Do You Know This Word?
a unifying or dominant motif; a recurrent theme: A leitmotif in science fiction is the evolving relationship between humans and machines.
The English noun leitmotif, also spelled leitmotiv, “leading motive, guiding motive, a recurring theme associated with a particular person, place, or event,” comes from the German noun Leitmotif and is especially associated with Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung (the Ring Cycle), but the term antedates Wagner, and Wagner himself never used it. German Leitmotif is a compound of the verb leiten “to guide, lead” (cognate with the English verb lead) and the noun Motiv, a German borrowing from French motif. Leitmotif entered English in the second half of the 19th century.
Two weeks before Christmas, on one of those balmy, pale-gold afternoons that pass for winter in Northern California, a handful of Silicon Valley’s most prominent executives and financiers held a secret meeting whose leitmotif was that rarest of concepts in the world of business: guilt.
So the leitmotif of the inevitability of change and loss in the 10 items of grandfatherly wisdom I wanted to share with him is now something he is experiencing palpably.
dash; impetuous ardor: to dance with great élan.
The still unnaturalized French noun élan, “dash, impetuous ardor,” originally applied to a military charge or rush. élan comes from Old and Middle French eslan “a rush,” from the verb eslancer “to throw or cast a lance or dart.” Eslancer in turn comes from the Latin preposition and prefix ex, ex- “out, out of, from” and the noun lancea “light spear for throwing,” possibly a Gaulish or Spanish loanword in Latin. élan entered English in the second half of the 19th century.
He then launched into the Gigue of Bach’s C-major Suite—robust, driving music that Ma brought off with his usual precision and élan.
With a certain élan, the?San Francisco Chronicle?has taken to publishing letters from readers who remark the diminishing pleasure or usefulness of the?San Francisco Chronicle.
verb (used with object)
to get or achieve (something) by guile, trickery, or manipulation: to finagle an assignment to the Membership Committee.
Finagle (or fenagle), “to cheat or swindle a person,” is in origin an American slang word. Finagle is probably a variant of fainaigue, a British dialect term with two meanings: “to shirk work or responsibility” and “to renege at a card game,” that is, to play a card that is not of the suit led when one can follow suit” (this to a layman sounds an awful lot like cheating). A citation from 1839 from Herefordshire (a county in West England) reads, “If two men are heaving a heavy weight, and one of them pretends to be putting out his strength, though in reality leaving all the strain on the other, he is said to feneague [sic].” Fainaigue (feneague) and finagle (fenagle) have no agreed etymology. Finagle entered English in the mid-1920s.
Meng?pleaded guilty last year?to using his position in China to finagle more than $2 million in bribes between 2005 and 2017.
in order to provide its citizens tests for a pandemic disease, the wealthiest and most powerful nation had to desperately finagle the services of volunteer coders at Google.
a soft murmur; whisper.
Susurration, “a murmur, whisper,” ultimately comes from the Latin noun susurrātiō (inflectional stem susurrātiōn-), “a murmur, whisper, soft rustling,” a derivative of susurrāt(us), the past participle of the verb susurrāre. Unsurprisingly, susurrāre (and all its derivatives) is onomatopoeic not only in Latin, but also in other Indo-European languages, from the Proto-Indo-European root swer-, swor-, sw?– “to buzz, hum.” The same root supplies the name of small animals: for instance, the root variant swor– is the source of Latin sōrex (stem sōric-) “shrew, shrew mouse,” Greek hyrax (stem hyrak-) “shrew, shrew mouse, hyrax” and Greek hyron “beehive, swarm (of bees).” The Germanic form swar– (from swor-) supplies English swirl and swarm, Old Norse svarmr “uproar, tumult,” and German schwirren “to buzz (of an insect), whirr (of an arrow).” Susurration entered English in the first half of the 15th century.
It must be the whisper of time as it bends over the horizon, a susurration of mortality none can escape.
Leaving the hotel and taking a stroll, I was reminded that the town’s homey otherness is heightened at night. … The susurrations of palms … caress the ear.
a vigorous discussion or dispute.
Argy-bargy, “a vigorous discussion, dispute,” appears in print in 1887, just 15 years after its “original,” argle-bargle. The argle of argle-bargle is a variant of argue. Yet another variant, argue-bargue, which gives away the entire etymology, appears in 1906. Argle entered English towards the end of the 16th century; its offspring all date from the second half of the 19th century.
There appears to have ensued more than two decades of argy-bargy over where the new hall should be located, during which time the merchants would meet at the Chamber of Commerce premises.
On the international scene, he can only be reassured by the strident argy-bargy between Moscow and Peking, despite some pundits’ predictions that the U.S. stand in Viet Nam could only induce harmony between the two great Communist powers.
to declare frankly or openly; own; acknowledge; confess; admit: He avowed himself an opponent of all alliances.
Avow, “to declare openly, acknowledge, admit,” has always had a formal air, a solemnity about it. It comes from Middle English avouen, advouen, awouen, from Old French avo(u)er, a regular phonetic development of Latin advocāre “to call upon, summon (assistance), convoke” (whose past participle advocātus is the source of the English verb and noun advocate). Advocāre is composed of the overworked preposition and prefix ad, ad- “to, toward” and the verb vocāre “to call,” a derivative of the noun vox, stem vōc- “voice, human voice.” Avow entered English in the 13th century.
Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write?
Scott achieved fame (and a baronetcy) as a poet, but he did not avow authorship of his novels until relatively late in his career.
an inference; conclusion.
Illation, “drawing an inference or conclusion,” is one of the meanings of the Late Latin noun illātiō (inflectional stem illātiōn-), literally, “a carrying in, a bringing in”; its other meanings include “burial, interment” and “impost or duty.” Illātiō is the noun that corresponds to the Latin verb inferre “to bring, bring into, conclude, infer.” Just as English uses better and best as the comparative and superlative of good, and went as the past tense of go (a process called suppletion), so Latin uses lātus as the past participle of ferre and its derivatives; thus the verbal noun of the verb inferre is illātiō (or inlātiō). Illation entered English in the 16th century.
Such an illation seems to Croce without foundation and disastrous for the authentic history of that land.
For those that are not men of art, not knowing the true forms of syllogism, nor the reasons of them, cannot know whether they are made in right and conclusive modes and figures or no, and so are not at all helped by the forms they are put into; though by them the natural order, wherein the mind could judge of their respective connexion, being disturbed, renders the illation much more uncertain than without them.