Community Comment

Archive for March 2013

A Word A Day — balneology

Good morning Netizens…

Word of the Day

• balneology
• \bal-nee-AH-luh-jee\
• DEFINITION
•

noun

: the science of the therapeutic use of baths
• EXAMPLES
•

Balneology is used at the spa as a means of treating injured muscles.

“Fortunately, our collection contains a large number of items relating to balneology, the science of baths and bathing, including pamphlets from hot spring resorts across the United States from the late 1800s and early 1900s.” — From an article posted February 12, 2013 at nyamcenterforhistory.org

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

“Sure, the hot water feels good. Sure, the massage is nice. But it goes beyond that, advocates say.” So wrote Ellen Creager in an article published on February 18, 2001 in the Detroit Free Press. The healing powers of mineral baths have long been touted by advocates like those mentioned by Creager. Though we've had the word “balneology” for just over 130 years, this method of treating aching muscles, joint pain, and skin ailments goes back to ancient times. Proponents of the science of bath therapy created the name “balneology” from the Latin word “balneum” (“bath”) and the combining form “-logy” (“science”). Today, some medical institutes in Europe have departments of balneology. Modern “balneologists” impart their knowledge to, or themselves serve as, “balneotherapists,” who apply their “balneotherapy” to clients.

Dave

A Word A Day — obviate

Good afternoon Netizens…

Word of the Day

• obviate
• \AHB-vee-ayt\
• DEFINITION
•

verb

: to anticipate and prevent (as a situation) or make unnecessary (as an action)
• EXAMPLES
•

Rob checks every ledger entry twice to obviate any problems when it comes time for an audit.

“Some TVs come equipped with … technology that manufacturers incorporated to obviate the need for supplementary cable boxes.” — From an article by Mike Rogoway in The Oregonian, January 13, 2013

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

“Obviate” derives from Late Latin “obviare” (meaning “to meet or withstand”) and Latin “obviam,” which means “in the way” and is also an ancestor of our adjective “obvious.” “Obviate” has a number of synonyms in English, including “prevent,” “preclude,” and “avert”; all of these words can mean to hinder or stop something. When you prevent or preclude something, you put up an insurmountable obstacle. In addition, “preclude” often implies that a degree of chance was involved in stopping an event. “Obviate” generally suggests the use of intelligence or forethought to ward off trouble. “Avert” always implies that a bad situation has been anticipated and prevented or deflected by the application of immediate and effective means.

Dave

The solution to petty crime…

Good morning Netizens…

From the Spokesman-Review: Spokane police Chief Frank Straub said Friday that the disbanding of the department’s property crimes unit in 2011 is an “urban legend” perpetrated by former administrators looking to boost funding for the department. The story goes on to state as fact that “The unit exists, he said, but it also focuses on fraud and computer crimes.”

Oh? In our little neighborhood, we seem to have a vision of crimes against property that suggests otherwise. A series of property crimes have gone largely unreported because no one in the neighborhood has any faith whatsoever in the property crimes unit. Car prowling has seen a steady increase in our neighborhood, despite the fact that most of our residents have car alarms installed. Wise residents do not leave valuables in their cars, or else windows get smashed and property gets stolen.

Nearly everyone has backyard lighting that gives them some sense of security, but to what end? If you are fortunate enough to catch sight of someone breaking into a garage or outbuilding, by the time the police arrive the burglars are long gone.

Pardon me for speaking out of class, but I simply do not see any alternatives to plain old-fashioned vigilantism. When I was a young if I was stupid or incompetent enough to get caught pilfering one of the neighbor's prized pumpkins or late-summer watermelons, I certainly could expect an occasional blast of rock salt from a double-barrel shotgun once in awhile. I can still remember bawling like a motherless calf when the doctor started removing the rock salt (and even some bird shot) from my delicate backside. Eventually I learned to always ask nicely or else do without.

A double-barrel shotgun loaded with rock salt and bird shot is a better alternative than cops who won't or cannot investigate petty burglaries. Of course, your thoughts may differ.

Dave

A Word A Day — fuliginous

Good morning, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• fuliginous
• \fyoo-LIJ-uh-nus\
• DEFINITION
•

1
a : sooty b : obscure, murky
2
: having a dark or dusky color
• EXAMPLES
•

Theo's journalism professor encouraged him to eschew fuliginous prose in favor of simple, straightforward language.

“For two weeks he continued his surveying in a fuliginous atmosphere of almost continual fog but then, on 5 August, the mists suddenly cleared, allowing him to make a detailed observation of a solar eclipse (on the appropriately named Eclipse Island, one of the tiny Burgeo Islands).” — From Frank McLynn's 2011 book Captain Cook: Master of the Seas

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

“Fuliginous” is a word with a dark and dirty past—it derives from “fuligo,” the Latin word for “soot.” In an early sense (now obsolete), “fuliginous” was used to describe noxious bodily vapors once thought to be produced by organic processes. The “sooty” sense, which English speakers have been using since the early 1620s, can be used to describe everything from dense fogs and malevolent clouds to overworked chimney sweeps. “Fuliginous” can also be used to refer to something dark or dusky, as in Henry James' novel The Ambassadors, in which the character Waymarsh is described as having “dark fuliginous eyes.”

