Word of the Day

Thursday, January 02, 2020

splore

[ splawr, splohr ]

noun

Scot.

a frolic; revel; carousal.

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What is the origin of splore?

The Scots excel at having words and phrases of obscure origin, and splore is one of them, but because Robert Burns uses the word, it’s a keeper. Splore may be a shortening of explore, but that is just a guess. Splore entered English in the 18th century.

how is splore used?

… it’s only a hunter’s shanty, but it has seen many a merry splore in its time ….

Phillip Ruysdale, A Pilgrimage Over the Prairies, 1863

The morn’s Auld Yule, you know, and like enough the folk have kept him to join in some splore.

Charles Gibbon, For Lack of Gold, 1873
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Wednesday, January 01, 2020

twenty-twenty

[ twen-tee-twen-tee, twuhn-tee-twuhn-tee ]

adjective

keenly or acutely perceptive: an opinion based on twenty-twenty hindsight.

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What is the origin of twenty-twenty?

Twenty-twenty “keenly or acutely perceptive,” as is often remarked of the advantages of hindsight, has its roots in vision. In ophthalmology, twenty-twenty means “having normal visual acuity,” and is based on the Snellen chart developed by Dutch ophthalmologist Herman Snellen in 1862. Many will recognize this chart as the array of letters one reads when taking an eye test. Snellen calculated fractions to determine visual acuity, or the clarity or sharpness of one’s vision, and twenty-twenty refers to the fraction that corresponds to what someone considered to have normal vision can see at a distance of 20 feet. By the middle of the 20th century, twenty-twenty was a jazz term meaning excellent. By the early 1960s, the disillusioned, regretful expression twenty-twenty hindsight had emerged in the business world.

how is twenty-twenty used?

Yes, well don’t forget, sir, we’re viewing this with twenty-twenty hindsight, but at the time no one gave a thought to geckos or what they ate—they were just another fact of life in the tropics.

T. C. Boyle, "Top of the Food Chain," Harper's, April 1993

And sure, with twenty-twenty hindsight, I know I could have swum out from underneath the boat, but at that moment it didn’t occur to me.

Jodi Picoult, House Rules, 2010
Tuesday, December 31, 2019

finito

[ fi-nee-toh ]

adjective

Informal.

finished; ended.

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What is the origin of finito?

When the ball drops at midnight on December 31, you can say the year is finito. It’s “finished; ended.” It’s done. Over with. Finito is an informal adjective borrowed directly from the past participle of Italian finire, from Latin fīnīre “to end, finish, limit,” source (via French) of English finish. Latin fīnīre is based on the noun fīnis “end, utmost limit, highest post,” ultimate source of such English words as fine, final, and finite. In French, Latin fīnis became fin “end.” Viewers of French cinema may recognize this term as displayed at the conclusion of a film: Fin, “The End.” Finito entered English in the mid-1900s.

how is finito used?

It’s done. Over. Finished. Finito.

Herbert Muschamp, "Puppet Regime," New York Times, October 10, 2004

The experiment was done. Lesson learned. Finito.

Gregory Spatz, "Any Landlord's Dream," New England Review, Vol. 26, No. 3, 2005
Monday, December 30, 2019

retrospection

[ re-truh-spek-shuhn ]

noun

the action, process, or faculty of looking back on things past.

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What is the origin of retrospection?

Retrospection, and the slightly earlier noun retrospect, are based on retrospect-, past participle stem of New Latin retrōspicere “to look,” based on Latin adverb retrō “backward, back, behind” and specere “to look (at).” Retrospection, then, is the act of looking back, as many do when reflecting at the end of the year. The stem retrospect– may be partly based on (pro)spect, from Latin prōspectus “outlook, view,” composed of prō “before, in front of, for” and the same specere. Latin specere is the ultimate source of many English words involving various senses of “looking”: aspect, circumspect, expect, inspect, introspect, spectacular, and suspect, among many others. Retrospection entered English in the early 1600s.

how is retrospection used?

