Word of the Day

Thursday, November 12, 2020

modicum

[ mod-i-kuhm, moh-di- ]

noun

a moderate or small amount.

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What is the origin of modicum?

Modicum?in Latin means “a small, modest amount,” specifically of money, if we may be so crass. Modicum is a noun use of the neuter singular of the adjective modicus “(used for) measuring, moderate, restrained, slight,” a derivative of the noun modus “measured amount or quantity, limit, measure, time, melody.” Modus is a derivative of the verb meditārī “to think about, ponder, meditate,” from the Proto-Indo-European root med-, mēd-, mod-, mōd– “to measure, take proper measures, judge, cure.” Further Latin derivatives from this set of roots include medērī “to heal, cure,” medicus “physician,” medicīna “the art of medicine, the practice of medicine, the administration of medicines,” remediāre “to treat (successfully), cure,” and its derivative noun remediātiō (stem remediātiōn-), source of English remediate and remediation. The variant mod– also yields Latin modestus “restrained, temperate,” and its opposite immodestus “unrestrained, licentious,” English modest and immodest. Modicum entered English in the second half of the 14th century.

how is modicum used?

But by relieving himself of his secret he discovers at least a modicum of peace.

Paul Morton, "The March of Progress Is Never Neat: Merle Miller's On Being Different," The Millions, November 15, 2012

Anxiety and?depression?naturally arise when we perceive we have no power over a situation. Doing something, such as documenting seasonal changes, is a way to restore a modicum of control and a sense of well-being.

Theresa Crimmins, "To Ease Climate Anxiety, Reconnect with the Rhythms of the Seasons," Scientific American, January 5, 2020

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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

fidelity

[ fi-del-i-tee, fahy- ]

noun

loyalty.

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What is the origin of fidelity?

Fidelity “loyalty, faithfulness” comes via Middle English and Old French from the Latin noun fidēlitās (inflectional stem fidēlitāt-), a derivative of the adjective fidēlis (familiar to Americans from the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis “Always Faithful”). Fidēlis is a derivative of the noun fidēs “trust, assurance, guarantee.” The Latin forms come from the Proto-Indo-European root bheidh-, bhoidh-, bhidh– “to trust.” The variant bheidh– is the source of Latin fīdus “faithful, loyal,” fīdere “to trust, have confidence in,” Greek peísesthai “to trust, rely on, obey, be persuaded,” and Greek Peith? “(the goddess of) persuasion.” Bhoidh– is the source of Latin foedus “formal agreement, league, treaty” (source of English federal, federate, and confederate); the variant bhidh– forms Latin fidēs and Greek pístis “faith, trust, authentication,” and pistós “faithful, reliable, credible.” The English noun faith comes from Middle English feith, faith, from Old French feid, feit, fei, from Latin fidem, the accusative singular of fidēs. (The English pronunciation of faith is all but identical to that implied by the Old French forms, quite different from the modern French pronunciation.) Fidelity entered English in the early 16th century.

how is fidelity used?

Through it all he’s shown a deep and abiding fidelity to one of our cherished ideals as a people and that is equal justice under the law.

Barack Obama, "Remarks on the Resignation of Eric H. Holder, Jr., as Attorney General," speech, Washington D.C., September 25, 2014, The American Presidency Project.

The chiefs of staff of the Army, Navy and Air Force issued similar messages, reinforcing their fidelity to the Constitution and pledging to battle racism in their ranks.

Doyle McManus, "Trump finds an unexpected center of resistance: the Pentagon," Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2020

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

lagniappe

[ lan-yap, lan-yap ]

noun

a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; bonus.

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What is the origin of lagniappe?

The word lagniappe “a gratuity, a tip” has wandered a very long way, indeed, from its original home. People rightly associate lagniappe with New Orleans, The Big Easy, renowned for its wonderful food, jazz, etc.; Mark Twain discusses lagniappe in his Life on the Mississippi (1883, chapter 44). Most Americans would think that lagniappe is a French word, which it is, but Louisiana French, not standard French (lagniappe is not a headword in the online Trésor de la Langue Fran?aise). Lagniappe comes from Spanish la ?apa, la yapa, la llapa with the same meaning. ?apa, yapa, llapa in turn comes from Quechua yápa “something a little extra, a bonus,” in Irish English “a tilly” (from Irish Gaelic tuilleadh “an additional item or amount”). Yápa a derivative of the verb yapay “to give more.” Quechua is the language of the Incas, still vigorous and flourishing in the Andes of South America. Lagniappe entered English in the middle of the 19th century.

how is lagniappe used?

During the holidays, New Orleans diners discover a?lagniappe?(little something extra) at their favorite fine-dining restaurants.

Wanda McKinney, "Where the Good Times Roll," Southern Living, December 2006

Certainly the goody bag is essentially worthless—a few candies and a set of earplugs make up the typical lagniappe.

Damon Darlin, "Flying With Shrieking Children? Give Your Neighbors a Goody Bag," New York Times, August 5, 2016

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Monday, November 09, 2020

duplicitous

[ doo-plis-i-tuhs, dyoo- ]

adjective

marked or characterized by deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter.

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What is the origin of duplicitous?

