Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, March 15, 2020

scordatura

[ skawr-duh-toor-uh; Italian skawr-dah-too-rah ]

noun,

Music.

the tuning of a stringed instrument in other than the usual way to facilitate the playing of certain compositions.

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What is the origin of scordatura?

The musical term scordatura comes, as many musical terms do, from Italian. In English and Italian, scordatura is the tuning of a stringed instrument in an unusual way to facilitate the playing of certain compositions. Italian scordatura is a derivative of scordato “out of tune,” past participle of the verb scordare “to be out of tune.” Scordare is a somewhat reduced form of Latin discordāre “to be at variance, quarrel, disagree,” formed from the prefix dis- “apart, asunder” and cord-, the stem of the noun cor “heart.” Scordatura entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is scordatura used?

The alternative tuning, known as scordatura, is not some minor technical detail. Each new configuration is a secret key to an invisible door, unlocking a different set of chordal possibilities on the instrument, opening up alternative worlds of resonance and vibration.

Jeremy Eichler, "Reciting a Rosary, but in Sonata Form," New York Times, November 14, 2004

Scordatura in some violin concertos provides additional evidence for Vivaldi’s tendency to extend the advantages of playing on open strings to additional keys.

Bella Brover-Lubovsky, Tonal Space in the Music of Antonio Vivaldi, 2008

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Word of the day

Saturday, March 14, 2020

à la mode

[ ah luh mohd, al-uh-; French a la mawd ]

adjective

(of pie or other dessert) served with a portion of ice cream, often as a topping: apple pie à la mode.

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What is the origin of à la mode?

In French the phrase à la mode “in the current fashion” is a shortening of à la mode de “in the style of (X),” a meaning extant in U.S. English. But to most Americans à la mode means a dessert, typically a wedge of pie, topped with ice cream, a meaning that has been current in U.S. English since the early 1890s but not in British English. À la mode entered English in the 17th century.

how is à la mode used?

If your server mentions apple-and-caramel pie a la mode, don’t hesitate.

Tom Snyder, The Two-Lane Gourmet, 2007

You can find a hotel, convenience store, and pay-per-use showers there; more important, though, you can find blueberry pie a la mode.

Rebecca Flint Marx, "10 Pies to Eat on a Cross-Country Road Trip from New York to San Francisco," Bon Appétit, June 12, 2013

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Word of the day

Friday, March 13, 2020

hobgoblin

[ hob-gob-lin ]

noun

something causing superstitious fear; a bogy.

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What is the origin of hobgoblin?

Hobgoblin is a compound of the nouns hob and goblin. Hob (also Hobbe), a pet form or nickname of Robin or Robert, was used as early as the 15th century as a shortened form of Robin Goodfellow, a.k.a. Puck (as in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and a.k.a. Hobgoblin (i.e., the common noun used as a personal name). Goblin comes from Middle English gobelin goblin, gobolin “a devil, incubus, fairy,” from Middle French gobellin. Further etymology is uncertain and speculative: The French forms may come from Medieval Latin gobelīnus, from an unrecorded Late Latin gobalus, cabalus “domestic sprite,” from Greek kóbalos “malicious knave, mischievous genie.” The Latin suffix –īnus and French suffix –in complete the word. Hobgoblin entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is hobgoblin used?

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance," Essays, 1841

The enemy was very real, literally an existential foe … not just the hobgoblin of alleged McCarthyite paranoia.

Jonah Goldberg, "How Politics Destroyed a Great TV Show," Commentary, October 2009

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