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Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, August 05, 2021

tohubohu

[ toh-hoo-boh-hoo ]

noun

chaos; disorder; confusion.

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What is the origin of tohubohu?

Tohubohu, “chaos; disorder; confusion,” comes from Hebrew tōhū wā-bhōhū, a phrase occurring in Genesis 1:2, and translated in the King James version as “(And the earth was) without form, and void.” Tōhū wā-bhōhū is an example of hendiadys, a rhetorical device in which two similar words are connected by and to express a single idea, here emptiness, void. Tōhū means “emptiness, waste, desert, vanity, nothing.” Bōhū is traditionally translated as “void, emptiness”; it is used in Genesis for its paronomastic or rhyming effect. Another example of hendiadys comes from the Gospel of Matthew (7:14): “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way,” which was later misinterpreted to be “straight and narrow (path).” Tohubohu entered English in the first half of the 17th century.

how is tohubohu used?

What we have in poetry, it appears, is poetry in a vacuum, which is even worse than poetry in a Salad Shooter or a hot-air corn popper. There is no consensus about the culture, and therefore no common ground on which poets, critics, scholars, students or even readers (are there any left?) can share assumptions and discuss with some coherence the great questions of life and art.

To suggest this tohubohu in a manner that may be unfair but is quick, efficient and vivid, let me cite a few blurbs from the pile of poetry collections on my table …

David R. Slavitt, "Passionate Intensity," New York Times, February 12, 1995

The Atlantic declared 2015 “the best year in history for the average human being,” a laughable departure from our recent state of political and pandemic-born tohubohu.

Lauren Puckett-Pope, "An Exclusive First Look At Lauren Groff's Matrix," Elle, April 1, 2021

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Word of the day

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

penetralia

[ pen-i-trey-lee-uh ]

plural noun

the innermost parts or recesses of a place or thing.

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What is the origin of penetralia?

Penetralia, “the innermost parts or recesses of a place or thing,” comes straight from Latin penetrālia, the (neuter plural) noun use of the adjective penetrālis “inner, innermost, interior,” a derivative of the verb penetrāre “to penetrate, gain entrance, cross.” The Latin words are related to the preposition penes “under the control of, in the possession of,” the adverb penitus “from within, from inside,” and the plural noun Penātēs “the guardian deities of the Roman larder or pantry” (deep inside the house), who were regarded as controlling the destiny of the household. Penetralia entered English in the second half of the 17th century.

how is penetralia used?

He wished to be what he called “safe” with all those whom he had admitted to the penetralia of his house and heart.

Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers, 1857

Lounge chairs have sprouted up in yards and driveways like propagating agave, and many of us have migrated from the penetralia of our backyards to porches and lawns.

Maria Neuman, "Why America Is Rediscovering the Social Front Yard," Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2020

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Word of the day

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

satori

[ suh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee ]

noun

sudden enlightenment.

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What is the origin of satori?

In Zen Buddhism, satori means “sudden spiritual enlightenment.” The Zen sense of satori is a more specific sense of the noun satori “comprehension, understanding,” a derivative of the verb satoru “to perceive, comprehend, awaken (spiritually).” Satori entered English in the first half of the 18th century.

how is satori used?

Perhaps Adams reached satori, emptied his mind of all thought, and then didn’t know what to think about it.

P. J. O'Rourke, "Third Person Singular," The Atlantic, December 2002

Satori is the sudden flashing into consciousness of a new truth hitherto undreamed of. It is a sort of mental catastrophe taking place all at once, after much piling up of matters intellectual and demonstrative. The piling has reached a limit of stability and the whole edifice has come tumbling to the ground, when, behold, a new heaven is open to full survey.

D. T. Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, 1934

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