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|Sunday, March 27th, 2005|
Some computer problems have cascaded into me falling behind in my wordoftheday
duties. Hopefully I'll be able to get things together next week sometime; until then, you can look elsewhere for new words. I recommend A.Word.A.Day
|Thursday, March 17th, 2005|
\kuh-BAHL; kuh-BAL\, noun
1. A secret, conspiratorial association of plotters or intriguers whose purpose is usually to bring about an overturn especially in public affairs.
2. The schemes or plots of such an association.
intransitive verb: To form a cabal; to conspire; to intrigue; to plot.
If you constantly disagreed with Winters, he wrote you out of his cabal, his conspiracy against the poetry establishment.
--Richard Elman, [?
]Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs
My father always had been a collector. There were the stamps, National Geographics, scrapbooks filled with his favorite political cartoons, and booklets justifying his belief that the world was under the control of a global cabal of elites unified by such organizations as the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Freemasons.
--Frederick Kempe, [?
But the new world of toys is by no means simply the product of a profit-mad cabal of toy pushers discovering new ways of exploiting the child market.
--Gary Cross, [?
The Anti-Federalists were not simply concerned that Congress was too small relatively--too small to be truly representative of the great diversity of the nation. Congress was also too small absolutely--too small to be immune from cabal and intrigue.
--Akhil Reed Amar, [?
]The Bill of Rights
Cabal derives from Medieval Latin cabala, a transliteration of Hebrew qabbalah, "received," hence "traditional, lore," from qabal, "to receive." The evolution in sense is: "(secret) tradition, secret, secret plots or intrigues, secret meeting, secret meeters, a group of plotters or intriguers."
|Wednesday, March 16th, 2005|
Lasting but a short time; fleeting.
The fugacious nature of life and time.
--Harriet Martineau, Autobiography
Tastes, smells... being, in comparison, fugacious.
--John Stuart Mill, Examination of Sir W. Hamilton's Philosophy
When he proposed the tax in May, Altman thought it would follow the fugacious nature of some flowers: bloom quickly and die just as fast.
--Will Rodgers, "Parks proposal falls on 3-2 vote," [?
]Tampa Tribune, June 27, 2001
Fugacious is derived from Latin fugax, fugac-, "ready to flee, flying; hence, fleeting, transitory," from fugere, "to flee, to take flight." Other words derived from the same root include fugitive, one who flees, especially from the law; refuge, a place to which to flee back (re-, "back"), and hence to safety; and fugue, literally a musical "flight."
|Tuesday, March 15th, 2005|
1. Occurring or returning daily; as, a quotidian fever.
2. Of an everyday character; ordinary; commonplace.
Erasmus thought More's career as a lawyer was a waste of a fine mind, but it was precisely the human insights More derived from his life in the quotidian world that gave him a moral depth Erasmus lacked. --"More man than saint," [?
]Irish Times, April 4, 1998
She also had a sense of fun that was often drummed out under the dull, quotidian beats of suburban life.
--Meg Wolitzer, [?
Quotidian is from Latin quotidianus, from quotidie, "daily," from quotus, "how many, as many, so many" + dies, "day."
|Monday, March 14th, 2005|
The state of being too much; excess.
What a nimiety of ... riches have we here! I am quite undone.
--James J. Kilpatrick, "Buckley: The Right Word," [?
]National Review, December 23, 1996
Just as daily life contains all the comforts of what one owns, there is also a natural shedding or forgetting and a natural dulling, otherwise one becomes burdened with a sense of nimiety, a sense (as Kenneth Clark put it in his autobiography) of the "too-muchness" of life.
--Nicholas Poburko, "Poetry, Past And Present: F. T. Prince's Walks in Rome," Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature, January 1, 1999
Nimiety is from Late Latin nimietas, from Latin nimius, "very much, too much," from nimis, "excessively."
|Sunday, March 13th, 2005|
\PAHRS\, transitive verb
1. To resolve (as a sentence) into its component parts of speech with an explanation of the form, function, and syntactical relationship of each part.
2. To describe grammatically by stating its part of speech, form, and syntactical relationships in a sentence.
3. To examine closely or analyze critically, especially by breaking up into components.
4. To make sense of; to comprehend.
5. (Computer Science) To analyze or separate (input, for example) into more easily processed components.
intransitive verb: To admit of being parsed.
We must learn to parse sentences and to analyse the grammar of our text, for, as Roman Jakobson has taught us, there is no access to the grammar of poetry, to the nerve and sinew of the poem, if one is blind to the poetry of grammar.
