Word of the Day

Friday, January 10, 2020

sidesplitter

[ sahyd-split-er ]

noun

something that is uproariously funny, as a joke or a situation.

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What is the origin of sidesplitter?

Sidesplitter is perfectly obvious in its derivation and meaning: something that is so uproariously funny that you split your sides from laughing. Sidesplitter first appears in a weekly newspaper, the New-York Mirror, in 1834 and slightly later in England.

how is sidesplitter used?

If the lyric “In New York, you can be a real ham” sounds like a sidesplitter, this one’s for you.

Erik Piepenburg, "5 Shows to See in New York When You Have Only an Hour," New York Times, March 8, 2017

My appreciation of the short form was enhanced when I discovered the quirky humor of Damon Runyon and Ring Larder, clearly at their peak in a twenty-page sidesplitter.

Otto Penzler, "Foreword," The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century, 2000
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Thursday, January 09, 2020

beaucoup

[ boh-koo ]

adjective

Informal: Usually Facetious.

many; numerous; much: It's a hard job, but it pays beaucoup money.

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What is the origin of beaucoup?

In French, beaucoup is an adverb meaning (in various combinations) “a lot, lots, lots of, much, many.” Beaucoup first appeared in American English about 1760 in the sense “a lot, many.” The word, whether used as a singular or plural, was rare before 1918, when the United States became fully engaged in World War I, as in “We’ve been spending beaucoup francs lately for Uncle Sam,” and as an adverb “very, very much,” as in Ernest Hemingway’s “I’m pulling through my annual tonsilitis now so feel bokoo rotten” (1918). During the 1960s and ’70s, American servicemen returning from Vietnam popularized the word and introduced the spellings boo-koo, boocoo(p).

how is beaucoup used?

Grassroots support, a powerful message and good timing can still win elections, even without beaucoup bucks.

Eleanor Smeal, "Women Voted for Change," Ms., Vol. 17, 2007

Of course, one can ignore the message and simply revel briefly in the traditional values: the days of beaucoup silverware, heaping platters of mutton, folks upstairs and downstairs.

Rita Kempley, "The Past: Perfect for the Tense Present," Washington Post, November 21, 1993
Wednesday, January 08, 2020

imponderabilia

[ im-pon-der-uh-bil-ee-uh, -bil-yuh ]

plural noun

imponderables; things that cannot be precisely determined, measured, or evaluated: the imponderabilia surrounding human life.

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What is the origin of imponderabilia?

There are not very many seven-syllable words in English, which makes imponderabilia a really weighty word. It’s Latin for “imponderable things, imponderables.” It comes from New Latin imponderābilia, a noun use of the neuter plural of the Medieval Latin adjective imponderābilis “unable to be weighed or measured,” ultimately deriving from Latin ponderāre “to weigh.” Imponderabilia entered English in the early 20th century.

how is imponderabilia used?

… the imponderabilia,—those obscure but all-powerful factors like sentiment, public opinion, good will, affection, and so on. You can’t weigh or measure them, nor get at them by any rule of thumb.

"In the Interpreter's House," American Magazine, Vol. 79, January–June, 1915

Bronisław Malinowski, called [them] “the imponderabilia of actual life.” These are, he wrote, “small incidents, characteristic forms of taking food, of conversing, of doing work, [that] are found occurring over and over again.”

Graeme Wood, "Anthropology Inc." The Atlantic, March 2013

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