Word of the Day

Sunday, February 16, 2020

soniferous

[ suh-nif-er-uhs, soh- ]

adjective

conveying or producing sound.

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What is the origin of soniferous?

The adjective soniferous “conveying or producing sound” is Latinate but not Latin. The first two syllables, soni-, are a combining form of the Latin noun sonus “sound.” The second two syllables, –ferous “bearing, producing,” make a hybrid suffix from the Latin suffix –fer “carrying, bearing” (as in aquifer) and the English suffix –ous “possessing, full of,” which comes via Old French –ous, –eus, –eux from Latin –ōsus. Soniferous entered English in the early 18th century.

how is soniferous used?

Since World War II biologists have learned much more about the characteristic sounds of many soniferous marine animals.

P. Vigoureux and J. B. Hersey, "Sound in the Sea," The Global Coastal Ocean, 1962

There is even an entire family of fishes, the Haemulidae or “grunts,” whose common name reflects their soniferous tendencies.

Christie Wilcox, "I am Lionfish, hear me ROAR!" Discover, May 12, 2017
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Saturday, February 15, 2020

asana

[ ah-suh-nuh ]

noun

any of the postures in a yoga exercise.

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What is the origin of asana?

The noun asana, “any of the postures in a yoga exercise,” comes from the Sanskrit noun āsanam “(act of) sitting, sitting position,” from the Sanskrit root ās– “to sit, be seated,” from the Proto-Indo-European root ēs– “to sit,” found only in Indo-Iranian, Greek, and Hittite: Sanskrit ā́ste, Avestan āste, Greek hēstai, and Hittite esa, esari all mean “he sits.” Asana entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is asana used?

Getting in to the correct asana is good but you must also train your mind not to oscillate.

Dr. Rajalakshmi, quoted in "What India's Traditional Yoga Teachers Want You to Know for the International Day of Yoga," Time, June 20, 2018

I can still do some asanas. And I never could get the hang of meditation, but I still can do an asana or two.

Loudon Wainwright III, "Loudon Wainwright III Opens Up About The 'Exes & Excess' That Inform His Music," Fresh Air, September 6, 2017
Friday, February 14, 2020

jo

[ joh ]

noun

Scot.

beloved one; darling; sweetheart.

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What is the origin of jo?

The common noun jo, “darling, sweetheart,” is Scots, a variant of joy. Jo occurs in many noted Scots authors, including Robert Burns’s “John Anderson my jo!,” Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Just twa o’ my old joes, my hinny dear” (“Just two of my old sweethearts, my honey dear”). Jo entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is jo used?

… her ne’er-do-well jo had provided her with a rope-ladder during the forenoon service, by which she had descended into his arms when she believed the house to be all at rest …

John Galt, Lawrie Todd, 1830

John Anderson, my jo!

Robert Burns, "John Anderson my Jo," Scots Musical Museum, Vol. 3, 1790
Thursday, February 13, 2020

chocolate-box

[ chaw-kuh-lit-boks, chok-uh-, chawk-lit-, chok- ]

adjective

excessively decorative and sentimental, as the pictures or designs on some boxes of chocolate candy; prettified: decorous, chocolate-box paintings of Victorian garden parties.

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What is the origin of chocolate-box?

The compound noun chocolate box dates from around 1865 and has the literal meaning “a package, box, or tin filled with chocolates.” Such packages or boxes are typically decorated in a showy, gaudy, sentimental style. By the end of the 19th century, the compound noun acquired the function of an attributive adjective, hyphenated as chocolate-box, meaning “excessively decorative and sentimental.”

how is chocolate-box used?

It works best when everyone stops worrying about conjuring a chocolate-box version of the past and allows the duo’s raw talent to shine through.

Alexis Petridis, "The Secret Sisters," The Guardian, February 17, 2011

But if it’s verdant folds, ­chocolate-box villages and a taste of eternal England that you want, try East Kent ….

Will Hawkes, "The idyllic Cotswolds are overrun with tourists. Try East Kent instead." Washington Post, January 9, 2020
Wednesday, February 12, 2020

quiddity

[ kwid-i-tee ]

noun

the quality that makes a thing what it is; the essential nature of a thing.

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What is the origin of quiddity?

Quiddity, with its conflicting senses, “the essential nature of a thing” and “a trifling nicety of subtle distinction,” ultimately comes from the Medieval Latin noun quidditās (stem quidditāt-), literally “whatness,” formed from the Latin interrogative pronoun quid “what” and the abstract noun suffix –itās, the source via Old French –ité of the English suffix –ity. Quiddity entered English at the end of the 14th century.

how is quiddity used?

… that gift for creating idioms may be a clue to the quiddity of his genius.

Adam Gopnik, "The Pleasure and Pain of Being Cole Porter," The New Yorker, January 13, 2020

If, argues he, we could only find out exactly what humour is ‘in its quiddity,’ we could keep ourselves humorous, or at any rate bring up our children to be so.

Henry Duff Traill, "The Future of Humour," The New Fiction, 1897
Tuesday, February 11, 2020

blench

[ blench ]

verb (used without object)

to shrink; flinch; quail: an unsteady eye that blenched under another's gaze.

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What is the origin of blench?

The history of the verb blench is complicated. The uncommon Old English verb blencan “to cheat, deceive” is the direct source of Middle English blenchen, blenken, blinchen, blinken “to move suddenly, dodge, avoid, mislead, deceive.” The various Middle English forms yield both English blench “to shrink, flinch” and blink “to wink the eyes, be startled.”

how is blench used?

But art historians should not blench at the sight of dreadful paintings, any more than doctors should blench at the sight of blood.

John Russell, "Art: Symbolists In America at Grey," New York Times, November 30, 1979

… the actor blenches as he reads the instruction ….

Susannah Clapp, "The week in theatre: When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other and more—review," The Guardian, January 27, 2019
Monday, February 10, 2020

grandstand

[ gran-stand, grand- ]

verb (used without object)

to conduct oneself or perform showily or ostentatiously in an attempt to impress onlookers: The senator doesn't hesitate to grandstand if it makes her point.

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What is the origin of grandstand?

The noun grandstand, “the main seating area of a stadium, racetrack, parade route, etc.,” dates from the second half of the 18th century and was originally spelled as two words. The verb grandstand, “to conduct oneself or perform showily or ostentatiously in order to impress onlookers,” was originally used in baseball and dates from the early 20th century.

how is grandstand used?

The debt limit debate allows politicians to grandstand on fiscal responsibility.

Donald Marron, "America doesn't need a debt limit," Christian Science Monitor, July 18, 2011

He used his political platform to grandstand over Italy’s Catholic identity and repeatedly found ways to poke European Union officials in the eye.

Ishaan Tharoor, "Italy's political crisis marks a populist failure," Washington Post, August 20, 2019

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