Word of the Day

Word of the day

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Xanadu

[ zan-uh-doo, -dyoo ]

noun

a place of great beauty, luxury, and contentment.

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What is the origin of Xanadu?

You may recognize Xanadu from the notorious cult classic film of the same name that starred Olivia Newton-John and spawned a Tony Award-nominated musical, but the word dates not to the ’80s but rather to 800 years ago. Xanadu is an English transliteration of the name of the summer palace belonging to Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan and emperor during the Yuan dynasty; the palace’s name in Mandarin is Shàngdū “upper capital,” and its remains are still visitable today in the Inner Mongolia region of northern China.

how is Xanadu used?

[T]he tiny town of … Marfa was also the perfect canvas for artist Donald Judd’s ambitious dream to create a Xanadu of contemporary art—an indoor-outdoor museum where artworks come alive beneath the wide blue skies and sharp Texas light.

Anne Goodwin Sides, “Donald Judd Found Perfect Canvas In Texas Town,” NPR, January 31, 2009

To most people, Britain is a mythological realm on par with Atlantis or Shangri-La or El Dorado, the Lost City of Gold. Does it even exist? … And much like any other fabled empire, this real-life Xanadu boasts its own elite class of pleasure dome-dwelling artists!

Price Peterson, "One Direction Is Now the Richest Boy Band in British Music History," The Atlantic, May 16, 2014

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Word of the day

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

mishpocha

[ mish-pookh-uh, -paw-khuh ]

noun

an entire family network comprising relatives by blood and marriage and sometimes including close friends; clan.

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What is the origin of mishpocha?

Yiddish mishpocha derives from Hebrew mishpakhá “family,” as Hebrew is the source of a good portion of Yiddish vocabulary. Hebrew belongs to the Semitic family of languages and isn’t related to English, but we’ve nevertheless inherited numerous culture- and religion-related words from Hebrew, such as amen, cherub, jubilee, and hallelujah. Like its Hebrew source, mishpocha means more than just “immediate family”—it’s the collection of all blood relatives and relatives by marriage.

how is mishpocha used?

It’s only natural that they want to meet … their children are going to get married. They are going to be mishpocha for the rest of their lives, so they’re a touch curious about each other.

Judith Krantz, Princess Daisy, 1980

I’d done the Zoom dating, the bread baking, … and all the other socially acceptable coping mechanisms, but Rosh Hashanah was the first holiday I observed that I’d had to spend without the familiar mishpocha of friends and family all around me, yelling, telling jokes, squinting critically at my bangs, and generally filling the room with light.

Emma Specter, "My Jewish Holiday Plans This Year? Nora Ephron Movies and Smoked Fish, for One," Vogue, September 25, 2020

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Word of the day

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

rapprochement

[ rap-rohsh-mahn ]

noun

an establishment or reestablishment of harmonious relations.

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What is the origin of rapprochement?

Rapprochement is a direct borrowing from French, in which the word means “reconciliation” or, more literally, “a state of approaching again.” If you were thinking that rapprochement sounded like reapproach, you’re exactly right; rapprochement is essentially the word approach with the French equivalent of the prefix re- “again,” plus the noun-forming suffix -ment.

how is rapprochement used?

“Elemental” … is a striking structure of tall poles arranged in a circle that evokes a Koyauwe, or a place to parley and resolve conflicts among the Mapuche, an Indigenous population of Chile. It was commissioned by a Mapuche territorial organization as part of a rapprochement process between the group and a forest company in conflict over shared land.

Elisabetta Povoledo, "Solving the World’s Problems at the Venice Architecture Biennale," New York Times, June 2, 2021

Indeed, it was difficult to reach a rapprochement between my girth and the Austrian concept of an economy seat; I ended up with my ass where my back should have been, palms pressed into the seat in front of me.

Gary Shteyngart, Absurdistan, 2006 

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