Dave

Is it ok to kill my neighbor for my car?

First, we have issues in Spokane with overuse of power; then the mayor says that police are not going to respond to personal property crimes; then we have to protect ourselves; then nutso people run rampage with guns and kill several children; then we start campaigning about the right to own firearms; then someone comes into our yard and steals our car (albeit, we enabled them by having the key in it and having it running); and finally, we shoot that person and kill them.

And at the same time, a former mayoral candidate of Tuscon, Arizona has launched a prifately funded program to provide residents of crime-prone areas with free shotguns to protect themselves.  http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/mar/28/program-would-provide-free-shotguns/

I have mixed emotions on this.  We should never lose our right to protect ourselves nor lose the right to bear arms.  Somehow, judgment needs to come into play.

My heart goes out to all the families impacted by the event here in Spokane.

What is the solution?

~Jeanie~

A Word A Day — laudable

Good morning Netizens…

Word of the Day

• laudable
• \LAW-duh-bul\
• DEFINITION
•

: worthy of praise : commendable
• EXAMPLES
•

Parents, faculty, and members of the community commended the students for their laudable efforts at cleaning up the park and renovating its play structures.

“This revision of the school funding formula would align with and enable those laudable reforms to come to full fruition.” — From an editorial in the Denver Post, February 23, 2013

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

Both “laudable” and “laudatory” derive ultimately from Latin “laud-” or “laus,” meaning “praise.” “Laudable” and “laudatory” differ in meaning, however, and usage commentators warn against using them interchangeably. “Laudable” means “deserving praise” or “praiseworthy,” as in “laudable efforts to help the disadvantaged.” “Laudatory” means “giving praise” or “expressing praise,” as in “a laudatory book review.” People occasionally use “laudatory” in place of “laudable,” but this use is not considered standard.

Dave

A Word A Day — flehmen

Good evening Netizena…

Word of the Day

• flehmen
• \FLAY-mun\
• DEFINITION
•

noun

: a mammalian behavior (as of horses or cats) in which the animal inhales with the mouth open and upper lip curled to facilitate exposure of the vomeronasal organ to a scent or pheromone
• EXAMPLES
•

The vet explained to the children that what appeared to be a display of anger in the cat was actually a behavior called flehmen.

“One of the behavioural components of male sexual display in all hoofed stock except the pig is the 'olfactory reflex' known as flehmen. In this reflex, [the] animal fully extends the head and neck, contracts the nares and raises the upper lip while taking shallow respiration.” — From an article by S. Gul in the Journal of Animal and Plant Sciences, September 30, 2012

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

“Flehmen” comes to English by way of German, in which language the word applies to animals and means “to curl the upper lip.” The German source of the English word is a verb, and the English word is also used—albeit rarely—as a verb, as in “the horse flehmened.” More often, though, the verbal form is actually a gerund: “the horse's flehmening.” “Flehmen” is sometimes capitalized in English, as nouns are in German, but more often it is lowercase.

Dave

A Word A Day — hallmark

Good morjnming, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• hallmark
• \HAWL-mahrk\
• DEFINITION
•

noun

1
: a mark put on an article to indicate origin, purity, or genuineness
2
: a distinguishing characteristic, trait, or feature
• EXAMPLES
•

The entertainer's new book features the same kind of wry humor that is the hallmark of his radio show.

“His usually sympathetic, sometimes overgenerous interpretation of others' motives has been a hallmark of his character at least since his student days.” — From an article by Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker, February 4, 2013

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

Centuries ago, King Edward I of England decreed that gold and silver had to be tested and approved by master craftsmen before being sold. Later, London artisans were required to bring finished metal goods to Goldsmith's Hall to be checked, and if those items met the quality standards of the craft-masters there, they would be marked with a special stamp of approval. (The process is much the same today.) At first, people used “hallmark” to name that mark of excellence from Goldsmith's Hall, but over the years the word came to refer to any mark guaranteeing purity or genuineness, and eventually to name any sign of outstanding talent, creativity, or excellence.

Dave

A Word A Day — nascent

Good morning Netizens…,

Word of the Day

• nascent
• \NASS-unt\
• DEFINITION
•

: coming or having recently come into existence
• EXAMPLES
•

Brent began working at the company when it was in its nascent stage, with just a single one-room office and four employees.

