Word of the Day

Sunday, August 05, 2018

vespine

[ ves-pahyn, -pin ]

adjective

of or relating to wasps.

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What is the origin of vespine?

English vespine is a straightforward borrowing from the Latin noun vespa “wasp” plus the adjective suffix -ine, from Latin -īnus, and one could reasonably–but wrongly–conclude that wespā was the original Proto-Indo-European word for wasp. The original form was wepsā, wopsā, and Latin and English (among other languages) simply metathesized (or transposed) the consonants. Old English has many different forms for the insect: wæfs, wæps, wæsp, etc. The other Germanic languages also display the -ps- and -sp- forms. Outside Germanic, the extremely conservative Baltic languages have vapsvà (Lithuanian) and wobse (Old Prussian), both meaning “wasp.” The Baltic forms, especially the Old Prussian, also show more clearly the Proto-Indo-European root behind wasp and vespa: webh-, wobh- “to weave” (from the nests that wasps construct). Vespine entered English in the 19th century.

how is vespine used?

From above the cubicles looked like a magnified insect battery, a nest uncovered by mistake, a glimpse of geometrically precise rows of pods, lines of tiny vespine heads, shining with black Sony ovals, trembling with larval energy on T-shirt thoraces.

Rana Dasgupta, Tokyo Cancelled, 2005

The trees had turned a vespine yellow, as if trying to terrify what would eat them.

Bennett Sims, A Questionable Shape, 2013
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Saturday, August 04, 2018

squiz

[ skwiz ]

noun

a quick, close look.

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What is the origin of squiz?

The noun squiz is a piece of slang used in Australian and New Zealand. Most slang terms are of uncertain origin, and squiz is no exception: it is possibly a blend of quiz and squint. Squiz entered English in the 20th century.

how is squiz used?

He’d been at me for months to come in and have a squiz at the work he’d done, but I really didn’t care that much, and kept putting him off.

Peter Doyle, The Devil's Jump, 2001

She shrugged–which sort of annoyed me too–and I led her clomping to the front room where the sun was streaming in, and I had another squiz.

Anne Kennedy, The Last Days of the National Costume, 2013
Friday, August 03, 2018

arctophile

[ ahrk-tuh-fahyl ]

noun

a person who is very fond of and is usually a collector of teddy bears.

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What is the origin of arctophile?

Arctophile means just “bear loving, bear lover,” but in modern English specifically a lover of teddy bears, not grizzlies. The suffix -phile “lover of, enthusiast for” is completely naturalized in English, as in cinephile, audiophile. The element arcto- comes from Greek árktos “bear,” the Greek result of a very widespread (and complicated in its development) Proto-Indo-European noun ṛ́tko- (earlier H₂ṛ́tko-) “bear” (the H₂ was possibly pronounced as in German Bach). Greek transposed the -tk- to -kt-. In Hittite the original H₂ṛ́tkos (spelled ḫartaggaš in the clumsy Hittite cuneiform) was probably pronounced hartkas, which is very close to the hypothetical form but is of uncertain meaning: the name of a predatory animal (?), a cult official (?). In the Indo-Iranian languages, Sanskrit ṛkṣa- and Avestan arša- are regular developments from ṛ́tko-. Italic (Latin) ursus has two problems: u- instead of o-, and the exact source of the first s. Celtic artos becomes art in Middle Irish, and arth in Welsh (Arthur in Welsh means “bear man”). Arctophile entered English in the 20th century.

how is arctophile used?

Unless you’re an arctophile, which is just a fancy way of saying a teddy bear devotee, the name likely doesn’t mean much, but it means a lot to collectors.

John J. Lamb, The Crafty Teddy, 2007

I am a past president of the American Society of Teddy Bear Collectors and have contributed dozens of articles to Teddy Bear Review and other arctophile journals.

Clifford Chase, Winkie, 2006

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