Every separate day in the year is a gift presented to only one man—the happiest one … and it often happens that he recognizes his day only in retrospection

Vladimir Nabokov, "The Potato Elf," A Russian Beauty and Other Stories, 1973

He was roused from the reverie of retrospection and regret produced by it …

Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, 1814
Sunday, December 29, 2019

gawsy

[ gaw-see ]

adjective

Scot. and North England.

(of people) well-dressed and of cheerful appearance.

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What is the origin of gawsy?

Gawsy is an adjective found in Scottish and Northern English dialect between the early 1700 and 1900s. When describing people, gawsy means “well-dressed and of cheerful appearance,” as in “The gawsy, outgoing couple lit up the room when they arrived at the party.” When describing things, gawsy means “large and handsome,” as in “The festivities were hosted in a glittering, gawsy ballroom.” The origin of gawsy is obscure. The word is perhaps a variant of gaudy “brilliantly or excessively showy,” and may feature the suffix –sy, which can form adjectives that imply that the given quality is an affectation, as seen in artsy or folksy. Gawsy may also be connected to the obsolete verb gawe “to gape, stare” and Scottish adjective gash “shrewd; well-dressed; neat; imposing.”

how is gawsy used?

Mrs M’Vicar … was withal a gawsy and furthy woman, taking great pleasure in hospitality, and every sort of kindliness and discretion.

John Galt, Annals of the Parish, 1821

He comes steppin’ muckle and braw and gawsy up to the door …

S. R. Crockett, The Dark o' the Moon, 1902
Saturday, December 28, 2019

réchauffé

[ French rey-shoh-fey ]

noun

a warmed-up dish of food.

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What is the origin of réchauffé?

Réchauffé is “a warmed-up dish of food,” as made from leftovers. Figuratively, réchauffé can mean “anything old or stale brought into service again,” like a rehashed idea. It comes directly from French réchauffé “reheated.” Réchauffé is the past participle of réchauffer “to warm up, reheat,” composed of r(e)– “again” and échauffer “to overheat.” Échauffer is related to Middle French, Old French chaufer (modern French chauffer) “to warm,” ultimately from Latin cal(e)facere “to make hot,” equivalent to cale– (stem of calēre “to be hot”) and facere “to make.” Middle French chaufer is the source of English chafe “to wear or abrade by rubbing,” originally “to warm, heat.” The historic sense of chafe survives, to return to the culinary realm, in chafing dish, a device that consists of a metal dish with a lamp or heating appliance beneath it, used for cooking food or keeping it hot at the table. Réchauffé entered English at the end of the 1700s.

how is réchauffé used?

Spry hints at the humble origins of the dish, noting that ”Now, more commonly, this dish is a rechauffe”—reheated leftovers ….

Janet Bukovinsky, "Weekend Lunch: The New Formality," New York Times Magazine, October 26, 1986

The most artistic réchauffé will lose its charm if repeated too often …

Arthur Robert Kenny-Herbert, Culinary Jottings, 5th ed., 1885
Friday, December 27, 2019

shilly-shally

[ shil-ee-shal-ee ]

verb (used without object)

to show indecision or hesitation; be irresolute; vacillate.

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What is the origin of shilly-shally?

We have no need to shilly-shally in giving the origin of this amusing term. It develops from the expression to stand shill I, shall I, a playful variation of the repeated question, shall I? shall I?—which a wishy-washy person would struggle to answer. Shilly-shally is modeled after another so-called reduplication (and near synonym), dilly-dally “to loiter or vacillate.” English is fond of such reduplications, or words formed by repeating a word or syllable. Many reduplications are exact, such as boo-boo. Others rhyme, like razzle-dazzle. Shilly-shally follows a pattern known as ablaut reduplication, in which vowels predictably alternate: chitchat, mishmash, and zigzag are other common examples. Entering English at the end of the 1600s, shilly-shally can also be a noun meaning “irresolution; hesitation; vacillation,” an adjective, “irresolute; undecided; vacillating,” and an adverb, “irresolutely.”

how is shilly-shally used?

Experience had taught him that where evil is concerned, it was better to be frank than to shilly-shally.

Anthony C. Winkler, The Family Mansion, 2013

I made my choice and stood by it. But you shilly-shally between both sides.

Ann Rinaldi, Finishing Becca, 1994

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