• Word of the day
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    Sunday, September 29, 2019

    spitzenburg

    noun [spit-suhn-burg]
    any of several red or yellow varieties of apple that ripen in the autumn.
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    What is the origin of spitzenburg?

    A spitzenburg or spitzenberg is a variety of apple from Esopus, New York, a town on the west bank of the Hudson River about 100 miles north of New York City. The full name of the variety of apple is Esopus Spitzenberg, after Esopus, a Lenape (Delaware Indian) word meaning “high banks,” and Dutch spits “point” and berg “mountain” (a seedling was found on a hill near Esopus). This variety of apple was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson, who had several trees of the variety planted at Monticello. Spitzenburg entered English at the end of the 18th century.

    How is spitzenburg used?

    ... the old gentleman turned in his tracks, looked at me severely, and said, "Young man, the Spitzenburg is the best apple God ever invented." Fred Lape, Apples & Man, 1979

    Biting into a Spitzenburg produces an explosion of flavor; the yellow flesh is crisp, firm, tender, juicy with an extremely rich, aromatic flavor: the ultimate gourmet apple. Peter J. Hatch, The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello, 1998

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, September 28, 2019

    maugre

    preposition [maw-ger] Archaic.
    in spite of; notwithstanding.
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    What is the origin of maugre?

    The archaic preposition maugre “in spite of; notwithstanding” shows its origin in some of its other Middle English spellings, e.g., malgrie, malgre, from Old French maugré, malgré, mal gré, malgreit. The open compound mal gré shows the etymology of maugre: the Old French adjective mal “bad, wrongful” (from Latin malus “bad, unpleasant, evil”) and the noun gré, gred, gret “pleasure, goodwill, favor” (from Latin grātum “(something) pleasing,” a noun use of the neuter of the adjective grātus). Old French gré is the source of Middle English gre “goodwill, favor,” from which English has the archaic noun gree in the same sense. Maugre entered English at the end of the 13th century.

    How is maugre used?

    He had his faults; but maugre them all, I loved him. Willis Gaylord Clark, "Everard Graham," Atkinson's Casket, July 1831

    In his only tender moment, [Shakespeare's] Aaron promises: " This before all the world do I prefer, This maugre all the world will I keep safe. " Mary Wiltenburg, "Acting with conviction," Christian Science Monitor, July 24, 2001

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, September 27, 2019

    viridity

    noun [vuh-rid-i-tee]
    youth; innocence; inexperience.
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    What is the origin of viridity?

    English viridity “greenness (as of vegetation); youth and inexperience,” comes via Old French viridité “greenness,” from Latin viriditās (stem viriditāt-) “greenness (as of vegetation); youth and inexperience” (a sense lacking in the French), a derivative of the adjective viridis “green, abounding in vegetation, unripe (vegetables and cereals), clear, fresh (of the air after rain).” Viridity entered English in the 15th century.

    How is viridity used?

    What intellectual viridity that exemplary creature possesses! Theodore Edward Hook, "Passion and Principle," Sayings and Doings, Vol. 2, 1825

    I preface the incident thus abruptly, from a desire to extenuate in some measure at the outset my dear parent's viridity and trustfulness in the matter .... "Watching the Clock," Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Arts, February 13, 1858

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, September 26, 2019

    simper

    verb (used without object) [sim-per]
    to smile in a silly, self-conscious way.
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    What is the origin of simper?

    The verb simper has an uncertain etymology. It may be related to the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Swiss dialect adjective semper “affected, coy,” German zimpfer “dainty, affected,” and to Middle Dutch zimperlijk “affected, coy.” Further etymology is unknown. Simper entered English in the 16th century.

    How is simper used?

