Word Of The Year
scurrilous; foulmouthed; grossly abusive.
The very rare adjective thersitical “scurrilous, foulmouthed, abusive” derives from the Greek personal name Thersítēs, itself a derivative of the adjective thersiepḗs “bold of speech.” Thersites appears in Book 2 of the Iliad in the assembly of the Achaeans. Homer describes Thersites as lame, bowlegged, with shoulders that sloped inward, and a pointy head covered with tufts of hair—the ugliest man at Troy. Thersites accuses Agamemnon of greed and Achilles of cowardice, for which Odysseus beats him severely about the head and shoulders to the great amusement of the rest of the Achaeans. Thersitical entered English in the mid-17th century.
… there is a pelting kind of thersitical satire ….
These he lists in language so richly thersitical that his English translator, likely Herring himself, must have strained his vocabulary to its limits to do it justice.
Chiefly Midland and Western U.S.
a usually short, heavy rainstorm.
Gullywasher, “a short, heavy rainstorm,” is a dialect and regional word in the U.S. Midwest and West. The first half of the word is a variant pronunciation of gullet “throat, esophagus,” from Middle English golet, gulet, from Old French goulet, from Latin gula “throat.” Gullywasher entered English in the early 20th century.
I used to have a country neighbor who during drouths would inevitably, when he saw a white rim of cloudiness on the easter horizon, prognosticate a gully-washer, a clod-melter, a frog-strangler within the week.
The rounds of rain and flash flooding Tuesday presented another reminder that 2018 has featured both gullywashers and full-day washouts.
something of very small value: I don't care a farthing for your opinion.
A farthing was formerly an English coin of the smallest denomination, worth a quarter of a penny. Originally the coin was made of silver, then of a copper alloy, and finally of bronze. The coin was discontinued in 1961. The Middle English name for the coin was ferthing, farthing (with still more variants), made of silver, and came from Old English fēorthing, fēorthung “a quarter, a fourth part, a farthing.” The Old English forms are derivatives of fēortha “fourth” and the noun suffix –ing “one belonging to, descended from,” sometimes used to form diminutives, as here. Farthing entered English before a.d. 1000.
… when he cares not a farthing for the general good, and will sell his vote for a dollar … then his vote becomes a public pest.
Most of the tunes are pegged to the show-within-the-show, which we couldn’t give a farthing about.
wisdom in determining ends and the means of attaining them.
Phronesis, “wisdom in determining ends and the means of attaining them, practical understanding, sound judgment,” comes from Latin phronēsis, from Greek phrónēsis, meaning “practical wisdom, prudence in government and public affairs” in Plato, Aristotle, and other heavy hitters. Phrónēsis is a derivative of the verb phroneîn “to think, be minded, be wise”; phroneîn in turn is a derivative formed from the noun phrēn (stem phren-), whose myriad meanings include “midriff, diaphragm, heart (as seat of the passions and bodily appetites), mind (seat of the mental faculties and perception).” Phronesis entered English in the 16th century.
… courage also requires us to apply what Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics calls “phronesis” or practical wisdom.
The best analysis of practical wisdom I know of occurs in the chorus of “The Gambler” … “You got to know when to hold ‘em / Know when to fold ‘em / Know when to walk away / Know when to run.”
a relaxing of tension, especially between nations, as by negotiations or agreements.
Détente, “a relaxation of tension, especially between nations,” still feels like a French word, as its spelling and pronunciation show. French détente comes from Old French destente, a derivative of destendre “to relax,” a compound of the prefix des– “apart, away” (from the Latin prefix dis– with the same meanings) and the verb tendre “to stretch” (from Latin tendere). Détente entered English in 1908 at the time of the détente between Great Britain and France.
There is hope that the U.S. and China will at least reach some sort of detente on trade.
The fairly stunning detente in what was shaping up to be a protracted war of digital assistants for ultimate domination of the smart home could lead to any number of smart home innovations now that the two systems are being allowed to work in tandem.
overfull; turgid; inflated: a plethoric, pompous speech.
The rare adjective plethoric means “overfull, inflated; marked by plethora (a morbid condition due to an excess of red blood cells).” And just as plethora does not mean “abundance” but “overabundance,” so plethoric means “overabundant.” Plethoric comes via the Late Latin medical term plēthōricus, plētōricus, from Greek plēthōrikós “plethoric,” a derivative of the noun plēthōra “fullness, satiety, excess of blood or another humor.” Plethoric in its medical sense entered English at the end of the 14th century; its extended sense “inflated, turgid, excessive” in the 17th.
… my very astute friend Daniels pulled out a plethoric purse and began to display the marked gold with which it was plentifully supplied.
The “blue book,” he says, “creates an atmosphere of formality and redundancy in which the drab, Latinate, plethoric, euphemistic style of law reviews and judicial opinions flourishes ….”
like or characteristic of Abraham Lincoln: a Lincolnesque compassion.
The uncommon adjective Lincolnesque can be used to refer to President Lincoln’s physical features, in particular his homely face with its deep furrows and his beard, or to qualities of his character and intellect. The adjectival suffix –esque “in the style or manner of” comes from French, from Italian –esco, from Vulgar Latin –iscus. The suffix –iscus is a borrowing from Germanic –iska-, source of German –isch, English –ish, and akin to Slavic –ski (-sky). The proper name Lincoln comes from the city of Lincoln, the county seat of Lincolnshire, England. The Latin name for the city is Lindum Colonia, from the Celtic noun lindo “pool, lake” (Welsh llyn); Colonia here means specifically a retirement community for veterans (in this case the Legio IX Hispana “9th Legion—Spanish,” which was stationed in the area from a.d. 43 on). Lincolnesque entered English in the first half of the 20th century.
… Captain America, the embodiment of a kind of Lincolnesque optimism, poses a direct question for me: Why would anyone believe in The Dream?
Given Mr. Obama’s particular fondness for Lincolnesque oratory, it’s surprising that he hasn’t adopted one of Lincoln’s favorite habits: quoting Shakespeare.