--George Steiner, [?
]No Passion Spent: Essays 1978-1995
There are too many spots where the rhythm goes momentarily awry; where words are used with murk, sloppiness or phonetic imprecision; where sentences are so twisted around that they become hard to parse; even times where it's hard to be sure just who or what is being referred to.
--Douglas Hofstadter, "What's Gained in Translation," [?
]New York Times, December 8, 1996
The American Constitution, for example, says that "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech."... once we parse notions like "abridging" and "the freedom of speech," perhaps we will decide cases on the basis of an inquiry into two, three, or more relevant considerations.
--Cass R. Sunstein, [?
]Legal Reasoning and Political Conflict
Parse comes from the Latin pars (orationis), "part (of speech)."
|Saturday, March 12th, 2005|
A usually inferior literary or artistic work, produced quickly for the purpose of making money.
The play was a mixed blessing. Through it O'Neill latched on to a perennial source of income, but the promise of his youth was essentially squandered on a potboiler.
--Jane Scovell, [?
]Oona. Living in the Shadows
If reading and travel are two of life's most rewarding experiences, to combine them is heavenly. I don't mean sitting on a beach reading the latest potboiler, a fine form of relaxation but not exactly mind-expanding.
--Stephen Kinzer, "Traveling Companions," [?
]New York Times, April 19, 1998
Potboiler comes from the phrase "boil the pot," meaning "to provide one's livelihood."
|Friday, March 11th, 2005|
A woman who habitually trifles with the affections of men; a flirt.
Their love is frustrated when the orphaned Bertha is adopted by "the old lady of the near castle" and becomes "somewhat of a coquette in manner," perversely entertaining suitors but accepting none.
--Lawrence Venuti, "The Awful Crime of I. U. Tarchetti: Plagiarism as Propaganda," [?
]New York Times, August 23, 1992
She was an energetic woman, always singing, dancing, a coquette. Her flirtatiousness infuriated my father.
--William Herrick, [?
]Jumping the Line
Here sat I, a personal student of Freud, of Adler, liberators of the erotic emotions, pioneers of sexual freedom; yet the nearness of this coquette had made me awash in perplexity and perspiration.
--Leslie Epstein, [?
Coquette is the feminine form of French coquet, "flirtatious man," diminutive of coq, "rooster, cock." The adjective form is coquettish. The verb coquet (also coquette) means "to flirt or trifle with."
Trivia: The male version is a coquet (pronounced the same as the female version). However, this word has fallen into disuse and is now considered obsolete.
|Thursday, March 10th, 2005|
1. Given to shedding tears; suffused with tears; tearful.
2. Causing or tending to cause tears.
At the farewell party on the boat, Joyce was surrounded by a lachrymose family.
--Edna O'Brien, "She Was the Other Ireland," [?
]New York Times, June 19, 1988
I promise to do my best, and if at any time my resolution lapses, pen me a few fierce vitriolic words and you shall receive by the next post a lachrymose & abject apology in my most emotional hand writing.
--Rupert Brooke, letter to James Strachey, July 7, 1905
The game is perpetuated by the sons in a sometimes vicious sibling rivalry that inevitably subsides into lachrymose reconciliation.
--Arthur Gelb and Barbara Gelb, [?
]O'Neill: Life With Monte Cristo
Meanwhile, a lachrymose new waltz, "After The Ball Is Over," was sweeping the nation.
--Benjamin Welles, [?
]Sumner Welles: FDR's Global Strategist
Lachrymose is from Latin lacrimosus, from lacrima, "tear."
|Tuesday, March 8th, 2005|
\AM-buh-skayd; am-buh-SKAYD\, noun
transitive verb: To attack by surprise from a concealed place; to ambush.
But so great were his fears for the army, lest in those wild woods it should fall into some Indian snare, that the moment his fever left him, he got placed on his horse, and pursued, and overtook them the very evening before they fell into that ambuscade which he had all along dreaded.
--Mason Locke Weems, [?
]The Life of Washington
The storm is distant, just the lights behind The eyes are left of lightning's ambuscade.
--Peter Porter, "The Last Wave Before the Breakwater"
No more ambuscades, no more shooting from behind trees.
