Word of the Day

Friday, March 08, 2019

regina

[ ri-jahy-nuh, -jee- ]

noun

queen.

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What is the origin of regina?

The Latin noun rēgīna “queen” is obviously related to the Latin noun rēx (inflectional stem rēg-) “king,” but how rēgīna is derived from rēx is tricky. There is also a deceptive resemblance between rēx and rēgīna and Sanskrit rā́jan– “rajah, king” and rā́jñī– “queen, ranee” (rēgīna and rā́jñī– are not directly related). There is a definite connection, however, between Latin rēx (rēg-), rēgīna and the Celtic words for king, e.g., Old Irish (from rīks), and its stem ríg (from rīgos). Rígain, the Old Irish word for queen, is cognate with rēgīna. Regina dates from Old English times.

how is regina used?

He represented the rule of law, and in Miromara the law bowed to no one, not even the regina herself.

Jennifer Donnelly,  Sea Spell, 2016

“Mother of heaven, regina of the clouds … .”

Wallace Stevens, "Le Monocle de Mon Oncle,"  Others, 1918
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Thursday, March 07, 2019

Heiligenschein

[ hahy-li-guhn-shahyn ]

noun

German.

a ring of light around the shadow cast by a person's head, especially on a dewy, sunlit lawn, caused by reflection and diffraction of light rays; halo.

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What is the origin of Heiligenschein?

Heiligenschein in German means “halo (around a saint’s head), nimbus, aureole,” literally, “saint’s shining, saint’s light.” The optical effect is also called Cellini’s halo, after the Italian artist and writer Benevenuto Cellini (1500-71) who first described the phenomenon. Heiligenschein entered English in the 20th century.

how is Heiligenschein used?

The dark figure outlined on the mountain mist may have had a glory around its head, or at least a Heiligenschein, and seemed like ghost to the mountaineer who saw it.

Elizabeth A. Wood,  Science from Your Airplane Window, 1968

You may sometimes have noticed a faint sheen, or increased brightness, around the shadow of your head when this falls on a grass lawn, particularly when the Sun is low, and you cast a long shadow. This sheen is known as a heiligenschein, a German word meaning ‘holy glow.’

John Naylor,  Out of the Blue: A 24-hour Skywatcher's Guide, 2002
Wednesday, March 06, 2019

nice-nellyism

[ nahys-nel-ee-iz-uhm ]

noun

a euphemism: an evasive style of writing, full of circumlocutions and nice-nellyisms.

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What is the origin of nice-nellyism?

Nice-nellyism is an Americanism dating from the early 1930s. It is a contemptuous derivative of the contemptuous noun and adjective nice nelly (also nice Nelly) “prudish; prudish person,” which dates from the nearly 1920s.

how is nice-nellyism used?

This denial was at least partly a nice-Nellyism from the past, I think.

Kurt Vonnegut, Slapstick; or, Lonesome No More!, 1976

… it had been one of the running jokes of the campus, an exercise in innuendo, misinformation and Victorian nice-nellyism.

T. C. Boyle,  The Inner Circle, 2004

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