What People Are
the action, process, or faculty of looking back on things past.
Retrospection, and the slightly earlier noun retrospect, are based on retrospect-, past participle stem of New Latin retrōspicere “to look,” based on Latin adverb retrō “backward, back, behind” and specere “to look (at).” Retrospection, then, is the act of looking back, as many do when reflecting at the end of the year. The stem retrospect– may be partly based on (pro)spect, from Latin prōspectus “outlook, view,” composed of prō “before, in front of, for” and the same specere. Latin specere is the ultimate source of many English words involving various senses of “looking”: aspect, circumspect, expect, inspect, introspect, spectacular, and suspect, among many others. Retrospection entered English in the early 1600s.
Every separate day in the year is a gift presented to only one man—the happiest one … and it often happens that he recognizes his day only in retrospection …
He was roused from the reverie of retrospection and regret produced by it …
Scot. and North England.
(of people) well-dressed and of cheerful appearance.
Gawsy is an adjective found in Scottish and Northern English dialect between the early 1700 and 1900s. When describing people, gawsy means “well-dressed and of cheerful appearance,” as in “The gawsy, outgoing couple lit up the room when they arrived at the party.” When describing things, gawsy means “large and handsome,” as in “The festivities were hosted in a glittering, gawsy ballroom.” The origin of gawsy is obscure. The word is perhaps a variant of gaudy “brilliantly or excessively showy,” and may feature the suffix –sy, which can form adjectives that imply that the given quality is an affectation, as seen in artsy or folksy. Gawsy may also be connected to the obsolete verb gawe “to gape, stare” and Scottish adjective gash “shrewd; well-dressed; neat; imposing.”
Mrs M’Vicar … was withal a gawsy and furthy woman, taking great pleasure in hospitality, and every sort of kindliness and discretion.
He comes steppin’ muckle and braw and gawsy up to the door …
a warmed-up dish of food.
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.
Spry hints at the humble origins of the dish, noting that ”Now, more commonly, this dish is a rechauffe”—reheated leftovers ….
The most artistic réchauffé will lose its charm if repeated too often …
verb (used without object)
to show indecision or hesitation; be irresolute; vacillate.
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.”
Experience had taught him that where evil is concerned, it was better to be frank than to shilly-shally.
I made my choice and stood by it. But you shilly-shally between both sides.
lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory: the ephemeral joys of childhood.
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.
In this country, man’s work seems ephemeral, his influence transitory. Summer scorches the heath. Winter brings a pale damp light.
It’s only with the rise of the Internet that a truly casual, willfully ephemeral prose has ascended—and become central to daily life.
Big-hearted “generous; kind” certainly wears its heart on its sleeve, etymologically speaking. It’s a straightforward compound of big “magnanimous; generous; kindly” and hearted “having a specified kind of heart.” While big-hearted is found in English in the 1700s in the sense of “courageous,” the word heart, as regarded as the center of a person’s emotion and disposition, reaches well back into Old English. Hearted is used in combination with other adjectives to describe various temperaments: cold-hearted, fainthearted, hardhearted, and lighthearted are some other common examples.
The varied gifts were ranged about the foot of the bed, the golf stockings bulging with sweets were hung at its head, and the big-hearted donors retired ….
For his part, the Badger left him in no doubt that a small effort now, and a big-hearted gesture, would make all the difference to the life of Toad, of the River Bank and of them all.
eagerly expectant, as anticipating a desired event or arrival: waiting atiptoe for the mail.
If children wait atiptoe for Christmas morning, they are “eagerly expectant,” their anticipation likened to the excitement associated with standing on tiptoe. And indeed, “on tiptoe” is what the adjective and adverb atiptoe literally means. The initial a– in atiptoe is a reduced form of the Old English preposition on, variously meaning “on, in, into, toward.” This particular a– (the form has many other senses or functions in English) appears in a great variety of words, such as acknowledge, ablaze, aloud, and away. So, afoot, as another example, began as the prepositional phrase on foot. Atiptoe is recorded English by the late 1500s.
Ethel was standing beside her all aglow and atiptoe with anticipation.
The audience was atiptoe when “Suor Angelica” began, but despondent at the curtain’s fall.