Word of the Day

Sunday, March 04, 2018

seriocomic

[ seer-ee-oh-kom-ik ]

adjective

partly serious and partly comic: a seriocomic play.

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What is the origin of seriocomic?

Seriocomic was first recorded in 1775-85. It links the words serious and comic with -o-, the typical ending of the first element of compounds of Greek origin, often used in English as a connective irrespective of etymology.

how is seriocomic used?

Suddenly, here toward the year’s end, when the new films are plunging toward the wire and the prospects of an Oscar-worthy long shot coming through get progressively more dim, there sweeps ahead a film that is not only one of the best of the year, but also one of the best seriocomic social satires we’ve had from Hollywood since Preston Sturges was making them.

Bosley Crowther, "The Graduate," New York Times, December 22, 1967

Jonesy had seen representations of him on a hundred “weird mysteries” TV shows, on the front pages of a thousand tabloid newspapers (the kind that shouted their serio-comic horrors at you as you stood prisoner in the supermarket checkout lanes) …

Stephen King, Dreamcatcher, 2001
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Saturday, March 03, 2018

tzimmes

[ tsim-is ]

noun

fuss; uproar; hullabaloo: He made such a tzimmes over that mistake!

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What is the origin of tzimmes?

Tzimmes comes from Yiddish tsimes and is related to Swabian German zimmes, zimbes “compote, stew” and Swiss German zimis “lunch.” The German noun is a compound word, originally a prepositional phrase, formed from Middle High German z, ze, an unstressed variant of zuo “at, to” (German zu) and the Middle High German noun imbiz, imbīz “snack, light meal” (German Imbiss). Imbiz is a derivative of Old High German enbīzan “to take nourishment,” which is related to English in and bite. Tzimmes entered English in the late 19th century.

how is tzimmes used?

Don’t make a tzimmes out of it. You gonna upset the children …

Mary Doria Russell, Epitaph, 2015

Why do you have to make such a tzimmes over the maids’ stairs.

Péter Nádas, Parallel Stories, translated by Imre Goldstein, 2011
Friday, March 02, 2018

phub

[ fuhb ]

verb

Slang. to ignore (a person or one's surroundings) when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device: Hey, are you phubbing me?

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What is the origin of phub?

Phub was first recorded in 2010–14. It blends the words phone and snub.

how is phub used?

I found myself glancing at my phone in the middle of conversations … conveniently forgetting how annoyed I felt when other people phubbed me.

Catherine Price, How to Break Up with Your Phone, 2018

What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction.

Jo Piazza, How to Be Married, 2017
Thursday, March 01, 2018

aberration

[ ab-uh-rey-shuh n ]

noun

the act of departing from the right, normal, or usual course.

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What is the origin of aberration?

The English noun aberration has wandered far from its Latin original. Cicero (106-43 b.c.) is the first (and only) Latin author to use the noun aberrātiō “distraction, diversion, relief (from pain or sorrow).” Aberrātiō is a derivative of the verb aberrāre “to divert, forget for a time; to wander off, go astray, deviate.” Aberration entered English in the 16th century.

how is aberration used?

They don’t want to believe that the United States is opposed to action on global warming. They’d rather see the Trump administration as an aberration.

Lisa Friedman and Brad Plumer, "Introducing Our Newsletter, Climate Fwd:" New York Times, November 15, 2017

I had never fought or thrown a punch at anyone. It was an aberration to my father, and he had instilled in me this idea of physical violence as an aberration.

David Adams Richards, Mercy Among the Children, 2000
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

ufology

[ yoo-fol-uh-jee ]

noun

the study of unidentified flying objects.

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What is the origin of ufology?

Ufology was first recorded in 1955-60.

how is ufology used?

The First International Congress on the U.F.O. Phenomenon, which ended here yesterday, brought the two groups uncomfortably together, and, after a week of heated debate, a single theory of ufology seemed further away tha[n] ever.

Alan Riding, "Scientists and Laymen in Conflict At World Conference on U.F.O.'s," New York Times, April 25, 1977

The history of ufology shows the complex psychology of fringe beliefs.

Julie Beck, "What UFOs Mean for Why People Don't Trust Science," The Atlantic, February 18, 2016
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

goldilocks

[ gohl-dee-loks ]

adjective

(usually initial capital letter) not being extreme or not varying drastically between extremes, especially between hot and cold: a Goldilocks economy that is neither overheated nor too cold to cause arecession; a goldilocks planet such as Earth.

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What is the origin of goldilocks?

Little new or unknown can be said about Goldilocks, but in the late 1980s astronomers began using the phrases Goldilocks planet or Goldilocks zone for planets in our solar system exoplanets that are not too hot, not too cold for supporting life (as we know it on earth).

how is goldilocks used?

For future generations to realize the search for distant “Goldilocks planets,” this generation must work harder to protect our own.

Alan S. Fintz, "Letter to the Editor: The Good Earth," New York Times, February 1, 2011

Short-story collections prove to be a solution to folks who are “too busy to read” or are trying to find a way to break up a monotonous commute becoming the “just right” in a Goldilocks situation.

Nicole Y. Chung, "9 short-story collections we can't wait to read this fall," Washington Post, September 18, 2017
Monday, February 26, 2018

hyetal

[ hahy-i-tl ]

adjective

of or relating to rain or rainfall.

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What is the origin of hyetal?

The English adjective hyetal is very uncommon, used only in meteorology. The Greek noun hyetόs means “rain”; the noun hyetía means “rainy weather”; both nouns derive from the verb hýein “to rain.” In English and other languages (German, for example), verbs of weather and natural phenomena are impersonal (e.g., it is raining, es regnet; it is snowing, es schneit). In Greek, however, such verbs are personal, Zeus or another god being understood as the subject if not explicitly named; thus hýei means to a Greek not “it is raining,” but “Zeus is raining,” and neíphei “Zeus is snowing.” Hyetal entered English in the 19th century.

how is hyetal used?

What grand cause has operated to disturb the ordinary rate of hyetal precipitation … is a question to be studied by climatologists.

, "The Drought and Smoky Days in Central New-York," New York Times, July 23, 1864

Hyetal regions, mean annual cloudiness, co-tidal lines, cyclonic rotations, and progressive low pressure systems are not charming in themselves.

Michael Innes, There Came Both Mist and Snow, 1940

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