• Word of the day
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    Friday, February 01, 2019

    sirenic

    [sahy-ren-ik]
    melodious, tempting, or alluring.
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    What is the origin of sirenic?

    English Siren (the mythical creature) comes from Greek Seirḗn, which has no reliable etymology. The Sirens first occur in the The Odyssey (book 12); there are only two of them, they are unnamed, and they live on an island yet sit in the middle of a flowery meadow surrounded by the moldering bones of the mortals they have beguiled. What the Sirens tempt Odysseus with is knowledge, irresistible for the curious, restless hero: “We know everything that happened at Troy, what the Argives (Achaeans, Greeks) and Trojans suffered at the will of the gods, and we know everything that happens on the all-nourishing earth.” Homer says nothing about the physical appearance of the Sirens—nothing about birds with the torso and arms of a woman, how many Sirens there were, their names and genealogy, all of which are later additions. The suffix -ic, however, has an excellent etymology: it comes from the Proto-Indo-European adjective suffix -ikos. The Greek form of this suffix is -ik ós, in Latin -icus (-ique in French). English -ic may come from the Greek, Latin, or French forms.

    How is sirenic used?

    She sang for an hour. I resigned myself to the spell of her voice--not alone to that sirenic power, but to the pleasure of being close beside her. E. W. Olney, "Mrs. Vanderduynck," The Galaxy, June 1876

    Seen in this context, good news of the kind Huffington now seeks to promulgate is a public menace. It’s sirenic, a call to blindness, a “happy” filter placed on a world that is often good but frequently not. Alexander Nazaryan, "The Bad News About Good News," Newsweek, February 27, 2015

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, January 31, 2019

    gibble-gabble

    noun [gib-uhl-gab-uhl]
    senseless chatter.
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    What is the origin of gibble-gabble?

    There is not much to say about gibble-gabble: it is usually explained as a reduplication of gabble with a variation of the vowel, except that the noun gabble appears in print in 1602, two years after gibble-gabble (the verb gabble first appears in print in the late 16th century).

    How is gibble-gabble used?

    They were always yapping at each other in some outlandish gibble-gabble. George R. R. Martin, Fevre Dream, 1982

    My friend, I can't understand that gibble-gabble. François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, 1532, translated by M. A. Screech, 2006

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, January 30, 2019

    bootstrap

    verb [boot-strap]
    to help (oneself) without the aid of others: She spent years bootstrapping herself through college.
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    What is the origin of bootstrap?

    Bootstrap, originally spelled boot-strap, entered English in its literal sense in the second half of the 19th century. By about 1900 the idiom “to pull (oneself) up by (one's) bootstraps” was used to exemplify an impossible task, i.e., “Why can’t a man stand up by pulling on his bootstraps?”. By 1916 the idiom had also acquired the meaning “to better oneself by rigorous, unaided effort.” In the mid-20th century, bootstrap acquired the technical meaning "a fixed sequence of instructions for loading the operating system of a computer," i.e., the program loaded first would pull itself (and the others) up by the bootstrap, from a somewhat earlier usage in the mid-1940s in reference to electrical circuits.

    How is bootstrap used?

    From very humble beginnings, he bootstrapped himself into becoming an excellent trial lawyer. Karl Friedman, The Professor, 2000

    He bootstrapped himself during and after the war from woodworker at the bench to foreman, work superintendent, dispatcher, planner, and head of several technical bureaus at Sevuraltyazhstroi. Timothy J. Colton, Yeltsin: A Life, 2008

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, January 29, 2019

    synecdoche

    noun [si-nek-duh-kee]
    Rhetoric. a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part, the special for the general or the general for the special, as in ten sail for ten ships or a Croesus for a rich man.
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    What is the origin of synecdoche?

