Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

wampish

[ wam-pish, wahm- ]

verb (used without object)

to wave about or flop to and fro.

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What is the origin of wampish?

Wampish,“to wave (one’s arms) about; flop to and fro,” is an exclusively Scots word, first appearing in Sir Walter Scott’s The Antiquary, the third of his The Waverley Novels (1816). Wampish has no clear etymology and is probably of imitative or onomatopoeic origin.

how is wampish used?

But yet his gear was o’ the goude
As it waved and wampished in the wind; And the coal-black steed he rode upon,
It was fleeter than the bonny hind.

James Hogg, "Ballad of Sir Colin Brand," The Three Perils of Man, 1822

He “wampished” his arms over his head, and shouted “Habbocraws” at the pitch of his voice—the gravity of every one being completely upset by the occurrence.

Alexander Hislop, "Habbocraws." The Book of Scottish Anecdote, 1874

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Word of the day

Monday, July 05, 2021

au fond

[ oh -fawn ]

adverb

at bottom or to the bottom; thoroughly; in reality; fundamentally.

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What is the origin of au fond?

The French adverb phrase au fond, “thoroughly; in reality; fundamentally,” literally “at the bottom, to the bottom,” has been in English for more than 200 years; yet its French pronunciation in English shows that it is still unnaturalized. The French phrase is composed of au “at the, to the,” from Old French al, which is a contraction of a le, from Latin ad “to” and illum “that” (illum and its relatives become the definite article in most Romance languages). The French noun fond “bottom, floor, background (for lacework)” comes from Latin fundus “bottom, base, depths, farm, country estate.” The Latin noun is the source of the verb fundāre “to lay a foundation,” which becomes fonder in Old French, founden, fonden, funden in Middle English, and found, i.e., “establish firmly,” in modern English. Au fond entered English toward the end of the 18th century.

how is au fond used?

Some days I see myself as the Recording Angel, collecting together all the sins of Gilead, including mine; on other days I shrug off this high moral tone. Am I not, au fond, merely a dealer in sordid gossip?

Margaret Atwood, The Testaments, 2019

A diamond Cartier feather is, au fond, a fake feather, but I doubt that any severely pro-authenticity proprietress of one of those earnest, soulless spaces would throw one in the trash.

Nicky Haslam, "In Design, Now Is the Time for All Materials to be Treated Equally," New York Times, March 9, 2016

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Word of the day

Sunday, July 04, 2021

spangle

[ spang-guhl ]

verb

to decorate with any small, bright drops, objects, spots, or the like.

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What is the origin of spangle?

The verb spangle, to decorate with any small, bright drops, objects, spots, or the like,” comes from the noun spangle, “a small, thin piece of glittering metal used for decorating cloths” or “a small, bright object or spot” (such as one of the stars on the Star-Spangled Banner), which is formed from the noun spang “a small, glittering ornament” and the diminutive suffix –le, as in bramble or thimble. Spang may come either from Middle Dutch spange, spaenge “brooch, clasp” or from Old Norse spǫng “clasp, buckle, spangle.” Spangle entered English in the first half of the 15th century.

how is spangle used?

That night bright stars spangle the heavens. Orion, one of the few constellations I know well, appears upside down, a disconcerting habit it picks up below the equator.

John Harlin, "A Few G'Days Down Under," Backpacker, August 1998

An Iowa man digging through a junkyard in search of used car parts stumbled upon an unexpected find: a rare American flag spangled with only 45 stars.

Snejana Farberov, "One man's trash is Utah's treasure: Rare 45-star American flag discovered in a junkyard is gifted to 45th state," Daily Mail, January 14, 2016

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