Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, July 26, 2019

tripping

[ trip-ing ]

adjective

proceeding with a light, easy movement or rhythm.

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What is the origin of tripping?

The adjective tripping “light and quick, nimble” and, by extension, “proceeding with a light, easy movement or rhythm” is a derivative of the verb trip. The verb comes via Old French treper, triper, tripper “to leap, dance, trample, hit with the feet,” from Low German, and is akin to Middle Dutch trippen “to hop, skip.” Tripping entered English in the 16th century.

how is tripping used?

The one before us has a light, tripping melody in 3/8 rhythm, the treatment of which is remarkably fanciful and delicate throughout.

The Musical Times, review of Wayside Sketches, July 1, 1872

To have the ability to seize upon some little incident of experience and by the exquisite nicety and humor of a few pithy and striking phrases elevate it to the dignity of easy and tripping conversation, that is a feat to which provincial self-complacency can never attain.

The Outlook, "The Spectator," Vol. 86, No. 16, August 17, 1907
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Word of the day

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Svengali

[ sven-gah-lee, sfen- ]

noun

a person who completely dominates another, usually with selfish or sinister motives.

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What is the origin of Svengali?

Two terms survive from George du Maurier’s novel Trilby (1894). The first is Svengali, the evil musician who hypnotizes, controls, and exploits Trilby O’Ferrall, a young Irish girl, and makes her a great singer who is unable to perform without his help. In the stage version of the novel, the actress who played Trilby wore a sort of soft felt hat with an indented crown, now called a trilby or trilby hat. The trilby is now commonly mistaken for a different hat, the fedora. Svengali in its extended sense of “a person who completely dominates another, usually with selfish or sinister motives” is recorded by the early 1900s.

how is Svengali used?

Lou Pearlman, who died on Friday in federal prison in Miami, at the age of sixty-two, was arguably the great pop Svengali of our time.

John Seabrook, "We Live in the Pop-Culture World That Lou Pearlman Created," The New Yorker, August 22, 2016

Though he comes across in his own writings as witty and self-aware, the picture that emerges decades later is of a moody, manipulative Svengali, blinded by his ego to what was really happening on the raft.

A. O. Scott, "'The Raft' Review: A Crew of 10 Set Adrift With a Moody Svengali," New York Times, June 6, 2019

Word of the day

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

ben trovato

[ ben truh-vah-toh ]

adjective

appropriate and characteristic even if untrue; happily invented or discovered.

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What is the origin of ben trovato?

Ben trovato, an Italian phrase meaning “well found,” comes from the sentence Se non è vero, è molto ben trovato “If it isn’t true, it is very well found, happily invented.” The saying seems to have been common in Italy in the 16th century but is especially associated with the pantheistic philosopher (and therefore heretic) and poet Giordano Bruno (1548–1600). Ben trovato entered English in the late 18th century.

how is ben trovato used?

There is a story that Nolan met Burr once on one of our vessels, when a party of Americans came on board in the Mediterranean. But this I believe to be a lie; or rather, it is a myth, ben trovato, involving a tremendous blowing-up with which he sunk Burr …

Edward Everett Hale, "The Man Without a Country," The Atlantic Monthly, December 1863

There is, when we are willing to be deceived, but small difference between the “vero” and the ben trovato

"The Sketcher, No. X," Blackwoods' Edinburgh Magazine, February 1835

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