“Both Enterprise and Hertz have small car-sharing units. Zipcar is estimated to have the largest share of the nascent industry, which has about $400 million in annual sales among all companies.” — From an article by Jerry Hirsch in the Los Angeles Times, January 3, 2013 • DID YOU KNOW? • “Nascent” comes from “nascens,” the present participle of the Latin verb “nasci,” which means “to be born.” It is a relative newcomer to the collection of English words that derive from that Latin verb. In fact, when the word “nascent” was itself a newborn, in the first quarter of the 17th century, other “nasci” offspring were already respectably mature. “Nation,” “native,” and “nature” had been around since the 1300s; “innate” and “natal,” since the 1400s. More recently, we picked up some French descendants of “nasci”: “née” in the 1700s and “Renaissance” in the 1800s. Our newest “nasci” word? It may well be “perinatology,” which was first used in the late 1960s to name the specialized branch of medicine concerned with childbirth. Dave A Word A Day — canorous Good morning, Netizens… March 24, 2013 Word of the Day • canorous • \kuh-NOR-us\ • DEFINITION • adjective : pleasant sounding : melodious • EXAMPLES • A canorous chorus of birdsong filled the morning air. “The album features fast and brooding melodies … and standout canorous piano and clean guitar moments….” — From a post by Caroline Jensen at Rock Edition, February 6, 2013 • DID YOU KNOW? • In Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821), the essayist Thomas de Quincey describes a manservant who, after accidentally letting a loaded trunk fall down a flight of stairs, “sang out a long, loud, and canorous peal of laughter.” “Canorous” typically describes things, such as church choirs or birds in the spring, that are a pleasure to listen to. It derives from the Latin verb “canere” (“to sing”), a root it shares with a number of words that evoke what is sweet to the ear, such as “chant,” “canticle,” “cantor” (a leader of a choir), “carmen” (a song, poem, or incantation) and even “accent.” Dave A Word A Day — riposte Good morning Netizens… March 23, 2013 Word of the Day • riposte • \rih-POHST\ • DEFINITION • noun 1 : a fencer's quick return thrust following a parry 2 : a retaliatory verbal sally : retort 3 : a retaliatory maneuver or measure • EXAMPLES • The lifelong friends always greeted each other the same way: John would point out Gary's thinning hair, then Gary would come back with a riposte about John's golf game. “Modernism, with its strong Gothic influences recalling the glories of medieval Barcelona, was very much a riposte to the conservative architecture that flourished in Madrid at the time.” — From an article by Andrew Allen in The New York Times, February 8, 2013 • DID YOU KNOW? • In the sport of fencing, a riposte is a counterattack made after successfully fending off one's opponent. English speakers borrowed the name for this particular maneuver from French in the early 1700s, but the French had simply modified Italian “risposta,” which literally means “answer.” Ultimately these words come from the Latin verb “respondēre” meaning “to respond.” It seems fitting that “riposte” has since come full circle to now refer to a quick and witty response performed as a form of retaliation. Dave A Word A Day — grift Good evening, Netizens… March 22, 2013 Word of the Day • grift • \GRIFT\ • DEFINITION • verb 1 : to obtain (money) illicitly (as in a confidence game) 2 : to acquire money or property illicitly • EXAMPLES • John grifted much of his income by carrying out elaborate cons against unsuspecting tourists. “Both victims lost substantial amounts of money, with one being grifted out of an astonishing$35,000.…” — From an article in SFist, September 6, 2012

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

“Grift” was born in the argot of the underworld, a realm in which a “grifter” might be a pickpocket, a crooked gambler, or a confidence man—any criminal who relied on skill and wits rather than physical violence—and to be “on the grift” was to make a living by stings and clever thefts. “Grift” may have evolved from “graft,” a slightly older word meaning “to acquire dishonestly,” but its exact origins are uncertain. We do know that the verb “grift” first finagled its way into print in 1915 in George Bronson-Howard's God's Man: “Grifting ain't what it used to be. Fourteenth Street's got protection down to a system—a regular underworld tariff on larceny.”

Dave

A Word A Day — demotic

Good evening, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• demotic
• \dih-MAH-tik\
• DEFINITION
•

1
: of, relating to, or written in a simplified form of the ancient Egyptian hieratic writing
2
: common, popular
3
: of or relating to the form of Modern Greek that is based on everyday speech
• EXAMPLES
•

The style of her art work is intentionally demotic, aimed at ordinary people rather than the elite of the art world.

“The demotic dictionary gives researchers definitions, shows word uses and helps with translating texts. But it also serves as a reference guide for reconstructing and understanding ancient Egyptian culture, whether it's the nuances of government, commerce, politics, religion or male-female relationships.” — From an article by Dawn Turner Trice in the Chicago Tribune, October 22, 2012

A Word A Day — plaudit

Good evening, Netizens.,.,

Word of the Day

• plaudit
• \PLAW-dit\
• DEFINITION
•

noun

1
: an act or round of applause
2
: enthusiastic approval — usually used in plural
• EXAMPLES
•

The latest installment in the movie series earned plaudits from critics and fans alike.

