Word of the Day

Word of the day

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

mise en scène

[ mee zahn -sen ] [ mi zɑ̃ ˈsɛn ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun

the process of setting a stage, with regard to placement of actors, scenery, properties, etc.

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What is the origin of mise en scène?

Mise en scène “the process of setting a stage” is a borrowing of a French term with the same meaning that consists of three elements: mise “a putting, setting down,” en “in, on,” and scène “stage.” Mise is both a noun and past participle of the verb mettre “to place, put,” which derives from Latin mittere (perfect stem miss-) “to send,” the source of admit, permit, submit, and their respective noun forms (admission, permission, and submission). Scène derives by way of Latin scaena or scēna “background” from Ancient Greek skēnḗ “booth (where actors dressed).” Although skēnḗ is of uncertain origin, one theory is that it is related to Ancient Greek skiá “shadow,” which would make scène (and, therefore, English scene) a distant cognate of the recent Word of the Day sciamachy. Mise en scène was first recorded in English in the early 1830s.

how is mise en scène used?

No writer questions the veracity of everyone and everything as effectively as Agatha Christie does. Her typical mise en scene has the suspects gathered in a room while Poirot or, occasionally Marple, unpicks each person’s defence in turn, proving they are not what they seem and are infinitely capable of murder, regardless of whether they’ve actually killed or not.

Jan Carson, “Agatha Christie: A realist writer who created true literary magic,” Irish Times, November 4, 2020

Out of all the intoxicating phrases that emerge from the study of film, my personal favourite is mise-en-scène, … The phrase conjures up the splendour of the audio-visual palettes that help establish film worlds, whether they be brooding gothic horrors, deceptive melodramas, or the slick sheen of utopian space operas. If a film has worked its magic on you it will likely be through the delightful subtleties and provocations of its mise-en-scène.

Sean Redmond, “Explainer: mise-en-scène,” Conversation, June 10, 2014

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Monday, March 21, 2022

waka

[ wah-kuh ] [ ˈwɑ kə ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun

a Japanese poem consisting of 31 syllables in 5 lines, with 5 syllables in the first and third lines and 7 in the others.

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What is the origin of waka?

Waka “a Japanese poem consisting of 31 syllables in 5 lines” is, unsurprisingly, a borrowing from Japanese. In the Japanese language, waka is spelled with two kanji characters: the first, pronounced wa in this context, refers to Japan itself but also still preserves its original meaning of “harmony,” while the second character, pronounced ka in this context, means “song” or “to sing.” The elements wa and ka, like many Japanese words, are both adapted from Middle Chinese; for modern Chinese equivalents, compare Mandarin and as well as Cantonese wo and go. Though Japanese is a member of the Japonic language family, which also includes the many languages of the Ryukyu Islands, a substantial portion of Japanese vocabulary derives from Middle Chinese. Known as Sino-Japanese words, these terms constitute at least half of modern Japanese vocabulary, though estimates vary. Waka was first recorded in English in the late 1870s.

how is waka used?

[A]ppreciation of sakura also grew in the Heian period in a form of poetry known as waka …. In Kokin-Waka-Shū, the first imperial anthology of Japanese poetry, there is a sustained focus on the beauty of the cherry blossom. For example, a poem by Ariwara no Narihira in the collection reads as follows:

If ours were a world
where blossoming cherry trees
were not to be found,
what tranquillity would bless
The human heart in springtime!

Nozomi Uematsu, “Japan’s cherry blossom viewing parties—the history of chasing the fleeting beauty of sakura,” Conversation, March 30, 2021
[I]n Heian aristocratic society it was impossible to function, in either public or private, without the ability to compose waka … The Kana Preface to the Kokinshū, the first imperial collection of waka, reminds its readers that giving voice to one’s feelings through poetry is an inevitable response to experiences of seasonal changes and human events.

Haruo Shirane, Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600, 2007

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Sunday, March 20, 2022

verdurous

[ vur-jer-uhs ] [ ˈvɜr dʒər əs ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

adjective

rich in verdure; freshly green; verdant.

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What is the origin of verdurous?

Verdurous “freshly green” is a compound of the noun verdure “greenness, especially of fresh, flourishing vegetation” and the adjectival suffix -ous. Verdure itself is a compound of Middle French verd “green” (vert in Modern French) and the noun-forming suffix -ure, and the former derives from the Latin adjective viridis “green.” Though viridis is the source of a handful of “green” words in English, such as viridescent “slightly green” and viridian “a bluish-green pigment,” many other “green” words are derived by way of French, from verdant “green with vegetation” and verdigris “a green patina.” While viridis is the best-known and most widely used of the “green” words in Latin, another term, galbinus “greenish-yellow,” evolved into Italian giallo and French jaune “yellow” (compare jaundice “yellow discoloration of the skin”). Verdurous was first recorded in English around the turn of the 17th century.

how is verdurous used?

This is Symsagittifera roscoffensis, the plant-worm. Some call it “mint-sauce” because of its vibrant color. And if you happened to be walking where they emerge just after high tide on a sunny day, you’d probably think they were algae. But if you stuck around and watched patiently, you’d see something strange happen …. [U]p to a million worms, collected as one, become a verdurous mat, bathing like a beach blanket beneath the sun.

JoAnna Klein, “That’s Not Algae Swirling on the Beach. Those Are Green Worms.” New York Times, August 1, 2018

Verdurous tangles of vines topple over sagging backyard fences and spill out into the alley .… The seemingly wild overgrowth in this residential alley just north of Hamtramck is actually a small part of an intentional network of backyard gardens that produces hundreds of pounds of mostly South Asian vegetables and herbs such as taro, amaranth, broad beans and bitter melon.

Mark Kurlyandchik, “Gardens connect Bengali women to Detroit food scene,” AP News, October 29, 2017

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