Word of the Day

Saturday, May 23, 2020

syncopate

[ sing-kuh-peyt, sin- ]

verb (used with object)

to place (the accents) on beats that are normally unaccented.

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What is the origin of syncopate?

Syncopate comes from Late Latin syncopātus, the past participle of the verb syncopāre, a derivative of the noun syncopa or syncopē, which has two senses: a grammatical sense “the contraction of a word by omitting one or more sounds from the middle, as never becoming ne’er,” and a medical sense “swooning, fainting away.” Syncopa and syncopē come from the Greek noun synkopḗ, which has the same meanings as the Latin, developments of its basic meaning “a cutting up into small pieces.” Syncopate entered English in the early 17th century.

how is syncopate used?

I juxtapose the rhythms, and I syncopate them to make the piece create the jazz feeling that I’d like to get.

"All Things Considered," NPR, December 1996

Finding syncopation in jazz is about as difficult as finding water in the ocean. It is the cornerstone of one of the principal sources of jazz rhythm, ragtime melody, so much so that to “rag a melody” and (a decade or so later) to “jazz up a melody” meant, in part, to syncopate it.

Barry Kernfeld, What to Listen for in Jazz, 1995

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Friday, May 22, 2020

soupçon

[ soop-sawn, soop-sawn ]

noun

a slight trace, as of a particular taste or flavor.

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What is the origin of soupçon?

To the Frenchless, soupçon looks as if it means “soupspoon.” In fact soupçon means “a hint, trace,” from Old French soupeçon, souspeçon, literally “suspicion, anxious worry,” from Late Latin suspectiōn– (stem of suspectiō), for Latin suspīciōn– “distrust, mistrust, suspicion.” Soupçon entered English in the 18th century.

how is soupçon used?

First, she repeated it rapturously in an enthusiastic contralto with a soupçon of Southern accent … 

F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, 1920

big summer movies, even the successful ones, are designed to be forgettable, passing through our system at precisely the same rate as a pint of Pepsi. Nothing is left but fizzing nerve ends and a sugary soupçon of rot.

Anthony Lane, "Men at Sea," The New Yorker, May 28, 2007

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

jawbone

[ jaw-bohn ]

verb (used with or without object)

to attempt to influence or pressure by persuasion rather than by the exertion of force or one's authority, as in urging voluntary compliance with economic guidelines.

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What is the origin of jawbone?

The slang use of jawbone, “to attempt to influence or pressure by persuasion rather than by force or authority as in urging voluntary compliance with economic guidelines,” originated in the U.S. Students of political history will associate it Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was a master of jawboning when he was Senate majority leader. Jawbone, a compound of jaw and bone meaning “a bone of the jaw,” entered English in the late 15th century.

how is jawbone used?

Johnson had a legendary ability to “jawbone” members of Congress into accepting his positions ….

Donald M. Snow, Patrick J. Haney, U. S. Foreign Policy: Back to the Water's Edge, 5th edition, 2018

And if we think one goes too far, we initially try to jawbone the governors into rolling them back or adjusting them.

Attorney General William Barr, as reported in, "Lawsuits Pile Up Against Coronavirus," Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2020

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