Word of the Day

Friday, August 28, 2020

schmaltz

[ shmahlts, shmawlts ]

noun

exaggerated sentimentalism, as in music or soap operas.

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What is the origin of schmaltz?

Schmaltz comes from Yiddish shmalts and German Schmaltz, with two meanings: “liquid animal fat, especially chicken fat,” and by extension “exaggerated sentimentalism.” (The adjective schmaltzy, however, means only “exaggeratedly sentimental.”) Before Americans became concerned about their diets, one could go to a Jewish restaurant and find on the table a bottle or cruet filled with schmaltz to make sure diners maintained a proper level of cholesterol in their blood. Schmaltz in its dietary sense entered English at the end of the 18th century; in its critical sense, in the mid-1930s.

how is schmaltz used?

At first it sounded like normal holiday schmaltz: the softest of soft-rock pianos, punched up with a twist of synth. This was joined by the softest of soft-rock voices, which intoned the immortal lyric: “Met my old lover in the grocery store.”

Sam Anderson, "Letter of Recommendation: Dan Fogelberg, 'Same Old Lang Syne,'" New York Times, December 14, 2016

It was a blatant ploy to serve fans … but it’s also a comic-book movie. I say, bring on the schmaltz!

Angela Watercutter, "A Spoiler-Packed Review of Avengers: Endgame's Highlights," Wired, April 27, 2019

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

vituperate

[ vahy-too-puh-reyt, -tyoo-, vi- ]

verb (used with or without object)

to use or address with harsh or abusive language; revile.

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What is the origin of vituperate?

Vituperate, “to address with harsh language, revile,” comes straight from Latin vituperātus, the past participle of the verb vituperāre “to spoil, blame, criticize adversely, find fault with.” The formation of vituperāre is a little irregular: The first element of this compound appears to be noun vitium “fault, defect, shortcoming” (and via Old French, the source of English vice). Viti– is the combining form of vitium before labial consonants (p, b, m). But the element –perāre is problematic, sometimes explained as a combining form of parāre “to prepare,” sometimes as a verb derivative of the adjective pār “matching, equal” (as in the verb aequiperāre, aequiparāre “to equalize, compare”). Vituperate entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is vituperate used?

He refused to join the “anti-disco crusade,” making the valid point that it isn’t necessary to vituperate the other fellow’s music in order to defend the kind you like.

Phillip Lopate, "Mr. Rotten, Mr. Vicious and Mr. Wagner," New York Times, December 24, 2006

There are moments in life when true invective is called for, when there comes an absolute necessity, out of a deep sense of justice, to denounce, mock, vituperate, lash out, rail at in the strongest possible language.

Charles Simic, "In Praise of Invective," Thumbscrew, Autumn/Winter 1995

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

ikigai

[ ee-kee-gahy ]

noun

one’s reason for being, which in principle is the convergence of one’s personal passions, beliefs, values, and vocation: those who follow the concept of ikigai undertake the activities of their life with willingness and a satisfying sense of meaning.

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What is the origin of ikigai?

Ikigai, a Japanese word meaning “one’s personal reason for living,” is not easy to define in two minutes. Ikigai is a compound of iki “life, living, being alive” (from the verb ikiru “to live”) and the combining form –gai, from kai “worth, value, benefit.” In Japan in the 1960s, ikigai was for the betterment of society; in the 21st century, however, ikigai seems to focus on the development of oneself for the future, or self-actualization. Ikigai entered English in the early 1970s.

how is ikigai used?

Ikigai resides in the realm of small things. The morning air, the cup of coffee, the ray of sunshine, the massaging of octopus meat and the American president’s praise are on equal footing.

Ken Mogi, Awakening Your Ikigai, 2018

As such, ikigai emphasises process and immersion rather than a final aim.

Iza Kavedžija, "The Japanese concept of ikigai: why purpose might be a better goal than happiness," The Conversation, December 14, 2017

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