Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, November 26, 2021

spendthrift

[ spend-thrift ]

noun

a person who spends possessions or money extravagantly or wastefully; prodigal.

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What is the origin of spendthrift?

Spendthrift “a person who spends wastefully” is a compound of the verb spend and the noun thrift. Spend has been in the English language for well over 1000 years, but it is in fact of Latin origin; while most English words derived from Latin entered following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, there are a select few that spread from Latin long beforehand and took root in West Germanic languages such as English and German. In this case, spend derives from Latin expendere “to weigh out, lay out, pay,” a compound of the prefix ex- “out of, from” and the verb pendere “to hang.” Thrift, in contrast, derives from Old Norse, in which the word means “well-being” or “prosperity,” and is related to the verb thrive. This “prosperity” sense is obsolete, of course; thrift shifted in definition during the 16th century to mean “savings,” and from there, it adopted its current meaning of “economy” and “spending little money.” Spendthrift was first recorded in English at the turn of the 17th century.

how is spendthrift used?

The final step toward extending Roman citizenship to nearly all the subject peoples of the empire came with the Edict of Caracalla. Promulgated in A.D. 212, it granted citizenship to all the free men of the Roman Empire. Historians point out that this decidedly bold move was not as enlightened as it may appear. Caracalla was a spendthrift and unstable ruler, and extending citizenship to the huge populations that inhabited his mighty realm was a quick way to increase his tax base.

Clelia Martínez Maza, “In ancient Rome, citizenship was the path to power,” National Geographic, November 4, 2019

It will be interesting to see how Friedman’s more wallet-friendly methods match up with the Dodgers seemingly endless vault of money. Although the Dodgers exited the playoffs early in the last two consecutive years, the team’s spendthrift strategy, which allows the Dodgers to maintain the highest payroll, has managed to get them to the playoffs in the first place.

Marissa Payne, "Andrew Friedman leaves Rays to join Dodgers as president of baseball operations," Washington Post, October 14, 2014

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Word of the day

Thursday, November 25, 2021

repast

[ ri-past, -pahst, ree-past, -pahst ]

noun

a meal.

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What is the origin of repast?

Repast “meal” derives via Middle English from the Old French verb repaistre “to eat a meal” (compare Modern French repaître “to feed, to eat”), which ultimately comes from the Latin prefix re- “again, regularly” and the verb pāscere “to feed.” Pāscere, the past participle stem of which is pāst-, is the source of numerous food- and livestock-related terms in English, such as antipasto and pasture. Despite the similar spelling, the words past and pasta are not derivatives of pāscere. Past was originally a variant of passed, the past participle of pass, a verb that comes from the Latin noun passus “step,” while pasta is an Italian borrowing from Ancient Greek pastá “barley porridge.” Repast was first recorded in English in the early 1300s.

how is repast used?

One of the greatest aspects of the traditional Thanksgiving feast is the near-boundless array of food at the table. That also makes it perhaps the [year’s] toughest repast for wine pairing. Or not, if we extend the bounty of the food to the wine options .… [I]t makes sense to make them part of the meal and give guests a chance to try different wines with different dishes, or to hoard a bit of one wine for their favorite part of the meal.

Bill Ward, “Different wines for different dishes at the holiday table,” AP News, November 14, 2018

Consider for a moment, the Thanksgiving meal itself. It has become a sort of refuge for endangered species of starch: sweet potatoes, cauliflower, pumpkin, mince (whatever “mince” is), those blessed yams …. And then the sacred turkey. One might as well try to construct a holiday repast around a fish—say, a nice piece of boiled haddock. After all, turkey tastes very similar to haddock: same consistency, same quite remarkable absence of flavor.

Michael J. Arlen, "Comment," The New Yorker, November 27, 1978

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Word of the day

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

hominid

[ hom-uh-nid ]

noun

any member of the family Hominidae, consisting of all modern and extinct humans and great apes, and all their immediate ancestors.

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What is the origin of hominid?

Hominid “a member of the family consisting of humans and great apes” is adapted from New Latin Hominidae, the name for this family, from Latin homō (stem homin-) “man, human being.” As we learned with recent Word of the Day chernozem, homõ derives from the Proto-Indo-European root dhghem- “earth,” which is the source of person-related terms such as Latin hūmānus (compare human) and Old English guma “man” (compare bridegroom) as well as land-related words such as Latin humus “earth,” Ancient Greek khthōn “earth” (compare chthonian), and Ancient Greek chamaí “on the ground” (compare chameleon, literally “ground lion”). Hominid was first recorded in English in the late 1880s.

how is hominid used?

We know [the Denisovans] were a distinct ancestral species;…They participated in one (or many) of the waves of migration out-of-Africa…when Neanderthals began their migration, and 60,000 years ago when modern humans followed. And we know these groups did not keep to themselves: Denisovan DNA can be found in living humans from Asia (less than 1%) and Melanesia (up to 6%) …. How these different groups of hominids interacted remains something that is less understood.

Krystal D’Costa, “Ancient Girl Had Denisovan and Neandertal Parents,” Scientific American, September 6, 2018

One and a half billion years ago, the planet’s only life-forms were single-celled. Fermentation ruled the earth. Then an anaerobic bacterium engulfed an aerobic bacterium …. This accidental collaboration made possible the proliferation of multicellular life-forms and, eventually, tool-wielding hominids who would come to complain that they feel tired all the time.

Nick Paumgarten, "Energy, and How to Get It," The New Yorker, November 1, 2021

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