• Word of the day
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    Wednesday, May 22, 2019

    self-possessed

    adjective [self-puh-zest, self-]
    having or showing control of one's feelings, behavior, etc.; composed; poised.
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    What is the origin of self-possessed?

    The adjective self-possessed, which entered English in the mid-18th century, is a derivative of the earlier noun self-possession, which appeared a hundred years earlier.

    How is self-possessed used?

    There was an occasional copied page of her diary in which she appeared contented, and self-possessed: autonomous in a way I could not imagine for myself. Alice Walker, Possessing the Secret of Joy, 1992

    Unburdening himself his coat, he was not self-possessed enough to find in his pocket the scroll of resolutions which every one saw protruding from it ... Wendell Phillips, "Mobs and Education," Speeches, Lectures, and Letters, 1863

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, May 21, 2019

    stellate

    adjective [stel-it, -eyt]
    like the form of a conventionalized figure of a star; star-shaped.
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    What is the origin of stellate?

    Stellate comes straight from the Latin adjective stellātus, formed from the noun stella “star” and -ātus, a suffix that forms adjectives from nouns. The noun stella comes from an unrecorded stēr- or stēr-o-. Stēr- comes from a very widespread Proto-Indo-European root ster-, stēr- “star,” appearing in Sanskrit star-, Germanic (English) star. Greek preserves the most ancient form, astḗr, the a- being the remainder of a Proto-Indo-European laryngeal consonant. Stellate entered English at the end of the 15th century.

    How is stellate used?

    The cut edges of the glasses were projecting stellate tessellations across the mahogany. Ethan Canin, A Doubter's Almanac, 2016

    In their experiments, the researchers placed the amoeba in the center of a stellate chip, which is a round plate with 64 narrow channels projecting outwards, and then placed the chip on top of an agar plate. Lisa Zyga, "Amoeba finds approximate solutions to NP-hard problem in linear time," Phys.org, December 20, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, May 20, 2019

    scaturient

    adjective [skuh-toor-ee-uhnt, -tyoor-]
    gushing; overflowing.
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    What is the origin of scaturient?

    Scaturient is a very rare adjective meaning “bubbling up, gushing forth.” It comes from Latin scaturrient-, scāturient-, the participle stem of scaturriēns, scāturiēns, from the verb scaturrīre, scatūrīre. The Latin verbs are derivatives of scatēre, scatere “to gush violently”; the suffix -urīre is of obscure origin and usually forms desiderative verbs (verbs that express the desire to perform the action denoted by the underlying verb). The Latin root scat- is a derivative of the Proto-Indo-European root skēt- “to jump, spring, hop,” source of Old Lithuanian skasti “to jump, spring,” and perhaps of English shad (the fish), from Old English sceadd. Scaturient entered English in the latter half of the 17th century.

    How is scaturient used?

    The trees, and the flowers, and the butterflies, the green and fragrant earth, all teeming and scaturient with new species. Hartley Coleridge, "Captain James Cook," Biographia Borealis, 1833

    ... we well remember on one fine summer holyday ... sallying forth at rise of sun ... to trace the current of the New River—Middletonian stream!—to its scaturient source .... Charles Lamb, "Newspapers Thirty-Five Years Ago," The Last Essays of Elia, 1833

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, May 19, 2019

    buckram

    noun [buhk-ruhm]
    stiffness of manner; extreme preciseness or formality.
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    What is the origin of buckram?

    The noun buckram has gone through many meanings. In the 13th century it referred to a kind of fine linen or cotton cloth, as for ecclesiastic vestments. In the 15th century buckram referred to a thick, coarse linen or cotton cloth sized with glue or paste, as for stiffening clothing or binding books. By the second half of the 17th century, buckram extended the 15th-century meaning to “stiffness of manner, extreme formality.” The etymology of buckram is obscure: some authorities suggest that the word ultimately comes from Bukhara, Uzbekistan, which manufactured and exported the fine cloth. Buckram entered English in the 13th century.

