Word of the Day

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Shangri-la

[ shang-gruh-lah, shang-gruh-lah ]

noun

a faraway haven or hideaway of idyllic beauty and tranquility.

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What is the origin of Shangri-la?

The placename Shangri-La was coined by the English novelist James Hilton (1900-54), but the name has a firm Tibetan etymology. Shangri-La in Tibetan means “Shang Mountain Pass,” from Shang, the name of a region in Tibet; ri means “mountain,” and la means “pass.” Beyond the name itself, everything associated with Shangri-La is pure speculation and fantasy. Shangri-La entered English in 1933.

how is Shangri-la used?

A small settlement wedged between fjord-like Lake Chelan and the jagged eastern slopes of the Cascades, Stehekin has several comfortable lodges, an excellent bakery and, best of all, relatively few visitors. … First, of course, we had to get to this little Shangri-La.

Ethan Todras-Whitehill, "In the Cascades, a Trifecta for Outdoor Enthusiasts," New York Times, September 17, 2014

With its youth and isolation and spectacular scenery, there was a tendency to think of Los Alamos as a Shangri-La.

Katrina R. Mason, Children of Los Alamos: An Oral History of the Town Where the Atomic Age Began, 1995

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Wednesday, April 04, 2018

mythoclast

[ mith-uh-klast ]

noun

a destroyer or debunker of myths.

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What is the origin of mythoclast?

English mythoclast comes from two familiar Greek words. The Greek noun mŷthos has many meanings: “speech, word, public speech, unspoken word, matter, fact,” as in mythology, “a set of stories, traditions, or beliefs.” The Greek combining form -klastēs “breaker” is most familiar in iconoclast “one who breaks images or statues” (literally and figuratively). A mythoclast is one who breaks or destroys a myth or myths in general. Mythoclast entered English in the late 19th century.

how is mythoclast used?

Tommy Moore, a life-long friend, an insatiable consumer of history, and a fellow mythoclast by constitution, accompanied me to the field on several occasions, and read sections of the working manuscript.

Scott Stine, A Way Across the Mountain, 2015

… right now I reckon him a mythoclast, the sort of man you wouldn’t trust with the Glastonbury Thorn, the Devil’s Arrows at Boroughbridge, or Father Christmas.

John Hillaby, "What's under York Minster?" New Scientist, March 29, 1973
Tuesday, April 03, 2018

anecdata

[ an-ik-dey-tuh, -dat-uh, -dah-tuh ]

noun

anecdotal evidence based on personal observations or opinions, random investigations, etc., but presented as fact: biased arguments supported by anecdata.

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What is the origin of anecdata?

Anecdata is a reworking of anecdotal data. Anecdotal comes from the Greek adjective anékdotos “unpublished,” formed from the negative prefix an-, a-, the preposition and prefix ex-, ek- “out of,” and the past participle dotós “given, granted.” Each of the three Greek elements corresponds in form, origin, and meaning to Latin inēditus “unpublished” (the negative prefix in-, the preposition and prefix ex-, ē-, and the past participle datus “given.” Data is the neuter plural of datus used as a noun, “things given.” Anecdata entered English in the late 20th century.

how is anecdata used?

Please. Stop letting yourself get carried away based on random anecdata from the Internet.

Julie Lawson Timmer, Five Days Left, 2014

Again, industry stats support the anecdata. Publishers are reporting declining ebook sales but growing audiobook revenues, with audio filling the digital revenue gap that ebooks left.

Antonio Garcia Martinez, "The Veni, Vidi, Vici of Voice," Wired, February 28, 2018
Monday, April 02, 2018

inscape

[ in-skeyp ]

noun

the unique essence or inner nature of a person, place, thing, or event, especially depicted in poetry or a work of art.

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What is the origin of inscape?

It is likely that the English poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) coined the noun inscape. The obsolete noun inshape (i.e., internal form or inward shape) was a probable model. Hopkins also coined sprung rhythm and instress (i.e., the force sustaining an inscape). Inscape entered English in 1868.

how is inscape used?

Spanish chestnuts: their inscape here bold, jutty, somewhat oaklike, attractive, the branching visible and the leaved peaks spotted so as to make crests of eyes.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889), "Journal for 1868," The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins, 2015

What we wanted to do was to marry the meaning with the “inscape” of the poem.

Colum McCann, Author's note on "An Ode to Curling," The New Brick Reader, 2013
Sunday, April 01, 2018

shavie

[ shey-vee ]

noun

Scot. a trick or prank.

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What is the origin of shavie?

Shavie is a rare word used in Scottish poetry, first appearing in English in the 18th century and current for just a little more than a century after that.

how is shavie used?

But urchin Cupid shot a shaft / That play’d a dame a shavie

Robert Burns, "The Jolly Beggars," 1785

‘Twas then that Love played him a shavie, / And strak his dart in donsie Davie.

William Nicholson, "The Country Lass," Tales in Verse and Miscellaneous Poems: Descriptive of Rural Life and Manners, 1814
Saturday, March 31, 2018

kosher

[ koh-sher ]

adjective

Informal. a. proper; legitimate. b. genuine; authentic.

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What is the origin of kosher?

Kosher is one of the most common words of Yiddish origin in American English. Yiddish kosher comes from Hebrew kosher (Ashkenazi pronunciation), from Hebrew kāshēr “right, fit, proper.” Kosher as an adjective “pertaining to foods prepared according to Jewish dietary law” dates from the mid-19th century; the sense “proper, legitimate” dates from the late 19th century. Kosher as a noun “kosher food, kosher store” dates from the late 19th century.

how is kosher used?

This is kosher. I’m an officer of the court requesting assistance from a citizen.

Loren D. Estleman, King of the Corner, 1992

Forsyth knew that was all a cover story. He knew the whole setup wasn’t kosher.

Michael Savage, Abuse of Power, 2011
Friday, March 30, 2018

sepulcher

[ sep-uh l-ker ]

noun

a tomb, grave, or burial place.

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What is the origin of sepulcher?

Sepulcher comes via French from Latin sepulcrum “grave, tomb,” a derivative of the verb sepelīre “to perform the funeral rites, bury, inter.” The Latin verb comes from the Proto-Indo-European root sep- “to honor,” extended to sep-el- “sorrow, care, awe.” The same root appears in Sanskrit sapati “(he) worships, tends.” The Greek derivative of sep- is the root hep-, which usually occurs in compound verbs, e.g., amphiépein “to look after, tend to,” as in the last line of the Iliad, “Thus they tended to (amphíepon) the funeral of horse-taming Hector.” Sepulcher entered English in the 13th century.

how is sepulcher used?

The stale suffocating room felt like a sepulcher

Sue Monk Kidd, The Invention of Wings, 2014

A clattering-rattling sound. A bony sound. Like the skeletons of long-dead men clawing their way out of a sepulcher.

Dean Koontz, Phantoms, 1983

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