Word of the Day

Monday, April 26, 2021

sumpsimus

[ suhmp-suh-muhs ]

noun

adherence to or persistence in using a strictly correct term, holding to a precise practice, etc., as a rejection of an erroneous but more common form.

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What is the origin of sumpsimus?

The odd noun sumpsimus, “adherence to a correct word or practice while rejecting an erroneous but more common one; a person who stubbornly adheres to such correctness,” has an equally odd history. Sumpsimus is actually a Latin verb form “we have taken,” the first person plural perfect indicative of sūmere “to take, take up.” Sumpsimus is part of the priest’s postcommunion prayer in the old Latin liturgy before the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and the entire sentence reads Quod ōre sūmpsimus, Domine, pūrā mente capiāmus “What we have taken by mouth, O Lord, may we keep with a pure mind.” The traditional story behind sumpsimus is that Erasmus, the Dutch humanist and scholar, wrote a letter in 1516 about an English priest who, when he was corrected about his use of incorrect mumpsimus for the correct sūmpsimus, said he would not change his old mumpsimus for the new sumpsimus. Thus mumpsimus, the opposite of sumpsimus, means “adherence to an incorrect word or practice while rejecting the correct one, or a person who persists in a mistaken expression or practice.” Sumpsimus (and mumpsimus) entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is sumpsimus used?

But some, like the venerable Dr. Hayek, sturdily adhere to the true faith of Adam Smith, refusing, like the legendary medieval priest, to change his mumpsimus for the new-fangled sumpsimus.

George Ball, "An Overdose of Economists," Washington Post, April 7, 1980

It would, I am sure, move his pity to think how many old dogs he hath set to learn new tricks, how many venerable parrots he hath addled by vain attempts to exchange their old Mumpsimus for his new Sumpsimus.

Sir Walter Scott, The Monastery, 1820

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Sunday, April 25, 2021

celluloid

[ sel-yuh-loid ]

adjective

of or involving motion pictures.

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What is the origin of celluloid?

The primary meaning nowadays of the adjective celluloid is “pertaining to the movies.” The noun celluloid refers to the hard, explosively flammable plastic that formerly was used to make movies until about 1950 (it was discontinued because of its flammability and tendency to decompose). Celluloid was originally a trademark (1869), a word composed of cellulose and the familiar suffix -oid “resembling, like”: Celluloid is something that resembles cellulose. Some people may remember from literature or the movies (or from Looney Tunes) the celluloid dickeys (pieces of clothing made to look like the front or collar of a shirt) that would pop out of a man’s waistcoat or cummerbund and roll up to his throat. Krusty the Klown of The Simpsons wore a dickey in an act of his that bombed badly (The Last Temptation of Krust, February 22, 1998). Celluloid entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is celluloid used?

My wife and I knew Hollywood couldn’t be trusted. Chances were that the true story of the Von Trapps bore only a passing resemblance to the celluloid version.

Jay Copp, "Move over, Julie. We search for the real 'Sound of Music.'" Christian Science Monitor, June 24, 2003

The story of dashed celluloid dreams became a journalistic genre—the flip side of the overnight-discovery tale, and, in its way, an equal testament to the power of Hollywood.

Margaret Talbot, "The Screen Test," The New Yorker, September 24, 2012

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Saturday, April 24, 2021

bibliopole

[ bib-lee-uh-pohl ]

noun

a bookseller, especially a dealer in rare or used books.

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What is the origin of bibliopole?

Bibliopole is not a misspelling of bibliophile: It is a legitimate word meaning “bookseller (especially of used or rare books),” from Latin bibliopōla from Greek bibliopṓlēs, a compound of biblio-, the combining form of biblíon “book,” and naturalized in English in Bible, bibliography, bibliophile, etc. The Greek combining form –pṓlēs “seller,” occurs only in compound nouns and is a derivative of the verb pōleîn “to offer for sale, sell.” Bibliopole entered English in the early 18th century.

how is bibliopole used?

I have seen a Wilshire clothier who gives his bookseller no other instructions than the dimensions of his shelves; and have just heard of a Liverpool merchant who is fitting up a library, and has told his bibliopole to send him Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope, and if any of those fellows should publish anything new to let him have it immediately.

Henry Curwen, A History of Booksellers, 1874

Rare-book dealers and collectors had mixed feelings about the record costs. “The Snopeses are in the market,” grumbled one bibliopole, as agents for wealthy clients pushed prices to new highs.

"The New Literary Appreciation," Time, April 25, 1977

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