“Just a year and a half after graduating from Los Angeles' private Harvard-Westlake School, Platt has … scored the show-stealing 'Mormon' role and won plaudits for offering an interpretation decidedly different from Josh Gad's Tony-nominated performance.” — From a review by Kerry Reid in the Chicago Tribune, January 3, 2013

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

Give yourself a round of applause if you recognize the similarity between today's featured word and a pair of familiar words. (There's a hint in the first half of the previous sentence, as well as in the first sense of the definition.) “Plaudit” was borrowed into English in the early 17th century from a form of the Latin verb “plaudere,” meaning “to applaud.” “Plaudere” is, of course, also the ancestor of “applaud” and “applause,” as well as of “explode,” “plausible,” and the now archaic “displode” (a synonym of “explode”).

Dave

A Word A Day — sacrosanct

Good afternoon, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• sacrosanct
• \SAK-roh-sankt\
• DEFINITION
•

1
: most sacred or holy : inviolable
2
: treated as if holy : immune from criticism or violation
• EXAMPLES
•

Our family traditions may seem silly to outsiders, but to us they are sacrosanct.

“'Is college a lousy investment?' This was the question posed in a Newsweek cover story in the fall, a blunt challenge to America’s long-standing, nearly sacrosanct belief in the value of a college education.” — From an article by Bob King in Business Lexington (Kentucky), February 14, 2013

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

That which is sacrosanct is doubly sacred: the two Latin components underlying the word, “sacro” and “sanctus,” were combined long ago to form a phrase meaning “hallowed by a sacred rite.” “Sacro” means “by a sacred rite” and comes from “sacrum,” a Latin noun that lives on in English anatomy as the name for our pelvic vertebrae—a shortening of “os sacrum,” which literally means “holy bone.” “Sanctus” means “sacred” and gave us “saint” and obvious words like “sanctimony,” “sanctify,” a

Dave

KAGU off the air…

Good morning, Netizens…

Generally speaking, if there is a radio turned on anywhere across the vast wasteland of our home, the chances are it is one of our two radio favorite stations. That was until yesterday when KAGU disappeared from the airwaves, leaving chatter and hiss in its place. It was as if it simply wasn't there any more. Even worse than that, none of the other radio or television stations seemed to know it was silent. A radio station being off the air apparently isn't news, as evidenced by past weather anomalies where several of Spokane stations left the air due to high wind, lightning storms and who could forget Ice Storm?

I spoke with KAGU station manager Phil Taylor in the aftermath to find out what caused KAGU to leave the air, thinking perhaps the high winds had taken their toll on the transmitter tower, as has happened to KPBX in the past.

Instead it was a piece of transmitter electronics referred to as an exciter, which had failed for some unexplained reason. The transmitter exciter, which converts analog radio signals to RF signals suitable for transmission, costs about \$15,000 according to Taylor, and one was procured and air-freighted in the next morning.

So my imperfect world is at once again set to rights,

A Word A Day — fetter

Good afterlnoon, Netizens..,

Word of the Day

• fetter
• \FET-er\
• DEFINITION
•

noun

1
: a chain or shackle for the feet
2
: something that confines : restraint
• EXAMPLES
•

John keeps his smartphone with him when he goes hiking, but Linda leaves hers at home, preferring to free herself momentarily of the fetters of technology.

“At the moment, legally speaking, Internet cafes operate in Ohio without fetter or review.” — From an editorial by Thomas Suddes in The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, December 2, 2012

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

While now used as a more general term for something that confines or restrains, “fetter” was originally applied specifically to a chain or shackle for the feet. Not surprisingly, the word's Old English ancestor, “feter,” is etymologically shackled to “fōt,” the Old English ancestor of “foot.” Both words have a long history in the English language, dating back to the early 9th century, and are chained to Sanskrit “pad,” Latin “ped-” and “pes,” Greek “pod-” and “pous,” Gothic “fotus,” Norse “fōtr,” and Old High German “fuoz.”

Dave

A Word A Day — katzenjammer

Good evening Netizens…

Word of the Day

• katzenjammer
• \KAT-sun-jam-er\
• DEFINITION
•

noun

1
: hangover
2
: distress
3
: a discordant clamor
• EXAMPLES
•

The morning after the wedding, Pamela woke up with a blinding katzenjammer.

“Combating your attack of the katzenjammers with more liquor may seem absurd, but desperate times demand desperate measures.” — From an article by Lissa Townsend Rodgers in the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise (Oklahoma), August 16, 2012

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

Have you ever heard a cat wailing and felt that you could relate? Apparently some hungover German speakers once did. “Katzenjammer” comes from German “Katze” (meaning “cat”) and “Jammer” (meaning “distress”). English speakers borrowed the word for their hangovers (and other distressful inner states) in the 19th century and eventually applied it to outer commotion as well. The word isn't as popular in English today as it was around the mid-20th century, but it's well-known to many because of the “Katzenjammer Kids,” a long-running comic strip featuring the incorrigibly mischievous twins Hans and Fritz.

Dave

A Word A Day — carminative

Good evening, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• carminative
• \kahr-MIN-uh-tive\
• DEFINITION
•

: expelling gas from the stomach or intestines so as to relieve flatulence or abdominal pain or distension
• EXAMPLES
•

Fennel is a carminative herb that helps alleviate gas after a spicy meal.

