Word of the Day

Monday, April 27, 2020

soi-disant

[ swa-dee-zahn ]

adjective

French.

calling oneself thus; self-styled.

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What is the origin of soi-disant?

The adjective soi-disant “calling oneself, self-styled, would-be” usually has a whiff of pretense or deception. The phrase is French, pure and simple, formed from the third person reflexive pronoun soi “oneself, him-, her-, itself,” and disant “saying,” the present participle of the verb dire “to say.” The pronoun soi comes from Latin , the accusative of the third person singular and plural reflexive pronoun; dire comes from Latin dīcere “to say.” Soi-disant entered English in the mid-18th century.

how is soi-disant used?

Franzen is railing against is not mere tech obsession but, rather, the intellectual and spiritual poverty, the weakness and the obedience, of soi-disant “creatives” who buy what they’re told rather than rage against the machine, who are too infatuated with their wonderful little toys even to look up from them while the world burns.

Maria Bustillos, "Jonathan Franzen, Come Join Us!" The New Yorker, September 18, 2013

I know of plenty of soi disant progressives who don’t really think we have a serious problem here, or else who think it’s a problem that can and should be solved almost entirely through the levers of education policy.

Matthew Yglesias, "Liberaltarianism?" The Atlantic, December 5, 2006

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Sunday, April 26, 2020

precipitate

[ pri-sip-i-teyt ]

verb (used with object)

to hasten the occurrence of; bring about prematurely, hastily, or suddenly: to precipitate an international crisis.

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What is the origin of precipitate?

All the noun, verb, and adjective senses of precipitate developed together in a 25-year period in the middle of the 17th century. Precipitate comes from Latin praecipitātus, the past participle of the verb praecipitāre “to cast down headlong, throw overboard,” a derivative of the adjective praeceps (inflectional stem praecipit-) “plunging headfirst, falling headlong; (of terrain) steep, falling steeply, sheer; (of human age) advanced in years, declining.” Praeceps is a compound of the preposition, adverb, and prefix prae, prae– (the prefix is also spelled prē-) “before, in front or advance of” and the combining form –ceps, –cipit-, a reduced form of caput (inflectional stem capit-) “head.” Praeceps (and praecipitāre) can also convey a notion of abruptness, rashness, or sudden disaster. In the 19th century precipitous in the sense “steep” gave rise to the curious phrase precipitous rise (as in prices or blood pressure), that is, sharply rising prices or blood pressure, not suddenly falling prices or blood pressure.

how is precipitate used?

We face a new reality, precipitated by the pandemic.

Jim Bankoff, quoted in "SB Nation faces murky future after Vox Media furloughs national writers for three months," Washington Post, April 17, 2020

He and others also hope this experience may help precipitate a sea change in disaster policy by encouraging the integration of once disparate fields such as emergency management, public health, and economics and steadier funding in those areas.

Andrea Thompson, "What Happens When Other Disasters Hit during a Pandemic? Scientific American, April 16, 2020

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Saturday, April 25, 2020

succedaneum

[ suhk-si-dey-nee-uhm ]

noun

a substitute.

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What is the origin of succedaneum?


The noun succedaneum comes straight from New Latin succēdāneum, a noun use of the neuter singular adjective of Latin succēdāneus “following after, substituted, additional.” Succēdāneus is formed from the Latin verb succēdere “to move into a position below, move on upward, advance” (a compound of suc-, a form of sub– “under, below,” and the simple verb cēdere “to come, come up, proceed”) and the adjectival suffix –āneus, source of English –aneous. Succedaneum entered English in the 17th century.

how is succedaneum used?

What succedaneum of mutton chop or broiled ham she had for the roast duck and green peas which were to have been provided for the family dinner we will not particularly inquire. We may, however, imagine that she did not devote herself to her evening repast with any peculiar energy or appetite.

Anthony Trollope, The Small House at Allington, 1864

A painter, as I have said on another occasion, if possible, should paint all his studies, and consider drawing only as a succedaneum when colours are not at hand. 

Joshua Reynolds, "'Note XI. Verse 106' on 'The Art of Painting,'" The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Vol. 2, 1797

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Friday, April 24, 2020

silvics

[ sil-viks ]

noun

(used with a singular verb)

the scientific study of trees and their environment.

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What is the origin of silvics?

