Word of the Day

Monday, October 07, 2019

tellurian

[ te-loor-ee-uhn ]

adjective

of or characteristic of the earth or its inhabitants; terrestrial.

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What is the origin of tellurian?

The adjective and noun tellurian ultimately derive from the Latin noun tellūs (inflectional stem tellūr-) “ground, dry land, earth, the earth.” In English the adjective tellurian, meaning pretty much the same as terrestrial, was a technical term used in astronomy. Tellurian used as a noun, “an inhabitant of earth, earthling,” appears in the first half of the 19th century. Throughout much of the 20th century, tellurian, adjective and noun, occurs especially in science fiction. Tellūs comes from a Proto-Indo-European root tel– “flat, level, floor, ground,” the root of Sanskrit tala– “flat surface, flat of the hand”; Old Irish talam “earth”; Old Prussian (an extinct Baltic language) talus “floor (of a room)”; and Greek tēlía “board for rolling dice on, kitchen board.” Tellurian entered English in the second half of the 18th century.

how is tellurian used?

That … I should feel in touch with something that I am, or was, and yet seems to go beyond the rational either bespeaks the power of self-delusion in even those with trained minds, or reveals that tellurian force still present and available to us …

Catharine Savage Brosman, "Turn My Face Out to the West," The Shimmering Maya and Other Essays, 1994

Her [the moon’s] antiquity in preceding and surviving successive tellurian generations …

James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922
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Sunday, October 06, 2019

flexuous

[ flek-shoo-uhs ]

adjective

full of bends or curves; sinuous.

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What is the origin of flexuous?

Flexuous comes straight from Latin flexuōsus “full of bends or turns, winding,” an adjective derived from the noun flexus “an act of bending, turning, or swerving, or of turning a corner,” which in turn is a derivative of the verb flectere “to bend, curve, curl (the hair).” Further etymology of flectere is uncertain. Flexuous is not common in English; the word is used chiefly in zoology and botany. Flexuous entered English in the early 17th century.

how is flexuous used?

The searching stems are gently flexuous, belying their innate urge to reach up to the light.

Andy Byfield, "Ivy: the forgotten festive plant," The Guardian, December 31, 2013

… George Best corkscrewing his way past man after man on a flexuous run of perfect balance and improvised brilliance.

Paul Gardner, "Soccer, American Style," New York Times, May 4, 1975
Saturday, October 05, 2019

realia

[ ree-ey-lee-uh, -al-ee-uh, rey-ah-lee-uh ]

plural noun

objects, as coins, tools, etc., used by a teacher to illustrate everyday living.

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What is the origin of realia?

Realia comes from the Late Latin adjective reālia “real things, facts,” the neuter plural of reālis used as a noun. Reālis is a derivative of the noun rēs “thing, matter, affair” (three of the word’s many, many meanings). The earliest English usage of realia referred to German culture and educational systems, specifically the Realschule, a secondary school specializing in practical subjects rather than the liberal arts. In the United States since the late 1890s, realia have meant ordinary, everyday objects used as teaching aids for children. This is nothing new: in the first century a.d., the Roman rhetorician Quintilian recommended using large letters carved of wood, easy for children to handle, to help them learn the alphabet. Realia entered English in the first half of the 19th century.

how is realia used?

For students to learn a new language in meaningful contexts, teachers must use every instructional strategy available to them, including the use of actual objects (realia), pictures, videos, and gestures to express meaning.

Anthony Jackson, "Immersion Teaching: Successful Approaches," Education Week, October 17, 2013

Many libraries contain realia, or real artifacts. School libraries may include various kinds of rock for the study of geology; cultural libraries may possess objects such as the toki ….

Ian H. Witten and David Bainbridge, How to Build a Digital Library, 2003

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