--William Murchison, "What the voters chose," Human Life Review, January 1, 1995
Ambuscade comes from Middle French embuscade, from Old Italian imboscata, from past participle of imboscare, "to ambush," from in, (from Latin) + bosco, "forest," of Germanic origin.
|Sunday, March 6th, 2005|
Favoritism shown to members of one's family, as in business; bestowal of patronage in consideration of relationship, rather than of merit or of legal claim.
I got a job there as a result of my grandfather being on the board of directors -- a lesson in loyalty here, or, should I say, just plain old nepotism.
--James Carville, [?
]Stickin': The Case for Loyalty
The staff was recruited by unabashed nepotism.
--Noel Annan, [?
Some custodians have worked their way around more recent nepotism rules by hiring each other's relatives.
--Diane Ravitch and Joseph P. Viteritti, [?
]New Schools for a New Century
Nepotism derives from Latin nepot-, nepos, "grandson, nephew." It is related to nephew, which comes from the Latin via Old French neveu.
|Saturday, March 5th, 2005|
1. Lacking in harmony, compatibility, or appropriateness.
2. Inconsistent with reason, logic, or common sense.
I have since often observed, how incongruous and irrational the common Temper of Mankind is.
--Daniel Defoe, [?
She made nightdresses and petticoats in the old-fashioned mode and sold them to a shop in the market town -- one of those exclusive little shops with a single garment and something imaginatively incongruous -- a monkey's skull or an old boot -- arranged in the window.
--Alice Thomas Ellis, [?
They made an incongruous pair as they walked on: one was slight and dapper, some thirty-five years in age, with long, clipped mustaches, and dressed in the height of modern elegance, complete with pearl buttons and gold watch chain. The other, ambling a few paces behind, was a towering fellow with grizzled mutton-chop whiskers, whose ill-fitting frock coat barely contained a barrel chest.
--Ben Macintyre, [?
]The Napoleon of Crime
Incongruous comes from Latin incongruus, from in-, "not" + congruus, "agreeing, fit, suitable," from congruere, "to run together, to come together, to meet."
|Friday, March 4th, 2005|
1. Lodging for soldiers.
2. An official order directing that a soldier be provided with lodging.
3. A position of employment; a job.
1. To quarter, or place in lodgings.
2. To serve (a person) with an official order to provide lodging for soldiers.
intransitive verb: To be quartered; to lodge.
When he was well enough, he was retrieved back to his billet in the American zone.
--Frances Stonor Saunders, [?
]The Cultural Cold War
Louisa stayed at the hospital to be near him, while the younger children were billeted at a nearby house with their Irish governess.
--Douglas Botting, [?
We arrived jet-lagged at Tan Son Nhut airport where someone met us and hurried us off to wherever we were billeted, usually a villa on one of the wide residential boulevards that reminded everyone of a French provincial city.
--Ward Just, [?
]A Dangerous Friend
Billet is from Medieval French billette, from Old French bullette, diminutive of bulle, "a document," from Medieval Latin bulla, "a document."
|Thursday, March 3rd, 2005|
Extremely cold; icy.
The weather is gelid on a recent Thursday night--so uninviting that it's hard to imagine anyone venturing out.
--Letta Tayler, "The Accent's on Brooklyn," [?
]Newsday, April 6, 2000
Last January a major crisis arose when the Argentine naval supply ship Bahia Paraiso foundered near an island off the Antarctic Peninsula, creating a diesel-oil spill that inflicted untold damage on the ecosystems clinging to the edges of the icy continent or swimming in its gelid seas.
--Christopher Redman Paris, "Could anything be more terrible than this silent, windswept immensity?" [?
]Time, October 23, 1989
Gelid comes from Latin gelidus, from gelu, "frost, cold."
|Wednesday, March 2nd, 2005|
\FEE-uht; -at; -aht; FY-uht; -at\, noun
1. An arbitrary or authoritative command or order.
2. Formal or official authorization or sanction.
He found a provision in the college constitution that said there were to be no executive committees, and arguing that those stodgy impediments to serious change had grown up only by convention and tradition; he abolished them and ruled these faculty meetings by fiat, using each as an occasion to announce what he was going to do next that was sure to stir up even more resentment.
--Philip Roth, [?
]The Human Stain
Americans tend to squirm about the messiness of their two best-known trade agreements with Japan: the "voluntary limitations" that have restricted exports of Japanese cars to the United States since 1981, and the semiconductor agreement of 1986, which declared by fiat that foreign manufacturers should get 20 percent of semiconductor sales in Japan.
--James Fallows, "Containing Japan," [?
