witty; brilliantly clever.
Scintillating “witty, brilliantly clever” ultimately derives from the Latin noun scintilla “glittering speck, spark.” Scintilla and its few derivatives refer generally only to physical phenomena; the only metaphorical sense that scintilla has is of eyes flashing in anger or passion, not the sense of sparkling or flashing wit. Scintilla comes from the Proto-Indo-European root skai– (and its variants) “to glow dully, reflect,” as in Greek skiā́ “shadow,” Gothic skeinan “to light, shine,” and Old English scīnan (English shine). Finally, Tocharian B skiyo “shadow, shade,” is exactly equivalent to Greek skiā́. Scintillating entered English in the second half of the 17th century in its literal sense; the sense “witty, clever” dates from the end of the 18th century.
Across the crowded living room, where all the clever, scintillating talk and noise of a cocktail party seem nervous and inane, a boy and a girl suddenly see each other.
What had once seemed perhaps a bit flat next to the scintillating wit and effervescent sparkle of our mother came to seem the most valuable quality in the world one person could give another, infinite patience and attention ….
verb (used without object)
to collapse or faint, as from surprise, excitement, or exhaustion.
Plotz “to collapse or faint, as from surprise, excitement, or exhaustion,” is one of those Yiddish words that make you smile just from its sound. Many Americans learned plotz in the early 1950s from Mad magazine (originally a comic book). Plotz is an American slang term that comes from Yiddish platsn “to crack, split, burst,” from Middle High German platzen “to burst.” Plotz entered English about 1920.
Simmel was worried about street lamps, murals, the occasional honk of a horn. Had he lived to see a smartphone, or modern Tokyo, he would have plotzed.
Make an effort to include your parents in this milestone, let them decide whether to take part somehow, and if they decline, then invite your mother-in-law to take a bigger role. If/when your mom plotzes … you can simply and kindly remind your mother that she was invited to take part and chose not to.
a bright moonlike spot on a lunar halo; a mock moon.
Paraselene “a bright moonlike spot on a lunar halo; a mock moon, a moon dog,” is a compound noun formed from the Greek preposition and prefix pará, para– “alongside, contrary to” and the noun selḗnē “moon, the moon.” Selḗnē is the Attic Greek form (when people say they are studying classical Greek, they mean the Greek of Attica, whose chief city was Athens); other dialects have selā́nā (Doric Greek and most other dialects); as usual, Aeolic Greek goes its own way with selánnā (Aeolic is the dialect of the lyric poets Sappho and Alcaeus). All the Greek forms derive from an unrecorded selasnā, a derivative of the neuter noun sélas “light, glow, beam.” Sixty percent of Greek words have no clear etymology; selḗnē, selā́nā, selánnā is among them. Paraselene entered English in the mid-17th century.
In this image, the first quarter moon is flanked on both sides of a halo by “mock moons,” also known as paraselenae or “moondogs.” The apparitions are formed when moonlight is refracted through thin, plate-shaped ice crystals in cirrus clouds.
The darkest part of the winter is from the middle of December to the middle of January, when the aurora transforms the sky into a vault of fire, and paraselene appear, surrounding the moon with blazing cresses, circles, and mock-moons, scarcely surpassed by the wonderful deceptions of the solar rays.
badly conceived, made, or carried out.
Misbegotten “badly conceived, made, or carried out,” is hard to figure out from its component parts. Misbegotten is made up of the prefix mis– “wrongly, incorrectly,” from the Germanic prefix missa– “astray, wrong” (from the same root as the verb miss “to fail to hit or strike”), as in Gothic missadeths “transgression, offense,” which occurs in Old English as misdǽd and in English as misdeed. Begotten is the past participle of beget, which comes from the Old English verb begietan “to get, acquire,” which since the second half of the 14th century has meant “to generate offspring; produce as an effect.” Beget is a compound of the prefix be-, a Germanic prefix originally meaning “about, around, on all sides,” with many other meanings, but here having a figurative sense (as also with befall, begin, behave). The verb get is from Old Norse geta “to get, be able to, beget, engender.” Misbegotten entered English in the first half of the 16th century in the sense “illegitimate child.”