“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is the man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another” (Iliad, book 9) is one man’s reaction to duplicity. That man is Achilles, and he is talking about his lord Agamemnon, but Achilles is addressing Odysseus, who himself knows a trick or two about cunning speech. Duplicitous “deceitful in word or deed, as by behaving in different ways with different people about the same affair” is a derivative of the noun duplicity, ultimately from a noun of Latin origin, duplicitās (stem duplicitāt-), formed from the adjective duplex (stem duplic-) “twofold, double, folded double; deceitful.” Duplex is a compound of duo “two” and the Latin adjective suffix –plex (stem –plic-), which has the same function (and same Proto-Indo-European origin) as the English suffix –fold (as in twofold). The first recorded meaning of duplicitous in English is in U.S. law: “including two or more offenses in one count, or charge, as part of an indictment, thus violating the requirement that each count contain only a single offense”; the more common meaning “deceitful” occurs in the late 1950s. Duplicitous entered English in the early 1890s.

how is duplicitous used?

Cambridge Analytica obtained user data through duplicitous means, but similar data sets are widely and legally available; micro-targeting is commonplace on nearly all political campaigns.

Brian Barth, "Big Tech's Big Defector," The New Yorker, November 25, 2019

Rather, like his own duplicitous identity, Twain’s texts are double-voiced, both in form and in their equivocal stances toward freedom.

Lawrence Howe, "Catching Mark Twain's Drift," Mark Twain and the Novel: The Double-Cross of Authority, 1998

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Sunday, November 08, 2020

satisfice

[ sat-is-fahys ]

verb (used without object)

to choose or adopt the first satisfactory option that one comes across.

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What is the origin of satisfice?

It is easiest to take the verb satisfice, “to choose or adopt the first satisfactory option, select or pursue the minimum satisfactory result” as a blend of satis(fy) and (suf)fice. Satisfice contrasts with optimize, “to make as effective or useful as possible; make the best of.” A quote from the International New York Times shows this usage well: “Big business executives don’t really try to maximize profits but ‘satisfice’—that is, they try to make enough profit to keep stockholders and boards of directors happy without bringing the wrath of government regulators, consumer groups or business competitors down on them.” Satisfice, originally a northern English colloquialism, entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is satisfice used?

In the real world, neither people nor firms maximize utility. … What firms do instead is “satisfice,” to use Simon’s term: they content themselves with results that are “good enough.”

Christopher Caldwell, "Select All," The New Yorker, February 23, 2004

Most people fall somewhere in the middle. A person can maximize when it comes to some decisions and satisfice on others.

Elizabeth Bernstein, "How You Make Decisions Says a Lot About How Happy You Are," Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2014

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Saturday, November 07, 2020

ex libris

[ eks -lee-bris, lahy- ]

an inscription in or on a book, to indicate the owner; bookplate.

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What is the origin of ex libris?

Ex libris is a Latin prepositional phrase meaning “out of, from the books (of).” The phrase is composed of the preposition ex “out, out of” (it governs the ablative case), and librīs, the ablative plural of liber (stem libr-) “book,” whose original Latin meaning was and always remained “inner bark of a tree, rind, bast.” Liber comes from an unrecorded Latin luber or lubros, from lubh-, one of the variants of the Proto-Indo-European root leubh-, loubh– (also leub-, leup-) “to peel, peel off.” Leubh– regularly becomes laub– in the Germanic languages, as in Gothic laufs, Old English lēaf “leaf” (from Germanic laufaz). Loubh– forms Lithuanian lubà “board” and lúobas “bark,” and Albanian lab? “rind, cork.” The Latin preposition ex comes from Proto-Indo-European eghs “out, out of,” becoming Greek ex, Old Irish ess-, ass-, Welsh eh-, Gaulish ex– (Gaulish is an extinct Celtic language of ancient Gaul), and Old Prussian es(teinu) “from (now on).” Ex libris entered English in the second half of the 19th century.

how is ex libris used?

[Bookstores] do sell objects imbued with history: a former owner’s ex libris, an inscribed dedication from an unknown well-wisher, an occasional sales receipt used as a bookmark.

Michael Williams, "Like Baseball Cards, but for Funerals," The Atlantic, February 4, 2016

What interested me wasn’t the title or the author but the ex-libris pasted to the inside cover. It incorporated a coat of arms, a motto … and a name engraved beneath in a heavy Gothic script: Anton Schwarz von Steiner.

Ross King, Ex Libris, 1998

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Friday, November 06, 2020

garboil

[ gahr-boil ]

noun

Archaic.

confusion.

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What is the origin of garboil?

Garboil is the perfect word: it sounds exactly like its meaning, “confusion.” Garboil comes via Middle French garbouille (16th century) “confused mess,” whose further etymology is uncertain. Italian has garbuglio, charbuglio (15th century) “confused mess,” but etymologists are not convinced. Past that lies confusion: garboil has been associated with garble “to confuse, jumble”; no one is happy with that, either. Garboil entered English in the first half of the 16th century.

how is garboil used?

Assuring your grace, that being this country in such garboil as it is, I would be loath to adventure to go to my Lord of Angus with any conduct that he would appoint me, unless the king’s pleasure be that I shall so do.

Sir Ralph Sadler, Sir Ralph Sadler to Lord of Suffolk, November 29, 1543, in Letters and Negotiations of Sir Ralph Sadler, 1720

The trolley officials of the Auburn & Syracuse Electric R. R. and the motormen and the conductors are still in a garboil over the final settlement of a wage increase demand despite the fact that several conferences have been held between them but each with little success …

"Officials and Carmen Still Clinch," The Cayuga Chief, April 23, 1920

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