Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, November 05, 2021

vendetta

[ ven-det-uh ]

noun

any prolonged and bitter feud, rivalry, contention, or the like.

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What is the origin of vendetta?

Vendetta “a prolonged and bitter feud” is a borrowing from Italian, derived from Latin vindicta “vengeance,” from vindex “defender,” which is also the source of avenger, revenge, vengeance, and vindicate. Vindex is likely a compound of vīs “energy, force” and the agentive suffix -dex, roughly meaning “shower, proclaimer.” Vīs is the source of vim (as in the phrase vim and vigor), violate, and violent—all of which literally pertain to a demonstration of strength or force—while the suffix -dex is related to the verbs dicāre “to proclaim, assign” (compare abdication, dedicate, and predicament) and dīcere “to say, tell” (compare dictionary, valedictorian, and verdict). Vendetta was first recorded in English in the early 1850s.

how is vendetta used?

“Your Honor, defense counsel has throughout these proceedings attempted to insinuate that I had some sort of personal vendetta against the defendant, and that my office … somehow concocted this plot to unfairly convict him …. I have repeatedly requested that if counsel has any evidence to substantiate these outrageous statements to present it forthwith, and Your Honor has concurred. But defense counsel has given the jury nothing but a lot of hot air and continued efforts to obfuscate the facts.

Robert Tanenbaum, Tragic, 2013

As long as Kogito was busy reading and working on various writing projects, he didn’t think much about his widely published enemy’s vendetta against him. But late at night when he suddenly found himself wide awake, or when he was out walking around town on some errand or other, the peculiarly abusive words of his nemesis (who was a talented writer, no question about it) kept running through his head like toxic sludge.

Kenzaburō Ōe, "The Rule of Tagame," Granta, translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm, July 31, 2009

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Thursday, November 04, 2021

bellwether

[ bel-weth-er ]

noun

a person or thing that shows the existence or direction of a trend.

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What is the origin of bellwether?

Bellwether “a person or thing that shows the existence or direction of a trend” is a compound of bell, the instrument, and wether, a castrated male sheep. A bellwether was originally a wether that led the rest of a flock and wore a bell around its neck; from there, bellwether broadened to figuratively refer to a trendsetter, as within an industry, and then shifted once more to indicate something that demonstrates that a trend exists. Wether has nothing to do with the atmosphere or the climate; it derives instead from a Proto-Indo-European root that is also the source of veal (from Latin vitulus “calf”) and veterinarian (from Latin veterīnae “beasts of burden”). Bellwether was first recorded in English in the early 1400s.

how is bellwether used?

In American politics, a bellwether state has exhibited a historical tendency to duplicate in smaller scale the political behavior of the nation at large .…The best-known bellwether is Missouri, which not only demonstrates classic bellwether behavior but also has a history that invites and supports various theories to explain the effect.

Kenneth F. Warren, Encyclopedia of U.S. Campaigns, Elections, and Electoral Behavior, 2008

Covid put Code [Conference] on pause, however, along with every other technology conference. A year later, it’s among the first tech conferences to reemerge fully in-person, a possible bellwether for the future of such events.

Arielle Pardes, "Bring on the Fist Bumps and Nasal Swabs—Tech Conferences Are Back," Wired, October 1, 2021

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Wednesday, November 03, 2021

maringouin

[ mar-uhn-gwan ]

noun

a mosquito, especially a large swamp mosquito.

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What is the origin of maringouin?

Maringouin “mosquito” is a borrowing from Louisiana French. Although Louisiana has been part of the United States for over 200 years, from its time as part of the former French Empire, it has retained its own dialect of French, which has incorporated vocabulary from English, Spanish, and Indigenous American languages. Unlike many words that Louisiana French has borrowed from local Indigenous languages, maringouin is allegedly a borrowing by way of standard French marigoin from mbarigui in Tupi, an extinct language once spoken in what is now Brazil. On what is now São Luís Island in the Brazilian state of Maranhão, the French briefly had a colony in the early 1600s, and it was during this period that author Claude d’Abbeville noted the potential connection between maringouin and Tupi; however, the use of maringouin in French predates d’Abbeville’s text by about 50 years, which casts doubt on this connection. Maringouin was first attested in French in the mid-1500s and appeared in English in the early 1800s.

how is maringouin used?

The surroundings of the district of Inga are really ideal, and life there is good. Yet there is something in this area that truly makes one hate living there, which is the fact that it is literally invaded by flying and biting creatures called the “maringouin”…

Junior Nzita Nsuami, If My Life As a Child Soldier Could be Told, 2016

The creature called mosquito in English and maringouin in French Canadian is a small insect similar to the French midge which differs from it only in size. It is generally bigger and its proboscis so strong and sharp that only woolen material can protect against its bites. These small midges are the scourge of the American wilderness.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835 

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