Word of the Day

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Roscian

[ rosh-ee-uhn, rosh-uhn ]

adjective

of, relating to, or involving acting.

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What is the origin of Roscian?

The English adjective Roscian comes straight from the Latin proper adjective Rosciānus, coined by and used exclusively by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 b.c.) in honor of his older contemporary, mentor, friend, and client, the actor Quintus Roscius Gallus (ca. 126–62 b.c.). Acting was not a respected profession in Rome, but Roscius dignified it and devoted himself to elocution, gesture, and characterization. The Roman general, reactionary politician, and dictator Sulla (138–79 b.c.) even presented Roscius with a gold ring, a symbol of equestrian rank. Roscius instructed the young Cicero in elocution and delivery; Cicero successfully pleaded Roscius’ cause in a civil suit around 76 b.c. (Cicero’s speech Pro Quinto Roscio Comoedo survives); he and Roscius used to engage in friendly contests to see who could express emotion and character better, the actor or the orator. Roscian entered English in the early 17th century.

how is Roscian used?

Because you grace the roscian sphere, / As great in Chalkstone as in Lear ….

Samuel Boyce, "The Animal Comedians, A Fable," Poems on Several Occasions, 1757

I … found it to be a crumpled play-bill of a small metropolitan theatre, announcing the first appearance, in that very week, of “the celebrated Provincial Amateur of Roscian renown, whose unique performance in the highest tragic walk of our National Bard has lately occasioned so great a sensation in local dramatic circles.”

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, 1861
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Saturday, September 21, 2019

prévenance

[ prey-vuh-nahns ]

noun

French.

special care in anticipating or catering to the needs and pleasures of others.

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What is the origin of prévenance?

Every breakroom in every restaurant in the U.S. should have prominently displayed a great big poster in bold sans serif caps: “prévenance, special care in anticipating or catering to the needs and pleasures of others.” Prévenance is a French noun meaning “thoughtfulness.” Prévenance is a derivative of the verb prévenir, one of whose meanings is “to anticipate.” Prévenir comes from Latin praevenīre “to come before, anticipate,” a compound of the preposition and prefix prae, prae– “before, in advance” and venīre “to come.” Praevenīre does mean “to anticipate,” but in the sense “to forestall, prevent.” Prévenance entered English in the 18th century.

how is prévenance used?

A much older and far wiser woman would have been persuaded to believe, as she believed, that in all this delicate prévenance for her pleasures and her preferences the tenderest love had spoken.

Ouida (Maria Louise Ramé), Princess Napraxine, 1884

My father I fear, was not remarkable in general for his tenderness or his prévenance for the poor girl whom fortune had given him to protect; but from time to time he would wake up to a downright sense of kinship and duty ….

Henry James, "Gabrielle de Bergerac," 1869
Friday, September 20, 2019

galvanize

[ gal-vuh-nahyz ]

verb (used with object)

to startle into sudden activity; stimulate.

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What is the origin of galvanize?

The English verb galvanize comes from the French verb galvaniser “to make muscles contract by application of electrical current,” a discovery made by the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani in 1780, when an assistant touched the exposed sciatic nerve of a dead frog with a metal scalpel that had picked up a charge, which made the dead frog’s leg kick as if alive. Galvanize in its physiological sense entered English in the early 19th century; the figurative sense “to startle into sudden activity” dates to the mid-19th century.

how is galvanize used?

The presence of the enemy seemed to galvanize the growers, underscoring the subtext of Elliot’s message: that their industry was under attack, and they needed D&W’s crisis-management services.

Ruth Ozeki, All Over Creation, 2003

… [Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis] looms as just barely premodern, even though she presided over the start of (and maybe even helped galvanize) the most turbulent social transformation in recent history.

Roger D. Friedman, Michael Hirschorn, Belinda Luscombe, Rebecca Mead, Melissa Morgan, Nancy Jo Sales, and Whitney Scott, "Her Friends Remember Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis," New York, May 30, 1994

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