“Cumin seeds contain numerous phyto-chemicals that are known to have antioxidant, carminative and anti-flatulent properties, and are also an excellent source of dietary fibre.” — From an article in Facts For You, May 5, 2012

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

In times gone by, human personalities were believed to be controlled by four humors: blood, phlegm, choler (yellow bile), and melancholy (black vile). Though this belief was long ago discredited, its influence lingers on in the English language. When “carminative” came into use in the 15th-century medical field, carminative agents were thought to be effective because they influenced the humors. The word comes from Latin “carrere,” meaning “to card,” referring to the act of cleansing or disentangling. This history reflects the theory that certain humors could be “combed out” like knots in wool.

Dave

A Word A Day — voracious

Good evening Netizens…

Word of the Day

• voracious
• \vaw-RAY-shus\
• DEFINITION
•

1
: having a huge appetite : ravenous
2
: excessively eager : insatiable
• EXAMPLES
•

Cemal is a voracious reader who whips through three or four books each week.

“Hundreds of Humboldt squid washed up on Santa Cruz County beaches Sunday in a mass stranding that is not uncommon but remains somewhat of a mystery to marine scientists. The even more intriguing question, they say, is why the voracious feeders, also called jumbo flying squid, began venturing up to the Central Coast in 2000 from the Sea of Cortez and other warmer spots—and what their effect is on the ocean environment.” — From an article by Cathy Kelly in Contra Costa Times, December 11, 2012

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

“Voracious” is one of several English words that derive from the Latin verb “vorare,” which means “to eat greedily” or “to devour.” “Vorare” is also an ancestor of “devour” and of the “-ivorous” words that describe the diets of various animals. These include “carnivorous” (“meat-eating”), “herbivorous” (“plant-eating”), “omnivorous” (“feeding on both animals and plants”), “frugivorous” (“fruit-eating”), “graminivorous” (“feeding on grass”), and “piscivorous” (“fish-eating”).

Dave

Cruising on Carnival Cruise Lines…

Good morning, Netizens…

In my generation, vacations consisted of pouring members of the family into the family transportation, complete with various snacks, books and other entertainments and facing the long drive to wherever the family collective was heading. This itinerary was, of course, subject to kids getting sick, car breakdowns and other unplanned events, such as losing your transmission midway across the state of Idaho and spending an entire day sitting in a repair shop's musty-smelling waiting room getting frustrated.

Of course occasionally breakdowns had unexpected benefits, such as that tiny city park where we frolicked among the trees next to a quietly mumbling creek bed and eating makeshift picnic fare. Or the time later in life during a latter-day van breakdown, we met a traveling salesman and his wife who were simply taking a break from the road, and kept us both in stitches with some of their ribald tales of life along the road.

However, despite all the purported wonderful benefits of an ocean-going cruise, nothing would tempt me to climb aboard one of Carnival Cruise Line's monstrous ships for a cruise to the great unknown. They keep breaking down! As you may recall an engine fire last month crippled another Carnival ship, the Carnival Triumph, leaving 4,200 people stranded for five days without working toilets or power in the middle of the ocean. People were pissed, and perhaps rightfully so, since most of the toilets on board the Triumph had stopped working for five days, resulting in people being forced to use ad hoc porta-potties. Carnival's offer of ticket refunds (with a complimentary ticket for additional cruises) simply would not do.

Now we have two more broken-down Carnival Cruise Line ships hitting the news waves.

However, in searching the airwaves for potential cures to their onboard woes, I think I just heard the cure. Someone in London, England has discovered the violin once played onboard the Titanic in a closet. Dancing with the Stars Host Tom Bergeran is quoted as saying they should save that violin and play it on all Carnival Cruise Line ships. The alternative would be to provide all Carnival passengers with personal rowboats with oars and a five day supply of Depends and a bucket.

I think I'll stick with the cross-country trip with somewhat predictable breakdowns in roadside parks.

Of course, your thoughts and wishes may differ.

Dave

A Word A Day — quirk

Good evening, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• quirk
• \KWERK\
• DEFINITION
•

verb

: curve, twist
• EXAMPLES
•

“She was surprised by the humor that quirked his fine straight lips.” — From Elizabeth George Speare's 1958 book The Witch of Blackbird Pond

“Refusing to relinquish his own control in Jacksonville, Elvis created the familiar hysteria by surprise moves—standing stock-still and quirking his index finger to mimic the Elvis gyration.” — From Bobbie Ann Mason's 2007 book Elvis Presley: A Life

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

Did you expect “quirk” to be a noun meaning “a peculiarity of action or behavior”? If so, you're probably not alone; the “peculiarity” sense of the noun “quirk” is commonly known and has been a part of our language since the 17th century. But “quirk” has long worn other hats in English, too. The sense meaning “a curve, turn, or twist” has named everything from curving pen marks on paper (i.e., flourishes) to witty turns of phrase to the vagaries or twists of fate. In contemporary English, the verb “quirk” is most often used in referring to facial expressions, especially those that involve crooked smiles or furrowed eyebrows.

