Word of the Day

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

whinge

[ hwinj, winj ]

verb (used without object)

British and Australian Informal.

to complain; whine.

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What is the origin of whinge?

The verb whinge, “to complain, whine,” occurs in just about every national variety of English—British, Irish (James Joyce, Samuel Beckett), Scottish (Robert Burns), Australian, New Zealand—but remains lesser known in US English. Indeed, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry’s address at the Dursleys (4 Privet Drive / Little Whinging / Surrey), Whinging had to be glossed for American readers. Whinge comes from Scots and northern England dialect quhynge (these varieties of Middle English often use qu- for standard English wh-, as in quat for what, quere for where); hence quhynge is pronounced whinge. Quhynge comes from Old English hwinsian “to complain” and is related to whine, whisper, and whistle, all of which come from a Germanic root hwei– “to whistle, whisper.” Whinge entered English in the mid-12th century.

how is whinge used?

When an Ohio second grader joins in to whinge about achy pen-holding fingers, handwriting … becomes as hot a topic as in Erasmus’s day.

Jessica Kerwin Jenkins, "The Story of How Handwriting Evolved, and May Soon Die Off," New York Times, August 25, 2016

I wrote in my diary: ‘Here I am in Paris with dreams fulfilled and I whinge because my back hurts! But it bloody does.’

Patti Miller, Ransacking Paris, 2015

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

verecund

[ ver-i-kuhnd ]

adjective

Archaic.

bashful; modest.

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What is the origin of verecund?

The uncommon adjective verecund, “bashful, modest,” comes straight from Latin verēcundus “restrained by or sensitive to scruples or feelings of modesty, shame, or self-respect.” Verēcundus is a compound of the verb verērī “to fear, show reverence for, be in awe of” and the adjective suffix –cundus, which indicates inclination or capacity. Verērī is the root in the very common verb revere (and its derivatives reverent, reverend, and reverence). Verecund entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is verecund used?

Our politics is speckled with men who are so diffident and verecund they never say a word about themselves or their achievements.

"Who's Who—And Why," Saturday Evening Post , February 10, 1912

If there is any perceptible shift between early and later Dickens, then that transition seems to be one where the verecund persona gives way to a performance imbued with Pancksian relish in the double face of wonder and monstrosity.

Julian Wolfreys, Writing London: the trace of the urban text from Blake to Dickens, 1998

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Monday, July 27, 2020

scattergood

[ skat-er-good ]

noun

a person who spends possessions or money extravagantly or wastefully; spendthrift.

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What is the origin of scattergood?

The rare noun scattergood is a compound of the verb scatter and the noun good in the sense “possessions, personal property” (the plural form goods is the usual, modern form). An early, pungent citation of scattergood appears in the works of a 17th-century Anglican priest, William Brough, “If the first heir be not a Scattergood, the third is commonly a Lose-all” (spelling slightly modernized). Scattergood entered English in the second half of the 16th century.

how is scattergood used?

they are a pleasant couple, but it would be folly to bequeath the whole of my estate to a pair of such scattergoods.

"A Striking Legacy," Truth, August 25, 1881

And now, my lords, there is that young scattergood the Laird of Bucklaw’s fine to be disposed upon. I suppose it goes to my Lord Treasurer?

Sir Walter Scott, The Bride of Lammermoor, 1819

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Sunday, July 26, 2020

anfractuous

[ an-frak-choo-uhs ]

adjective

characterized by windings and turnings; sinuous; circuitous: an anfractuous path.

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What is the origin of anfractuous?

Anfractuous ultimately comes from the Late Latin adjective ānfrāctuōsus, a term in rhetoric meaning “roundabout, prolix,” and first used by St. Augustine of Hippo in one of his sermons. Ānfrāctuōsus is a derivative of the noun ānfrāctus (also āmfrāctus) “a bend, curve, circular motion, digression, recurrence,” formed by the prefix am-, an-, a rare variant of ambi– “both, around, about,” and a derivative of the verb frangere “to break, shatter, smash.” Anfractuous entered English in the early 15th century.

how is anfractuous used?

Then, as the road resumed its anfractuous course, clinging to the extreme margin of this tumbled and chaotic coast, the fun began.