    Synecdoche, “a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part, the special for the general or the general for the special,” comes via Latin synecdochē, from Greek synekdochḗ “understanding one thing through another.” The funny thing is that the word first appears in the works of the great, commonsensical Roman rhetorician Quintilian (c35-c95 a.d.). The formation of synecdoche is simple enough: the Greek preposition and prefix syn, syn- is well known in English; the noun ekdochḗ “receiving from another in succession” later acquires the meaning “interpretation.” Synecdoche first appears in English in the 15th century.

    How is synecdoche used?

    ... our current cultural circumstance, for which the internet stands as synecdoche, makes us belatedly ache with a longing for a lost coherence. Michael Joyce, "The Persistence of the Ordinary," Moral Tales and Meditations, 2001

    In this way, the trumpet is a kind of synecdoche for Chance’s ramplike gift: in the course of a verse, a song, or, here, the ecstatic whole of an album, he always seems to be stretching toward something new, something else. Vinson Cunningham, "The Sound of Hope: Chance the Rapper," The New Yorker, May 24, 2016

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, January 28, 2019

    plexus

    noun [plek-suhs]
    any complex structure containing an intricate network of parts: the plexus of international relations.
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    What is the origin of plexus?

    Plexus is a straightforward borrowing of Latin plexus “twining, braid, plaiting,” a very rare noun that appears first (and only) in the Roman poet and astrologer Marcus Manilius (1st century a.d.), who wrote a long, tedious poem on astronomy. Plexus is a derivative of the verb plectere “to twine, plait,” from the Proto-Indo-European root plek, plok- “to braid, plait,” from which Greek derives plékein “to twine, plait” and plokḗ “a twining, twisting.” The root plek-, plok- regularly becomes fleh-, flah- in Germanic, which, with the addition of the suffix -s, becomes fleax in Old English (English flax). Plexus entered English in the 17th century.

    How is plexus used?

    ... as he thrust his bold hand into the plexus of the money-market, he was delightedly unaware of how he shook the pillars of existence ... Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, The Wrecker, 1891

    ... wearing jeans and a loose flannel shirt revealing a dark plexus of tattoos on his chest and arms, Rosenberg intently fielded questions about “Confessions of the Fox.” Peter Haldeman, "The Coming of Age in Transgender Literature," New York Times, October 24, 2018

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, January 27, 2019

    sashay

    verb [sa-shey]
    Informal. to glide, move, or proceed easily or nonchalantly: She just sashayed in as if she owned the place.
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    What is the origin of sashay?

    Nobody, but nobody, could sashay, “walk nonchalantly,” like Jack Benny across the front of a stage. Sashay is an Americanism, a metathetic variant (or mispronunciation if one prefers) of chassé, the French term for a gliding step performed in a quadrille or square dancing. (Chassé is the past participle of chasser “to chase.”) Sashay entered English in the 19th century.

    How is sashay used?

    ... the barman had been of the opinion that the whole karaoke evening was going to be an utter bust; but then the little old man had sashayed into the room ... Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys, 2005

    She too had endured some hard times and she too could sashay in a housecoat. Alan Cumming, "Introduction," to Goodbye to Berlin, 2012

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, January 27, 2019

    oillionaire

    noun [oil-yuh-nair]
    Canadian Informal. a millionaire whose wealth is derived from the petroleum industry.
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    What is the origin of oillionaire?

    It is no surprise that oillionaire, “a millionaire whose wealth is derived from the petroleum industry,” was originally an Americanism, the U.S. having so much petroleum, the U.K. none. The formation of oillionaire is obvious, a blend of oil and millionaire. Oillionaire entered English in the 1920s.

    How is oillionaire used?

    Robert Q. Lewis wonders if everyone has heard about the Texas oillionaire who put in well-to-well carpeting. Hal Boyle, "Mailman Rescues Writer Again," Spokane Daily Chronicle, March 5, 1957

    The oil and gas men’s day at the fair this year was an immense success from every viewpoint. It drew everything from the “rough neck” to the “oillionaire,” and it has come as an annual attraction. “Oil and Gas Men Had Day at Louisiana Fair,” The Oil Weekly, November 13, 1920

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