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2nd-Aug-2009 07:47 am - Word of the day: gallimaufry (noun)
zen
SATURDAY

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gallimaufry • \gal-uh-MAW-free\ • noun
: hodgepodge

Example Sentence:
I was ready to leave the flea market, when, on one table, among a gallimaufry of undistinguished objects, I caught sight of an exquisite silver spoon engraved with my initials.

Did you know?
If the word "gallimaufry" doesn't make your mouth water, it may be because you don't know its history. In the 16th century, Middle-French speaking cooks made a meat stew called "galimafree." It must have been a varied dish, because English speakers chose its name for any mix or jumble of things. If "gallimaufry" isn't to your taste, season your speech with one of its synonyms: "hash" (which can be a muddle or chopped meat and potatoes), "hotchpotch" (a stew or a hodgepodge), or "potpourri" (another stew turned medley).
29th-Jul-2009 06:02 am - Word of the day: mohair (noun)
fun
TUESDAY

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mohair • \MOH-hair\ • noun
: a fabric or yarn made wholly or in part of the long silky hair of the Angora goat; also : this hair

Example Sentence:
This year's product line includes coats and sweaters made from mohair produced in Texas.

Did you know?
"Mohair" entered the English language in the 16th century, spelled variously as "mocayare," "mockaire," "mokayre," and "moochary." It was borrowed from Italian "mocaiarro," a word which itself was borrowed from Arabic "mukhayyar." The adjective "mukhayyar" meant "select" or "choice." How this Arabic adjective came to be the English noun "mohair" is a bit of a mystery. It is possible that "mukhayyar" was used as a colloquial noun in the sense of "wool of prime quality" (that is, "choice wool"). In English, the shift from "mocayare" and similar spellings to "mohair" was likely influenced by the more familiar English word "hair."
18th-Jul-2009 06:41 pm - Word of the day: reiterate (verb)
fun
SATURDAY

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reiterate • \ree-IT-uh-rayt\ • verb
: to state or do over again or repeatedly sometimes with wearying effect

Example Sentence:
Megan rolled her eyes as her mother reiterated the rules for the umpteenth time.

Did you know?
Can you guess the meaning of "iterate," a less common relative of "reiterate"? It must mean simply "to state or do," right? Nope. Actually, "iterate" also means "to state or do again." It's no surprise, then, that some usage commentators have insisted that "reiterate" must always mean "to say or do again AND AGAIN." No such nice distinction exists in actual usage, however. Both "reiterate" and "iterate" can convey the idea of a single repetition or of many repetitions. "Reiterate" is the older of the two words -- it first appeared in the 15th century, whereas "iterate" turned up around 1533. Both stem from the Latin verb "iterare," which is itself from "iterum" ("again"), but "reiterate" took an extra step, through Latin "reiterare"("to repeat").
11th-Jul-2009 02:16 am - Word of the day: weird (adj.)
fun
SATURDAY

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weird • \WEERD\ • adjective
1 : of, relating to, or caused by witchcraft or the supernatural
*2 : of strange or extraordinary character : odd, fantastic
Example Sentence:
"Again was I suddenly recalled to my immediate surroundings by a repetition of the weird moan from the depths of the cave." (Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars)

Did you know?
You may know today’s word as a generalized term describing something unusual, but "weird" also has older meanings that are more specific. "Weird" derives from the Old English noun "wyrd," essentially meaning "fate." By the 8th century, the plural "wyrde" had begun to appear in texts as a gloss for "Parcae," the Latin name for the Fates -- three goddesses who spun, measured, and cut the thread of life. In the 15th and16th centuries, Scots authors employed "werd" or "weird" in the phrase "weird sisters" to refer to the Fates. William Shakespeare adopted this usage in Macbeth, in which the "weird sisters" are depicted as three witches. Subsequent adjectival use of "weird" grew out of a reinterpretation of the "weird" used by Shakespeare.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
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30th-Jun-2009 11:37 pm - Word of the day: periphrasis (noun)
oh
TUESDAY

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periphrasis • \puh-RIFF-ruh-sis\ • noun
1 : use of a longer phrasing in place of a possible shorter form of expression
*2 : an instance of periphrasis

Example Sentence:
The college English teacher warned her students against padding their essays with periphrases solely to reach the required length.

Did you know?
It's easy enough to point out the origins of "periphrasis": the word was borrowed into English in the early 16th century via Latin from Greek "periphrazein," which in turn comes from the prefix "peri-," meaning "all around," and the verb "phrazein," "to point out." Two common descendants of "phrazein" in English are "phrase" and "paraphrase," the latter of which combines "phrazein" with the prefix "para-," meaning "closely resembling." Another "phrazein" descendant is the less familiar word "holophrasis," meaning "the expression of a complex of ideas in a single word or in a fixed phrase." (The prefix "holo-" can mean "completely.")

