Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, November 08, 2020

satisfice

[ sat-is-fahys ]

verb (used without object)

to choose or adopt the first satisfactory option that one comes across.

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What is the origin of satisfice?

It is easiest to take the verb satisfice, “to choose or adopt the first satisfactory option, select or pursue the minimum satisfactory result” as a blend of satis(fy) and (suf)fice. Satisfice contrasts with optimize, “to make as effective or useful as possible; make the best of.” A quote from the International New York Times shows this usage well: “Big business executives don’t really try to maximize profits but ‘satisfice’—that is, they try to make enough profit to keep stockholders and boards of directors happy without bringing the wrath of government regulators, consumer groups or business competitors down on them.” Satisfice, originally a northern English colloquialism, entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is satisfice used?

In the real world, neither people nor firms maximize utility. … What firms do instead is “satisfice,” to use Simon’s term: they content themselves with results that are “good enough.”

Christopher Caldwell, "Select All," The New Yorker, February 23, 2004

Most people fall somewhere in the middle. A person can maximize when it comes to some decisions and satisfice on others.

Elizabeth Bernstein, "How You Make Decisions Says a Lot About How Happy You Are," Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2014

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Saturday, November 07, 2020

ex libris

[ eks -lee-bris, lahy- ]

an inscription in or on a book, to indicate the owner; bookplate.

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What is the origin of ex libris?

Ex libris is a Latin prepositional phrase meaning “out of, from the books (of).” The phrase is composed of the preposition ex “out, out of” (it governs the ablative case), and librīs, the ablative plural of liber (stem libr-) “book,” whose original Latin meaning was and always remained “inner bark of a tree, rind, bast.” Liber comes from an unrecorded Latin luber or lubros, from lubh-, one of the variants of the Proto-Indo-European root leubh-, loubh– (also leub-, leup-) “to peel, peel off.” Leubh– regularly becomes laub– in the Germanic languages, as in Gothic laufs, Old English lēaf “leaf” (from Germanic laufaz). Loubh– forms Lithuanian lubà “board” and lúobas “bark,” and Albanian labë “rind, cork.” The Latin preposition ex comes from Proto-Indo-European eghs “out, out of,” becoming Greek ex, Old Irish ess-, ass-, Welsh eh-, Gaulish ex– (Gaulish is an extinct Celtic language of ancient Gaul), and Old Prussian es(teinu) “from (now on).” Ex libris entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is ex libris used?

[Bookstores] do sell objects imbued with history: a former owner’s ex libris, an inscribed dedication from an unknown well-wisher, an occasional sales receipt used as a bookmark.

Michael Williams, "Like Baseball Cards, but for Funerals," The Atlantic, February 4, 2016

What interested me wasn’t the title or the author but the ex-libris pasted to the inside cover. It incorporated a coat of arms, a motto … and a name engraved beneath in a heavy Gothic script: Anton Schwarz von Steiner.

Ross King, Ex Libris, 1998

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Friday, November 06, 2020

garboil

[ gahr-boil ]

noun

Archaic.

confusion.

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What is the origin of garboil?

Garboil is the perfect word: it sounds exactly like its meaning, “confusion.” Garboil comes via Middle French garbouille (16th century) “confused mess,” whose further etymology is uncertain. Italian has garbuglio, charbuglio (15th century) “confused mess,” but etymologists are not convinced. Past that lies confusion: garboil has been associated with garble “to confuse, jumble”; no one is happy with that, either. Garboil entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is garboil used?

Assuring your grace, that being this country in such garboil as it is, I would be loath to adventure to go to my Lord of Angus with any conduct that he would appoint me, unless the king’s pleasure be that I shall so do.

Sir Ralph Sadler, Sir Ralph Sadler to Lord of Suffolk, November 29, 1543, in Letters and Negotiations of Sir Ralph Sadler, 1720

The trolley officials of the Auburn & Syracuse Electric R. R. and the motormen and the conductors are still in a garboil over the final settlement of a wage increase demand despite the fact that several conferences have been held between them but each with little success …

"Officials and Carmen Still Clinch," The Cayuga Chief, April 23, 1920

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