• Word of the day
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    Saturday, November 09, 2019

    strepitous

    adjective [strep-i-tuhs]
    boisterous; noisy.
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    What is the origin of strepitous?

    Strepitous comes from Latin strepitus “noise,” from strepere “to make noise, rattle, clatter.” Strepere also yields (through the verb obstrepere “to make noise at”) the Latin adjective obstreperus “clamorous.” Obstreperus is the source of a more familiar synonym for strepitous: obstreperous. Strepitous entered English in the late 1600s.

    How is strepitous used?

    The New Orleans-based songwriter ... leans into more explicitly gospel territory here, letting his strepitous guitar take a backseat to an upright-piano melody and choral harmonies. Rachel Horn, "Songs We Love: Benjamin Booker, 'Witness (Feat. Mavis Staples)'," NPR, March 9, 2017

    The fair in its last years degenerated into the usual thing we understand nowadays as a fair: ... a gaudy and strepitous saturnalia of roundabouts and mountebanks. Charles G. Harper, The Old Inns of Old England, Vol. 1, 1906

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  • Word of the day
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    Friday, November 08, 2019

    salutary

    adjective [sal-yuh-ter-ee]
    promoting or conducive to some beneficial purpose; wholesome.
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    What is the origin of salutary?

    Salutary ultimately comes from Latin salūs (inflectional stem salūt-) “health, welfare, safety.” In its sense of “promoting or conducive to some beneficial purpose; wholesome,” salutary entered English in the late 1400s. Salutary, in its sense of “favorable to or promoting health; healthful,” emerged in the mid-1600s. A synonym for salutary (“healthful”) is salubrious, which is also rooted in Latin salūs. Salūs could also mean “greeting,” as in greeting someone with “best wishes (for their well-being).” This meaning of salūs gave rise to the verb salūtāre “to greet, hail,” source of the English noun and verb salute.

    How is salutary used?

    After Gutenberg, books became widely available, setting off a cascade of salutary movements and innovations, including but not limited to the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the steam engine, journalism, modern literature, modern medicine, and modern democracy. Andrew Marantz, "The Dark Side of Techno-Utopianism," The New Yorker, September 23, 2019

    However salutary these tactics may be with regard to the evaporation of the national debt in the countries just mentioned, the fact is nevertheless incontestable that the gold mentality of the world remains unaffected. Henry Miller, "Money and How It Gets That Way," Stand Still Like the Hummingbird, 1962

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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, November 07, 2019

    picayune

    adjective [pik-ee-yoon, pik-uh-] Informal.
    of little value or account; small; trifling: a picayune amount.
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    What is the origin of picayune?

    In the early 1800s in Louisiana, Florida, and other Southern U.S. states, the noun picayune designated a coin equal to a Spanish half-real, which was worth a mere six-and-one-quarter cents. Picayune comes from Provençal picaioun (compare French picaillons “money”), a type of copper coin from the historical region of Savoy in southeastern France. While the picayune, as currency, fell out of circulation in the U.S., the word picayune did not. Picayune—on the basis of the coin’s paltry sum—extended as an adjective meaning “of little value or account; small; trifling.” The name of the former coin also survives in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which cost one picayune when the newspaper was established (as The Picayune) in 1837.

    How is picayune used?

    The point is less to dwell on the picayune details of what was once known as the “browser wars” than to show how hard it is to escape the hold these companies’ ecosystems have on our lives. Jacob Silverman, "Breaking up Big Tech may be impossible. It's still worth trying." Washington Post, June 5, 2019

    "My client is determined to have his day in court." "But why?" Swan said. "It's such a picayune amount of money." Matt Braun, Dodge City, 2006

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, November 06, 2019

    turophobia

    noun [tur-uh-foh-bee-uh]
    an irrational or disproportionate fear of cheese.
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    What is the origin of turophobia?

    People who desperately avoid cheese may at least be pleased to learn there is a word they can use for their experience: turophobia “an irrational or disproportionate fear of cheese.” This term is formed on tur-, a variant of Greek tȳrós “cheese” and -phobia, a combining form meaning “fear,” itself from Greek phóbos “fear, panic.” Fear not, cheese lovers: a turophile is a connoisseur or lover of cheese, with -phile a Greek-derived combining form meaning “lover of.” Turophobia is fairly new formation in English, recorded in the early 2000s.

