Word of the Day

Sunday, August 04, 2019

stolid

[ stol-id ]

adjective

not easily stirred or moved mentally; unemotional; impassive.

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What is the origin of stolid?

The English adjective stolid is a back formation from the noun stolidity, which comes from Middle French stolidite and Latin stoliditās (stem stoliditāt-) “brutish insensibility, stupidity.” Stoliditās is a derivative of the adjective stolidus “dull, stupid, brutish” and is related to stultus “stupid, dense, slow-witted.” Samuel Johnson has the headword stolidity in his Dictionary (1755) but not stolid. Stolid begins to become popular in the first half of the 19th century, in the works of Sir Walter Scott. Stolid entered English about 1600.

how is stolid used?

What I required was something cheap and small and hardy, and of a stolid and peaceful temper; and all these requisites pointed to a donkey.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, 1879

David Harbour, the stolid and familiar presence from Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” is given the opportunity to cut loose here with a broad, loopy half-hour that feels a bit like one long comedy sketch, with all that implies.

Daniel D'Addario, "TV Review: 'Frankenstein's Monster's Monster, Frankenstein'," Variety, July 16, 2019
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Saturday, August 03, 2019

vinculum

[ ving-kyuh-luhm ]

noun

a bond signifying union or unity; tie.

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What is the origin of vinculum?

English vinculum comes straight from Latin vinclum, vinculum “a bond, fetter, chain, a force that unites people (as in friendship) or cements a relationship (as in marriage).” The general sense “bond of union, tie,” the original sense of the word in English, dates from the mid-17th century. The mathematical sense of vinculum “a stroke or brace drawn over a quantity consisting of several terms” dates from the early 18th century. Those with an interest in Roman antiquity or early Christianity will be familiar with the Latin phrase Sanctus Petrus in Vinculis (ad Vincula) (Italian San Pietro in Vincoli) “St. Peter in Chains,” a church in Rome originally consecrated in 439 and housing the relics of the chains that bound St. Peter in Jerusalem, as narrated in chapter 12 of the Acts of the Apostles.

how is vinculum used?

While nation clashed against nation, and tribe met tribe in bloody collision, through all ages the scholars have preserved the commune vinculum, and have joined hands in a humane and cosmopolitan union.

, "The London Saturday Review," New York Times, October 14, 1861

… his insistence upon the need to create a vinculum among men and to live in hope arises not from a blindness to human conflict but precisely from a very clear awareness of this very conflict.

Clyde Pax, An Existential Approach to God: A Study of Gabriel Marcel, 1972
Friday, August 02, 2019

slake

[ sleyk ]

verb (used with object)

to lessen or allay (thirst, desire, wrath, etc.) by satisfying.

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What is the origin of slake?

Slake means “to lessen or allay something by satisfying it.” While we can slake our curiosity, desire, hunger, or anger, we most commonly say we slake our thirst. Slake comes from Middle English slaken “to mitigate, allay, moderate, lessen one’s efforts,” from Old English slacian “to slacken.” Old English slacian is a verb based off the adjective sleac, slæc, variously meaning “loose, lazy, careless, sluggish, lax (of conduct),” which by Middle English (as slac, slak) narrowed to the sense of “loose, not tight,” the principal sense of its modern form, slack, today. Old English sleac (via Germanic slak-) derives from the Proto-Indo-European root (s)lēg-, which, in its Latin variants, ultimately yielded such English words as languid,  languish, lax, lease, release, and relax. Once again, etymology offers an important life lesson: it’s best not to languish, so slake your thirst—with a beverage of your choice—and relax, but don’t be too lax about it and slack off.

how is slake used?

The desperate elephants dig a well in order to slake the thirst of their little calf.

Sonia Saraiya, "Staggering, Marvelous Our Planet Is the Nature Show We've Been Waiting For," Vanity Fair, April 9, 2019

He could not slake his thirst; he kept going into the kitchen and ladling more water out of the bucket that stood on a bench under the window facing the large moonlit yard.

Péter Nádas, Parallel Stories, translated by Imre Goldstein, 2011

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