Jonathan Raban, "The Getaway Car," New York Times, June 10, 2011

Chavis endured a bumpy, anfractuous trip …. He started with a turbulent flight from Syracuse, where the Pawtucket Red Sox were stationed, to Detroit. Then another flight from Detroit to Tampa.

Christopher L. Gasper, "'That was awesome, dude!' — Michael Chavis enjoys his Red Sox debut," Boston Globe, April 21, 2019

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Saturday, July 25, 2020

coffers

[ kaw-ferz, kof-erz ]

plural noun

funds, especially of a government or corporation.

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What is the origin of coffers?

English coffers, “treasury, funds,” is the plural of coffer, “box, chest (for valuables).” The Middle English cofre (and coffre, coffer) had the same senses in the singular and plural. Middle English cofre comes from Old French cofre, from Latin cophinus “basket, hamper,” from Greek kóphinos “big basket; unit of measure.” Cophinus, going the easy way, yields coffin in English via Old French coffin “basket; coffer; sarcophagus.” (Latin ph from Greek words frequently becomes f in the Romance languages.) Cophinus, going the hard way, becomes cophn(o); the n then dissimilates to r, cofn(o) becoming cofre, just as Latin Londinium “London” becomes Londn(ium), the second n dissimilating to Londr- (Londres in Modern French). Coffers entered English in the 13th century.

how is coffers used?

For decades, American presidential campaigns have churned out enormous quantities of swag—$5 buttons, $15 mugs, $75 guacamole bowls—to promote candidates, fill campaign coffers and gather sophisticated data about supporters.

Mihir Zaveri and , "Where Does All the Swag Go After Campaigns Fail? Everywhere," New York Times, February 25, 2020
[The team] required shareholders to buy six season tickets, hoping to fill the bleachers and the coffers in a single go.

Austin Smith, "The Lords of Lambeau," Harper's Magazine, January 2017

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Friday, July 24, 2020

taciturn

[ tas-i-turn ]

adjective

inclined to silence; reserved in speech; reluctant to join in conversation.

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What is the origin of taciturn?

Taciturn ultimately derives from Latin taciturnus “keeping silent, saying nothing, silent by habit or disposition,” a derivative of tacitus, past participle of tacēre “to say nothing, be silent.” Tacēre and its derivatives come from an uncommon Proto-Indo-European root tak-, takē- “to be silent.” Tak- regularly becomes thah- in Germanic, yielding Gothic thahan “to keep silent, hold one’s peace,” and Old Icelandic thagna “become silent.” Tak- in Celtic yields Welsh tagu and Breton taga “strangling, choking” (one way of obtaining silence). Taciturn entered English in the 18th century.

how is taciturn used?

But there at the depot was her husband, the taciturn man who kept his emotions to himself …
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns, 2010

Ernő Rubik has often been painted as a taciturn loner, a grudging genius who built a beautiful object he hoped would create an introspective space where individuals could consider the elegance of geometry, and who instead became an icon for one of the great marketing crazes of all time.

Stefany Anne Goldberg, "Puzzled: The Rubik's Cube at 30." The Smart Set, April 13, 2010

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

clamber

[ klam-ber, klam-er ]

verb (used with or without object)

to climb, using both feet and hands; climb with effort or difficulty.

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What is the origin of clamber?

Clamber, “to climb using hands and feet, with effort or difficulty,” comes from Middle English clambren (also clameren, clemeren), possibly a frequentative verb from climben (also clemme, climme, klimbe, clomme) “to climb.” Further etymology is unsatisfying: it has been suggested that clamber is a blend of Old English climban “to climb” and clæmman “to press”; clamber is akin to Old Norse klambra “to hook onto,” and Middle High German klamben and German klammern, both meaning “to clamp tightly.” Clamber entered English in the second half of the 14th century.

how is clamber used?

Outdoor restaurant tables and chairs could be seen bobbing in the waters, and tourists were forced to clamber through the windows of high-end hotels as the water rose to about six feet before 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

Elisabetta Povoledo, "Venice Flooding Brings City to 'Its Knees,'" New York Times, November 13, 2019

He began to clamber as fast as he could out of the enclosed space, his feet scrabbling at the wall and knocking bricks free.

Matthew Hughes, "Jewel of the Heart," Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2018

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