Word of the Day

Friday, July 05, 2019

thalassic

[ thuh-las-ik ]

adjective

of or relating to seas and oceans.

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What is the origin of thalassic?

Thalassic “pertaining to seas or oceans, growing or found in the sea” is a relatively rare technical term used in oceanography, usually applied to bodies of salt water such as gulfs or bays that are smaller than oceans. The adjective comes ultimately from the Greek noun thálassa, thálatta “sea, the sea, the Mediterranean Sea.” Thálassa has no reliable etymology but is from the same pre-Greek language that gave Greek an alternative form to thálassa, thálatta, namely, dalánkha, recorded only once, in a dictionary of the 5th century a.d.

Early in “Telemachus,” the first chapter of Ulysses, the irrepressible Malachi “Buck” Mulligan tries to convert a sullen Stephen Dedalus from Catholicism to Hellenism: “Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks…. You must read them in the original. Thalatta! Thalatta!” But Buck’s Hellenism is as shallow as everything else about him: he would have seen thalatta thalatta in his second or third semester of high school Greek in Book 4, Chapter 7 of the Anabasis of Xenophon, whose works were much read as school texts because of the simplicity of his style. The word thalassic entered English in the mid-18th century.

how is thalassic used?

I, recalling the crimson chamber in his castle, speculated upon his living arrangements in thalassic caverns I could scarcely conceive.

Gene Wolfe, The Urth of the New Sun, 1987

He was sure something would come from the deeps to attack the fleet. There were old thalassic Instrumentalities uglier than any revenants stirring ashore.

Glen Cook, Lord of the Silent Kingdom, 2007
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Thursday, July 04, 2019

John Hancock

[ jon han-kok ]

noun

a person's signature: Put your John Hancock on this check.

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What is the origin of John Hancock?

John Hancock (1737–93) was a prominent American patriot, statesman, and merchant, mostly unknown today except for his magnificent signature. Hancock served as president of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia when the Declaration of Independence was approved (not signed) on July 4, 1776. Hancock’s signature on the Declaration became an American colloquialism for a personal signature in the mid-19th century.

how is John Hancock used?

Let’s sign the contract right now.… Put down your John Hancock, and begin to draw the ole salary from this minute, with a month’s vacation pay!

Sinclair Lewis, Dodsworth, 1929

“Handwriting can, does, and often will change due to moods, major life changes, and stress,” McKnight says, adding that pregnancy can affect your John Hancock, too.

Elizabeth Narins, "Did Pregnancy Change Meghan Markle's Signature?" Cosmopolitan, October 22, 2018
Wednesday, July 03, 2019

paradisiacal

[ par-uh-di-sahy-uh-kuhl, -zahy- ]

adjective

of, like, or befitting paradise.

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What is the origin of paradisiacal?

Paradisiacal comes from the Late Latin adjective paradīsiacus “pertaining to heaven, pertaining to the Garden of Eden,” a word appearing only in Christian authors. Paradīsiacus is a derivative of the noun paradīsus “a park,” and in Christian authors, “paradise.” Paradīsus is a borrowing of the Greek noun parádeisos, which first appears in the works of the Athenian historian and essayist Xenophon (c430-350 b.c.), meaning “enclosed park or pleasure ground with animals (for hunting),” and always referring to the grounds of Persian kings and nobles. In later authors parádeisos simply meant “garden, orchard.” By the time of the Septuagint (the oldest Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, translated in the 3rd and 2nd centuries b.c.), parádeisos referred to the Garden of Eden (as in Genesis 2:8). In the Gospels parádeisos means “the abode of the blessed, heaven.” Parádeisos is a Greek borrowing from Avestan pairidaēza “enclosure,” literally “walled around.” (Avestan is the ancient East Iranian language of the Zoroastrian scriptures.) Paradisiacal entered English in the 17th century.

how is paradisiacal used?

… the proximity to the Tols, a range of inland mountains, created otherworldly climates which were sometimes paradisiacal, sometimes demoniacal, always one extreme or the other.

Stephen Marche, Shining at the Bottom of the Sea, 2007

Unlike our paradisiacal, blue-and-white Earth, the moon has no atmosphere and no real sky—just gray dust and black space, such that color photographs from moonwalks appear mostly black and white, as though someone colorized the American flags after the fact.

Elisa Gabbert, "NASA's Overlooked Duty to Look Inward," The New Yorker, December 21, 2016

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