    But still she kept on singing, with twisted lips that strove to simper .... Ottilie A. Liljencrantz, The Ward of King Canute, 1903

    I attended private parties in sumptuous evening dress, simpered and aired my graces like a born beau, and polked and schottisched with a step peculiar to myself—and the kangaroo. Mark Twain, Roughing It, 1872

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, September 25, 2019

    isobar

    noun [ahy-suh-bahr]
    a line drawn on a weather map or chart that connects points at which the barometric pressure is the same.
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    What is the origin of isobar?

    You may see an isobar on your TV screen or hear the word on your local weather channel and already know or deduce that an isobar is "a line drawn on a weather map connecting points where the barometric pressure is the same." The prefix iso- is from the Greek combining form iso- “equal,” from the adjective ísos “equal (in number, size, weight, stature, etc.).” It is used mostly in technical terms, as in another meteorological term isotherm “a line on a weather map connecting points having equal temperature,” or in the geometric term isosceles, “(of a triangle) having two sides equal.” The suffix -bar is interesting: it is a derivative of the Greek noun báros, “weight, heavy weight, heaviness, oppressiveness.” Báros is related to the adjective barýs “heavy (in weight), low (in tone),” as in English baritone. Isobar entered English in the 19th century.

    How is isobar used?

    These are lines of equal pressure known as isobars, which reveal wind speed and direction and allow forecasters to spot features such as highs, lows, troughs and ridges that are associated with particular types of weather. Kirsty McCabe, "Weather charts, fronts and isobars," Weather.com, June 5, 2014

    The isobars (lines of equal pressure) of a weather chart are much like the contour lines of a topo map. Bill Biewenga, "An Onboard Forecaster's Bag of Tricks," Cruising World, November 1995

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, September 24, 2019

    outré

    adjective [oo-trey]
    passing the bounds of what is usual or considered proper; unconventional; bizarre.
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    What is the origin of outré?

    Outré may bring smiles of recognition to fans of the American writer of horror stories H.P. Lovecraft (1890–1937), it and nefandous being particular favorites of his. The very French-looking outré, “excessive, extreme, exaggerated,” is indeed a past participle of the French verb outrer “to push or go beyond the limits.” Outrer is a derivative of Old French oultre, ultimately from the Latin preposition and adverb ultrā “on the far side of, beyond.” Outré is also the root of Old French and English outrage, “an act of wanton cruelty.” Students of modern European history will be familiar with the phrase attaque à outrance “an attack to the bitter end, to death,” the ruinous, catastrophic French military policy of World War I. Outré entered English in the 18th century.

    How is outré used?

    A kind of growing horror, of outré and morbid cast, seemed to possess him. H. P. Lovecraft, "Cool Air," Tales of Magic and Mystery, March 1928

    Since the dawn of the millennium, the outré has become ordinary in opera. Elisa Mala, "Opera Inspiration: Books, Film—Even TV Talk Shows," Newsweek, August 1, 2008

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, September 23, 2019

    gossamer

    noun [gos-uh-mer]
    a fine, filmy cobweb seen on grass or bushes or floating in the air in calm weather, especially in autumn.
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    What is the origin of gossamer?

    The etymology of English gossamer is a little clearer in the alternative Middle English spellings gossomer, gosesomer, gossummer “goose summer,” that is, a late, mild fall when roast goose was a favorite dish (German has the noun Gänsemonat “November,” literally “goose month”). But the etymology of gossamer does not fit its meaning, “a fine, filmy cobweb seen on grass or bushes or floating in the air in calm weather, especially in the fall.” It may be that the cobwebs resembled goose down, or that the cobwebs appeared in “goose summer,” and the name of the season was transferred to the spider webs. Gossamer entered English in the 14th century.

    How is gossamer used?

    Small, viewless aeronaut, that by the line / Of Gossamer suspended, in mid air / Float'st on a sun beam ... Charlotte Smith, "To the insect of the gossamer," Conversations Introducing Poetry, 1804

    When the early morning sun glints off droplets of dew on the gossamer strands of a spider web, it creates a visual masterpiece. Carrie Arnold, "Spiders Listen to Their Webs," National Geographic, June 5, 2014

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