Word of the Day

Saturday, February 16, 2019

snowbird

[ snoh-burd ]

noun

Informal. a person who vacations in or moves to a warmer climate during cold weather.

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What is the origin of snowbird?

Snowbird has three distinct meanings. The original meaning, “a bird that spends winters in a cold climate,” dates from the late 17th century; the second, “a person who travels from the cold north to spend the winter in the warm, sunny south,” dates from the mid-1920s; the third sense, “a person addicted to heroin or cocaine,” dates from around 1915.

how is snowbird used?

I don’t know if I can be a snowbird every year… But I’m going to try, even if it’s only for a week or two: for more winter sunrises, for more sunlight, and even for more — why not? — joyful crying.

Jen A. Miller, "How I Became a 37-Year-Old Snowbird," New York Times, February 23, 2018

As the temperature drops and months of cold weather loom ahead, snowbirds pack up for warmer climates, anticipating sunny days free of freezing ice, snow shoveling and other winter worries.

Mary Kane, "Prep Your House for Snowbird Season," Kiplinger's Retirement Report, January 2018
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Friday, February 15, 2019

onomastic

[ on-uh-mas-tik ]

adjective

of or relating to proper names.

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What is the origin of onomastic?

English onomastic comes straight from the Greek adjective and noun onomastikós, which has quite a few meanings: “pertaining to a name, naming, special name; (in grammar) nominative (case); vocabulary (organized by subject and not by letter).” Onomastikós is a derivative of the verb onomázein “to name, call by name,” itself a derivative of the noun ónoma, the Greek development of Proto-Indo-European nomen-, which appears in Latin as nōmen, Germanic (English) name, and Sanskrit nā́ma. One of the things that make Greek Greek is the presence of prothetic vowels (prothetic means “put in front”) at the beginning of a word, such as the o- in ónoma, the a- in ástron “star” (akin to English star and Latin stella, from assumed sterla), the e- in ennéa “nine” (Latin novem, Sanskrit náva). Some of the prothetic vowels can be explained according to Indo-European linguistics, others not; they are a source of endless research and speculation. Onomastic entered English in the 18th century.

how is onomastic used?

Today’s baseball rosters are filled with names, not nicknames, not like the ones that used to be. The N.B.A. playoffs are equally devoid of onomastic pleasures, just cheap echoes of Magic and the Mailman, Tiny and Tree, Chief and Cornbread.

John Branch, "Like Magic, Great Sports Nicknames Are Disappearing," New York Times, May 10, 2011

… the survey found that mothers’ top reason for onomastic discontent was that they hadn’t been bold enough …

Ruth Graham, "A Lot of Mothers Regret the Names They Gave Their Children, According to a New Survey," Slate, September 1, 2016
Thursday, February 14, 2019

attractancy

[ uh-trak-tuhn-see ]

noun

the capacity, especially of a pheromone, to attract.

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What is the origin of attractancy?

Attractant is to attractance and attractancy as repellent is to repellence and repellency. Both sets of words are used mostly in biochemistry to describe chemicals, such as pheromones or insectifuges, that attract, drive away, or affect the behavior of other creatures. Attractancy entered English in the 20th century.

how is attractancy used?

From these various investigations it became very clear that numerous components of the cotton plant had some attractancy for the boll weevil, although their effects were often short-ranged.

Richard L. Ridgway, May N. Inscoe, and Willard A. Dickerson, "Role of the Boll Weevil Pheromone in Pest Management," Behavior-Modifying Chemicals for Insect Management, 1990

The attractancy of the brown-rot fungus was discovered by Dr. Glenn Esenther, an entomologist at the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin.

T. Allan Wolter, "Your Wayne National Forest," Sunday Times-Sentinel, July 27, 1975

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