Word of the Day

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

thrawn

[ thrawn, thrahn ]

adjective

contrary; peevish; stubborn.

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What is the origin of thrawn?

Scots and Northern Irish thrawn, “contrary; peevish; stubborn,” in origin is the past participle of the verb thraw “to twist, wrench, distort,” the Scots form of throw. The sense “to twist, wrench” is one of the senses of Middle English throuen and Old English thrāwan in addition to the more common sense “to hurl, cast, throw.” Throw and thraw are related to Dutch draaien “to turn, rotate” and German drehen “to twist, turn.” Readers familiar with the “Star Wars” extended universe may recognize thrawn for a different reason: Grand Admiral Thrawn is a character introduced by author Timothy Zahn in the 1991 novel Heir to the Empire. In the “Star Wars” novels, however, the name Thrawn is short for Mitth’raw’nuruodo. While we can’t say whether the name was inspired by the Scots term, it seems fair to classify the character Thrawn as a rather peevish or stubborn fellow. Thrawn entered English in the late 15th century.

how is thrawn used?

He reckons it was his doggedness that got him through. “I’m a very thrawn, determined person so I don’t like to get beat,” he said.

"New exhibition tells 'inside' story of prison riot," Scotsman, September 27, 2017

The trouble was that a narrative structure implied sequence, and any display based upon the accretion of knowledge in a certain order would be vulnerable to thrawn visitor who, human and contrary, enters at the wrong end of a sequence; or, worse, grazes at random.

Charles McKean, The Making of the Museum of Scotland, 2000

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Monday, May 03, 2021

equanimity

[ ee-kwuh-nim-i-tee, ek-wuh- ]

noun

mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness.

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What is the origin of equanimity?

Equanimity, “mental or emotional stability or composure,” ultimately comes from Latin aequanimitās (inflectional stem aequanimitāt-), originally “goodwill, favor,” and later “calmness of mind, tranquillity.” Aequanimitās is a derivative of the rare adjective aequanimis, also aequanimus “calm, composed.” The adjectives are compounds of aequus “even, plain, equal” and the noun animus “mind, spirit, feelings.” The last element of equanimity, –ity, comes via the Old French suffix –ite from the Latin abstract noun suffix –itās, which expresses a state, condition, or quality. Equanimity entered English in the early 17th century.

how is equanimity used?

A truly brave man is ever serene; he is never taken by surprise; nothing ruffles the equanimity of his spirit.

Inazō Nitobe, Bushido: The Soul of Japan, 1899

After all, there are middle schoolers—just as there are some adults and other children—who have weathered the past year with relative equanimity.

Judith Warner, "How to Help Your Adolescent Think About the Last Year," New York Times, April 11, 2021

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Sunday, May 02, 2021

apothegm

[ ap-uh-them ]

noun

a short, pithy, instructive saying; a terse remark or aphorism.

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What is the origin of apothegm?

Apothegm, “a short, instructive saying; a terse remark,” is hard enough to pronounce even in its simplified spelling, which is based on the pronunciation of the word. The original spelling, still used, is apophthegm. Apothegm was the usual spelling until Dr. Johnson settled on apophthegm in his dictionary (1755). Apophthegm ultimately comes from the Greek noun apóphthegma, a derivative of the verb apophthéngesthai “to speak out, speak one’s opinion plainly,” a compound of the prefix apo- “forth” and the simple verb phthéngesthai “to speak, raise one’s voice.” Apothegm and apophthegm entered English within two years of each other, in the second half of the 16th century.

how is apothegm used?

“To live outside the law, you must be honest.” Thompson, like a lot of people in the sixties and seventies, interpreted Dylan’s famous apothegm to mean that in order to be honest you must live outside the law.

Louis Menand, "Believer," The New Yorker, February 27, 2005

It calls to mind the hoary apothegm that academic rivalries are so vicious because the stakes are so small. Ditto for the lit’ry folk, who can work themselves into lathers over matters that the big dogs who bark in the real world would decline even to sniff at, much less raise a leg over.

Jonathan Yardley, "British literati, gnashing their teeth," Washington Post, February 6, 1995

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