Word of the Day

Word of the day

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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Saturday, March 19, 2022

teocalli

[ tee-uh-kal-ee, tey-uh-kah-lee ] [ ˌti əˈkæl i, ˌteɪ əˈkɑ li ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun

a ceremonial structure of the Aztec Empire, consisting of a truncated terraced pyramid supporting a temple.

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What is the origin of teocalli?

Teocalli “a ceremonial structure comprising a pyramid and temple” derives by way of Spanish from Nahuatl teōtl “god” and calli “house.” In this context, when we say “Nahuatl,” we are referring to classical Nahuatl, a language once spoken in the Aztec Empire that has since evolved into a group of dialects with 1.7 million speakers in modern Mexico. Nahuatl is a member of the Uto-Aztecan family, which has daughter languages spoken throughout the western regions of both the United States and Mexico, plus in portions of Central America. This means that, although teōtl bears a passing resemblance to Indo-European “god” words such as Latin deus (compare Spanish dios) and Ancient Greek theos, the resemblance is merely a coincidence. Other members of the Uto-Aztecan family include the Comanche, Hopi, Northern and Southern Paiute, and Shoshone. Teocalli was first recorded in English circa 1610.

how is teocalli used?

The centrepiece is a teocalli, a massive votive sculpture in the shape of a temple platform, built in 1507 to mark the end of a 52-year cycle in the Mexica calendar. It carries an image of Moctezuma himself, flanking that of Huitzilopochtli, the god of war and the sun. This is the Mexica ruler at the height of his power, a god among gods.

“Getting close to a doomed god,” The Economist, September 24, 2009

The patron god was seen to reside within the mountain or to be the mountain proper; a replica of the sacred entity, the teocalli, “sacred-force-house,” which was “just an artificial mountain with levels, with steps” … was placed symbolically at the heart of the community.

Eleanor Wake, Framing the Sacred: The Indian Churches of Early Colonial Mexico, 2010

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