Word of the Day

Friday, August 23, 2019

snoot

[ snoot ]

verb (used with object)

to behave disdainfully toward; condescend to: New arrivals in the town were snooted by older residents.

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What is the origin of snoot?

The English noun snoot is a Scottish variant of snout “the nose, muzzle.” Snout and snoot are akin to Middle Low German and Middle Dutch snute, German Schnauze, and more remotely to Old English gesnot “nasal mucus” (English snot), Middle Low German and Middle Dutch snotte, and German schneuzen “to blow one’s nose.” The verb snoot “to behave disdainfully toward; condescend to,” a derivative of the noun snoot, is an Americanism dating only to the late 1920s. The noun snoot entered English in the early 1860s.

how is snoot used?

“I happen to be one of those people who knows what they’re talking about,” he snoots. The ghastly oil paintings in Rae Smith’s design suggest otherwise.

Matt Trueman, "London Theater Review: David Hare's 'The Moderate Soprano'," Variety, October 30, 2015

His retention of old tropes is no more inherently sentimental than the myth of progress that led some modernists to snoot him.

Peter Schjeldahl, "The Stubborn Genius of Auguste Rodin," The New Yorker, October 2, 2017
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Thursday, August 22, 2019

hyperbolic

[ hahy-per-bol-ik ]

adjective

exaggerated.

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What is the origin of hyperbolic?

The adjective hyerbolic has two distinct senses, both of them from the same Greek word hyperbolḗ “superiority, excess (in geometry), extravagance (in rhetoric),” literally “a throwing beyond.” In rhetoric hyperbolḗ means “an overstrained word or expression, a strong statement,” as in “I could eat a horse!” The geometric sense of hyperbolḗ (via New Latin hyperbola) is the curve formed by the intersection of a plane with a right circular cone when the plane makes a greater angle (that is, the plane makes a hyperbolḗ) with the base than does the generator of the cone. Hyperbolic in the rhetorical sense entered English about 1646; the geometry sense entered English about 1676.

how is hyperbolic used?

… his hyperbolic rhetoric and his lack of attention to the concrete realities of reform will make it harder for even his sensible ideas to work.

James Surowieki, "Morales's Mistake," The New Yorker, January 15, 2006

“Ignore the sound of people retching and sobbing and remember to keep your pace constant and very slow,” is the slightly hyperbolic description from Henry Stedman’s guide to climbing the mountain.

Nadia Drake, "The Gear That Got Me to the Top of Kilimanjaro," Wired, September 21, 2015
Wednesday, August 21, 2019

omphaloskepsis

[ om-fuh-loh-skep-sis ]

noun

contemplation of one's navel as part of a mystical exercise; navel-gazing.

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What is the origin of omphaloskepsis?

It is not surprising that omphaloskepsis, a noun meaning “contemplating one’s navel” and implying contempt, first occurs in Aldous Huxley’s satirical novel Those Barren Leaves (1925). (The equally dismissive adjective omphaloskeptical is first recorded in 1978). It is easy to deconstruct omphaloskepsis: omphalós in Greek means “navel, bellybutton, a boss on a shield,” which comes from the very common Proto-Indo-European root enebh– with variants embh-, ombh-, nobh-, nōbh-, nebh– “bellybutton, boss of a shield, hub of a wheel.” Enebh– is the source of Latin umbilīcus “bellybutton” (from ombh-) and umbō “the boss of a shield” (also from ombh-); Sanskrit nābhīlam “bellybutton” (from nōbh-); Old Irish imblin, imbliu “bellybutton” (from embh-); Old High German naba and Old English nafu, both meaning “hub” (from nobh-); Old High German nabalo and Old English nafela, both meaning “bellybutton” (English navel).

The Greek noun and combining form sképsis, –skepsis “viewing, perception, examination, speculation” is a derivative of the verb sképtesthai “to look around, look back, consider, survey, spy on.” Sképtesthai comes from much earlier Greek skepjesthai, from the Greek root skep– and the present tense suffix –j– (representing the same sound as in yet). Latin has the verb specere “to look at, see, observe,” whose present tense form speciō shows the same suffix –j-. The Latin root is spec– (i.e., spek-) and the Greek is skep-: which one is “correct”? The answer comes from other languages: Germanic has spehōn “to watch, spy on” (from Proto-Indo-European spek-), Sanskrit has spáśati “he sees” (from the Sanskrit root spaś-, from earlier speś-, from an even earlier spek-). Greek “loses.”

how is omphaloskepsis used?

Finally the flesh dies and putrefies; and the spirit presumably putrefies too. And there’s an end of your omphaloskepsis, with all its by-products, God and justice and salvation and all the rest of them.

Aldous Huxley, Those Barren Leaves, 1925

The court understands that many a writer is writing high-mindedly only for himself. Or herself. Fine! But such an exercise in omphaloskepsis will buy no brioches for breakfast.

James J. Kilpatrick, "You Should Write to Be Understood," The Free-Lance Star, January 14, 2006

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