]The Atlantic, May 1989
Fiat derives from Latin fiat, "let it be done," from fieri, "to be done."
|Tuesday, March 1st, 2005|
Favorable to health; promoting health; healthful.
A physician warned him his health was precarious, so Montague returned to the United States, shelved his legal ambitions and searched for a salubrious climate where he might try farming. --"Teeing Off Into the Past At Oakhurst," [?
]New York Times, May 2, 1999
For years, her mother has maintained that the sea air has a salubrious effect on both her spirits and her vocal cords.
--Anita Shreve, [?
Uptown, however, the tanners' less salubrious quarter is notorious for its stench. --"Byzantium," [?
]Toronto Star, February 7, 1999
Salubrious is from Latin salubris, "healthful," from salus, "health."
|Sunday, February 27th, 2005|
1. A joyous song of praise, triumph, or thanksgiving.
2. An expression of praise or joy.
Bud Guthrie had written a paean to the grizzly, calling it the "living, snorting incarnation of the wildness and grandeur of America."
--David Whitman, "The Return of the Grizzly," [?
]The Atlantic, September 2000
If you look at what British writers were saying about England before and after the war, you read for the most part a seamless paean to the virtues of the nation's strength and identity.
--Hugo Young, [?
]This Blessed Plot
Paean comes from Latin paean, "a hymn of thanksgiving, often addressed to god Apollo," from Greek paian, from Paia, a title of Apollo.
|Saturday, February 26th, 2005|
A fine or penalty. transitive verb:
1. To punish for an offense or misdemeanor by imposing a fine or demanding a forfeiture.
2. To obtain by fraud or deception.
3. To defraud; to swindle.
Officials repaid such loans by mulcting the public in a variety of legal and extra-legal ways.
--William H. McNeill, [?
]A World History
The fact that major corporations don't have to pay their own way, and instead are able to enlist legislators to mulct common citizens -- and businesses with more modest Washington connections -- deforms the entire political system.
--Doug Bandow, "The Bipartisan Scandal of U.S. Corporate Welfare"
State lawmakers and state courts... [have] ditched old common law rules so as to charge deep-pocket defendants with harms that were once considered other people's fault, thus making it thinkable to mulct automakers for the costs of drunk drivers' crashes
--Walter Olson, "Firing Squad," [?
]Reason, May 1999
Mulct comes from Latin multa, "a fine."
|Friday, February 25th, 2005|
1. A rude or unscrupulous person; a scoundrel.
2. A person who uses foul or abusive language.
adjective: Scurrilous; abusive; low; worthless; vicious; as, "blackguard language."
transitive verb: To revile or abuse in scurrilous language.
Douglas was not a saint, though, so his behaviour and attitude were, as he wrote, 'neither better nor worse than my contemporaries -- that is to say, [I became] a finished young blackguard, ripe for any kind of wickedness'.
--Douglas Murray, [?
]Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas
The years, as time went on, imparted to him that peculiar majesty that white-haired blackguards, successful (and unpunished) criminals, seem generally to possess.
--Saul David, [?
]Prince of Pleasure
Monroe wondered, but did not ask, what could have driven a young lady of such fine bearing and aristocratic attraction to leave home at a tender age and follow the fortunes of a blackguard like Reynolds.
--William Safire, [?
When we want to talk friendly with him, he will not listen to us, and from beginning to end his talk is blackguard.
--Tecumseh, quoted in [?
]Tecumseh: A Life, by John Sugden
Blackguard is from black + guard. The term originally referred to the lowest kitchen servants of a court or of a nobleman's household. They had charge of pots and pans and kitchen other utensils, and rode in wagons conveying these during journeys from one residence to another. Being dirtied by this task, they were jocularly called the "black guard."
|Thursday, February 24th, 2005|
\es-CHOO\, transitive verb
To shun; to avoid (as something wrong or distasteful).
In high school and college the Vassar women had enjoyed that lifestyle, but afterward they had eschewed it as shallow.
--Nina Burleigh, [?
]A Very Private Woman
While teaching in Beijing, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang in the late 1920s, he helped launch what became known as the "new poetry" movement, which eschewed traditional forms and encouraged topics based on everyday life.
--Bruce Gilley, [?
]Tiger on the Brink
Finally, the first American diplomats... made a point of eschewing fancy dress, titles, entertainments, and all manner of protocol, so as to be walking, talking symbols of republican piety.
--Walter A. McDougall, [?
]Promised Land, Crusader State
Eschew comes from Old French eschiver, ultimately of Germanic origin.