Word of the Day

Word of the day

Monday, June 25, 2018

scupper

[ skuhp-er ]

verb

British. Informal. to prevent from happening or succeeding; ruin; wreck.

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What is the origin of scupper?

The origin of the verb scupper is uncertain. It originated as military slang (“to surprise and slaughter; utterly defeat”). The verb scupper may be a development from the noun scupper “an opening in a ship’s side even with the deck to allow water to flow away,” but the semantic development is unclear. Scupper entered English in the 19th century.

how is scupper used?

A row between the EEC and the US is threatening to scupper the UN Convention on the Ozone Layer, which was to have been agreed in Vienna next month.

, "Ozone agreement up in the air," New Scientist, February 7, 1985

McMaster has tried to prevent his celebrity from scuppering his career.

Patrick Radden Keefe, "McMaster and Commander," The New Yorker, April 30, 2018
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Word of the day

Sunday, June 24, 2018

edentate

[ ee-den-teyt ]

adjective

toothless.

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What is the origin of edentate?

Edentate means “lacking teeth, toothless,” a neutral term; it is also used in taxonomic names for an order of mammals lacking front teeth, e.g. sloths, armadillos, another neutral sense. The origin of edentate is the Latin adjective ēdentātus, the past participle of the verb ēdentāre “to knock (someone’s) teeth out,” definitely not a neutral sense. Edentate entered English in the 19th century.

how is edentate used?

As would have been the case a million years ago, a typical colonist can expect to be edentate by the time he or she is thirty years old, having suffered many skull-cracking toothaches on the way.

Kurt Vonnegut, Galápagos, 1985

Anyway, an edentate man led a bloated, mouth-foaming goat down a road webbed with knee-deep gullies.

Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project, 2008

Word of the day

Saturday, June 23, 2018

backstairs

[ bak-stairz ]

adjective

secret, underhanded, or scandalous: backstairs gossip.

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What is the origin of backstairs?

Backstairs was first recorded in 1635-45. It’s the adjectival extension of the noun back stairs.

how is backstairs used?

I say to Lord Hartington before you all, not by any backstairs intrigue and not by any secret negotiations, but in the face of this great meeting held in this great town and before all of England … “Come over and help us!”

Herbert Maxwell, "Lord Randolph Churchill," The National Review, Vol. XXV, March to August 1895

He would never believe it–it was a nasty piece of backstairs gossip!

Upton Sinclair, The Metropolis, 1908

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