Word of the Day

Word of the day

Friday, March 11, 2022

ferrule

[ fer-uhl, -ool ] [ ˈfɛr əl, -ul ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun

a ring or cap, usually of metal, put around the end of a post, cane, or the like, to prevent splitting.

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What is the origin of ferrule?

To the casual observer, ferrule “a ring or cap put around the end of something” looks like it is a compound of Latin ferrum “iron” (compare the chemical symbol Fe and Spanish hierro) and the suffix -ule “small, little,” but looks can be deceiving. In fact, ferrule is an alteration of English forms such as verrel or virl, with a spelling change based simply on an association with Latin ferrum. Verrel and virl derive from Latin viriola “small bracelet,” from viria “bracelet,” a word of Gaulish (continental Celtic) origin. As we learned from the recent Word of the Day cathartic, it is rather common to see folk etymology—spelling and pronunciation changes based on associations with unrelated words—at work in many languages. In English, folk etymology explains the spelling changes in words such as ferrule as well as author (by influence of authentic), gridiron (by influence of iron), and rosemary (by influence of rose and the name Mary). Ferrule was first recorded circa 1610.

how is ferrule used?

The ferrules on half his brushes had cracked, because they were cheap—a good ferrule was seamless, because the wooden handle absorbed water and cheap seamed metal would split …. When the nickel-plated ferrule finally broke, he’d repaired it with cotton strips, but it was practically useless now.

Elizabeth Hand, Mortal Love, 2004

Having pulled off the loose ferrule from his newly-purchased cane, he bored a hole in the bottom of it with the spike end of the file. Then, using the latter as a broach, he enlarged the hole until only a narrow rim of the bottom was left. He next rolled up a small ball of cottonwool and pushed it into the ferrule; and having smeared the end of the cane with elastic glue, he replaced the ferrule, warming it over the gas to make the glue stick.

R. Austin Freeman, The Singing Bone, 1912

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Word of the day

Thursday, March 10, 2022

cenote

[ suh-noh-tee ] [ səˈnoʊ ti ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

noun

a deep natural well or sinkhole, especially in Central America, formed by the collapse of surface limestone that exposes groundwater underneath.

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What is the origin of cenote?

Cenote “a deep natural well or sinkhole” is a loanword from Mexican Spanish and derives from the word tz’onot in the Yucatec Mayan language. A common misconception is that Mayan is a single language, but it is in fact a language family comprising at least 20 languages that are spoken primarily in Belize, Guatemala, and southeastern Mexico. Yucatec Mayan is one of the best-known Mayan languages and has hundreds of thousands of speakers today in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, while Quiché (also K’iche’) is the most spoken Mayan tongue, with more than 1 million speakers in Guatemala. Though the Mayan languages share numerous grammatical features with other language families found in Mesoamerica, these similarities are most likely the result of language contact rather than a shared origin. Cenote was first recorded in English circa 1840.

how is cenote used?

A wooden canoe used by the ancient Maya and believed to be over 1,000 years old has turned up in southern Mexico .… The extremely rare canoe was found almost completely intact, submerged in a fresh-water pool known as a cenote, thousands of which dot Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, near the ruins of Chichen Itza, once a major Maya city featuring elaborately carved temples and towering pyramids.

David Alire Garcia, “Rare, ancient Maya canoe found in Mexico's Yucatan,” Reuters, October 29, 2021

At the cenote, the water was unbelievably calm and clear enough to reveal some of the underwater formations. The cave’s watery entrance beckoned—dark and forbidding, and yet somehow inviting. We were eager to break the smooth surface…

Joanne E. Dumene, "The watery world of the Yucatan, underground," Washington Post, March 25, 1990

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Word of the day

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

démodé

[ dey-maw-dey ] [ deɪ mɔˈdeɪ ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling

adjective

no longer in fashion; out of date; outmoded.

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What is the origin of démodé?

Démodé “no longer in fashion” is a borrowing of the past participle of the French verb démoder “to put out of fashion.” Démoder is based on the noun mode “fashion,” which also appears in the expression à la mode, which in English often means “served with a scoop of ice cream” but literally translates as “in the fashion.” French mode derives from Latin modus, a word with a wide range of meanings, such as “manner,” “measure,” “limit,” and even “rhythm.” To see the “manner” sense in action, compare the Latin-origin phrases modus operandi (or M.O.) “one’s usual way of doing something” and modus vivendi “lifestyle.” Démodé was first recorded in the late 19th century.

how is démodé used?

Researchers who study the structure and evolution of the American family express unsullied astonishment at how rapidly the family has changed in recent years, the transformations often exceeding or capsizing those same experts’ predictions of just a few journal articles ago …. Also démodé is the old debate over whether mothers of dependent children should work outside the home …. [T]he issue is settled, and Paycheck Mommy is now a central organizing principle of the modern American family. The share of mothers employed full or part time has quadrupled since the 1950s and today accounts for nearly three-quarters of women with children at home.

Natalie Angier, “The Changing American Family,” New York Times, November 25, 2013

By the late 1950s, American women were tired of being swathed in cumbersome layers. According to [Coco] Chanel, they were ready for the relaxed waist … of the modern silhouette even before the French. She rushed to fill the void that her American designer counterparts hadn’t, commenting, “They’ve been offering women [garments] which made it impossible to walk or run. American women refused these before Frenchwomen, because American women are more practical ….  They walk, they run.” What was already démodé in Paris was actually long overdue in the States.

Allison Geller, “The Military Origins of the Cardigan,” The Atlantic, June 24, 2016

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