Word of the Day

Thursday, April 22, 2021

sustainability

[ suh-stey-nuh-bil-i-tee ]

noun

the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.

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What is the origin of sustainability?

Sustainability, now most commonly meaning “the quality of not depleting natural resources,” is a transparent compound of the adjective sustainable “able to be supported or maintained,” and the common noun suffix –ity. The oldest usage of sustainability was as a legal term “the capacity of being sustained as true, or upheld as valid by legal argument” (1835). The current environmental sense, specifically mentioning wildlife and ecosystems, arose about 1980.

how is sustainability used?

Sustainability is based on a simple and long-recognized factual premise: Everything that humans require for their survival and well-being depends, directly or indirectly, on the natural environment.

National Research Council, "Sustainability and the U.S. EPA," 2011

Recognizing that a focus on sustainability is expected by a growing number of customers, many companies have used their relative downtime to take stock of their environmental footprint and make road maps for a greener future.

Bailey Berg, "As the pandemic prompts eco-awareness, the travel industry responds," Washington Post, March 4, 2021

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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Parnassian

[ pahr-nas-ee-uhn ]

adjective

pertaining to poetry.

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What is the origin of Parnassian?

The adjective Parnassian originally meant “pertaining to Mount Parnassus,” a mountain in central Greece on which Delphi is located. Delphi was sacred to Apollo as the god of prophecy and the god of music, which he shared with the Muses, the goddesses of music, poetry, drama, history, and dancing. Parnassian comes via the Latin adjective Parnassius (also Parnāsius) from Greek Parnā́sios, the adjective derivative of Parnās(s)ós. Sixty percent of Greek words have no reliable etymology: Parnās(s)ós is one of them. Parnassian entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is Parnassian used?

His granular, giddy analysis of Scottish bard William Topaz McGonagall, “widely acclaimed as the worst poet in history,” fascinates as the negative expression of a Parnassian ideal. It’s also comedic gold.

Katy Waldman, "Ben Lerner Doesn't Hate Poetry," Slate, Katy Waldman, July 8, 2016

With some major performers, this approach might have been revelatory, showing the thunderbolts of inspiration behind the poetry. But with songs containing lines like “I’m dancing in the dark with you between my arms” or “When I was six years old I broke my leg … I was younger then,” we’re not exactly in the realm of Parnassian transcendence.

Jonathan Romney, "Songwriter review–Ed Sheeran, an ordinary bloke writing ordinary songs," The Guardian, February 24, 2018

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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

alfresco

[ al-fres-koh ]

adverb

out-of-doors; in the open air.

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What is the origin of alfresco?

Very many people became used to dining alfresco in 2020. In Italian al fresco means “in the fresh air, in the cool air,” and is composed of the prepositional phrase al “to the” (from the preposition a “to, on,” and the masculine singular article il, lo, and the adjective fresco “cool, fresh”). Italian fresco comes from Old High German frisc (English fresh and modern German frisch). The Italian noun fresco “painting or a painting on a fresh, moist, plaster surface with colors ground up in water,” entered English at the end of the 16th century. In contemporary Italian slang, al fresco means “in prison” (prisons formerly being cold, dark, dank). Alfresco entered English in the first half of the 18th century.

how is alfresco used?

This being spring, waiters in red jackets with gold buttons dart in and out of the kitchen to ferry drinks from the bar and dishes from the kitchen to those of us wishing to dine alfresco.

Tom Sietsema, "L'Auberge Chez Francois is ready for its close-up, yet again," Washington Post, April 9, 2021

Working from one of the apartment’s two rooms getting a little tedious? Time to upgrade their Wi-Fi router and take calls and Zoom meetings alfresco.

Kim Velsey, "Making the Most of Their Terrace," New York Times, February 1, 2021

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