Dave

A Word A Day — behemoth

Good evening, Netizens

Word of the Day

• behemoth
• \bih-HEE-muth\
• DEFINITION
•

noun

: something of monstrous size, power, or appearance
• EXAMPLES
•

The town has voted against letting the retail behemoth build a store on the proposed site.

“Interviews with an array of industry veterans … outline how Fairchild and the companies it spawned both developed the technologies and established the business and financial cultures that would eventually produce behemoths like Apple and Google.” — From a television review by Mike Hale in The New York Times, February 5, 2013

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

The original “behemoth” was biblical; it designated a mysterious river-dwelling beast in the Book of Job. Based on that description, scholars have concluded that the biblical behemoth was probably inspired by a hippopotamus, but details about the creature's exact nature were vague. The word first passed from the Hebrew into Late Latin, where, according to English poet and monk John Lydgate, writing in 1430, it “playne expresse[d] a beast rude full of cursednesse.” In English, “behemoth” was eventually applied more generally to anything large and powerful.

Dave

A Word A Day — piggyback

Good evening, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• piggyback
• \PIG-ee-bak\
• DEFINITION
•

1
: up on the back and shoulders
2
: on or as if on the back of another; especially : on a railroad flatcar
• EXAMPLES
•

The youngest of the hikers had the advantage of riding piggyback through the muddy fields.

“Unfortunately, his footing wasn't as steady as he'd hoped, and he fell from the log.… He wasn't able to get himself up and had to be carried piggyback from the scene.” — From a television show review by on HuffingtonPost.com, January 28, 2013

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

Have you ever wondered where the porcine part of “piggyback” comes from? Well, it's not from the pigs themselves. The adverb “piggyback” likely began as “a pick pack.” Another early form of the word is “pickback,” evidence of which can be found in the still-extant variant “pickaback.” The adverb “piggyback” dates to the mid-16th century, and the noun—referring to an act of carrying piggyback—was in use by the end of that same century. The adjective “piggyback,” as in “piggyback ride,” didn't enter the language until the 18th century, and the now-common verb “piggyback” didn't piggyback on the others until the late 19th century.

Dave

A Word A Day — cajole

Good evening, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• cajole
• \kuh-JOHL\
• DEFINITION
•

verb

1
a : to persuade with flattery or gentle urging : coax b : to obtain from someone by gentle persuasion
2
: to deceive with soothing words or false promises
• EXAMPLES
•

Brianna was able to cajole some money from her father before leaving for the movies.

“Walking across Niagara Falls on a high wire is supposed to be hard; that's the point of doing it. But after nearly a year of cajoling, pressuring and outright begging for legal permission to cross the scenic gorge between Canada and the United States, Wallenda is coming face to face with the practical challenges of fulfilling his lifelong dream.” — From an article by Charlie Gillis at Macleans.ca, May 25, 2012

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

“Cajole” comes from a French verb, “cajoler,” which has the same meaning as the English word. You might not think to associate “cajole” with “cage,” but some etymologists theorize that “cajoler” is connected to not one but two words for “cage.” One of them is the Anglo-French word “cage,” from which we borrowed our own “cage.” It comes from Latin “cavea,” meaning “cage.” The other is the Anglo-French word for “birdcage,” which is “gaiole.” It's an ancestor of our word “jail,” and it derives from Late Latin “caveola,” which means “little cage.” Anglo-French speakers had a related verb, “gaioler,” which meant “to chatter like a jay in a cage.” It's possible that “cajoler” is a combination of “gaioler” and “cage.”

Dave

A Word A Day — relict

Good morning, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• relict
• \REL-ikt\
• DEFINITION
•

noun

1
: a surviving species of an otherwise extinct group of organisms; also : a remnant of a formerly widespread species that persists in an isolated area
2
: something left unchanged
• EXAMPLES
•

This rare plant is a relict of a once abundant genus.

“Northern flying squirrels still remain in the highest elevations of Virginia and are known as ice age relicts.” From an article by Judy Molnar, Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), June 6, 2010

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

The oldest English sense of “relict” is extinct—or at least obsolete. In the 16th century, “relict” meant “an object esteemed and venerated because of association with a saint or martyr,” but that meaning is now covered by “relic,” a related word that can also refer to something left behind after decay or disappearance. “Relict” was also used to refer to a widow at one time, but now that sense is more or less limited to legal uses. It seems fitting that “relict” has outdated senses; after all, it derives ultimately from the Latin verb “relinquere,” meaning “to leave behind.”

Dave

A Word A Day — de rigeur

Good morning Netizens…

Word of the Day

• de rigueur
• \duh-ree-GUR\
• DEFINITION
•

: prescribed or required by fashion, etiquette, or custom : proper
• EXAMPLES
•

Although the teen was wearing a dinner jacket and a tie, his jeans and sneakers were hardly de rigueur for the formal occasion.

