Word of the Day

Word of the day

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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Friday, March 18, 2022

polychromatic

[ pol-ee-kroh-mat-ik, -kruh- ] [ ˌpɒl i kroʊˈmæt ɪk, -krə- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

adjective

having or exhibiting a variety of colors.

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What is the origin of polychromatic?

Polychromatic “exhibiting a variety of colors” is a compound of two Ancient Greek elements: the combining form poly- “many” and the adjective chromatic “pertaining to color.” Poly- comes from Ancient Greek polýs “many,” which is not to be confused with the similar-sounding word pólis “city.” Instead, the plural of polýs, polloí, is the source of the expression hoi polloi “the masses,” and polýs is a cognate of Latin plūs (stem plūr-) “more,” the source of plural and surplus. Chromatic derives from Ancient Greek chrôma “color” and also appears in compound terms isochromatic “having the same color” and monochromatic “having tones of one color.” Polychromatic was first recorded in English in the 1840s.

how is polychromatic used?

In July the Internet exploded with a photo of schoolchildren …. In the center of the image, a crouching girl in a yellow T-shirt holds a medium-sized turtle toward an adult taking a picture of the scene. Smiling classmates, dressed in matching white, green, red and blue T-shirts, gather around the girl and turtle …. [A] closer examination reveals that the many hues in the background and the children’s clothing are not real colors. The seemingly polychromatic image is actually black-and-white, overlaid with a thin multicolored grid.

Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik, "Chasing Rainbows,” Scientific American Mind, November 2019

Polychromatic displays became a global phenomenon soon after Italian pyrotechnicians, in the 1830s, leveraged metallic powders to create specific colors. From fizzling handheld sparklers to elaborately orchestrated displays, fireworks have been a part of celebrations for centuries.

Karen Gardiner, “These are 12 of the world’s most spectacular fireworks displays,” National Geographic, July 2, 2021

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Thursday, March 17, 2022

felicitous

[ fi-lis-i-tuhs ] [ fɪˈlɪs ɪ təs ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

adjective

well-suited for the occasion, as an action, manner, or expression; apt; appropriate.

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What is the origin of felicitous?

Felicitous “well-suited for the occasion,” based on the noun felicity “happiness; skillful faculty,” derives from Latin fēlīcitās “good luck, happiness.” Fēlīcitās comes from the adjective fēlīx (stem fēlīci-) “lucky, happy,” plus the noun-forming suffix -tās “-ness.” Fēlīx and its descendants in modern Romance languages show a common pattern, namely, that a word for “lucky” in a mother language eventually gains the additional sense of “happy,” and either the “happy” sense alone or, less often, both senses are preserved in a daughter language. We can see this tendency when we compare Latin fēlīx “lucky, happy” with Spanish feliz “happy” and Italian felice “happy, lucky” (though the “lucky” sense in Italian is only in certain contexts). A stronger example lies in the English language itself, in which happy derives from the noun hap “luck,” which is also the source of the verb happen. Felicitous was first recorded in English circa 1730.

how is felicitous used?

I have the desire in my photographs to link a still life to a landscape, so by photographing through the glass, I was able to render the water, and the sky, and the landscape as one scene. And I just tried to compose the fish into the landscape. So it’s a committed composition that the fish are swimming through and it’s just a matter of timing it and taking a number of frames of images. It was an idea that one of those frames would have the most felicitous composition, one that has the best relationship of the foreground to the background.

Sam Abell, as quoted in “Found: Reflections on a Japanese Fish Tank,” National Geographic, May 28, 2014

I have successfully made it to swimming holes that did, in fact, exist at the time of my arrival …. The swimming holes are what happen when the water pauses on its own and, entering into some felicitous arrangement with the rocks and soil, renders a space wide and deep enough to hold some stillness.

Jenny Odell, "The Magic of Swimming Holes," New York Times, August 17, 2019

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