Word of the Day

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

wellspring

[ wel-spring ]

noun

a source or supply of anything, especially when considered inexhaustible: a wellspring of affection.

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What is the origin of wellspring?

Wellspring from its earliest records has meant both “source or headspring of a river or stream” as well as “source of a constant supply of something.” The extended, metaphorical sense appears earlier, in the Old English version of the Cura Pastoralis (Pastoral Care) of St. Gregory the Great (a.d. c540-604) that was commissioned by King Alfred the Great (a.d. 849-899). The literal sense of wellspring, “source of a stream or river,” first appears in the Catholic Homilies (c990) composed by Aelfric “Grammaticus” (c955-c1025).

how is wellspring used?

I decided to reach deep down, to the wellspring of my charisma, which had been too long undisturbed, and dip my fingers in it and flick it liturgically over the audience.

Steve Martin, The Pleasure of My Company, 2003

And from the same wellspring of creativity, utilizing that same power to abstract, they were the first people to see the world around them in symbolic form, to extract its essence and reproduce it.

Jean M. Auel, The Plains of Passage, 1990
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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

obscurantism

[ uhb-skyoor-uhn-tiz-uhm, ob-skyoo-ran-tiz-uhm ]

noun

opposition to the increase and spread of knowledge.

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What is the origin of obscurantism?

English obscurantism ultimately comes via the French noun obscurantisme from Latin obscūrant-, the stem of obscūrāns, present participle of obscūrāre “to dim, cover in darkness,” a derivative of the adjective obscūrus “dim, dark, dingy; insignificant, doubtful,” the obvious source of English obscure. Obscūrus is a compound of the preposition and prefix ob, ob- “to, toward, in front of“ (and in compounds usually having a sense of confrontation or opposition), and the unattested adjective scūrus. Scūrus is a Latin development of the Proto-Indo-European root (s)keu-, (s)kū- “to hide, cover.” The Germanic form of this root, skeu-, has a derivative noun skeujam “cloud, cloud cover” that becomes skȳ in Old Norse, adopted into English as sky. Obscurantism entered English in the 19th century.

how is obscurantism used?

New ideologies manipulate religions, push a contagious obscurantism.

Emmanuel Macron, "Commemoration of the Armistice," translated from French, November 11, 2018

There is the obscurantism of the politician and not always of the more ignorant sort, who would reject every idea which is not of immediate service to his cause.

Y. B. Yeats, "The Irish National Theatre and Three Sorts of Ignorance," The United Irishman, October 24, 1903
Monday, March 18, 2019

bracketology

[ brak-i-tol-uh-jee ]

noun

Sports.

a system of diagrammatically predicting and tracking the process of elimination among sequentially paired opponents in a tournament, especially an NCAA basketball tournament.

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What is the origin of bracketology?

Bracketology combines bracket, in the sports sense of “a diagram for tracking advancement in a tournament,” and -ology, a word-forming element indicating “branch of knowledge, science.” The term playfully elevates the sports pastime to a discipline or science. Stages of sports tournaments have been termed brackets since the early 1900s, from bracket as a “grouping” in the late 1800s, a sense informed by pairs of typographical brackets for enclosing text or numbers. The tree-diagram structure of NCAA basketball tournament brackets indeed calls up such typographical brackets, named after the original architectural bracket, a type of L-shaped support projecting from a wall. Entering English in the 16th century, the word bracket may derive from a Romance word meaning “breeches,” the architectural devices perhaps resembling a pair of legs or the codpieces historically worn on breeches. That could make bracketology, with a liberal literalism, “the study of pants” or “the study of jockstraps.”

how is bracketology used?

Bracketology—the scientific-sounding name for prognosticating tournament picks before the official committee reveals the bracket on Selection Sunday—has exploded among basketball fans in recent years ….

Zach Schonbrun, "To N.C.A.A. Bracketologists, It’s Who’s In, Not Who Wins," New York Times, March 13, 2018

Bracketology is the practice of predicting the field and seeding for all 68 teams in the NCAA tournament and/or the outcomes for all games in the tournament. It is a made-up “-ology”, sadly, so don’t change your major just yet.

Daniel Wilco, "March Madness bracketology: The ultimate guide," NCAA, March 12, 2019

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