Word of the Day

Monday, June 01, 2020

spirituel

[ spir-i-choo-el; French spee-ree-tyel ]

adjective

showing or having a refined and graceful mind or wit.

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What is the origin of spirituel?

Spirituel is a French adjective meaning not only “spiritual” (as in English), but also “displaying a refined and graceful mind or wit.” In French spirituel is the masculine singular form, spirituelle the feminine singular, a distinction not usually observed in English. Most of the English citations of spirituel refer to women or to a particular woman’s liveliness and acuity. Spirituel entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is spirituel used?

It is a comedy in the sense that it is meant to make you laugh. The laughter is mostly spirituel: Cyrano is witty.

Anthony Burgess, "Why Edmond Rostand's 'Cyrano' Lives On," New York Times, November 18, 1984

They are more than witty, they are spirituel; and they have more than talent, they have taste.

Various, "Jules Janin and the Paris Feuilletonistes," The International Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 1, August 1851

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

plaintive

[ pleyn-tiv ]

adjective

expressing sorrow or melancholy; mournful: a plaintive melody.

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What is the origin of plaintive?

The English adjective plaintive “sorrowful, melancholic” comes from Middle English pleintif (also plaintive, plantif, and plantife), from the Old French adjective plaintif (masculine) and plaintive (feminine) “lamentable.” Plaintif derives from the noun plainte “mourning, lamentation,” and comes from the Medieval Latin noun plancta, from Latin planctus “the sound of a person striking their breast,” from the verb plangere “to beat, strike, mourn, bewail.” Old French plaintif is also the source of English plaintiff “one who brings suit in a court, complainant.” Plaintive entered English in the late 14th century.

how is plaintive used?

A strain of plaintive music, played on stringed instruments and flutes, recalled my attention to the hidden shrine.

Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, 1868

Thundercat’s new album feels particularly suited for this moment — filled with both celestial, futuristic escapism and plaintive grief, the strength of human resilience and an unstinting sense of frustration.

Jeff Weiss, "Think there can't be a jazz-funk fusion superstar in 2020? Then you don't know Thundercat." Washington Post, March 27, 2020

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

escapism

[ ih-skey-piz-uhm ]

noun

the avoidance of reality by absorption of the mind in entertainment or in an imaginative situation, activity, etc.

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What is the origin of escapism?

Escapism, originally an Americanism, is a compound of escape and the suffix –ism, first appearing in 1933.

how is escapism used?

Most of us, when we arrive at a particularly trying moment in life, begin to indulge in escapism.

Carrie Battan, "The Italian Supermodel Who Was Already Hiding in Her Apartment," The New Yorker, April 30, 2020

Not that there’s anything wrong with escapism—until escapism is all you’ve got.

Alex Shearer, This Is the Life, 2014

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