Word of the Day

Thursday, April 29, 2021

refractory

[ ri-frak-tuh-ree ]

adjective

hard or impossible to manage; stubbornly disobedient.

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What is the origin of refractory?

Refractory, “stubborn, obstinate,” is a respelling (or even a misspelling) of earlier refractary, which comes straight from Latin refractārius, with the same senses. Refractārius is a derivative of refractus, the past participle of the verb refringere “to break, break back, break open,” a compound of the prefix re– “again, back again, back” and the simple verb frangere “to break, shatter, smash.” Refractary entered English in the second half of the 16th century; the spelling refractory first occurs in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida (1602).

how is refractory used?

He knew the game, and could conquer the most refractory lion with a broom handle—not outside the cage, but inside and locked in.

Jack London, Michael, Brother of Jerry, 1917

“She can’t seem to get from A to B, and she always listens to my advice and doesn’t do it,” Ms. Stanger continued about the refractory client …

Amanda Fortini, "The Mating Game," New York Times, October 22, 2010

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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

mammock

[ mam-uhk ]

verb

to break, tear, or cut into fragments; shred.

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What is the origin of mammock?

Mammock, a noun and verb meaning “a fragment; to break,” has several spellings, including mommick, mommock, mammick. Unfortunately, the word has no reliable etymology: the only thing scholars agree on is the suffix –ock, used to form diminutive nouns such as hillock (“a small hill”). The noun sense of mammock entered English in the first half of the 16th century; the verb sense first appears in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus (1623).

how is mammock used?

whether his fall enraged him, or how ’twas, he did so set his teeth and tear it; O, I warrant it, how he mammocked it!

William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, 1623

he paced along the avenues, taking great strides, a stick in his hand, breaking the branches of the shrubs, mammocking the flower-beds, decapitating the flowers with lashing blows, leaving petals flying in his wake.

Patrick Rambaud, Napoleon's Exile, translated by Shaun Whiteside, 2005

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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

exonumia

[ ek-suh-noo-mee-uh, -nyoo- ]

plural noun

items, as tokens or medals, that resemble money but are not intended to circulate as money.

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What is the origin of exonumia?

Exonumia, a relatively new noun meaning “items such as subway tokens or bus tokens that resemble money but do not circulate as money,” is formed from the originally Greek adverb and combining form éxō “out, outside, without” and the first syllable of numismatics “the study or collecting of coins, medals, or paper money.” Numismatics in turn is a derivative of the Late Latin noun numisma (stem numismat-) from Latin nomisma “coin, medal, token,” from Greek nómisma “established usage, custom, current coin.” The final element –ia is the noun suffix (-ia in Latin, –ía in Greek), familiar in learned English words like agoraphobia and anesthesia. Exonumia entered English in the early 1960s.

how is exonumia used?

In addition to the display of the Roman Emperor set, the conventions will also host auctions of U.S. and foreign coins, ancient coins, medals and exonumia–the weird beasts of numismatics.

Jed Stevenson, "Pastimes; Coins," New York Times, April 29, 1990

A hobby organization that celebrates taxes, or at least exonumia connected to taxes, celebrates a milestone anniversary this year. In 1971, the American Tax Token Society was created by numismatists who share an interest in collecting Depression-era tokens.

Larry Jewett, "Tax token club turns 50 years old in 2021," Coin World, March 18, 2021

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