Word of the Day

Friday, July 13, 2018

vitiate

[ vish-ee-eyt ]

verb

to impair or weaken the effectiveness of.

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What is the origin of vitiate?

The English verb vitiate comes directly from the Latin past participle vitiātus “spoiled, impaired,” from the verb vitiāre, which is a derivative of the noun vitium “defect, fault,” a word of uncertain etymology. Vitium is the source of Old French vice, English vice. Vitiate entered English in the 15th century.

how is vitiate used?

… some infinitesimal excess or deficiency, some minute accession of heat or cold, some chance adulteration in this or that ingredient, can vitiate a whole course of inquiry, requiring the labour of weeks to be all begun again …

Charles Lever, One of Them, 1861

In his mad odyssey through the dark side — waterboarding, secret rendition, indefinite detention, unnecessary war and manipulation of C.I.A. analysis — Dick Cheney did his best to vitiate our system of checks and balances. His nefarious work is still warping our intelligence system more than a decade later.

Maureen Dowd, "The Spies Who Didn't Love Her," New York Times, March 11, 2014
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Thursday, July 12, 2018

eggbeater

[ eg-bee-ter ]

noun

Slang. a helicopter.

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What is the origin of eggbeater?

Eggbeater in the sense “small, hand-operated rotary appliance used for beating eggs” has existed in English since the 1830s. Eggbeater in the sense “helicopter” was originally an American slang term used by pilots of fixed-wing aircraft for the newfangled helicopter, the rotary action of whose blades looked to them somewhat like the rotary action of the familiar kitchen appliance. Eggbeater in the aircraft sense dates from the 1930s.

how is eggbeater used?

With all aboard, the door of the egg-beater was closed.

Harry Lever, "Helicopter Ambulance," Flying, April 1953

Just keep that eggbeater you’re flying below sixty-five thousand feet and you’ll be just fine.

Dick Couch and George Galdorisi, Out of the Ashes, 2014
Wednesday, July 11, 2018

solecism

[ sol-uh-siz-uhm, soh-luh- ]

noun

a nonstandard or ungrammatical usage, as unflammable and they was.

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What is the origin of solecism?

The noun solecism ultimately derives from Greek soloikismós “incorrect use of (Attic) Greek; incorrect use of language” (whether of individual words or in syntax), later “incorrect reasoning in logic,” and finally, “awkwardness.” Soloikismós is a derivative of the adjective sóloikos “speaking incorrectly, speaking broken Greek,” then “having bad manners, in bad taste, awkward.” Sóloikos traditionally derives from Sóloi, a colony on the southern shore of modern Turkey, not far from Tarsus where St. Paul was born. Sóloi, however, was not founded by the Athenians (who spoke Attic Greek) but by the Argives and Rhodians, who spoke Doric dialects. Perhaps whichever Athenian colonists were there originally wound up speaking a mixed dialect, or perhaps the Sóloikoi have been getting an undeserved bum rap for the past few millennia. Solecism entered English in the 16th century.

how is solecism used?

… Lee finds in the solecism of “less” for “fewer”—catnip for pedants, and familiar to anyone who has stood in a grocery-store express lane—the inspiration for a beautiful poem about growing old …

Dan Chiasson, "'The Undressing': Poetry of Passion Laid Bare," The New Yorker, March 19, 2018

And a single word couldn’t be a dead giveaway either, no matter how much people would like to portray the use of pled rather than pleaded as an obvious Trumpian solecism, especially when Dowd himself has been documented using pled at least once.

Ben Zimmer, "Can Forensic Linguistics Pin Down the Author of a Trump Tweet?" Atlantic, December 8, 2017

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