Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, March 03, 2022

sylvan

[ sil-vuhn ] [ ˈsɪl vən ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

adjective

consisting of or abounding in woods or trees; wooded; woody.

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What is the origin of sylvan?

Sylvan “consisting of or abounding in woods or trees” derives from Latin sylvānus, a variant of silvānus “of or relating to the forest,” from silva “forest” and the adjectival suffix -ānus. Though silva is spelled with an i, sylvan and its relatives, such as the place names Pennsylvania and Transylvania as well as the given names Sylvester and Sylvia, contain the letter y. There are two reasons for this shift: Ancient Greek influence and the lack of spelling consistency during the Medieval Latin period. Ancient Greek contains two words for “wood”—hȳ́lē and xýlon—that bear a passing resemblance to Latin silva, and as the letters i and y became interchangeable in Latin during the Middle Ages, it was rather easy for the variant spelling sylva to emerge. Sylvan was first recorded in English circa 1560.

how is sylvan used?

Over time North America’s forests became a dense patchwork of different sylvan communities, each characterized by a unique topography and climate. As a whole, the deciduous forest was home to many different tree species—oaks, beeches, maples, basswoods, hickories, chestnut, ashes, elms, birches and poplars—but different types of trees predominated in different regions.

Ferris Jabr, “A New Generation of American Chestnut Trees May Redefine America's Forests,” Scientific American, March 1, 2014

It’s the first day of our four-day trek through the valley, and already the undergrowth is so thick we can barely squeeze through. Matt disappears into the sylvan maze. We’re not on a trail. There is no trail. Beyond the thicket we come upon what we’ve taken to calling a “gangplank”—a downed tree so enormous it creates an elevated walkway through the forest. We clamber atop the behemoth and step carefully along its moss-slick back.

Mark Jenkins, “Navigations: Last Stand in Tasmania,” National Geographic, February 19, 2014

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Wednesday, March 02, 2022

bibliophile

[ bib-lee-uh-fahyl, -fil ] [ ˈbɪb li əˌfaɪl, -fɪl ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun

a person who loves or collects books, especially as examples of fine or unusual printing, binding, or the like.

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What is the origin of bibliophile?

Bibliophile “a person who loves or collects books” is a compound of the combining forms biblio- “book” and -phile “lover.” The form biblio- is adapted from Ancient Greek biblíon “papyrus roll, strip of papyrus,” which is the namesake of Býblos, the Greek name for the Phoenician seaport of Gebal (or Gubal), where papyrus was once manufactured and exported. Byblos still exists today in modern Lebanon, albeit with the name Jbeil (standard Arabic Jubayl). One theory about the origin of the name Býblos is that it resulted from Ancient Greek traders’ misinterpretation of the name Gebal, but some linguists argue that these two names are unrelated and that Býblos is of pre-Greek origin. Though books have long been a primary mode for recording and transmitting information, the origin of the Ancient Greek word for “book” is uncertain—how ironic! Bibliophile was first recorded in English circa 1820.

how is bibliophile used?

People have always collected things. Whether a vestige of our hunter-gatherer days, a need to forge order amid chaos, or a simple desire to have and to hold, the urge to possess is a hallmark of the human psyche ….  In 1869 the bibliophile Sir Thomas Phillipps said he needed “to have one copy of every book in the world.” His final tally (50,000 books, perhaps 100,000 manuscripts) wasn’t bad. Or close.

Jeremy Berlin, “The Things They Brought Back,” National Geographic, January 2014

In the imaginary encounter that the narrator has in Baghdad with a strange character who’s a bookseller in the famed al-Mutanabi Street in downtown Baghdad (where old, rare and new books are sold) he meets this strange bibliophile who has this project of documenting everything that the war destroys minute-by-minute—and not just human beings, but objects and trees and animals and so on and so forth. And that’s the kernel of the book.

Steve Inskeep, “In 'The Book Of Collateral Damage,' An Accounting Of What Baghdad Lost,” NPR, July 9, 2019

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Word of the day

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

accelerando

[ ak-sel-uh-ran-doh, -rahn- ] [ ækˌsɛl əˈræn doʊ, -ˈrɑn- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

adjective

gradually increasing in speed.

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What is the origin of accelerando?

Accelerando “gradually increasing in speed” is a borrowing from Italian, in which the word means “accelerating,” and derives from Latin accelerāre “to speed up.” In Italian, the suffixes -ando and -endo are used to mark gerunds, which are the form of a verb that is treated as a noun or an adverb. In English, we use -ing to mark gerunds in sentences such as “I like singing”; here, singing is still a verb, but it acts as though it is a noun (and the object of the verb like). Many words borrowed from Italian that end in -ando or -endo function as gerunds in the Italian language, from accelerando “accelerating” to crescendo “growing.” These gerund endings appear as well in terms from other Romance languages such as glissando “sliding” (which is based on the French verb glisser “to slide”) and innuendo “signaling” (from Latin innuere “to signal”). Accelerando was first recorded in English circa 1840.

how is accelerando used?

The musical directive “accelerando” means what it looks like it ought to: Play faster. It lends its name to the new trio album from composer and pianist Vijay Iyer, and to its ninth track, where the tempo speeds up, resets, speeds up, resets, speeds up, resets, and so forth. The result is a sort of hypnosis; your brain may not be able to precisely enumerate the arithmetic of it all, but your head figures out how to nod to the constantly changing pulse.

Patrick Jarenwattananon, “First Listen: Vijay Iyer Trio, 'Accelerando,'” NPR, March 4, 2012

Violin virtuoso Vanessa Mae’s Winter Olympic debut was more lento than presto on Tuesday, her rhythm more rallentando than accelerando as she completed the first leg of the Alpine skiing giant slalom. At the finish, the smile on her face suggested the mood was definitely allegro.

Alan Baldwin, “Alpine skiing: Mae adds another string to her bow,” Reuters, February 18, 2014

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