Word of the Day

Word of the day

Saturday, September 18, 2021

yore

[ yawr, yohr ]

noun

time past.

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What is the origin of yore?

Yore has a long history in the English language, first appearing as geāra in Old English. While its origin is uncertain, a popular theory is that geāra comes from the same source as the phonetically similar word year (Old English gēar). If true, this means that yore and year derive from the Indo-European root yēr- “year,” which is also the origin of Yiddish yor (as in Yahrzeit, the anniversary of a relative’s passing) and Ancient Greek hṓrā “part of a year, time of day,” the source of horoscope. Hṓrā was borrowed into Latin as hōra “hour,” which is the source of the words for “hour,” “now,” “still,” and “again” in many Romance languages.

how is yore used?

And the warden explained to me that when the architects designed the facility at Halden Prison, that it was really important to them to have the prison feel as though it was set in nature. And there’s historical precedent for this, even in our own country—asylums and hospitals in days of yore. It was seen to be really critical that people had fresh air and fresh water and a beautiful view.

Christine Montross, as quoted in “Psychiatrist: America's ‘Extremely Punitive’ Prisons Make Mental Illness Worse,” NPR, July 16, 2020

Some beer companies are trying to create new, innovative ways to hold their cans together without trapping marine animals in any resulting refuse. Unlike plastic straws, however, viable alternatives aren’t always readily available. When the straw was first commercially produced, it was made of paper, making the move away from plastic simply a return to the straws of yore.

Sarah Gibbens, “Are Plastic Six-Pack Rings Still Ensnaring Wildlife?” National Geographic, September 19, 2018

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Word of the day

Friday, September 17, 2021

wampum

[ wom-puhm, wawm- ]

noun

cylindrical beads made from shells, pierced and strung, used by North American Indians as a medium of exchange, for ornaments, and for ceremonial and sometimes spiritual purposes.

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What is the origin of wampum?

Wampum is a shortened form of wampumpeag, also spelled variously as wampampeak and wampompeage, and was borrowed from the Massachusett language, in which it roughly meant “white strings.” Massachusett was one of the original Indigenous languages of New England, along with Narragansett, Mohegan, Mahican, Maliseet, and Abenaki, among others; of all these, only Abenaki and Maliseet survive today. However, a dialect of Massachusett, Wampanoag (also known as Wôpanâak), is currently undergoing revitalization. These languages belong to the greater Algonquian family, which includes Cree and Ojibwe in Canada, Arapaho and Cheyenne in the Plains, and even Delaware and Powhatan along the East Coast. Wampum entered English in the early 1600s.

how is wampum used?

Wampum is Indigenous, sacred and symbolic. Made from the purple and white shells of the quahog and whelk, the beads carry the history, culture and name of the Wampanoag people of Massachusetts, whose ancestors met the passengers of the Mayflower in 1620 and ensured their survival.

"'Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America' Joins Mayflower 400 Exhibition This Summer at The Box In Plymouth, UK", ArtfixDaily, April 25, 2021

Cornplanter’s Pipe was gifted by Washington, between 1790 and 1794, most likely in 1792, during one of the Seneca delegation’s meetings in Philadelphia. It was a part of an elaborate exchange of medals, pipes, wampum and other tangible symbols of amity between the Haudenosaunee and the U.S. An integral part of Treaty making and diplomacy, gifts were vital signs of heroic labor to achieve and maintain peaceful relations.

Suzan Shown Harjo, "Three-century whodunnit: Gifted, burned, stolen and mailed. Cornplanter’s Pipe comes home," Indian Country Today, March 31, 2019

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Word of the day

Thursday, September 16, 2021

azure

[ azh-er ]

adjective

of or having a light, purplish shade of blue, like that of a clear and unclouded sky.

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What is the origin of azure?

Azure derives via Old French from Arabic al-lāzuward, with the initial l- in lāzuward disappearing because of confusion between Arabic and French grammar: a widespread assumption arose that this initial l- was part of the Arabic definite article al- “the” or that it was a Romance definite article such as le in French, il in Italian, or el in Spanish. Either way, Romance language speakers chopped that l- off accordingly, and the new spelling stuck. This process is called metanalysis in linguistics, and a similar misdivision happened in English; because of confusion with the definite articles a and an, words such as apron and umpire lost their initial n-, while words such as newt and nickname gained an initial n- when they originally had none. Lāzuward is a borrowing of Persian lāzhuward “lapis lazuli,” a dark blue stone, after the area in Central Asia where it was mined, perhaps corresponding to a location in Badakhshan, a region split among modern-day Afghanistan, China, and Tajikistan. Azure entered English in the late 1200s or early 1300s.

how is azure used?

Neighbors recall promises that the eerie azure lake known as “Little Blue” would be made into a recreational jewel, complete with swimming, bike trails, and sailboats. But the sprawling pond, its blue somewhat faded in recent years, delivered more blight than benefits to its rural surroundings near the West Virginia border in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Rachel Cernansky, “Largest U.S. Coal Ash Pond to Close, But Future Rules Still Undecided,” National Geographic, August 10, 2012

After twenty miles or so Bill had a spectacular view clear across the Moray Firth to the Grampians. The mountains pushed apart land, sea and sky with nonchalant grandeur; their peaks stark white, their flanks hazed white and blue and azure.

Will Self, "Tough Tough Toys for Tough Tough Boys," Paris Review, Spring 1998

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