• Word of the day
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    Friday, July 05, 2019

    thalassic

    adjective [thuh-las-ik]
    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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  • Word of the day
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    Thursday, July 04, 2019

    John Hancock

    noun [jon han-kok]
    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

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  • Word of the day
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    Wednesday, July 03, 2019

    paradisiacal

    adjective [par-uh-di-sahy-uh-kuhl, -zahy-]
    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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  • Word of the day
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    Tuesday, July 02, 2019

    tmesis

    noun [tuh-mee-sis]
    the interpolation of one or more words between the parts of a compound word, as be thou ware for beware.
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    What is the origin of tmesis?

    Tmesis is not a misspelling of thesis; tmêsis “cutting” is a Greek noun, a derivative of the verb témnein “to cut, prune, castrate.” Tmesis is a feature of the archaic epic syntax of the Iliad and Odyssey, in which there is a separation of an adverb (which becomes a prefix in Classical Greek) from its verb by an intervening word or phrase, as in the Iliad en d’autòs edýseto nṓropa chalkòn “… and he himself put on his gleaming bronze,” where the adverb en is separated from its verb edýseto by the phrase d’autòs “and he himself.” Tmesis is rare and archaic in modern English, as in “Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words” (that is, “Beware of him, yourself…”), 2 Timothy 4:15, Authorized Version. More than a few of us may admit familiarity with tmesis as it occurs in such adjectives as fantastic or unbelievable or in adverbs like absolutely, in which the fan-, un-, and abso- are separated from the rest of the word by an overworked vulgarism.

    How is tmesis used?

    You may remember Matt Foley, the in-your-face motivational speaker played by the late comedian Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live, whose “Well, la-dee-frickin’-da” was all the funnier for its tmesis. Rebecca Cohen, "How I Met Your Mother's 'Legen—Wait for it—Dary' Is More Compli-Freaking-Cated Than You Think," Slate, April 16, 2014

    Tmesis ... means the insertion of one word into the middle of another word, as in abso-bloody-lutely or to-very-day. Most often we insert four-letter expletives, which cannot be printed in a newspaper but can only be suggested by substituting something like the British "bloody." Carl Strock, "Spirit Of Tmesis Lives To-Very-Day," Schenectady Gazette, February 4, 1989

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  • Word of the day
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    Monday, July 01, 2019

    orgulous

    adjective [awr-gyuh-luhs, ‐guh‐]
    haughty; proud.
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    What is the origin of orgulous?

    The English adjective orgulous has about as many spelling variants in Middle English (orgeilus, orgeyllous, orguillous, etc.) as its Old French source (orguillus, orguilleus, orgueilleux, etc.). The base of the French word is a Germanic (Frankish) noun, cognate with Old English orgol, orgel “pride,” and akin to the Old High German adjective urguol “outstanding.” Shakespeare uses orgillous once, in Troilus and Cressida, but the adjective was obsolete by the mid-17th century, only to be resuscitated by Sir Walter Scott and Robert Southey in the first half of the 19th century.

    How is orgulous used?

    The princes orgulous, their high blood chafed / Have to the port of Athens sent their ships ... William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, 1623

    Ah, he is an orgulous man! Georgette Heyer, My Lord John, 1973

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  • Word of the day
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    Sunday, June 30, 2019

    jubilate

    verb (used without object) [joo-buh-leyt]
    to celebrate a joyful occasion.
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    What is the origin of jubilate?

    The verb jubilate sounds as if it must have a Hebrew origin from its being the first word of Psalms 65 and 100 in the Vulgate: Jūbilāte “Shout for joy.” But the Latin verb jūbilāre is a derivative of the Proto-Indo-European root -, yu- “to shout in exultation,” from which Greek derives iýzein “to shout aloud” (with several derivatives), and Middle High German derives and jūch, expressions of joy. Jubilate entered English in the early 17th century.

    How is jubilate used?

    ... spectators mill around, dance, and jubilate in Imelda’s rise to power, while feeling uneasy about how much fun they’re having. Michael Schulman, "Bling Ring," The New Yorker, May 6, 2013

    Then there were their children, the sabras, blond, husky women, and men: earnest people for all that they could dance and jubilate. Belva Plain, Evergreen, 1978

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  • Word of the day
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    Saturday, June 29, 2019

    prismatic

    adjective [priz-mat-ik]
    spectral in color; brilliant: prismatic colors.
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    What is the origin of prismatic?

    Prismatic ultimately comes from the Greek noun prîsma (inflectional stem prísmat-) “something sawed, sawdust, (in geometry) trilateral column, prism.” Prîsma is a derivative of príein “to saw, trephine (skulls), grind or gnash (teeth), cut off (syllables)." Prismatic entered English in the 17th century.

    How is prismatic used?

    He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass. Ambrose Bierce, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," 1890

    We get beautiful effects from wit,—all the prismatic colors,—but never the object as it is in fair daylight. Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table," The Atlantic Monthly, January 1858

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