• Word of the day
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    Sunday, August 04, 2019

    stolid

    adjective [stol-id]
    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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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, August 03, 2019

    vinculum

    noun [ving-kyuh-luhm]
    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

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, August 02, 2019

    slake

    verb (used with object) [sleyk]
    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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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, August 01, 2019

    august

    adjective [aw-guhst]
    inspiring reverence or admiration; of supreme dignity or grandeur; majestic: an august performance of a religious drama.
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    What is the origin of august?

    The English adjective august ultimately derives from the Latin adjective augustus, an uncommon, quasi-religious adjective originally meaning “venerable, solemn,” first used by the Roman poet and playwright Ennius (239-169 b.c.). Augustus also means “majestic (in appearance), dignified,” as used in authors who lived before the emperor Augustus or were contemporary with him. The etymology of augustus is unclear: it may be related to the verb augēre “to increase, enlarge, grow,” or it may be related to the noun augur, a noun of unknown etymology meaning “a Roman official who observes the flight of birds and interprets the omens.” Finally, it may be related to auspex, a synonym of augur but with an excellent etymology: avis “bird” and -spex “watcher,” from the verb specere “to observe.” It is also unclear why Octavian (the English short form of Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus), the sole head of the Roman state after the Battle of Actium (31 b.c.), selected the old, obscure title Augustus for himself. Octavian had also styled himself Rōmulus, the legendary founder and first king of Rome, and Octavian, perhaps wishing to avoid associations with the monarchy, settled upon Augustus. On January 16, 27 b.c., the Senate bestowed upon Octavian the titles Augustus and Princeps (Civītātis) “First Citizen (of the State), First Man (of the State),” and Augustus became the emperor’s official title. After Augustus’s time, the title Augustus was applied to succeeding emperors; the feminine title Augusta was given to the emperor’s wife (and occasionally to other close female relatives, such as a mother, grandmother, sister, or daughter). August entered English in the late 16th century.

    How is august used?

    We have before observed, that there is generally in nature something more grand and august than what we meet with in the curiosities of art. Joseph Addison, "No. 414, Paper IV: On the Pleasures of the Imagination," The Spectator, June 25, 1712

    At that time, a debate was raging in European scientific circles, one that was roiling the august halls of the French Academy of Sciences. Robert Whitaker, The Mapmaker's Wife, 2004

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, July 31, 2019

    dumbledore

    noun [duhm-buhl-dawr]
    a bumblebee.
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    What is the origin of dumbledore?

    Dumbledore is a British dialect word, a compound of dumble, which is onomatopoeic, occurring variously as bumble-, dumble-, humble-, and the noun dor (also dorr) “an insect that makes a buzzing noise as it flies.” For her Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling selected Dumbledore as the surname of the headmaster of Hogwarts because dumbledore is a dialect word for “bumblebee,” Albus Dumbledore loved music, and she imagined him walking around "humming to himself.” Dumbledore is recorded in English by the late 1700s.

    How is dumbledore used?

    The dumbledore proper is Emerson's "burly dozing humblebee," in American prose always a bumblebee. Charles P. G. Scott, "English Words which hav Gaind or Lost an Initial Consonant by Attraction," Transactions of the American Philological Association, Vol. 23, 1892

    Any Humble-bee, no matter what species, is known as a Bumble-bee, a Foggie, a Dumbledore, or a Hummel-bee, according to the peculiar dialect of the locality .... John George Wood, Homes Without Hands, 1866

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, July 30, 2019

    dégringolade

    noun [dey-gran-gaw-lad]
    a quick deterioration or breakdown, as of a situation or circumstance.
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    What is the origin of dégringolade?

    The rare noun dégringolade “a quick deterioration or breakdown,” comes unchanged from French. The French noun is a derivative of the verb dégringoler (earlier désgringoler) “to tumble down.” The prefix - (dés-) comes from the Latin prefix dis- “apart, asunder.” The French noun suffix -ade ultimately comes from the Latin past participle suffix -ātus (-āta, -ātum). The verb gringoler may be a borrowing of Middle Dutch crinkelen ”to curl, meander.” Dégringolade entered English by the second half of the 19th century.

    How is dégringolade used?

    The economically combatant nation entrenched themselves behind tariffs, played each other tricks with loans, repudiations, sudden inflations and deflations, and no power in the world seemed able to bring them into any concerted action to arrest and stop their common degringolade. H. G. Wells, The Shape of Things to Come, 1933

    What’s more, they believe that things cannot go on as they are: That the trajectory we’re on will end in crisis, disaster, dégringolade. Ross Douthat, "Pope Francis' Call to Action Goes Beyond the Environment," New York Times, June 20, 2015

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, July 29, 2019

    nisus

    noun [nahy-suhs]
    an effort or striving toward a particular goal or attainment; impulse.
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    What is the origin of nisus?

    The rare noun nisus, a technical word used in various branches of philosophy and theology, comes directly from Latin nīsus, a derivative of the verb nītī and meaning “a resting of one’s weight on the ground, planting one’s feet firmly, a strong muscular effort, pressure (of forces), an endeavor, strong effort.” Nisus in the sense "effort" first appears at the end of the 17th century in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. In later usage nisus simply means "impulse."

    How is nisus used?

    The accumulation of wealth into a few hands is the nisus of all bad governments ... "Ireland in 1832," The Metropolitan, Vol. 5, No. 18, October 1832

    ... in Aristotle's teleological universe, every human being ... has a kind of inner nisus toward a life of at least civic virtue ... Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, 1985

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