Word of the Day

Friday, January 17, 2020

riposte

[ ri-pohst ]

noun

a quick, sharp return in speech or action; counterstroke: a brilliant riposte to an insult.

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What is the origin of riposte?

Riposte, earlier risposte, in its “social” sense “a quick, sharp return in speech or action” and its fencing sense “a quick thrust given after parrying a lunge,” comes via French from Old Italian risposta “response, reply” (13th century), which by the mid-16th century had developed its fencing sense. Risposta is a (feminine) noun use of the past participle of the verb rispondere “to answer,” from an unattested Vulgar Latin verb respondere, from Latin respondēre “to speak in answer to, answer, answer back” (the Latin verb has no “touché” sense associated with it). Risposte entered English in the early 18th century, riposte a century later.

how is riposte used?

George stands humiliated as laughter fills the room, his mind searching frantically for the perfect riposte.

Talib Visram, "How to Craft the Perfect Comeback, According to Experts," Mental Floss, July 16, 2018

Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, in an annual letter to shareholders, argued that Amazon’s growth has benefited its third-party merchants—a veiled riposte to calls to break up the company.

Spencer Soper, "Bezos Rebuts Warren's Amazon Breakup Call in Antitrust Defense," Washington Post, April 11, 2019
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Thursday, January 16, 2020

flinty

[ flin-tee ]

adjective

unyielding; unmerciful; obdurate: a flinty heart.

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What is the origin of flinty?

Flinty is an obvious combination of the noun flint “a hard stone, a type of silica” and the adjective suffix –y, from Old English –ig, cognate with German –ig, and related to Greek –ikos and Latin –icus. One odd element here is that the derived, metaphorical sense “unyielding, unmerciful, obdurate” appears in the first half of the 16th century, about 75 years before the literal sense “consisting of flint stone” (in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 1). A second oddity is that the noun flint, which comes from Old English flint, has impeccable cognates with other Germanic languages (Middle Dutch vlint, Old High German flins, Danish flint, Swedish flinta), from a Proto-Indo-European root (s)plei– “to split, splice.” But flint may be related to Greek plínthos “brick, air-dried brick, squared building stone,” except that a non-Greek language is the usual source of Greek terms associated with building and architecture and nouns with the suffix –inthos, such as asáminthos “bathtub,” terébinthos “terebinth tree, turpentine tree”—the ultimate source of English turpentine. Flinty entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is flinty used?

The section’s editor, Seymour Peck, a flinty New Yorker, had me write columns on movies, theatre, rock music, and television as well as on art, extending my capacities, while cracking down on my flakiness.

Peter Schjeldahl, "The Art of Dying," The New Yorker, December 16, 2019

I opened my mouth to deny it, and he forestalled me with one lifted finger, his gaze flinty.

Jacqueline Carey, "You, and You Alone," Songs of Love and Death, 2010
Wednesday, January 15, 2020

trangam

[ trang-guhm ]

noun

Archaic.

an odd gadget; gewgaw; trinket.

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What is the origin of trangam?

Trangam, also spelled trangame, trangram, and trankum, is a rare noun with no obvious etymology. Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) helped revive trangam in The Abbot (1820), one of the earlier Waverley Novels. Trangam entered English in the 17th century.

how is trangam used?

And meet time it was, when yon usher, vinegar-faced rogue that he is, began to enquire what popish trangam you were wearing …

Sir Walter Scott, The Abbot, 1820

Go, go your ways, get you gone, and finefy your Knacks and Tranghams

Aphra Behn, Sir Patient Fancy, 1678

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