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
27th-Jun-2009 02:17 am - Word of the day: roman à clef (noun)
tehehe
SATURDAY

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roman à clef • \roh-mahn-ah-KLAY\ • noun
: a novel in which real persons or actual events figure under disguise

Example Sentence:
Critics quickly identified the ex-press secretary’s new novel as a roman a clef with characters closely resembling figures from the current presidential administration.

Did you know?
"Unlock the fiction, open the door and see the very real people behind it," wrote Jeff Simon in The Buffalo News (March 19, 1998). That can be easily done when a roman à clef uses fictitious names to present thinly veiled depictions of well-known people or events. But what if only a few insiders know the real people or incidents? In the 1800s, such romans a clef sometimes included a key, a list matching fictional characters with their real-life counterparts, that helped readers recognize the players. Such keys made "roman a clef" (from a French phrase meaning "a novel with a key") an apt term for such works. Nowadays, there are no published keys in a roman à clef -- merely veiled (or sometimes blatant) references that connect fact with fiction.
24th-Jun-2009 12:36 am - Word of the day: cavalcade (noun)
tehehe
TUESDAY: Train sounds are sort of fun to listen to.

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cavalcade • \kav-ul-KAYD\ • noun
1 a : a procession of riders or carriages * b : a procession of vehicles or ships
2 : a dramatic sequence or procession : series

Example Sentence:
The crowds cheered and waved as the cavalcade of fire trucks rolled through the streets along the parade route.

Did you know?
When "cavalcade" was first used in English, it meant "a horseback ride" or "a march or raid made on horseback." Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, used it this way in his 1647 History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England : "He had with some Troops, made a Cavalcade or two into the West." From there came the "procession of riders" meaning and eventual applications to processions in a broader sense. "Cavalcade" came to English via French from the Old Italian noun "cavalcata," which in turn came from an Old Italian verb, "cavalcare," meaning "to go on horseback." Ultimately, these words came from the Latin word "caballus," meaning "horse."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
15th-Jun-2009 10:56 pm - Word of the day: occiput (noun)
tehehe
MONDAY: Free day. Woohoo!

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occiput • \AHK-sih-put\ • noun
: the back part of the head or skull

Example Sentence:
"So let me suggest that everyone put away their pitchforks and firebrands and stop trying to 'bury the hatchet' by planting it in the other fellow's occiput." (Allan Falk, Michigan Lawyers Weekly, May 7, 2007)

Did you know?
"Occiput" came to English from Latin, where it was created from "ob-," meaning "against," and "capit-" or "caput," meaning "head." Its adjectival form, "occipital," meaning "of, relating to, or located within or near the occiput or the occipital bone," abounds in medical texts but is found in literary ones too, as in George Eliot's description of the coiffure of the "young ladies who frizzed their hair, and gathered it all into large barricades in front of their heads, leaving their occipital region exposed without ornament, as if that, being a back view, was of no consequence…" in Scenes of Clerical Life. Another "caput" derivation is "sinciput," a word used to refer to either the forehead or the upper half of the skull.
15th-Jun-2009 01:46 am - Word of the day: complaisant (adj.)
eek
MONDAY: A bit confusing.

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complaisant • \kum-PLAY-sunt\ • adjective
*1 : marked by an inclination to please or oblige
2 : tending to consent to others' wishes

Example Sentence:
Derek was a complaisant boy, always happy to oblige whenever his mother or father asked him to go on an errand.

Did you know?
The homophones "complaisant" and "complacent" are often confused -- and no wonder. Not only do they look and sound alike, but they also both derive ultimately from Latin "complacēre," meaning "to please greatly." "Complacent" usually means "self-satisfied" or "unconcerned," but it also shares with "complaisant" the sense of "marked by an inclination to please or oblige." This sense of "complacent" is an old one, but that hasn't kept language critics from labeling it as an error -- and on the whole, modern writers do prefer "complaisant" for this meaning. Conversely, "complaisant" is sometimes mistakenly used in contexts such as "complaisant about injustices," where "complacent," with its sense of "marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies," should go. One aid is to remember that with the preposition "about," you probably want "complacent."

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
11th-Jun-2009 11:37 pm - Word of the day: links (noun)
oh
THURSDAY

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links • \LINKS\ • noun plural
1 Scottish : sand hills especially along the seashore
*2 : golf course

Example Sentence:
Numerous celebrity golfers took to the links this weekend to raise money for charity.

Did you know?
The game of golf originated on the sandy hills of Scotland, on a type of terrain known as "links" or "linksland." Eventually, the game's layout came to be called by the same name as the land, and "links" developed the meaning of "a golf course built on the coastline," which eventually broadened to include any golf course. "Links" is ultimately derived from the Old English word "hlincas" (the plural of "hlinc," meaning "ridge"). Recorded evidence of "hlinces" (a variant of "hlincas") goes back as far as 931, but "links" began appearing in English only in the 15th century. Britain has a number of old-fashioned links courses (built to resemble the Scottish landscape and located on the coastline), and there are a few in the United States as well.

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
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