Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, October 21, 2021
Today's Word of the Day was chosen by Steven Mackey

shivaree

[ shiv-uh-ree ]

noun

a mock serenade with kettles, pans, horns, and other noisemakers given for a newly married couple; charivari.

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Why Steven Mackey chose shivaree

Shivaree: Fantasy for Trumpet and Orchestra is the title of a piece of classical music by Steven Mackey, which receives its world premiere today, October 21, 2021, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Shivaree is a composition for solo trumpet and orchestra made up of 12 movements, each of which was written as a musical interpretation of different words discovered through our very own Word of the Day. As Mackey himself explained: "Two little rituals became part of my daily life. I was getting notifications on my phone every morning with the 'Word of the Day' from Dictionary.com and my 10-year-old daughter would wander into my study, sit down at the piano, and say, 'Give me a word.' She would play an improvisation inspired by those words, which led me to decide to take some of the more unusual and evocative 'Words of the Day' as points of departure for my Trumpet Fantasy.” The other Word of the Day-inspired movements in the piece are chthonian, erumpent, tintinnabulation, exonumia, requiescat, deipnosophist, omphaloskepsis, horripilation, deliquesce, and apopemptic. Learn more about Shivaree, Steven Mackey, and the art of the musical interpretation of Dictionary.com’s Words of the Day here.

What is the origin of shivaree?

Shivaree “a mock serenade with noisemakers” is of obscure origin, though there is a general prevailing theory. Much like recent Word of the Day shivoo, which we learned about in June, shivaree is likely a corruption of the French term charivari. Charivari is also of obscure origin but may derive, via Late Latin carībaria “headache,” from Ancient Greek karēbaría, equivalent to kárā or kárē “head,” barýs “heavy,” and the abstract noun suffix -ía. The logic is that a noisy, boisterous celebration would cause quite the headache! An alternative theory is that shivaree, again like shivoo, derives instead from the French phrase chez vous “at your home.” Shivaree was first recorded in English in the early 1800s.

how is shivaree used?

Encouraging cake mashing, like a host of other awful wedding customs, from shivaree (a noisy mock serenade on the wedding night) to tying a tin can to the newlyweds’ getaway car, is one last chance for the couple’s friends to indulge in the game of “X and Y, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”

Charles Perry, "Cake Smashing," Los Angeles Times, February 26, 1997

Whooping and hollering, boarders, parents, neighbors, and friends filled the room. Cowbells rang, guitars and fiddles sang out, and tin pots were beaten with sticks—a din that announced the beginning of the old custom of shivaree, a traditional way of celebrating a wedding in the mountains.

Michael R. Bradley, It Happened in the Great Smokies: Stories of Events and People that Shaped a National Park, 2020

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Word of the day

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

burgeon

[ bur-juhn ]

verb (used without object)

to grow or develop quickly; flourish.

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What is the origin of burgeon?

Burgeon “to grow or develop quickly” derives via Middle English and Anglo-French from the Old French noun burjon “shoot, bud,” and though the word’s history becomes murky from that point, the prevailing theory is that burjon is ultimately from Late Latin burra “wool, fluff,” in reference to the fine hairs that cover certain types of buds. An alternative theory connects burjon instead to a Proto-Germanic verb meaning “to raise; to emerge, occur”; compare Dutch gebeuren “to happen” and Swedish börja “to start.” If the latter theory is correct, burgeon derives from the Proto-Indo-European root bher- “to carry” and is therefore distantly related to burden (from Old English), transfer (literally “to carry across,” from Latin ferre “to bear”), and phosphorus (literally “light-bearing,” from Ancient Greek ​​phérein “to carry”). Burgeon was first recorded in English around the turn of the 14th century.

how is burgeon used?

Among the other mammals that made it through were some of the earliest placentals .… But only after the end-Cretaceous extinction did these advanced mammals burgeon and split into the major modern subgroups, including rodents and primates. The reason for their sudden about-face is clear. With Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops and kin out of the way, these placentals now had a clear playing field to conquer, and once again they quickly evolved to fill available niches.

Stephen Brusatte and Zhe-Xi Luo, “The Ascent of Mammals,” Scientific American, June 1, 2016

Since 2005, [Freddy] Mamani [Silvestre] and his firm have completed sixty projects in El Alto, the world’s highest city, which sits at nearly fourteen thousand feet, on an austere plateau above La Paz. In the past twenty years, the economy there has burgeoned, along with an enterprising, mostly Indigenous population. Mamani earned his fame building mixed-use dream houses for the city’s nouveaux riches.

Judith Thurman, "High Aspirations," The New Yorker, December 14, 2015

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Word of the day

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

manticore

[ man-ti-kawr, -kohr ]

noun

a legendary monster with a man's head, horns, a lion's body, and the tail of a dragon or, sometimes, a scorpion.

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What is the origin of manticore?

While the legends involving manticores were likely tall tales about lions and tigers and similar beasts, manticore is not a compound of English man and tiger, which is a common misconception. Instead, manticore “a legendary monster with a man’s head, a lion’s body, and the tail of a dragon or scorpion” derives via Middle English from Latin mantichōrās, which was a either a variant or a misreading of Ancient Greek martichṓras. This word, in turn, was borrowed from the Old Persian element martiya- “man” and an additional Iranian source akin to Modern Persian -khōr “eat, devour.” The martiya- element descends from a Proto-Indo-European root, mer- “to harm, die”—compare immortal (via Latin) and ambrosia (via Ancient Greek), both literally meaning “not of death”—while the -khōr element is cognate to English swallow and swill. Manticore was first recorded in English in the early 1300s.

how is manticore used?

According to 5th Century Greek physician and historian Ctesias, the Mantichora (or manticore) was an Indian creature with the strength and body of a lion and the face and ears of a man. It also had three rows of terrible, terrible teeth. Blood-red in colour and as swift as a stag, its densely quilled tail resembled a scorpion’s, right down to its poisoned tips.

Becky Crew, “Curious (and Terrifying) Creatures in Zoology, Plus One Obscure Christmas Gift Idea,” Scientific American, December 20, 2013
[B]estiaries featured incredibly vivid, lively illustrations that spelled out the behaviors of the various creatures .… Such symbolism was so important in the Middle Ages, according to [T. H.] White, “that it did not matter whether certain animals existed”—the part man, part lion, part scorpion with probably some identity issues known as the manticore, for instance—but “what did matter was what they meant.” It was an era of intense faith that a higher power had created every creature with a meaning to be decoded by man.

Matt Simon, “Fantastically Wrong: Unicorns Dig Virgin Women, and Other Lessons From Medieval Bestiaries,” Wired, November 19, 2014

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