“'Wait, wait, wait! Put on my eyeglasses,' I insisted, substituting my mom's lightweight frames for the thick, big black ones that are de rigueur right now for many a bespectacled 20-something.” — From an article by Anthonia Akitunde in The Huffington Post, January 30, 2013

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

If you're invited to a ball or other social function and the invitation includes the French phrase “costume de rigueur,” you are expected to adhere to a very strict dress code—typically, a white tie and tails if you're a man and a floor-length evening gown if you're a woman. In French, “de rigueur” means “out of strictness” or “according to strict etiquette”; one definition of our word “rigor,” to which “rigueur” is related, is “the quality of being strict, unyielding, or inflexible.” In English, we tend to use “de rigueur” to describe a fashion or custom that is so commonplace within a context that it seems a prescribed, mandatory part of it.

Dave

A Word A Day — indoctrinate

Good afternoon, Netizens

Word of the Day

• indoctrinate
• \in-DAHK-truh-nayt\
• DEFINITION
•

verb

1
: to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments : teach
2
: to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle
• EXAMPLES
•

New hires were indoctrinated with the company's philosophy during a two-day orientation.

“This is why sworn peace officers are indoctrinated not just in firearm use but in restraint.” — From an editorial in the San Antonio Express-News, January 23, 2013

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

“Indoctrinate” simply means “brainwash” to many people. But its meaning isn't always so negative. When this verb first appeared in English in the 17th century, it simply meant “to teach”—a meaning that followed logically from its Latin root. The “doc” in the middle of “indoctrinate” derives from the Latin verb “docēre,” which also means “to teach.” Other offspring of “docēre” include “docent” (referring to a college professor or a museum guide), “docile,” “doctor,” “doctrine,” and “document.” It was not until the 19th century that “indoctrinate” began to see regular use in the sense of causing someone to absorb and take on certain opinions or principles.

Dave

A Word A Day — gnomic

Good norning, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• gnomic
• \NOH-mik\
• DEFINITION
•

1
: characterized by aphorism
2
: given to the composition of aphoristic writing
• EXAMPLES
•

Some critics have praised the young artist's gnomic utterances, while others argue that her sayings are simply pretentious rubbish.

“The film is grand but complex, canny and sincere.… If Spielberg were more intellectual or more gnomic in discussing his films, he might be regarded not as a mass-market wizard but as a cult director.” — From a film review by Francine Stock in Prospect, January 24, 2013

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

A gnome is an aphorism—that is, an observation or sentiment reduced to the form of a saying. Gnomes are sometimes couched in metaphorical or figurative language, they are often quite clever, and they are always concise. We borrowed the word “gnome” in the 16th century from the Greeks, who based their “gnōmē” on the verb “gignōskein,” meaning “to know.” (That other “gnome”—the dwarf of folklore—comes from New Latin and is unrelated to today's word.) We began using “gnomic,” the adjective form of “gnome,” in the early 19th century. It describes a style of writing (or sometimes speech) characterized by pithy phrases, which are often terse to the point of mysteriousness.

Dave

A Word A Day — meritorius

Good morning, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• meritorious
• \mair-uh-TOR-ee-us\
• DEFINITION
•

: worthy of reward, gratitude, honor, or esteem
• EXAMPLES
•

Mrs. Goodman received the town's Meritorious Service Award for her untiring efforts to keep the library open.

“In February 2011, President Barack Obama bestowed upon [Stan] Musial the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, which recognizes individuals who have made 'an especially meritorious contribution to the security of national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.'” — From an article by John Jeansonne in Newsday (New York), January 20, 2013

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

People who demonstrate meritorious behavior certainly “earn” our respect, and you can use that fact to remember that “meritorious” ultimately traces to the Latin verb “merēre,” which means “to earn.” Nowadays, the rewards earned for meritorious acts are likely to be of an immaterial nature: gratitude, admiration, praise, etc. But that wasn't always so. The history of “meritorious” recalls a reward more concrete in nature: money. The Latin word “meritorius,” an ancestor of the English “meritorious,” literally means “bringing in money.”

Dave

A Word A Day — allusion

Good morning, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• allusion
• \uh-LOO-zhun\
• DEFINITION
•

noun

1
: an implied or indirect reference especially in literature; also : the use of such references
2
: the act of making an indirect reference to something : the act of alluding to something
• EXAMPLES
•

The book's frequent literary allusions and high-flown turns of phrase made its narrative difficult to follow.

“Speaking with characteristic bluntness after his victory was announced, Mr. Zeman said he wanted to be the president of all the Czechs, but 'not of Godfather structures here,' an allusion to the country's problems with corruption.” — From an article by Dan Bilefsky in The New York Times, January 26, 2013

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

“Allusion” was borrowed into English in the middle of the 16th century. It derives from the Latin verb “alludere,” meaning “to refer to, to play with, or to jest,” as does its cousin “allude,” meaning “to make indirect reference” or “to refer.” “Alludere,” in turn, derives from a combination of the prefix “ad-” and “ludere” (“to play”). “Ludere” is a Latin word that English speakers have enjoyed playing with over the years; we've used it to create “collude,” “delude,” “elude,” and “prelude,” just to name a few.

