Word of the Day

Friday, July 03, 2020

vox populi

[ voks pop-yuh-lahy ]

noun

the voice of the people; popular opinion.

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What is the origin of vox populi?

The phrase vox populi comes straight from Latin vōx populī “voice of the people.” Vōx (inflectional stem vōc-) is the source of English vocal and vowel, via Old French vouel, from Latin (littera) vōcālis “sounding (letter).” Populī is the genitive singular of the noun populus, the collective name for the Roman citizen body, excluding women, children, foreigners, and slaves. The phrase vōx populī does not occur in Latin literature and only first appears in a letter that the great Anglo-Saxon scholar Alcuin wrote to Charlemagne in 798, not to pay heed to those who insist that vōx populī vōx Deī “the voice of the people is the voice of God” because the populace is too unstable–a sentiment the Romans would agree with entirely. In later English history (after Alcuin), vōx populī vōx Deī is favorable, a notable example being the title of a Whig tract entitled Vox Populi, Vox Dei: being true Maxims of Government (1710). The abbreviated phrase vox pop “the views of the majority of people, popular opinion” appears in the first half of the 18th century. Nowadays vox pop means “popular opinion as shown by comments made to the media by members of the public.” Vox populi entered English in the mid-16th century.

how is vox populi used?

In 1972, Democrats made their process more plebiscitary—more primaries, less influence for political professionals—to elicit and echo the vox populi.

George F. Will, "The lure of kamikaze candidates," Washington Post, February 7, 2020

But in this country, the process of language reform is complicated. It’s not exactly grassroots democracy; some voices count more than others, and people usually leave typographical niceties to the expert associations concerned with them. What vox populi retains is veto power.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, "The Case for Capitalizing the B in Black," The Atlantic, June 18, 2020

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Thursday, July 02, 2020

repudiate

[ ri-pyoo-dee-eyt ]

verb (used with object)

to reject with disapproval or condemnation: to repudiate a new doctrine.

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What is the origin of repudiate?

Repudiate comes straight from Latin repudiāt-, the past participle stem of repudiāre “to reject formally (as a prospective husband or wife), divorce, reject,” a derivative of the noun repudium. Repudium is derived from the prefix re-, completely naturalized in English, indicating repetition or withdrawal, and the verb pudēre “to fill with shame, make ashamed.” From pudēre Latin derives the adjectives impudēns (inflectional stem impudent-) “shameless,” English impudent, and pudendus “of what one ought to be ashamed, disgraceful.” Repudiate entered English in the 16th century.

how is repudiate used?

In college, Gadsby studied art history, and in “Douglas” she aims to repudiate what she learned about institutionalized beauty, which, in her view, has no relationship to joy or inspiration.

Hilton Als, "Hannah Gadsby's Song of the Self," The New Yorker, July 22, 2019

States as well as individuals must repudiate racial, religious, or other discrimination in violation of those rights.

Declaration on World Peace, issued as pamphlet, October 7, 1943

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Wednesday, July 01, 2020

staycation

[ stey-key-shuhn ]

noun

a vacation spent at home or near home, doing enjoyable activities or visiting local attractions.

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What is the origin of staycation?

Staycation, a portmanteau word, as Lewis Carroll would call it, formed from stay and vacation, is associated with the Great Recession of 2007–09. Actually, staycation is considerably older: It was originally an Americanism, and it first appeared in print in 1944, in the middle of World War II, when gasoline and automobile tires (among much else) were strictly rationed.

how is staycation used?

Washington’s hospitality and tourism industry … will be ready to accommodate Seattleites and Washingtonians, because everyone expects this will be the summer of the staycation.

Gregory Scruggs, "Summer isn't canceled: Embrace the staycation as coronavirus travel restrictions ease in Washington," Seattle Times, May 22, 2020

As relatively new residents of Philadelphia, we’re planning a staycation in our new hometown. We’ll finally plow through our lengthy backlist of streaming movies and shows.

Anne Marie Gold, quoted in "With Travel Plans in Flux, Readers Share Their 'Staycation' Ideas," New York Times, March 18, 2020

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

bolide

[ boh-lahyd, -lid ]

noun

Astronomy.

a large, brilliant meteor, especially one that explodes; fireball.

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What is the origin of bolide?

A bolide is a large, brilliant meteor that explodes before hitting the earth. The term comes from French, from Latin bolis (inflectional stem bolid-) “meteor,” from Greek bolís (stem bolíd-) “missile, javelin, flash of lightning, throw of a pair of dice.” The Latin sense “meteor” is first recorded by the Roman naturalist and encyclopedist Pliny the Elder in the first century a.d., perhaps from a resemblance between a fireball in the sky and a flash of lightning. Bolide entered English in the mid-19th century.

how is bolide used?

