Word of the Day

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

spang

[ spang ]

adverb

Informal.

directly, exactly.

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What is the origin of spang?

The adverb spang, “directly, exactly, right-on,” dates from the second half of the 18th century. All of its etymologies are speculative. Most has all the markings of an Americanism, but its first (and clearest) occurrence is in a burlesque version of the Iliad by English humorist Thomas Bridges: “Sometimes a brickbat with a bump, / Came spang against his heavy rump.”

how is spang used?

I put down a franc and flew like the wind, the hair on my back standing as high as Queen Anne’s ruff! And I didn’t stop until I found myself spang in the middle of the Musée de Cluny, clutching the rack.

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood, 1936

When a man takes off some three hundred square miles of territory spang in the center of Europe in an atomic explosion, you can’t blame the rest of the world for being a bit skittish about atomic power research.

John W. Campbell, The Planeteers, 1966

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Monday, September 14, 2020

blatherskite

[ blath-er-skahyt ]

noun

a person given to voluble, empty talk.

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What is the origin of blatherskite?

Blatherskite “one who is given to voluble, empty talk,” which dates from the middle of the 19th century, was originally and remains mostly an Americanism. Blatherskite is a variant of Scottish bletherskate, which dates from the mid-17th century and is a compound of the verb blether or blather “to talk nonsense” and the Anglo-American slang word skate “person, contemptible person, broken-down horse.” Another variant, bladderskate, appears in the traditional Scottish song “Maggie Lauder,” which was popular among American soldiers during the American Revolution.

how is blatherskite used?

This appeared to deeply offend Deputy Gregorig, who shouted back at Iro, “You cowardly blatherskite, say that again!”

Mark Twain, "Stirring Times in Austria," Harper's Magazine, March 1898

Ms. Murphy had already developed, for one reason or another, a reputation for fragility, and the blatherskites around Broadway began whispering.

Campbell Robertson, "No Ill Feelings: Producers Bet on a 'Superwoman,'" New York Times, April 30, 2007

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Sunday, September 13, 2020

lapidify

[ luh-pid-uh-fahy ]

verb (used with or without object)

Archaic.

to turn into stone.

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What is the origin of lapidify?

The relatively rare verb lapidify, “to turn into or become stone, petrify,” comes via French lapidifier from Medieval Latin lapidificāre. Lapidificāre is a transparent compound of Latin lapid– (the inflectional stem of lapis “stone”) and the Latin verb-forming suffix –ficāre, ultimately a derivative of facere “to make, do.” The resemblance between lapis and Greek lépas “bare rock” is “hardly accidental,” as the pros say: Both words probably come from a Mediterranean (non-Indo-European) language. Lapidify entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is lapidify used?

Perhaps in a few months a slow seepage, rich in minerals, would return to these passages and gradually glue their bodies to the rocks where they sat, to seal their crypt and lapidify their bones.

David Brin, Earth, 1990

The rule of the Abang, in an age when the techniques existed to lapidify any rule to permanency, was, because of the very rise of a party, doomed.

Anthony Burgess, The Enemy in the Blanket, 1958

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