Word of the Day

Thursday, August 13, 2020

sinistrality

[ sin-uh-stral-i-tee ]

noun

left-handedness.

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What is the origin of sinistrality?

There is nothing sinister about sinistrality: the word simply means “left-handedness” (as opposed to right-handedness) or “left-sidedness.” Sinistrality is a derivation of the adjective sinistral, whose current sense is “on the left-hand side, left” (in Middle English sinistralle meant “unlucky, adverse”). Sinistrality entered English in the mid-19th century.

how is sinistrality used?

Kermit’s sinistrality leapt right off the page at me as soon as I saw the photograph of him with Bret McKenzie that accompanies Adam Sternbergh’s feature in this week’s magazine.

David Vecsey, "How About a Hand for the Muppets!" New York Times, November 18, 2011

There are reports of editors being 31 per cent lefty and of graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in math and science showing 45 per cent sinistrality.

Conrad Chyatte, "Sinistrality Unmasked at Last," American Bar Association Journal, May 1975

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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

rodomontade

[ rod-uh-mon-teyd, -tahd, -muhn-, roh-duh- ]

noun

vainglorious boasting or bragging; pretentious, blustering talk.

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What is the origin of rodomontade?

Rodomontade, “vainglorious boasting, bragging,” is also occasionally spelled rhodomontade (as if it were from Greek rhódon “rose”) and rodomontado; it comes from Middle French rodomont, from Italian rodomonte “bully,” from Rodomonte, the name of the courageous but boastful king of Algiers in Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso “Roland in Frenzy, Raging Roland,” 1516. Orlando Furioso is a continuation of an earlier Renaissance Italian epic Orlando Innamorato “Roland in Love,” by Matteo Boiardo, one of whose major characters is Rodomonte, also spelled Rodamontre, and popularly interpreted to mean “mountain roller,” from Italian rodare, from Latin rotāre, from rota “wheel,” and Italian monte, from Latin mons (stem mont-) “mount, mountain.” Rodomontade entered English in the late 16th century.

how is rodomontade used?

I am charmed to notice that things that were once said to matter—familiarity with epigrams, knowledge of rhetorical devices and their terrifying names, the ability to display a rich vocabulary without rodomontade—seem to matter still.

Edith Pearlman, "My word, they're immortal!" New York Times, January 8, 2008

because she has amused him with some rodomontade about despising rank and wealth in matters of love and marriage, he flatters himself that she’s devotedly attached to him.

Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 1848

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

backlins

[ bak-linz ]

adverb

Scot. and North England.

backward; back.

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What is the origin of backlins?

The extremely rare Scottish and northern English dialect adverb backlins, “back, backward,” comes from the equally rare Old English adverb bæcling, used only in the adverbial phrase on bæcling “on the back, behind, backward.” On bæcling, moreover, occurs only in the Rushworth Gospels (ca. 975), in the Northumbrian dialect of Old English—not even in late West Saxon, the standard literary dialect of Old English. Backlins is formed from the noun back, the uncommon adverb suffix –ling, as in middling, and the native English adverb suffix –s, as in always, sometimes.

how is backlins used?

Then backlins we hastened weel pleased wi the day, / Though some of our brithers had wandered away.

Henry Nutter, "A Poem in Scotch," Local Rhymes, 1890

An auld man’s howff’s a tapsalteerie touer: / Time backlins gaes, my warld turns withershins, / Glaur’s in the lift, sterns skeenkle in the stour …

Andrew Tannahill, "Haivers," A Tapsalteerie Touer, 2007

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