Silvics, an extremely rare noun, is a branch of forestry meaning “the scientific study of forest trees and their environment.” The word is formed from Latin silva “forest, woods, woodland, grove,” and the modern suffix –ics, which forms nouns denoting a body of facts or principles, like economics, physics, or politics. The suffix –ics is the plural of –ic and represents Latin –ica and Greek –iká, which form neuter plural nouns such as Latin mathēmatica and Greek mathēmatiká “mathematics.” Silvics entered English in the early 20th century.

how is silvics used?

They gained enough appreciation of silvics (in general, the study of how [a] tree grows) and arboriculture to know that trees change over time and that these changes must be understood, advocated for and included in the design of urban green spaces.

Louise Levy, "New book is tree tome like few others—part science, part art marvel," Star Tribune, March 28, 2019

Although silvics had at its core an ideal of transforming the forest, it also offered a way of learning about the forest and making a connection between the individual and the wild nature out there.

Nancy Langston, Forest Dreams, Forest Nightmares: The Paradox of Old Growth in the Inland West, 1995

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

fardel

[ fahr-dl ]

noun

Archaic.

a bundle; burden.

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What is the origin of fardel?

Fardel holds a place in the annals of classic literature for its use in Hamlet’s famous soliloquy: “who would fardels bear, / To grunt and sweat under a weary life …” Then again, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), in the “duke’s” noble, sublime rendition of Hamlet’s soliloquy: “To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin / That makes calamity of so long life; / For who would fardels bear, till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane, / But that the fear of something after death /  Murders the innocent sleep….” To bear fardels means to “carry burdens.” In Middle English fardel, also fardel(l)e, fardel(l), means “a pack of goods or supplies; a collection of bundles or packs; wrapping.” The Middle English forms come from Old French fardel, a diminutive of farde “burden.” The word most likely has its origin in Arabic fardah “single piece, package, bundle.” Fardel entered English in the 14th century.

how is fardel used?

who would fardels bear, / To grunt and sweat under a weary life …

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1603

Who can endure to leave the Future all unguessed, and sit tamely down to groan under the fardel of the Present? No, no!

Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Rienzi, the Last of the Roman Tribunes, 1835

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

stewardship

[ stoo-erd-ship, styoo- ]

noun

the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving: New regulatory changes will result in better stewardship of lands that are crucial for open space and wildlife habitat.

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What is the origin of stewardship?

Stewardship is a compound of the common noun steward “a manager of someone’s property or finances” and the native English suffix –ship, which denotes condition, office, or skill. From about the beginning of the 20th century, stewardship in many Christian denominations has acquired the sense “obligation for the responsible use of time, money, and talents in the service of God and of one’s neighbor.” Stewardship entered English in the 15th century.

how is stewardship used?

As the 50th anniversary of Earth Day approaches—in a year that feels unsettlingly bleak—committing ourselves to more active Earth stewardship seems a logical, fitting and entirely necessary outcome.

Wendy Paulson, "In a bleak year, the natural world stirs hope," Washington Post, April 4, 2020

Stewardship means, for most of us, find your place on the planet, dig in, and take responsibility from there—the tiresome but tangible work of school boards, county supervisors, local foresters—local politics. … Get a sense of workable territory, learn about it, and start acting point by point. 

Gary Snyder, Turtle Island, 1974

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

taradiddle

[ tar-uh-did-l ]

noun

Informal.

a small lie; fib.

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What is the origin of taradiddle?

Taradiddle (also tarradiddle), a slang term meaning “a small lie, a fib” has no clear etymology. The second element may be the verb diddle “to move back and forth or up and down quickly”; the first element tara– (or tarra-) has no explanation at all. Taradiddle (tarradiddle) entered English at the end of the 18th century.

how is taradiddle used?

“What are you?” “An engraver.” (This taradiddle I invented to account for the look of my hands.)

James Greenwood, "A Night in a Workhouse," Pall Mall Gazette, 1866

“A taradiddle is by definition a petty lie, a little falsehood or trifling told often to amuse or embellish a story,” he said. “As our world is full of them, seen and witnessed through advertising, P.R., propaganda, flirtations, staged events and presentations of all sorts, I simply came to the conclusion that even the straightest of photographs made in real-world witness was also such.”

Charles Traub, quoted in "Random Moments, Petty Lies and Quiet Pleasures," by Rena Silverman, New York Times, November 8, 2018

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