Word Of The Year
verb (used without object)
to smile in a silly, self-conscious way.
The verb simper has an uncertain etymology. It may be related to the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Swiss dialect adjective semper “affected, coy,” German zimpfer “dainty, affected,” and to Middle Dutch zimperlijk “affected, coy.” Further etymology is unknown. Simper entered English in the 16th century.
But still she kept on singing, with twisted lips that strove to simper ….
I attended private parties in sumptuous evening dress, simpered and aired my graces like a born beau, and polked and schottisched with a step peculiar to myself—and the kangaroo.
a line drawn on a weather map or chart that connects points at which the barometric pressure is the same.
"Isobars are lines of constant pressure, and believe it or not, when you look at a bunch of them together, they can tell you a lot about the weather."
You may see an isobar on your TV screen or hear the word on your local weather channel and already know or deduce that an isobar is “a line drawn on a weather map connecting points where the barometric pressure is the same.” The prefix iso– is from the Greek combining form iso– “equal,” from the adjective ísos “equal (in number, size, weight, stature, etc.).” It is used mostly in technical terms, as in another meteorological term isotherm “a line on a weather map connecting points having equal temperature,” or in the geometric term isosceles, “(of a triangle) having two sides equal.” The suffix –bar is interesting: it is a derivative of the Greek noun báros, “weight, heavy weight, heaviness, oppressiveness.” Báros is related to the adjective barýs “heavy (in weight), low (in tone),” as in English baritone. Isobar entered English in the 19th century.
These are lines of equal pressure known as isobars, which reveal wind speed and direction and allow forecasters to spot features such as highs, lows, troughs and ridges that are associated with particular types of weather.
The isobars (lines of equal pressure) of a weather chart are much like the contour lines of a topo map.
passing the bounds of what is usual or considered proper; unconventional; bizarre.
Outré may bring smiles of recognition to fans of the American writer of horror stories H.P. Lovecraft (1890–1937), it and nefandous being particular favorites of his. The very French-looking outré, “excessive, extreme, exaggerated,” is indeed a past participle of the French verb outrer “to push or go beyond the limits.” Outrer is a derivative of Old French oultre, ultimately from the Latin preposition and adverb ultrā “on the far side of, beyond.” Outré is also the root of Old French and English outrage, “an act of wanton cruelty.” Students of modern European history will be familiar with the phrase attaque à outrance “an attack to the bitter end, to death,” the ruinous, catastrophic French military policy of World War I. Outré entered English in the 18th century.
A kind of growing horror, of outré and morbid cast, seemed to possess him.
Since the dawn of the millennium, the outré has become ordinary in opera.
a fine, filmy cobweb seen on grass or bushes or floating in the air in calm weather, especially in autumn.
The etymology of English gossamer is a little clearer in the alternative Middle English spellings gossomer, gosesomer, gossummer “goose summer,” that is, a late, mild fall when roast goose was a favorite dish (German has the noun Gänsemonat “November,” literally “goose month”). But the etymology of gossamer does not fit its meaning, “a fine, filmy cobweb seen on grass or bushes or floating in the air in calm weather, especially in the fall.” It may be that the cobwebs resembled goose down, or that the cobwebs appeared in “goose summer,” and the name of the season was transferred to the spider webs. Gossamer entered English in the 14th century.
Small, viewless aeronaut, that by the line / Of Gossamer suspended, in mid air / Float’st on a sun beam …
When the early morning sun glints off droplets of dew on the gossamer strands of a spider web, it creates a visual masterpiece.
of, relating to, or involving acting.
The English adjective Roscian comes straight from the Latin proper adjective Rosciānus, coined by and used exclusively by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 b.c.) in honor of his older contemporary, mentor, friend, and client, the actor Quintus Roscius Gallus (ca. 126–62 b.c.). Acting was not a respected profession in Rome, but Roscius dignified it and devoted himself to elocution, gesture, and characterization. The Roman general, reactionary politician, and dictator Sulla (138–79 b.c.) even presented Roscius with a gold ring, a symbol of equestrian rank. Roscius instructed the young Cicero in elocution and delivery; Cicero successfully pleaded Roscius’ cause in a civil suit around 76 b.c. (Cicero’s speech Pro Quinto Roscio Comoedo survives); he and Roscius used to engage in friendly contests to see who could express emotion and character better, the actor or the orator. Roscian entered English in the early 17th century.
Because you grace the roscian sphere, / As great in Chalkstone as in Lear ….
I … found it to be a crumpled play-bill of a small metropolitan theatre, announcing the first appearance, in that very week, of “the celebrated Provincial Amateur of Roscian renown, whose unique performance in the highest tragic walk of our National Bard has lately occasioned so great a sensation in local dramatic circles.”
special care in anticipating or catering to the needs and pleasures of others.
Every breakroom in every restaurant in the U.S. should have prominently displayed a great big poster in bold sans serif caps: “prévenance, special care in anticipating or catering to the needs and pleasures of others.” Prévenance is a French noun meaning “thoughtfulness.” Prévenance is a derivative of the verb prévenir, one of whose meanings is “to anticipate.” Prévenir comes from Latin praevenīre “to come before, anticipate,” a compound of the preposition and prefix prae, prae– “before, in advance” and venīre “to come.” Praevenīre does mean “to anticipate,” but in the sense “to forestall, prevent.” Prévenance entered English in the 18th century.
A much older and far wiser woman would have been persuaded to believe, as she believed, that in all this delicate prévenance for her pleasures and her preferences the tenderest love had spoken.
My father I fear, was not remarkable in general for his tenderness or his prévenance for the poor girl whom fortune had given him to protect; but from time to time he would wake up to a downright sense of kinship and duty ….
verb (used with object)
to startle into sudden activity; stimulate.
The English verb galvanize comes from the French verb galvaniser “to make muscles contract by application of electrical current,” a discovery made by the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani in 1780, when an assistant touched the exposed sciatic nerve of a dead frog with a metal scalpel that had picked up a charge, which made the dead frog’s leg kick as if alive. Galvanize in its physiological sense entered English in the early 19th century; the figurative sense “to startle into sudden activity” dates to the mid-19th century.
The presence of the enemy seemed to galvanize the growers, underscoring the subtext of Elliot’s message: that their industry was under attack, and they needed D&W’s crisis-management services.
… [Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis] looms as just barely premodern, even though she presided over the start of (and maybe even helped galvanize) the most turbulent social transformation in recent history.