Word of the Day

Monday, September 10, 2018

tautology

[ taw-tol-uh-jee ]

noun

needless repetition of an idea, especially in words other than those of the immediate context, without imparting additional force or clearness, as in “widow woman.”

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What is the origin of tautology?

Tautology comes from Late Latin tautologia, a borrowing of a Hellenistic Greek rhetorical term tautología “repetition of something already said.” The second half of tautology is clear enough, being the same suffix as in theology or philology. The first element tauto- needs some clarification: it comes from tò autó “the same,” formed from the neuter singular of the definite article and the third person pronoun (the combination of tò autó to tautó is called krâsis “mixture,” which appears in idiosyncrasy “personal temperament”—a “personal blend” as it were. Tautology entered English in the 16th century.

how is tautology used?

Take away perspective and you are stranded in a universal present, something akin, weirdly, to the unhistoried — and, at the risk of tautology, perspective-less — art of the Middle Ages.

Geoff Dyer, "Andreas Gursky's photos visually articulate the world around us, framing modern society," Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2015

… the central moral question is whether we are going to use the language of tautology and self-justification – one that gives us alone the right to be called reasonable and human – or whether we labour to discover other ways of speaking and imagining.

Rowan Williams, "What Orwell can teach us about the language of terror and war," The Guardian, December 12, 2015
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Sunday, September 09, 2018

sweeting

[ swee-ting ]

noun

a sweet variety of apple.

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What is the origin of sweeting?

Sweeting is an obvious noun formed from the adjective sweet and the noun suffix -ing “one belonging to, descended from.” The sense “sweetheart,” not used nowadays, dates from about 1300; the sense “a variety of sweet apple” dates from the 16th century.

how is sweeting used?

… I do give her the frut of two appel trees one a sweeting ye nothermost of ye sweetings in ye Lower yard and ye westermost tree by ye highway.

, "A Trip to Old Harwich," The Owl, September 1903

They be not righteous actions that make a righteous man; nor be they evil actions that make a wicked man: for a tree must be a sweeting tree before it yield sweetings; and a crab tree before it bring forth crabs.

John Bunyan, A Discourse Upon the Pharisee and the Publican, 1685
Saturday, September 08, 2018

caboshed

[ kuh-bosht ]

adjective

Heraldry. (of an animal, as a deer) shown facing forward without a neck: a stag's head caboshed.

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What is the origin of caboshed?

Caboshed, also spelled caboched and cabossed is a technical term in heraldry referring to a beast decapitated behind its horns. The -ed shows that the variant spellings are all past participles of the very rare and obsolete verb cabochen, cabachen “to behead (a deer or other beast) right behind its horns.” The English verb comes from the French verb cabocher (past participle caboché), a derivative of caboche (Old French caboce), a pejorative northern French dialect (Norman, Picard) word meaning “head” (literally “cabbage”). Caboche may be a development of Latin caput “head.” Caboshed entered English in the 16th century.

how is caboshed used?

… an heraldic shield featuring a lion’s head caboshed, with medusa hair, a single bulging eye, a beard, and tusks …

John Clute, Appleseed, 2001

A fanciful menagerie flourished on the banners: the caboshed boar of Janos of Hungary, the naiant dolphin of a Sicilian Norman, the salient-countersalient white stags of Conrad’s men, and everywhere the Templars’ Pegasus.

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Crusader's Torch, 1988

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