At exactly fourteen minutes after eight … the bolide passed overhead. It was an amazing spectacle. It left a trail of flame behind, across thirty degrees of sky.

Murray Leinster, Creatures of the Abyss, 1961

A meteor that explodes in mid-air before it hits the ground is known as a bolide. It’s thought that the high-pressure air in front of the falling meteor seeps into cracks in the rock, increasing internal pressure and causing the rock to break apart.

Michelle Starr, "Yet Another Large, Fiery Meteor Just Spectacularly Exploded Over Siberia," ScienceAlert, April 8, 2019

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Monday, June 29, 2020

anchorite

[ ang-kuh-rahyt ]

noun

a person who has retired to a solitary place for a life of religious seclusion; hermit.

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What is the origin of anchorite?

The English noun anchorite “hermit” comes from Middle English anchorite, anachorite, ancorite, from Old French anacorittes and Medieval Latin anachōrīta, equivalent to Late Latin anachōrēta “a hermit, eremite, recluse, ascetic,” from Late Greek anachōrētḗs “one who has retired from the world,” a derivative of anachōreîn “to withdraw, retire.” Anachōreîn is a compound of the adverb and preposition aná and prefix ana– “up, back, re-“ and chōreîn “to make room for, withdraw, give way,” a verb derived from chôros “piece of ground, space, place.” Anchorite entered English in the 15th century.

how is anchorite used?

I am most gratified to find that you are among those who indulge in a legitimate enjoyment of the good things of life. I am sure that if God intended us to be anchorites he would have fashioned this world after another sort.

Robert Archer Tracy, The Sword of Nemesis, 1919

We’re all lonely now. We’re all cut off from each other, trapped inside the walls of our own domestic space, the 21st-century version of the medieval anchorite.

Olivia Laing, "How to Be Lonely," New York Times, March 19, 2020

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Sunday, June 28, 2020

megafauna

[ meg-uh-faw-nuh ]

noun

Zoology.

large or giant animals, especially of a given area.

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What is the origin of megafauna?

Megafauna is a hybrid of mega-, a combining form meaning “very large” (as in megachurch and megalith), from Greek mégas “large,” and fauna “the animals of a given region or period considered as a whole.” Fauna comes from the Latin proper noun Fauna, a rustic goddess and sister of Faunus, the rustic god who protected fields, herds, agriculture, and shepherds, identified with the Greek god Pan. Megafauna tend to have long lives and slow population growth and recovery rates. As a result, many such species, as elephants and whales, are particularly vulnerable to overexploitation by humans. Megafauna entered English in the first half of the 20th century.

how is megafauna used?

Poaching threatens megafauna, our planet’s largest animals that often function as the keystones of their respective ecosystems.

Robin R. Ganzert, "Coronavirus Effect On The Environment: Without Tourism, We Will Lose Elephants," International Business Times, May 31, 2020

Like the V-shaped graptolites or the ammonites or the dinosaurs, the megafauna weren’t doing anything wrong; it’s just that when humans appeared, the “rules of the survival game” changed.

Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction, 2014

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Saturday, June 27, 2020

bight

[ bahyt ]

noun

a bend or curve in the shore of a sea or river.

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What is the origin of bight?

Bight has several senses in Modern English. It can refer to a bend or curve in the shore of a sea or river, a body of water bounded by such a bend, or the loop or bent part of a rope. Following the twists and turns of its morphology, we arrive at Middle English byght, bight, beghte, beythe “the fork of the legs, the pit or hollow of the arm, (in names) bend or bay,” from Old English byht “a bending, corner, dwelling, bay, bight.” The English word comes from Germanic buhtiz, from the Proto-Indo-European root bheug(h)-, bhoug(h)-, bhug(h)– “to bend,” which is the source of Sanskrit bhujáti “(he) bends,” Gothic biugan and Old English būgan, both meaning “to bow,” and Old English boga “arch, bow” (as in English rainbow and bow and arrow).

how is bight used?

The boardwalk weaves along the bight from the ferry terminal on Grinnell to the end of Front Street.

Melissa Coleman, "36 Hours in Key West, Fla." New York Times, April 29, 2015

A bight is simply a long and gradual coastal curve that creates a large bay, often with shallow waters. You’re likely already familiar with a number of bights — for instance, the area between Long Island and New Jersey on the East Coast is known as the New York Bight, while California’s Channel Islands live in the Southern California Bight, which stretches all the way from Santa Barbara to San Diego.

Hannah Lott-Schwartz, "Australia's Southern Coast Has Stunning Views and Incredible Wildlife You Won't Find Anywhere Else," Travel & Leisure, July 14, 2019

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