Dave

Words of the day — paltry

Good morning, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• paltry
• \PAWL-tree\
• DEFINITION
•

1
: inferior, trashy
2
: mean, despicable
3
: trivial
4
: meager, measly
• EXAMPLES
•

Anna told us she was tired of engaging in paltry work and longed to do something meaningful with her life.

“Monday, I tried to cheer up snow fans who have been frowning at Seattle's paltry 0.6” of snowfall this winter by stating that February has had its share of snowfall over the years.” — From a post by meteorologist Scott Sistek on KOMONews.com's weather blog, January 29, 2013

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

Before “paltry” was an adjective, it was a noun meaning “trash.” That now obsolete noun in turn came from “palt” or “pelt,” dialect terms meaning “a piece of coarse cloth,” or broadly, “trash.” The adjective “paltry” first meant “trashy,” but it currently has a number of senses, all generally meaning “no good.” A “paltry house” might be run-down and unfit for occupancy; a “paltry trick” is a trick that is low-down and dirty; a “paltry excuse” is a trivial one; and a “paltry sum” is small and insufficient.

Dave

Words of the day — abandon

Good morning, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• abandon
• \uh-BAN-dun\
• DEFINITION
•

noun

: a thorough yielding to natural impulses; especially : enthusiasm, exuberance
• EXAMPLES
•

We chased one another through the snow, hurling snowballs with complete abandon.

“He slid head first, dived for balls, threw runners out, stole home against the Phillies, played with the sort of reckless abandon that endeared him to fans in Washington.” — From an article by Ed Graney in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, December 30, 2012

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

The sense of “abandon” defined above is a relative newcomer to the English language, dating from the early 1800s, but the noun itself is about 200 years older, having been first used in the 1600s in the sense of “the act of abandoning.” The earlier sense was influenced by the verb “abandon,” which was borrowed by Middle English in the 1300s from Anglo-French “abandoner.” The Anglo-French term in turn came from the phrase “(mettre) a bandun,” meaning “to hand over” or “put in someone's control.” The newer sense has been more directly influenced by French “abandon,” which means not only “abandonment or surrender,” but also “freedom from constraint.”

Dave

A Word A Day — thimblerig

Good morning, Netizens…

Word of the Day

• thimblerig
• \THIM-bul-rig\
• DEFINITION
•

verb

1
: to cheat by trickery
2
: to swindle by a trick in which a small ball or pea is quickly shifted from under one to another of three small cups to fool the spectator guessing its location
• EXAMPLES
•

The appraiser looked closely at the painting and then reluctantly told us that we had been thimblerigged into buying a worthless copy.

Thimblerigging the market was such an accepted practice some traders were even taunted for not stealing enough.” — From Leah McGrath Goodman's 2011 book The Asylum: The Renegades Who Hijacked the World's Oil Market

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

The game of thimblerig seems innocent enough. The thimblerigger places a little ball, pea, or other small object under one of three thimbles or cups. He or she deftly scoots the cups around on a table, then asks the player to bet on which one hides the object. But thimbleriggers are masters of sleight of hand and can move and manipulate the object unfairly—so the guileless player doesn't stand a chance of winning. (The poor bettor is probably unaware that “rig” has meant “to manipulate or control usually by deceptive or dishonest means” since the 1800s.) When the same sham is played with nutshells, it's called a “shell game,” and there's a related game played with cards known as “three-card monte.”

Dave

Words of the day — clepsydra

Good evening Netizens…

Word of the Day

• clepsydra
• \KLEP-suh-druh\
• DEFINITION
•

noun

: an instrument designed to measure time by the fall or flow of a quantity of water : water clock
• EXAMPLES
•

The ancient Greeks were known to time political speeches with a clepsydra; when the water was gone, the oration was over.

“One of the earliest mechanisms to measure time … was a clepsydra or water clock … in which a vessel either filled or emptied at some slow, regular rate….” — From an article by David W. Ball in Spectroscopy, December 2006

• DID YOU KNOW?
•

In ancient times the sun was used to measure time during the day, but sundials weren't much help after dark, so peoples around the world invented clocks that used dripping water to mark the hours. In one kind of water clock, possibly invented by the Chaldeans, a vessel was filled with water that was allowed to escape through a hole. The vessel's inside was marked with graduated lines, and the time was read by measuring the level of the remaining water. The ancient Greeks called their water clocks “klepsydra” (“water thief”), which comes from “kleptein” (“to steal”) and “hydōr” (“water”). English speakers stole “clepsydra” from the Greeks in the 16th century. Actual water clocks have become increasingly rare and we now use the word primarily in historical references.

Dave