    How is turophobia used?

    Stossel's own fears include turophobia, a fear of cheese; asthenophobia, a fear of fainting; and claustrophobia. "Fear of Fainting, Flight And Cheese: One Man's 'Age of Anxiety'," NPR, January 6, 2014

    What is your main character’s worst fear? Is it something universal, like the death of a loved one? Or a rare phobia, like turophobia (fear of cheese). Sarah Ockler, "10 Prompts to Get You Out of a NaNoWriRut," The NanoWriMo Blog, November 6, 2015

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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, November 05, 2019

    thither

    adverb [thith-er, thith-]
    to or toward that place or point; there.
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    What is the origin of thither?

    The adverb thither “to or toward that place or point; there” is an old one in English. Its original form in Old English was thæder, altered to thider (among other forms) due to hider. This adverb hider evolved into a word thither frequently appears together with: hither, as in hither and thither “here and there.” Thither was largely replaced by there (as hither was by here). If you go back far enough in time, you’ll find that thither and there share a common root, as do many humble English function words beginning with th-, including that, this, and the.

    How is thither used?

    We told them that we were travelling, that we had been transported thither, and that they had nothing to fear from us. Emanuel Swedenborg, Earths in the Universe, 1758, translated 1860

    He was a thorough-going old Tory ... who seldom himself went near the metropolis, unless called thither by some occasion of cattle-showing. Anthony Trollope, The Small House at Allington, 1864

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, November 04, 2019

    Sprachgefühl

    noun [shprahkh-guh-fyl] German.
    a sensitivity to language, especially for what is grammatically or idiomatically acceptable in a given language.
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    What is the origin of Sprachgefühl?

    If you have sufficient Sprachgefühl for German, you’ll know that this noun is a great example of how that language can form compounds that capture very specific concepts. Sprachgefühl combines German Sprache “speech, language” and Gefühl “feeling.” Literally meaning “speech-feeling,” this term was borrowed into English by the early 1900s to convey the idea of “a sensitivity to language, especially for what is grammatically or idiomatically acceptable in a given language,” that is, an intuitive sense of how a language works. For instance, native English speakers understand (usually without being explicitly taught about adjective order) that a phrase like the green big book is incorrect in English. (The correct construction would be the big green book.)

    How is Sprachgefühl used?

    He displays an extraordinary range of what Germans call Sprachgefühl, an infectious love of language that inspires his readers and illuminates the nooks and crannies of the English language. George Thomas Kurian, "Safire's Political Dictionary," The Reference Librarian's Bible, 2018

    The test of vocabulary is important, but subordinate to that of "Sprachgefühl." Mary Anna Sawtelle, quoted in Report of the Third Annual Meeting of the New England Modern Language Association, May 12, 1906

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, November 03, 2019

    obumbrate

    verb (used with object) [ob-uhm-breyt]
    to darken, overshadow, or cloud.
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    What is the origin of obumbrate?

    The Latin root of obumbrate helps clarify this verb meaning “to darken, overshadow, or cloud”: umbra, “shadow, shade.” Obumbrate comes from Latin obumbrāre “to overshadow, shade, darken.” Obumbrāre combines the prefix ob- “on, over” (among other senses) and umbrāre “to shade,” a derivative of umbra. English owes many other words to Latin umbra, including adumbrate, penumbra, umbrage, and umbrella, the latter of which can be literally understood as “a little shade.” Obumbrate entered English in the early 1500s.

    How is obumbrate used?

    ... that solemn interval of time when the gloom of midnight obumbrates the globe .... The Summer Miscellany; or, A Present for the Country, 1742

    It requires no stretch of mind to conceive that a man placed in a corner of Germany may be every whit as pragmatical and self-important as another man placed in Newhaven, and withal as liable to confound and obumbrate every subject that may fall his way .... General Advertiser, September 3, 1798

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