It is long past time to end U.S. support for this misbegotten and unwinnable war.
Does our respect for companion creatures herald a new way of relating to non-humans, rejecting centuries of misbegotten thinking about animals as unfeeling biological machines?
an institution for popular education providing discussions, lectures, concerts, etc.
The English noun lyceum comes from Latin Lycīum, Lycēum, from Greek Lýkeion, the name of a gymnasium in southeast Athens with a neighboring sanctuary of Apóllōn Lýkios / Lýkeios. The area was one of the places where Socrates used to ask his good-humored but troublesome questions, and where Aristotle used to lecture. The sanctuary also gave its name to Aristotle’s school, the Lýkeion. It is unclear what exactly lýkeios means: It may mean “belonging to a wolf” (lýkos) because of the Athenian military and athletic cult of Apóllōn Lýkios “Wolf-Apollo.” Lýkeios is also an epithet of Apollo meaning “Lycian (Apollo),” i.e., Apollo was born in Lycia (his mother Leto was Lycian). Finally, because of Apollo’s association with the sun, lýkeios may be from the same root as Greek lýchnos “lantern, lamp” and Latin lux (stem luc-) “light.” Modern authorities consider the connection with Lycia and Leto to be the most probable one. Lyceum entered English in the second half of the 16th century.
At a lyceum, not long since, I felt that the lecturer had chosen a theme too foreign to himself, and so failed to interest me as much as he might have done.
On the lyceum circuit, they travelled from town to town, an adult-education campaign offering lectures on everything from physical exercise to the moral crisis of slavery.
acting like an uncle, as in being kind, patient, generous, etc., especially to younger people.
Avuncular typically means “acting in a kindly, benevolent manner towards one’s nieces and nephews.” Avuncular comes from the Latin noun avunculus “mother’s brother, uncle,” a derivative of the noun avus “grandfather, forefather, ancestor.” (English uncle comes via Old French and Anglo-French oncle, uncle from avunculus.) Latin avus comes from Proto-Indo-European awos “grandfather, maternal grandfather.” Awo– is also the source for Armenian hav “grandfather,” Old Irish áue, Middle Irish ó(a), úa, both meaning “grandson, descendant,” and the source of O’ in Gaelic surnames, such as O’Connor “descendant of Connor.” Variants of the stem appear in Lithuanian avýnas “maternal uncle,” Old Prussian awis, and Old Church Slavonic ujĭ, both meaning “uncle.” The Latin term for father’s brother, paternal uncle is patruus (a derivative of patr– father), for maternal aunt matertera (a derivative of mātr-), and for paternal aunt amita. Latin is interesting to anthropologists because of its unusually full and exact kinship terms, every possible kinship relation having its own term and not a descriptive compound noun, for example, “father’s brother, mother’s mother, sister’s son.” (The Latin system of kinship terms is an excellent example of the so-called Sudanese pattern.) Indeed, anthropologists use Latin kinship terms as the basis of a general terminology for cross-cultural use. Avuncular entered English in the first half of the 19th century.
Immersed in bubbles, fully suited, he [Stephen Colbert] provided his signature mix of acid critique and avuncular reassurance.
He also, later on, has a consoling, avuncular chat with his frightened boy-self.
any good or praiseworthy deed.
Mitzvah “law, divine law, commandment” is probably most familiar to Americans in the phrases bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah “son / daughter of the Law / commandment,” the ceremony making the young person responsible for observing the Law. Mitzvah represents a modern pronunciation of Hebrew mișwāh “command, commandment.” There also exists the developed meaning of mișwāh “good deed performed in fulfillment of a commandment,” such as the obligation to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Mitzvah entered English in the mid-17th century.
Wearing something new for a festive occasion is a mitzvah, a commandment and good deed in Jewish law.
Here’s what I learned: it’s a mitzvah for humanity that I didn’t take my parents’ advice about becoming a doctor.