Word of the Day

Saturday, April 13, 2019

tootle

[ toot-l ]

verb

to move or proceed in a leisurely way.

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What is the origin of tootle?

Tootle, an English frequentative verb from the verb toot, means “to keep tooting.” Frequentative in grammar and linguistics means “pertaining to a verb that expresses repetition of an action.” In the Slavic languages, e.g., Polish and Russian, frequentative verbs are very common, very complex, and very vexing for the learner. Latin has cantāre “to keep singing,” the source of chant, a frequentative of canere, the “plain” verb meaning “to sing”; and visitāre “to keep seeing, call upon, visit,” a frequentative of vidēre “to see.” Frequentative verbs are no longer productive in English, which uses only –er and –le as frequentative suffixes, as in patter from pat, putter from putt, crackle from crack, and tootle from toot. Tootle entered English in the 19th century.

how is tootle used?

Dash responded with the message “Yay!” and a winsome shimmy, then tootled off at one and a half miles an hour—maybe in search of someone’s job.

Patricia Marx, "Learning to Love Robots," The New Yorker, November 26, 2018

Behind them, the band Kiss tootled down the street on a black float, in its trademark makeup.

Sarah Maslin Nir, "At Macy's Parade, Band, Balloons and, This Thanksgiving, Protesters," New York Times, November 27, 2014
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Friday, April 12, 2019

unicorn

[ yoo-ni-kawrn ]

noun

a person or thing that is rare and highly valued, or is a hypothetical ideal.

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What is the origin of unicorn?

Unicorn comes from Old French unicorne, from the Latin adjective ūnicornis “one-horned,” which is used as a noun possibly referring to the rhinoceros in the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible as edited or translated by St. Jerome (c347–420). Ūnicornis is a loan translation from the Greek noun and adjective monókerōs “single-horned” (referring to a wild ox or a unicorn), a word that occurs in the book of Psalms in the Septuagint (the ancient Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures). Ūnicornis is a compound of ūni-, the stem of ūnus “one,” and cornū “horn” and the adjective suffix –is. Unicorn entered English in the 13th century.

how is unicorn used?

Are such politically star-crossed lovers as Mary Matalin and James Carville a relationship unicorn?

Jen Doll, "The Trouble with Interpolitical Dating Is Just the Trouble with Dating," The Atlantic (Wire), October 31, 2012

Big N.B.A. trades are always followed by a scramble to label players and teams as winners and losers, but every so often a unicorn of a deal comes together, and everyone involved seems to benefit.

Benjamin Hoffman, "In the Carmelo Anthony Trade, Everyone Wins," New York Times, July 19, 2018
Thursday, April 11, 2019

alacrity

[ uh-lak-ri-tee ]

noun

cheerful readiness, promptness, or willingness: We accepted the invitation with alacrity.

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What is the origin of alacrity?

Alacrity comes from Middle French alacrite from Latin alacritāt-, the stem of alacritās “liveliness, zeal, enthusiasm.” Alacritās is a derivative noun of the adjective alacer “nimble, brisk, enthusiastic, keen.” Latin alacer develops into Italian allegro and Spanish alegre “cheerful, happy.” Alacrity entered English in the 15th century.

how is alacrity used?

Mrs Tulliver was an amiable fish of this kind, and, after running her head against the same resisting medium for fourteen years, would go at it again to-day with undulled alacrity.

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, 1860

The president has grumbled for months about what he views as Nielsen’s lackluster performance on immigration enforcement and is believed to be looking for a replacement who will implement his policy ideas with more alacrity.

Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey, and Philip Rucker, "Trump is preparing to remove Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security secretary, aides say," Washington Post, November 12, 2018

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