Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, February 24, 2020

realpolitik

[ rey-ahl-poh-li-teek, ree- ]

noun

political realism or practical politics, especially policy based on power rather than on ideals.

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What is the origin of realpolitik?

Realpolitik still feels like a German word. It was coined by Ludwig von Rochau, a 19th-century German politician and journalist, in his Grundsätze der Realpolitik “Principles of Practical Politics” (1853). Real in German means “realistic, practical, objective,” and Realpolitik means “realistic politics, practical politics,” that is, politics based primarily on power, national interests, and material factors and not on explicit ideological or moral or ethical premises. Realpolitik entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is realpolitik used?

Throughout, Ms. Warren has kept one eye trained on policy and the other on realpolitik: protecting her aspirational brand of liberalism and robbing Republicans (and her Democratic rivals) of a potent talking point about middle-class taxes.

Shane Goldmacher, Sarah Kliff, and Thomas Kaplan, "How Elizabeth Warren Got to 'Yes' on Medicare for All," New York Times, November 17, 2019

… the cynic also had not counted on how ruthless the man could be in attaching himself to cold realpolitik after building his entire campaign—nay, his entire political career—on a notion of political transcendence.

Charles P. Pierce, "The Cynic and President Obama," Esquire, November 1, 2012
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Sunday, February 23, 2020

thersitical

[ ther-sit-i-kuhl ]

adjective

scurrilous; foulmouthed; grossly abusive.

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What is the origin of thersitical?

The very rare adjective thersitical “scurrilous, foulmouthed, abusive” derives from the Greek personal name Thersítēs, itself a derivative of the adjective thersiepḗs “bold of speech.” Thersites appears in Book 2 of the Iliad in the assembly of the Achaeans. Homer describes Thersites as lame, bowlegged, with shoulders that sloped inward, and a pointy head covered with tufts of hair—the ugliest man at Troy. Thersites accuses Agamemnon of greed and Achilles of cowardice, for which Odysseus beats him severely about the head and shoulders to the great amusement of the rest of the Achaeans. Thersitical entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is thersitical used?

… there is a pelting kind of thersitical satire ….

Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Vol. 2, 1759

These he lists in language so richly thersitical that his English translator, likely Herring himself, must have strained his vocabulary to its limits to do it justice.

Todd H.J. Pettigrew, Stephanie M. Pettigrew, and Jacques A. Bailly, eds., "Introduction," The Major Works of John Cotta, 2018
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Saturday, February 22, 2020

gullywasher

[ guhl-ee-wosh-er, -waw-sher ]

noun

Chiefly Midland and Western U.S.

a usually short, heavy rainstorm.

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What is the origin of gullywasher?

Gullywasher, “a short, heavy rainstorm,” is a dialect and regional word in the U.S. Midwest and West. The first half of the word is a variant pronunciation of gullet “throat, esophagus,” from Middle English golet, gulet, from Old French goulet, from Latin gula “throat.” Gullywasher entered English in the early 20th century.

how is gullywasher used?

I used to have a country neighbor who during drouths would inevitably, when he saw a white rim of cloudiness on the easter horizon, prognosticate a gully-washer, a clod-melter, a frog-strangler within the week.

John Graves, "Weather Between East and West," From a Limestone Ledge, 1977

The rounds of rain and flash flooding Tuesday presented another reminder that 2018 has featured both gullywashers and full-day washouts.

Ian Livingston, "Tuesday's record rainfall catapulted D.C. to its yearly total with four months to go in 2018," Washington Post, August 22, 2018
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