Word of the Day

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

rhapsodic

[ rap-sod-ik ]

adjective

extravagantly enthusiastic; ecstatic.

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What is the origin of rhapsodic?

Not everyone may get “extravagantly enthusiastic or ecstatic” about word origins, but they are key to understanding the development of the word rhapsodic. Rhapsodic is an adjective form of rhapsody, which historically refers to an epic poem, or part of such a poem, such as a book of Homer’s Iliad, that can be recited at one time. Rhapsody ultimately derives from Greek rhapsōidía “recital of epic poetry.” Such recitals tended to be done with intense expression and feeling, leading to the English sense of rhapsodic. In music, a rhapsody is “an instrumental composition irregular in form and suggestive of improvisation,” such as George Gershwin’s truly rhapsodic 1924 opus, Rhapsody in Blue. Rhapsodic entered English in the mid-1700s.

how is rhapsodic used?

When I mentioned the Betty Crocker book to David Kamp … it didn’t seem to inspire the rhapsodic response I was hoping for.

Sadie Stein, "Betty Crocker and the Joys of Children's Cookbooks," The New Yorker, January 5, 2018

… he can now tell you about the rhapsodic joy of a perfect day out at his home break with his boys as well as the spiritual fulfillment he felt from chasing waves around the planet as a surf bohemian inspired by Jack Kerouac.

Jay Caspian Kang, "Writing Waves," New York Times, July 22, 2015
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Monday, November 18, 2019

oppidan

[ op-i-duhn ]

adjective

of a town; urban.

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What is the origin of oppidan?

Oppidan derives from Latin oppidānus “of a town,” from the noun oppidum “town.” Oppidānus didn’t just describe any town, though: it was used of towns other than Rome, which was referred to as urbs “city,” specifically the capital city of Rome. Due to this distinction from Rome, Latin oppidānus could have the pejorative connotation of “provincial, rustic.” The adjective form of urbs was urbānus “of the city,” source of English urban. Another city-based adjective English gets from Latin is municipal, from mūnicipium, a town whose residents had the rights of Roman citizens but which otherwise governed itself. Oppidan entered English by the mid-1500s.

how is oppidan used?

A lot of people were confused when Kaplan … took a job at Condé Nast Traveler, a magazine not widely known as a bastion of oppidan irreverence.

Nathan Heller, "The Cranky Wisdom of Peter Kaplan," The New Republic, September 13, 2012

Forsake your oppidan haunts and play manorial backgammon in the ballroom at Old Westbury Gardens, John S. Phipps’s former Long Island estate.

Russell Edwards, "Future Social Events," New York Times, May 26, 1974
Sunday, November 17, 2019

simony

[ sahy-muh-nee, sim-uh- ]

noun

the making of profit out of sacred things.

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What is the origin of simony?

Simony takes its name from the figure of Simon Magus in the New Testament of the Bible. Acts 8:9–24 presents the account of Simon, a Samaritan sorcerer who converted to Christianity. When Simon sees the apostles Peter and John bestowing the Holy Spirit by laying their hands on people, he offers them money in hopes that he, too, can possess spiritual or ecclesiastical gifts. This story is the source of Late Latin simōnia “buying or selling of spiritual or ecclesiastical gifts.” Entering Middle English around by early 1200s in the form of simonie, simony expanded to refer to the sin of buying or selling positions or privileges in the church and, more broadly, “the making of profit out of sacred things.”

how is simony used?

His critique was that the Jellybys of the world sometimes commit the sin of simony, meaning that they trade in sacred and spiritual materials for their own emotional profit.

Josephine Livingstone, "America's 'Poster Child' Syndrome," The New Republic, June 20, 2018

But isn’t what I’m doing the greatest crime of all? … Am I committing simony?

Gore Vidal, Lincoln, 1984

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