Word of the Day

Saturday, June 19, 2021

vermilion

[ ver-mil-yuhn ]

noun

a brilliant scarlet red.

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What is the origin of vermilion?

Vermilion “brilliant scarlet red (color; pigment),” comes from Middle English vermil(i)oun, vermilion(e) (there are nearly 20 spelling variants) “cinnabar, red dye,” from Anglo-French vermeilloun, vermiloun, from Old French verm(e)illon, vermillon “red lead, rouge, cinnabar.” The Old French forms are derivatives of vermeil, vermail, from Late Latin vermiculus “grub, scarlet worm (a cochineal insect that is the source of red dye), scarlet color,” a diminutive of vermis “worm.” Vermilion entered English in the late 13th century.

how is vermilion used?

They were standing, facing each other, beneath the spreading branches of the lovely flamboyant. The rays of the silver moon shone down upon them through the sea of green and vermilion, and revealed the handsome face of the girl upturned to Carl.

Robert Archer Tracy, The Sword of Nemesis, 1919

The biggest seller is the Southern red velvet cake, which, underneath its creamy, demurely white icing, holds three layers of cake that’s rightfully (if alarmingly) vermilion with a lofty, delicate texture.

Stephanie Rosenbaum, "Cake Man Raven Confectionary," New York Magazine, 2005

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Friday, June 18, 2021

tickety-boo

[ tik-i-tee-boo ]

adjective

fine; OK.

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What is the origin of tickety-boo?

Tickety-boo, an informal adjective meaning “fine, OK,” is a British colloquialism of uncertain etymology. It may be an expressive alteration of “that’s the ticket,” ticket here having its informal sense “the proper thing, advisable thing.” Or tickety-boo may be a holdover from the Raj, from Hindi ṭhīk hai “It’s all right,” or ṭhīk hai, bābū “It’s all right, Sir.” Tickety-boo entered English in the first half of the 20th century.

how is tickety-boo used?

I spent a couple of Saturdays gathering all of my bank statements and other documents, making post-closing general journal entries, and printing out financial statements to deliver to my C.P.A. for both our corporate and personal income tax returns. As my Canadian father would say, my books are now tickety-boo (translation: in perfect working order).

Barbara Taylor, "Finding Something to Like About April 15," New York Times, March 1, 2010

I broke one of the six required ramekins before I even started, and the ovenproof dish I used was too small at 22 centimeters (8.7 inches) by 15 cms. … Oh, and I also managed to burn the souffles, but only a little bit. Apart from all that, it was all tickety-boo.

Richard Vines, "Mary Berry's Simple Recipe for Double-Baked Mushroom Souffles," Bloomberg, October 17, 2020

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Thursday, June 17, 2021

prothalamion

[ proh-thuh-ley-mee-on, -uhn ]

noun

a song or poem written to celebrate a marriage.

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What is the origin of prothalamion?

Prothalamion, “a song or poem written to celebrate a marriage,” is modeled on epithalamion “a song or poem in honor of a bride and bridegroom.” Epithalamion is the neuter singular of the Greek adjective epithalámios “bridal, nuptial,” literally “at the thalamus,” i.e., the inner chamber at the rear of a house, woman’s room, bedroom, storeroom. Epithalamia (plural of epithalamion) were traditional features in Greek weddings and were therefore a very ancient custom. The epithalamia of the Lesbian lyric poet Sappho, the Athenian comic playwright Aristophanes, and the tragedian Euripides were famous. Edmund Spenser coined prothalamion in 1597, apparently intending his coinage to mean “a song or poem celebrating an upcoming wedding,” the Greek prefix pro– here meaning “before in time,” not “before in space.”

how is prothalamion used?

He struck a formal pose with the shotgun cradled in his arms and commenced a rawk-voiced prothalamion. It vaguely took the form of song, modal and dark, and the dire jig of its tune grated on the ear.

Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain, 1997

Every wolf in the world now howled a prothalamion outside the window as she freely gave the kiss she owed him.

Angela Carter, “The Company of Wolves,” The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, 1979

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