raffish seediness about him of a newspaper journalist.

M. C. Beaton, The Potted Gardener, 1994
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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

kyoodle

[ kahy-ood-l ]

verb

to bark or yelp noisily or foolishly; yap.

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What is the origin of kyoodle?

Kyoodle began as and still may be an Americanism. The word has no distinguished etymology (except for the vague label Imitative), which exactly fits the verb and also one of its noun meanings: mutt, noisy dog. Some distinguished American authors have used the word, however, including John Steinbeck, John O’Hara, and Sinclair Lewis. Kyoodle entered English in the late 19th century.

how is kyoodle used?

No living thing moved upon it, not even a medicine wolf to kyoodle to the invisible moon.

Richard Sale, The White Buffalo, 1975

But the dogs waved their tails happily and sought out a rabbit and went kyoodling after it.

John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat, 1935
Monday, August 20, 2018

squamous

[ skwey-muhs ]

adjective

covered with or formed of squamae or scales.

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What is the origin of squamous?

The adjective squamous is a direct borrowing of Latin squāmōsus “covered with scales, scaly”, a derivative of the noun squāma “scale (on a fish or reptile), metal plate used in making armor.” The ultimate etymology of squāma is unclear, but it is related to squālēre “to be covered or crusted in scales or dirt,” and the derivatives of squālēre include squālidus “having a rough surface” and squālor “roughness, dirtiness, filth.” Squamous entered English in the 16th century.

how is squamous used?

The back was piebald with yellow and black, and dimly suggested the squamous covering of certain snakes.

H. P. Lovecraft, "The Dunwich Horror," Weird Tales, April 1929

They speak no known tongue and are said to sacrifice sailors to their squamous, fish-headed gods, likenesses of whom rise from their stony shores, visible only when the tide recedes.

George R. R. Martin, Elio M. García, Jr., and Linda Antonsson, The World of Ice and Fire, 2014

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