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barcarole

Sep. 21st, 2018 | 07:57 am

barcarole (BAHR-kuh-rohl) - n., a traditional folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers; a piece of music written in the same style as such songs.


Usually they are moderate tempo in 6/8 (sometimes 12/8) time, with strong and weak beats alternating suggestive of the rhythm of the sculling of the gondolier. From French barcarolle, from Venetian dialect Italian barcarola, song sung by a boatman, feminine of barcarolo, boatman, from barca, boat, from Latin, from Greek, from Egyptian byjr, a type of flat-bottomed boat + -olo, ending indicating a person.

Gondola in a canal
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---L.

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turophile

Sep. 20th, 2018 | 07:47 am

turophile (TOOR-uh-fail, TYOOR-uh-fail) - n., a lover of cheese.


With connotation of a connoisseur. Coined in the 1930s from Greek roots turós, cheese +‎ -phile, lover.

A wedge of gruyère cheese
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---L.

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coquina

Sep. 19th, 2018 | 07:39 am

coquina (koh-KEE-nuh) - n., a small clam (Donax variabilis) abundant in the intertidal zone of eastern and southern U.S. coastal beaches, with fanlike bands of various hues; (geol.) a soft porous limestone made of fragments of marine shells.


For the clam, the paired empty shells often spread in a butterfly shape, thus giving an alternate name, butterfly-shell clam. The colors are pretty, too -- I used to spend hours on the beach, collecting as many shades as I could.

Shades of coquinas
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The name is an Americanism from the 1830s, from Spanish conquina, cockle, diminutive of concha, shell, from Latin concha, bivalve/mollusk/mussel, from Greek kónkhē, mussel/shell.

---L.

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obverse

Sep. 18th, 2018 | 07:47 am

obverse (n. OB-vurs; adj. ob-VURS, OB-vurs) - n., the front or principle side of a coin, medal, etc.; the more conspicuous of two possible alternatives. adj., facing or turned toward the observer; serving as a counterpart.


As opposed to the reverse of the coin, medal, etc. This US$1 coin has the head of Susan B. Anthony on the obverse:

A dollar coin
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(Yes, that's an eagle flying over the moon. Your point?) First used in English (in both forms) in the 1650s, from Latin obversus, turned toward/against, past participle of obvertere, from ob-, toward/over/against + vertere, to turn.

---L.

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whelm

Sep. 17th, 2018 | 07:48 am

whelm (HWELM) - v., to submerge, engulf; to overcome utterly.


In that last sense, a close synonym of overwhelm, which is in fact an intensified form of this. There's also an obsolete sense of to turn (something concave, such as a bowl) upside down to cover something, which I find kind of charming. In Middle English, it was whelmen, apparently from Old English hwelfan, to cover over, altered by association with helmian, to cover, which has the root of helmet. Oookay then.

Sinking ship in stormy waters Thanks, WikiMedia!

---L.

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hippocrepiform

Sep. 14th, 2018 | 07:48 am

hippocrepiform (hip-poh-KREP-i-form) - adj., shaped like a horseshoe.


A hippocrepiform horseshoe
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Aside from it's from coined from mixed Greek and Latin roots hippos, horse + krēpis, boot + -form, shape of, I got nothing.

---L.

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contextomy

Sep. 13th, 2018 | 08:01 am

contextomy (kon-TEKS-tuh-mee) - n., misquoting by shortening the quotation or by leaving out surrounding words or sentences that would place the quotation in context.


This can range from a movie ad that claims it's been called "a small masterpiece" when the reviewer actually said the credits were "a small masterpiece of dementia", to ordinary quote-mining to present bits out of context to smear someone. Though "ordinary" is not the best adjective to use for, for example, taking bits from the Talmud that present an argument to be refuted and using them to portray it as advocating greed, slavery, and ritual murder, as Nazi propaganda regularly did. Regardless, the phrase "quote out of context" is pretty old, this coinage is from the mid-1960s, from context + -tomy, Greek-root suffix meaning cutting (as in appendectomy, the cutting out of the appendix).

---L.

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ostrichism

Sep. 12th, 2018 | 07:53 am

ostrichism (AW-strich-izm) - n., the habit or policy of refusing to face unpleasant facts.


The act of burying one's figurative head in the sand, much as the ostrich has been popularly believed to do by way of hiding its whole self, thinking that if it can't see the lion, the lion can't see it. This is not a recent coinage -- it dates back to at least the 1830s. Ostrich itself is Latin strūthiō with an initial vowel added on passing through Old French, from Greek, shortened from strouthiokámēlos, literally sparrow-caeml.

Ostriches hiding from a girl and her chipmonk
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---L.

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blamestorming

Sep. 11th, 2018 | 08:44 am

blamestorming (BLAYM-stawr-ming) - n., a discussion or meeting for the purpose of assigning blame.


Or sometimes, time spent during a meeting in group discussion of who or what is to blame. There is a stem form of the verb, to blamestorm, but it's most often seen in as a present participle. Coined in the late 1990s on the model of brainstorming, in the positive sense of a discussion about finding a solution.

---L.

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medlar

Sep. 7th, 2018 | 07:50 am

medlar (MED-ler) - n., a small deciduous Eurasian tree (Mespilus germanica or Crataegus germanica) resembling a crab-apple, whose is not edible until the early stages of decay; any of handful of similar trees, including the Japanese medlar or loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) and Mediterranean medlar or azarole (Crataegus azarolus); the fruit of any of these trees.


The common medlar has been cultivated for around 3000 years, and was originally native to a band around the Black Sea from southeastern Europe to Iran. The fruits are hard and acidic until "bletted" to a mushy brown by frost or long-term storage, at which point it's not spoiled but finally ripe. Medlars were an important fruit in southern Europe in medieval times, but starting in the 17th centuries it was superseded by other fruits and is not commonly cultivated today. This name has been used in English since the mid-14th century (before which it was called open-arse), then spelled more like medler, from Old French meslier/medler, from mesle/medle, fruit of the medlar, from Late Latin mespila, from Greek mespilē, a foreign word of unknown origin.

Medlar fruits open-arsed on the tree
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---L.

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