Word of the Day

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

trangam

[ trang-guhm ]

noun

Archaic.

an odd gadget; gewgaw; trinket.

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What is the origin of trangam?

Trangam, also spelled trangame, trangram, and trankum, is a rare noun with no obvious etymology. Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) helped revive trangam in The Abbot (1820), one of the earlier Waverley Novels. Trangam entered English in the 17th century.

how is trangam used?

And meet time it was, when yon usher, vinegar-faced rogue that he is, began to enquire what popish trangam you were wearing …

Sir Walter Scott, The Abbot, 1820

Go, go your ways, get you gone, and finefy your Knacks and Tranghams

Aphra Behn, Sir Patient Fancy, 1678
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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

mythomane

[ mith-uh-meyn ]

noun

a person with a strong or irresistible propensity for fantasizing, lying, or exaggerating.

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What is the origin of mythomane?

The noun and adjective mythomane is a relatively recent word, dating from only the 1950s, and is a synonym for the noun and adjective mythomaniac, which is almost a century older (1857). Mythomaniac originally meant someone passionate about or obsessed with myths, its etymological meaning. By the early 1920s mythomaniac had acquired its current sense “someone with a strong or irresistible propensity for fantasizing, lying, or exaggerating.” The Greek noun mŷthos means “word, discourse, conversation, story, tale, saga, myth”; it does not mean “lie.” The curious thing is that the source word mythomania “lying or exaggerating to an abnormal degree” dates from only 1909.

how is mythomane used?

Lawrence himself was a mythomane and, after the first world war, took particular pains to project an image of himself to the public that was as much a construct as anything worked up by the PR team of a film star or celebrity of today.

William Boyd, "Lawrence of Arabia: a man in flight from himself," The Guardian, April 29, 2016

… he is a flat-out mythomane, dedicated to the Sublime, the Enormous and the Ultra-German; a marvelous artist at his best and at his worst a Black Forest ham.

Robert Hughes, "Mocker of All Styles," Time, May 27, 1999
Monday, January 13, 2020

nival

[ nahy-vuhl ]

adjective

of or growing in snow: nival flora.

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What is the origin of nival?

The adjective nival comes straight from Latin nivālis “of or belonging to snow, snowy, covered in snow,” a derivative of the noun nix (inflectional stem niv-) “snow.” The adjective is relatively rare, being confined to zoology, botany, and physical geography. Nix is related to English snow, Sanskrit sneha-, Slavic (Polish) śnieg, and Irish snigid “it’s raining.” Nival entered English in the mid-17th century.

how is nival used?

… when the Alpine climbers ascend the snow-clad mountains of picturesque Switzerland and gather a pretty little bouquet of a dozen different nival flowers, on that barren zone ….

C. O. Van Cleve, "Arctic Flowers," Annual Report of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, 1888

The nival region is characterised by accumulating snow deposits, both in the completely nival province where precipitation takes the form solely of snow and the semi-nival province where this is interrupted by rainfall.

Albrecht Penck, "Attempt at a Classification of Climate on a Physiographic Basis," Climatic Geomorphology, 1973
Sunday, January 12, 2020

euchred

[ yoo-kerd ]

adjective

Australian Informal.

utterly done in or at the end of one's tether; exhausted.

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What is the origin of euchred?

In Australian English euchred has meant “exhausted, destitute” since the second half of the 19th century, a meaning that formerly existed in American English. The sense derives from the card game euchre (originally American) in which, if a player plays a round and fails to take three tricks, they are euchred “done for,” a sense that was extended to “outwitted, outdone, deceived, cheated.” Euchre, the name of the card game, dates from the first half of the 19th century and has no known etymology.

how is euchred used?

You had one water bottle a day for all purposes, and it would be 48 degrees, so we were euchred physically as much as anything else, and it’s very wearing on the mental factor.

Bob Semple, as quoted in "A life and a violin, forever etched by the horrors of war," Sydney Morning Herald, April 21, 2018

My breath comes hard—I’m euchred boy …

Robert H. Newell, "Letter X," The Orpheus C. Kerr Papers, 1862
Saturday, January 11, 2020

pacific

[ puh-sif-ik ]

adjective

tending to make or preserve peace; conciliatory: pacific overtures.

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What is the origin of pacific?

The adjective pacific ultimately derives from the Latin adjective pācificus “making peace, peaceable,” a compound derived from pāx (inflectional stem pāc– “peace”) and –ficus, a combining form of the verb facere “to do, make.” In the Vulgate (the late 4th-century Latin version of the Bible, used by the Roman Catholic Church), pācificus as an adjective means “peace-loving,” and as a noun “peace offerings.” The Romans wanted peace like everyone else, but on their own terms. The great Roman historian Tacitus in his Agricola, a biography of his father-in-law, has the British chieftain Calgacus deliver a speech in which Calgacus says of the Romans, … ubi sōlitūdinem faciunt, pācem appellant, “… where they make a desert, they call it peace.” Pacific entered English in the 16th century.

how is pacific used?

My mother was a very calm, pacific individual, and I learned from her to be the same way.

Paul Tibbets, as quoted in "We Did It to Stop the Killing, to Stop the War," Chicago Tribune, January 12, 1999

In this way arose the Roman empire, the largest, the most stable, and in its best days the most pacific political aggregate the world had as yet seen.

John Fiske, The Destiny of Man Viewed in the Light of His Origin, 1884
Friday, January 10, 2020

sidesplitter

[ sahyd-split-er ]

noun

something that is uproariously funny, as a joke or a situation.

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What is the origin of sidesplitter?

Sidesplitter is perfectly obvious in its derivation and meaning: something that is so uproariously funny that you split your sides from laughing. Sidesplitter first appears in a weekly newspaper, the New-York Mirror, in 1834 and slightly later in England.

how is sidesplitter used?

If the lyric “In New York, you can be a real ham” sounds like a sidesplitter, this one’s for you.

Erik Piepenburg, "5 Shows to See in New York When You Have Only an Hour," New York Times, March 8, 2017

My appreciation of the short form was enhanced when I discovered the quirky humor of Damon Runyon and Ring Larder, clearly at their peak in a twenty-page sidesplitter.

Otto Penzler, "Foreword," The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century, 2000
Thursday, January 09, 2020

beaucoup

[ boh-koo ]

adjective

Informal: Usually Facetious.

many; numerous; much: It's a hard job, but it pays beaucoup money.

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What is the origin of beaucoup?

In French, beaucoup is an adverb meaning (in various combinations) “a lot, lots, lots of, much, many.” Beaucoup first appeared in American English about 1760 in the sense “a lot, many.” The word, whether used as a singular or plural, was rare before 1918, when the United States became fully engaged in World War I, as in “We’ve been spending beaucoup francs lately for Uncle Sam,” and as an adverb “very, very much,” as in Ernest Hemingway’s “I’m pulling through my annual tonsilitis now so feel bokoo rotten” (1918). During the 1960s and ’70s, American servicemen returning from Vietnam popularized the word and introduced the spellings boo-koo, boocoo(p).

how is beaucoup used?

Grassroots support, a powerful message and good timing can still win elections, even without beaucoup bucks.

Eleanor Smeal, "Women Voted for Change," Ms., Vol. 17, 2007

Of course, one can ignore the message and simply revel briefly in the traditional values: the days of beaucoup silverware, heaping platters of mutton, folks upstairs and downstairs.

Rita Kempley, "The Past: Perfect for the Tense Present," Washington Post, November 21, 1993

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