Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, December 28, 2019

réchauffé

[ French rey-shoh-fey ]

noun

a warmed-up dish of food.

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What is the origin of réchauffé?

Réchauffé is “a warmed-up dish of food,” as made from leftovers. Figuratively, réchauffé can mean “anything old or stale brought into service again,” like a rehashed idea. It comes directly from French réchauffé “reheated.” Réchauffé is the past participle of réchauffer “to warm up, reheat,” composed of r(e)– “again” and échauffer “to overheat.” Échauffer is related to Middle French, Old French chaufer (modern French chauffer) “to warm,” ultimately from Latin cal(e)facere “to make hot,” equivalent to cale– (stem of calēre “to be hot”) and facere “to make.” Middle French chaufer is the source of English chafe “to wear or abrade by rubbing,” originally “to warm, heat.” The historic sense of chafe survives, to return to the culinary realm, in chafing dish, a device that consists of a metal dish with a lamp or heating appliance beneath it, used for cooking food or keeping it hot at the table. Réchauffé entered English at the end of the 1700s.

how is réchauffé used?

Spry hints at the humble origins of the dish, noting that ”Now, more commonly, this dish is a rechauffe”—reheated leftovers ….

Janet Bukovinsky, "Weekend Lunch: The New Formality," New York Times Magazine, October 26, 1986

The most artistic réchauffé will lose its charm if repeated too often …

Arthur Robert Kenny-Herbert, Culinary Jottings, 5th ed., 1885
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Word of the day

Friday, December 27, 2019

shilly-shally

[ shil-ee-shal-ee ]

verb (used without object)

to show indecision or hesitation; be irresolute; vacillate.

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What is the origin of shilly-shally?

We have no need to shilly-shally in giving the origin of this amusing term. It develops from the expression to stand shill I, shall I, a playful variation of the repeated question, shall I? shall I?—which a wishy-washy person would struggle to answer. Shilly-shally is modeled after another so-called reduplication (and near synonym), dilly-dally “to loiter or vacillate.” English is fond of such reduplications, or words formed by repeating a word or syllable. Many reduplications are exact, such as boo-boo. Others rhyme, like razzle-dazzle. Shilly-shally follows a pattern known as ablaut reduplication, in which vowels predictably alternate: chitchat, mishmash, and zigzag are other common examples. Entering English at the end of the 1600s, shilly-shally can also be a noun meaning “irresolution; hesitation; vacillation,” an adjective, “irresolute; undecided; vacillating,” and an adverb, “irresolutely.”

how is shilly-shally used?

Experience had taught him that where evil is concerned, it was better to be frank than to shilly-shally.

Anthony C. Winkler, The Family Mansion, 2013

I made my choice and stood by it. But you shilly-shally between both sides.

Ann Rinaldi, Finishing Becca, 1994
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Word of the day

Thursday, December 26, 2019

ephemeral

[ ih-fem-er-uhl ]

adjective

lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory: the ephemeral joys of childhood.

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What is the origin of ephemeral?

Something ephemeral lasts only a very short time. It derives from Greek ephḗmeros “short-lived, lasting but a day.” Ephḗmeros is ultimately based on the preposition and adverb epí “upon, up to, during,” among many other senses, and the noun hēméra “day.” In English, ephemeral originally described fevers that spanned just a day, and evolved to refer to organisms (and other things) not long for this world, including flowers or insects—like the mayfly, which is classified as an ephemerid and shuffles off this mortal coil within two days. Ephḗmeros is also the source of the English plural noun ephemera (singular ephemeron) “items designed to be useful or important for only a short time, especially pamphlets, notices, tickets, etc.” Ephemeral has not proved as much in English, entering in the late 1500s.

how is ephemeral used?

In this country, man’s work seems ephemeral, his influence transitory. Summer scorches the heath. Winter brings a pale damp light.

Hilary Mantel, A Change of Climate, 1994

It’s only with the rise of the Internet that a truly casual, willfully ephemeral prose has ascended—and become central to daily life.

Katy Waldman, "Is the Internet Making Writing Better?" The New Yorker, July 26, 2019
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