Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

skookum

[ skoo-kuhm ]

adjective

large; powerful; impressive.

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What is the origin of skookum?

Skookum “large, powerful, impressive” derives from Chinook Jargon, a pidgin spoken primarily during the 1800s in the Pacific Northwest that still has hundreds of speakers today. A pidgin is a simplified language variety that fuses elements from multiple languages, and Chinook Jargon is primarily based on four sources: English, French, Lower Chinook (a Chinookan language once spoken along the Columbia River), and Nootka (a Wakashan language still spoken along the western coast of Vancouver Island). However, skookum entered Chinook Jargon instead from Lower Chehalis, a Salishan language once spoken in the southwestern coastal area of the Olympic Peninsula; skookum derives from Lower Chehalis skwəkwə́m “ghost, spirit, monster.” Skookum was first recorded in English circa 1830.

how is skookum used?

[Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato] is perhaps now most widely associated with Baroque and bel canto opera—her skookum approach to the aria “Tanti affetti” from Rossini’s “La Donna del Lago,” with its dizzying runs and leaps up and down the staff, has made her rendition a cult favorite—but she is no less at ease with the gentle lines of the American songbook.

Joel Rozen, “Opera’s Miss Congeniality Takes On a Rare ‘Cinderella,’” The New York Times, April 6, 2018

At the head of the anti statehood efforts was the lobbyist for the Alaska Packers Association, W.C. Arnold. “The fishing and cannery industries employed W.C. Arnold, a man so powerful that he was called ‘Judge Arnold,'” Alaskan historian Claus Kaske told the San Francisco Chronicle in September of 2008. “Arnold was a skookum lobbyist, and he told Congress that business was paying the cost of running the territory.”

Dave Kiffer, "Ketchikan Supported Alaska Statehood, Eventually Chronicle, Daily News Fought The Battle Locally," SitNews, January 03, 2009

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Word of the day

Monday, January 10, 2022

cantillate

[ kan-tl-eyt ]

verb (used with object)

to chant; intone.

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What is the origin of cantillate?

Cantillate “to chant” derives from Late Latin cantillāre “to sing low, hum,” a verb formed from the stem cant- “sing” and the diminutive element -ill-. Cant- ultimately derives from the verb canere “to sing” and is the source of many words related to song, pronunciation, persuasion, and even light magic. While cant- is preserved in words such as cantor, in many stems, Latin a- often becomes e- after a prefix is added; this is how cant- becomes the cent- element in accent (from Latin accentus “speaking tone”) and in incentive (from Latin incentīvus “setting the tune”). Because Latin ca- often becomes cha- in French, the Latin stem cant- is visible today in the French-derived word enchant. Cantillate was first recorded in English in the early 1860s.

how is cantillate used?

Shmuly’s voice, in contrast to his father’s, was high pitched and extraterrestrially sweet, as if the hormonal shakedown had not quite taken. You leaned forward with your elbows planted on the balcony railing, … your brow resting against the steeple of your fingers pointed heavenward as he melodically cantillated the tropes he had so perceptively deconstructed the night before.

Tova Reich, Mother India, 2018

Perhaps unique among international teams, the … group … face to the west and sing the national anthem with a gusto that threatens to require a second warm-up. Before that though comes another ritual, an emotional chant known as the Inifresi, a pledge to their motherland in Chamorro. Standing in a tight circle the entire playing, coaching and support staff cantillate the words as if coming from the depths of their soul, a paean to their forebears.

Scott McIntyre, "Guam: the tiny US territory that just won its first ever World Cup match," The Guardian, June 12, 2015

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Word of the day

Sunday, January 09, 2022

tchotchke

[ chahch-kuh ]

noun

an inexpensive souvenir, trinket, or ornament.

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What is the origin of tchotchke?

Tchotchke “an inexpensive souvenir, trinket, or ornament” is a borrowing of Yiddish tshatshke, from obsolete Polish czaczko “toy, trinket” (modern Polish cacko), which is cognate with Czech čačka and Russian cacka, of the same general meaning. These Slavic terms are all most likely of imitative origin; with the addition of the diminutive suffix -ka or -ko, the original forms (Czech čača and both Polish and Russian caca) appear to be reduplicated syllables that are typical of baby talk. In case you thought it was a little strange that a word for “toy” or “trinket” would derive from a doubled syllable, bear in mind that English contains the similarly reduplicated term knickknack. Tchotchke was first recorded in English in the late 1960s.

how is tchotchke used?

For a reminder-through-association to work well it needs to be distinctive—something out of place that will catch the eye. To remind yourself to mail a stack of bills in the morning, for example, you might put a tennis ball on top of them …. And to remind employees to fill out the sign-up sheet for the holiday party, place it next to the brand new large snow globe on the receptionist’s desk and let people know to sign-up when they see the distinctive new tchotchke.

Todd Rogers and Katy Milkman, “A New Way to Remember: The Power of Quirky Memory Jogs,” Scientific American, February 7, 2017

Michael Zegen, a star of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” is an unabashed hunter and gatherer. It runs in the family …. He says that tchotchkes make him feel good. “From the time I was a kid I’ve been into knickknacks,” said Mr. Zegen, whose collectibles include an orange Snoopy and a robot.

Tony Cenicola, "The Feel-Good Power of Tchotchkes," New York Times, November 27, 2018

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