Word of the Day

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

vulgarian

[ vuhl-gair-ee-uhn ]

noun

a vulgar person, especially one whose vulgarity is the more conspicuous because of wealth, prominence, or pretensions to good breeding.

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What is the origin of vulgarian?

The Latin noun vulgus (also volgus) meant simply “common people, general public”; it also meant “crowd” and usually had a derogatory sense, but there was nothing of the flashy, tacky nouveau riche in the noun itself or its derivative nouns, adjectives, and verbs, e.g., vulgāre “to make available to the public,” vulgātus ”popular, common, ordinary,” vulgāris “belonging to the common people, conventional.” The Romans claimed to have invented satire, i.e., the genre did not exist among the Greeks. The Romans also created the (literary) type of the current sense of vulgarian “a vulgar person whose vulgarity is the more striking because of wealth, prominence, or pretensions to good breeding.” The first example is Trimalchio, a character in the Satyricon, a Latin novel dating from the mid-first century a.d. written by Gaius Petronius (died ca. 66 a.d.). Trimalchio and most of the Satyricon are familiar nowadays from the movie Fellini Satyricon (1969) by the Italian director Federico Fellini (1920–93). Vulgarian entered English in the early 19th century.

how is vulgarian used?

“Why, he is a perfect vulgarian,” she replied, “and I am astonished at Ethel for allowing him to be so much with her.”

Rosa Vertner Jeffrey, Woodburn, 1864

… the vulgarian‘s restless jealousy of the class above him made him, on this score, especially intractable and suspicious.

Allan McAulay, The Rhymer, 1900
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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

ineluctable

[ in-i-luhk-tuh-buhl ]

adjective

incapable of being evaded; inescapable: an ineluctable destiny.

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What is the origin of ineluctable?

“Proteus,” the third episode of Ulysses, opens with the beautiful but opaque “Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes.” At least the word ineluctable is easy to analyze, if not the entire sentence. Ineluctable comes directly from Latin inēluctābilis “from which one cannot escape,” which consists of the negative or privative prefix in-, roughly “not” (from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English un-). Ēluctārī is a compound verb meaning “to force one’s way out”; it is formed from the prefix ē-, a form of the preposition and prefix ex, ex- “out of, from within” used only before consonants, and luctārī “to wrestle”; the suffix -bilis is added to verbs and denotes ability. Ineluctable entered English in the 17th century.

how is ineluctable used?

The coming of a new day brought a sharper consciousness of ineluctable reality, and with it a sense of the need of action.

Edith Wharton, Summer, 1917

My world, on the contrary, has been thrown into extreme ethical confusion by my ineluctable connection with the crimes of Tsardom, forced on me by my birth into a family belonging to the minor nobility.

Rebecca West, The Birds Fall Down, 1966
Monday, October 08, 2018

librate

[ lahy-breyt ]

verb

to remain poised or balanced.

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What is the origin of librate?

The verb librate comes from Latin lībrātus, the past participle of lībrāre “to balance, make level,” a derivative of the noun lībra “a balance, a pound (weight).” The further etymology of lībra is difficult. It is related to Sicilian (Doric) Greek lī́tra “a silver coin, a pound (weight),” also a unit of volume, e.g., English litre (via French litre from Latin). Both lī́tra and lībra derive from Italic līthrā. Lībra becomes lira in Italian, libra in Spanish and Portuguese, French livre (both coinage and weight). The abbreviation for lībra (weight) is lb.; the symbol for lībra (the coinage, i.e., the pound sterling) is £. Librate entered English in the 17th century.

how is librate used?

Watching them to the ground, the wings of a hawk, or of the brown owl, stretch out, are drawn against the current air by a string as a paper kite, and made to flutter and librate like a kestrel over the place where the woodlark has lodged …

John Leonard Knapp, Journal of a Naturalist, 1829

At this period the balance of tropic and pole librates, and the vast atmospheric tides pour their flood upon one hemisphere and their ebb upon another.

Victor Hugo, The Toilers of the Sea, translated by William Moy Thomas, 1866

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