Word of the Day

Word of the day

Sunday, September 16, 2018

tunesmith

[ toon-smith, tyoon- ]

noun

Informal. a person who composes popular music or songs.

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What is the origin of tunesmith?

Tunesmith was originally an Americanism, dating from the Jazz Age (roughly from the 1918 Armistice to the stock-market crash of 1929). Fittingly enough, an early citation for tunesmith (1923) is attributed to the American bandleader Paul Whiteman (1890–1967), who debuted George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (1924).

how is tunesmith used?

The monthly pay Walnut Records offered me as a tunesmith would barely amount to enough for rent and groceries, but held the promise of royalties should one of my songs get recorded.

Kenny Rogers with Mike Blakely, What Are the Chances, 2013

Granted, the limited palette of film scores sometimes results from the limited abilities of the practitioners, but almost any Hollywood tunesmith could achieve more distinctive results if the iron fist of cliché were to relax just a little.

Alex Ross, "Composing for Hollywood," The New Yorker, February 27, 2015
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Word of the day

Saturday, September 15, 2018

piacular

[ pahy-ak-yuh-ler ]

adjective

expiatory; atoning; reparatory.

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What is the origin of piacular?

Piacular comes directly from the Latin adjective piāculāris “(of a rite or sacrifice) performed or offered by way of atonement; expiatory.” Piāculāris is a derivative of the noun piāculum “a sacrificial victim or expiatory offering,” itself a derivative of the verb piāre “to propitiate a god, remove or avert by expiation.” Finally, piāre is a derivative of the adjective pius “faithful, loyal, and dutiful to the gods, one’s country, family, kindred and friends.” Pius is one of the most potent words in Latin and typical of the Romans. The phrase pius Aenēās “loyal, faithful, dutiful Aeneas” occurs 17 times in the Aeneid. Piacular entered English in the 17th century.

how is piacular used?

T. S. Eliot made a fetish of using long-dormant adjectives like defunctive, anfractuous, and polyphiloprogenetive; he apparently felt piacular (meaning something done or offered in order to make up for a sin or sacrilegious action) was too run-of-the-mill, so he made up a new form: piaculative.

Ben Yagoda, When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It, March 11, 2007

Sacrifices have generally been divided into three classes of (1) honorific, where the offering is believed to be in some sense a gift to the deity; (2) piacular, or sin-offerings, where the victim was usually burnt whole, no part being retained for eating …

W. Warde Fowler, The Religious Experience of the Roman People, 1911

Word of the day

Friday, September 14, 2018

interregnum

[ in-ter-reg-nuhm ]

noun

any period during which a state has no ruler or only a temporary executive.

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What is the origin of interregnum?

Interregnum, a straightforward borrowing from Latin, applies far back in Roman history, to the period of kings (traditionally, 753 b.c.–509 b.c.). An interregnum was the period between the death of the old king and the accession of the new one. During the time of the Roman Republic (509 b.c.–27 b.c.), an interregnum was a period when both consuls or other patrician magistrates were dead or out of office. The Roman Senate then appointed from among themselves an interrex (or a series of interregēs) with consular powers for five-day terms whose principal duty was to supervise the election of new consuls. Interregnum entered English in the 16th century.

how is interregnum used?

But now, he has been on the job for two decades, save for a brief interregnum when he switched posts with his prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev.

Michael McFaul, "I've been in meetings with Putin. Here's what Trump can expect." Washington Post, July 15, 2018

During the two years of interregnum, during Dr. Aagaard’s administration and in the year of two following his resignation to accept a similar position at the University of Washington, all major clinical chairmanships fell vacant and new appointments had to be made.

John S. Chapman, "The Cinderella School of Medicine," The Alcalde, January 1962

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