Word of the Day

Friday, February 23, 2018

Rasputin

[ ra-spyoo-tin, -tn ]

noun

any person who exercises great but insidious influence.

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What is the origin of Rasputin?

Grigori Efimovich Rasputin (c1871-1916) was a Russian peasant and self-proclaimed mystic and holy man (he had no official position in the Russian Orthodox Church). By 1904 Rasputin was popular among the high society of St. Petersburg, and in 1906 he became the healer of Alexei Nikolaevich Romanov, heir to the Russian throne and the hemophiliac son of Czar Nicholas II and his wife, Czarina Alexandra Feodorovna (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and a carrier of hemophilia). In December 1916 Rasputin was murdered by Russian noblemen because of his influence over Czar Nicholas and the czarina.

how is Rasputin used?

… the dynamics of the situation do not permit him to be a Rasputin, whispering in Nixon’s ear.

David Nevin, "Autocrat in the Action Arena," Life, September 5, 1969

Others have described Isaacs as “a Rasputin or Svengali-like character in Kerner’s life who exploited his undue influence over the governor and led him astray.”

Cynthia Grant Bowman, Dawn Clark Netsch: A Political Life, 2010
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Thursday, February 22, 2018

fantasticate

[ fan-tas-ti-keyt ]

verb

to make or render fantastic.

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What is the origin of fantasticate?

Fantasticate was first recorded in 1590-1600.

how is fantasticate used?

Parallel universes are another trope borrowed from the repertory of science fiction. They are a marvelous convenience for authors who want to fantasticate at a high rpm without having to offer a rational explanation for the wonders they evoke.

Thomas M. Disch, The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, 1998

She also fantasticates about food, and her Catholicism surfaces in her lingering on the cannibalism at the heart of the eucharist.

Marina Warner, "From high society to surrealism: in praise of Leonora Carrington -- 100 years on," The Guardian, April 6, 2017
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

epigrammatic

[ ep-i-gruh-mat-ik ]

adjective

terse and ingenious in expression; of or like an epigram.

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What is the origin of epigrammatic?

In Greek epígramma means “inscription, commemorative or memorial inscription, short poem, written estimate of or demand for damages.” Probably the most famous epigram is that attributed to Simonides of Ceos (c566 b.c.–c468 b.c.) for the Spartans who fell at Thermoplylae (480 b.c.): “Stranger, report to the Spartans that we lie here in obedience to their orders,” which is spartan in its terseness. Epigrammatic entered English in the early 18th century.

how is epigrammatic used?

… the dialogue is sanded and sharpened to an epigrammatic elegance …

Richard Brody, "'Phantom Thread': Paul Thomas Anderson's Furious Fusion of Art and Love," The New Yorker, December 27, 2017

His is the sort of epigrammatic utterance to which there can be no rejoinder, the clean hit and quick-killing witticism: once over lightly and leave.

Nicholas Delbanco, The Lost Suitcase, 2000
Tuesday, February 20, 2018

thewless

[ thyoo-lis ]

adjective

lacking in mental or moral vigor; weak, spiritless, or timid.

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What is the origin of thewless?

First recorded in 1300-50, thewless is from the Middle English word theweles.

how is thewless used?

For indeed they were but thewless creatures, pallid with the damp caves of the moors, and so starved that they seemed to have eaten grass like Nebuchadnezzar.

S. R. Crockett, The Cherry Ribband, 1905

Here I stand amid my clan / Spoiled of my fame a thewless man.

J. Stuart Blackie, "Is the Gaelic Ossian a Translation from the English?" The Celtic Magazine, July 1876
Monday, February 19, 2018

bossdom

[ baws-duh m, bos- ]

noun

the status, influence, or power of a boss, especially a political boss.

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What is the origin of bossdom?

Bossdom has a crude, graceless sound. It is originally an Americanism referring to the bosses of political machines at the municipal and state level. Bossdom first entered English in the late 19th century.

how is bossdom used?

Señor So-and-so is the most powerful boss in the province of Tarragona, and even at that there are those who dispute his bossdom.

Pío Baroja, Caesar or Nothing, translated by Louis How, 1919

This was Lepke’s first bid for bossdom. He was ready to try his theories.

Meyer Berger, "Lepke," Life, February 28, 1944
Sunday, February 18, 2018

glissade

[ gli-sahd, -seyd ]

noun

a skillful glide over snow or ice in descending a mountain, as on skis or a toboggan.

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What is the origin of glissade?

The English noun glissade shows its obviously French origin. The French noun means “glide, slide, slip, faux pas” and derives from the verb glisser ”to slip, slide.” The French verb comes from Old French glicier, an alteration of glier “to glide,” a verb of Germanic (Frankish) origin, related to Old English glīdan and Old High German glītan “to glide.” Glissade entered English in the 19th century.

how is glissade used?

A rapid scramble down the shattered ridge to the col, and a careful kicking of steps along the first two or three hundred feet of the glacier which led northwards to our picnic place, then a glissade … gradually easing off into a run down.

T. Howard Somervell, After Everest: The Experiences of a Mountaineer and Medical Missionary, 1950

“Don’t worry,” she cheerily assured us over her shoulder. “In some places glissade is just about the only thing you can do. Plus, it’s fun.”

Paul Schneider, "On Snowshoes in New Hampshire, Shuffling Off to Lonesome Lake," New York Times, March 5, 2009
Saturday, February 17, 2018

objurgate

[ ob-jer-geyt, uh b-jur-geyt ]

verb

to reproach or denounce vehemently; upbraid harshly; berate sharply.

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What is the origin of objurgate?

The English verb objurgate comes from Latin objūrgāt-, the past participle stem of the verb objūrgāre “to reprimand, rebuke.” The Latin verb is composed of the prefix ob- “against,” and the verb jūrgāre or jūrigāre “to rebuke.” Jūrigāre, in turn, is composed of the noun stem jūr- (from jūs “right, law, justice”) and the verb suffix -igāre, from -ig-, a noun derivative of agere “to drive, do,” as in fumigate, litigate, and navigate. Objurgate entered English in the early 17th century.

how is objurgate used?

Let his fellows grumble and objurgate, said he; they would cringe to him when he became a dragoman, with his pockets stuffed with piastres.

Sabine Baring-Gould, The Book of Ghosts, 1904

It would be my advice to persons situated in this way, to not roll or thrash around, because this excites the interest of all the different sorts of animals and makes every last one of them want to turn out and see what is going on, and this makes things worse than they were before, and of course makes you objurgate harder, too, if you can.

Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, 1889

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