    How is buckram used?

    You think you are doing mighty well with them; that you are laying aside the buckram of pedantry and pretence, and getting the character of a plain, unassuming, good sort of fellow. William Hazlitt, "On the Disadvantages of Intellectual Superiority," Table-Talk, Vol. 2, 1822

    I had moments when I thought of him as of a man of pasteboard—as though, if one should strike smartly through the buckram of his countenance, there would be found a mere vacuity within. Robert Louis Stevenson, The Master of Ballantrae, 1889

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, May 18, 2019

    jockey

    verb (used with object) [jok-ee]
    to manipulate cleverly or trickily: He jockeyed himself into office.
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    What is the origin of jockey?

    The verb jockey in its extended sense “to manipulate cleverly or trickily” comes from a noun sense “crafty bargainer, cheater,” from a still earlier sense “horse trader, horse dealer” (as if horse traders were untrustworthy). Jockey in its noun sense “a professional rider in horse races” entered English in the late 17th century.

    How is jockey used?

    The doctor watched him with interest, wondering ... whether Tom Craik, to use his own words, would jockey the undertaker, as he had jockeyed many another adversary in his stirring existence. F. Marion Crawford, The Three Fates, 1892

    Even before the results were released, there was discussion in some quarters over whether to request a recount as small right-wing factions jockeyed to get into the parliament, called the Knesset. Loveday Morris, "Netanyahu extends lead slightly in final election count," Washington Post, April 11, 2019

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, May 17, 2019

    alameda

    noun [al-uh-mey-duh]
    a public walk shaded with trees.
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    What is the origin of alameda?

    It is hard to imagine a lovelier-sounding word than alameda. It is not a word in general American usage, but a regionalism in the American Southwest, a common noun meaning “a tree-shaded public walk.” Alameda comes directly from Spanish alameda “poplar grove,” formed from the noun álamo “poplar” (a noun of unknown etymology) and the noun suffix -eda, which regularly derives from the Latin noun suffix -ētum, denoting a place where plants are grown, e.g., arborētum “a place where trees are grown.” The placename and proper noun Alameda, a city in California east of San Francisco across the San Francisco Bay, was so named not by Spaniards or Mexicans, but by American settlers in a popular vote in 1853. Alameda entered English in the 18th century.

    How is alameda used?

    The ascent to it is by an alameda or public walk, which was formerly beautifully planted, but the trees were cut down during the revolutionary contest. Josiah Conder, The Modern Traveller: Colombia, 1825

    At the foot of the hill is an alameda, or public walk, which, though not so fashionable as the more modern and splendid paseo of the Xenil, still boasts a varied and picturesque concourse. Washington Irving, The Alhambra, 1832

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, May 16, 2019

    whataboutism

    noun [hwuht-uh-bou-tiz-uhm, wuht‐, hwot‐, wot‐]
    a conversational tactic in which a person responds to an argument or attack by changing the subject to focus on someone else’s misconduct, implying that all criticism is invalid because no one is completely blameless: Excusing your mistakes with whataboutism is not the same as defending your record.
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    What is the origin of whataboutism?

    Whataboutism is a transparent formation of the phrase “What about…?” used to form objections in an argument, and the noun suffix -ism. Whataboutism entered English in the second half of the 20th century.

    How is whataboutism used?

    Whataboutism appears to broaden context, to offer a counterpoint, when really it’s diverting blame, muddying the waters and confusing ... rational listeners. Dan Zak, "Whataboutism: The Cold War tactic, thawed by Putin, is brandished by Donald Trump," Washington Post, August 18, 2017

    The best response to whataboutism has historically been to say that while, yes, other countries have their faults, injustice should not be tolerated anywhere. Olga Khazan, "The Soviet-Era Strategy That Explains What Russia Is Doing With Snowden," The Atlantic, August 2, 2013

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