word | 1 Aug 06:00 2003

twee

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The Word of the Day for August 1 is:

twee   \TWEE\   adjective
     chiefly British : affectedly or excessively dainty, 
delicate, cute, or quaint

Example sentence:
     Thatched-roof birdhouses with posies in the windows are a 
bit too twee for Annalese, who doesn't go in much for cutesiness.

Did you know?
     Most adults wouldn't be caught dead saying, "Oh, look at 
the tweet 'ittle birdie!" (at least not to anyone over the age 
of three), but they probably wouldn't be averse to saying, "He 
went fishing with his dad," "She works as a nanny," or "Hey, 
buddy, how's it going?" Anyone who uses "dad," "nanny," 
or "buddy" owes a debt to "baby talk," a term used for both the 
childish speech adults adopt when addressing youngsters and for 
the speech of small children who are just learning to 
talk. "Twee" also originated in baby talk, as an alteration 
of "sweet." In the early 1900s, it was a term of affection, but 
nowadays British speakers and writers, and, increasingly, 
Americans as well, use "twee" for things that have passed beyond 
agreeable and into the realm of cloying.
(Continue reading)

word | 2 Aug 06:00 2003

sensibility

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The Word of the Day for August 2 is:

sensibility   \sen-suh-BIH-luh-tee\   noun 
     1 : ability to receive sensations : sensitiveness 
    *2 : the emotion or feeling of which a person is capable 
     3 : refined or excessive sensitiveness in emotion and taste 

Example sentence: 
     Instead of going to the van Gogh exhibit, Dan went fishing 
and gratified his artistic sensibilities by the gleam of a trout 
at the end of his hook.

Did you know? 
     From Latin "sentire" ("to feel"), the meanings 
of "sensibility" run the gamut from mere sensation of the sense 
organs to excessive sentimentality. In between is a capacity for 
delicate appreciation, a sense often pluralized. In Jane 
Austen's books, "sensibility," a word much appreciated by the 
novelist, is mostly an admirable quality she attributed to or 
found lacking in her characters: "He had ... a sensibility to 
what was amiable and lovely" (of Mr. Elliot in _Persuasion_). In 
_Sense and Sensibility_, however, Austen starts out by ascribing 
to Marianne sensibleness, on the one hand, but an "excess of 
sensibility" on the other: "her sorrows, her joys, could have no 
(Continue reading)

word | 3 Aug 06:00 2003

macadam

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The Word of the Day for August 3 is:

macadam   \muh-KAD-um\   noun
     : a roadway or pavement of small closely packed broken stone

Example sentence:
     We left the old city with much regret, passing from its 
quaint cobblestones to lumpy macadam, leaving our vacation 
behind and returning reluctantly to the workaday world.

Did you know? 
     In 1783, inventor John Loudon McAdam returned to his native 
Scotland after amassing a fortune in New York. He was promptly 
made road trustee for his district and quickly set his 
inventiveness to remedying the terrible condition of local 
roads. After numerous experiments, he created a new inexpensive 
but durable road surfacing material made of bits of stone that 
became compressed into a solid mass as traffic passed over them. 
His invention revolutionized road construction and 
transportation, and engineers and the public alike honored him 
by using his name (respelled "macadam") as a generic term for 
the material or pavement made from it. He is further 
immortalized in the verb "macadamize," which names the process 
of installing macadam on a road.
(Continue reading)

word | 4 Aug 06:00 2003

malinger

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The Word of the Day for August 4 is:

malinger   \muh-LING-gur\   verb
      : to pretend or exaggerate incapacity or illness (as to 
avoid duty or work)

Example sentence:
    When Kim called in sick on yet another beautiful summer day, 
her boss began to suspect she was malingering.

Did you know? 
     Do you know someone who always seems to develop an ailment 
when there's work to be done? Someone who merits an Academy 
Award for his or her superb simulation of symptoms? Then you 
know a malingerer. The verb "malinger" comes from the French 
word "malingre," meaning "sickly," and one who malingers feigns 
illness. In its earliest uses in the 19th century, "malinger" 
usually referred to a soldier or sailor pretending to be sick or 
insane to shirk duty. Later, psychologists began 
using "malingering" as a clinical term to describe the feigning 
of illness in avoidance of a duty or for personal gain. 
Today, "malinger" is used in just about any context in which 
someone fakes sickness or injury to get out of an undesirable 
task.
(Continue reading)

word | 5 Aug 06:00 2003

skulk

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The Word of the Day for August 5 is:

skulk   \SKULK\   verb
         *1 : to move in a stealthy or furtive manner
          2 a : to hide or conceal something (as oneself) often 
out of cowardice or fear or with sinister intent  b _chiefly
British_ : malinger

Example sentence: 
          "I sometimes met with hounds in my path prowling about 
the woods, which would skulk out of my way, as if afraid, and 
stand silent amid the bushes till I had passed." (Henry David 
Thoreau, _Walden_) 

Did you know?
         Here's one for the word-puzzle lovers. Can you name 
three things that the word "skulk" has in common with all of 
these other words: booth, brink, cog, flit, give, kid, meek, 
scab, seem, skull, snub, and wing? If you noticed that all of 
the terms on that list have just one syllable, then you've got 
the first (easy) similarity, but the next two are likely to 
prove a little harder to guess. Give up? All of the words listed 
above are of Scandinavian origin and all were first recorded in 
English in the 13th century. As for "skulk," its closest 
(Continue reading)

word | 6 Aug 06:00 2003

pidgin

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The Word of the Day for August 6 is:

pidgin   \PIH-jun\   noun
     : a simplified speech used for communication between people 
with different languages

Example sentence:
     Creole, which is now spoken in parts of southern Louisiana, 
originated as a pidgin spoken between French-speaking colonists 
and African slaves.

Did you know?
     The history of "pidgin" begins about the early 19th century 
in the South China city of Guangzhou. Chinese merchants 
interacting with English speakers on the docks in this port 
sometimes pronounced the word "business" as "bigeon." By the 
century's end, "bigeon" had degenerated into "pigeon" and 
finally "pidgin," which then appropriately became the descriptor 
of the unique communication necessitated when people who speak 
different languages meet.  Pidgins generally consist of a small 
vocabulary (Chinese Pidgin English has only 700 words), but some 
have grown to become the native language of a group. Examples 
include Sea Island Creole spoken in South Carolina's Sea 
Islands; Haitian Creole; and Louisiana Creole. The alteration 
(Continue reading)

word | 7 Aug 06:00 2003

bright-line

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The Word of the Day for August 7 is:

bright-line   \BRYTE-lyne\   adjective
     : providing an unambiguous criterion or guideline 
especially in law

Example sentence:
     While there is no bright-line rule, cost spreads of more 
than five percent are considered excessive for certain municipal 
bonds. 

Did you know?
     In the first half of the 20th century, courts began 
referring to a "bright line" that could or could not be drawn to 
make clear-cut distinctions between legal issues, such as a 
bright line to distinguish negligence from nonnegligence. Early 
users may have been influenced by the term "bright line," used 
by physicists to refer to the distinct color lines in the light 
spectrum. Before that, judges were content with wording that was 
more prosaic, such as "line of demarcation." In the second half 
of the 20th century, we began using "bright-line" as an 
adjective. Nonlegal types looking for unambiguous distinctions 
in other walks of life took a shine to "bright-line" sometime in 
the 1980s. 
(Continue reading)

word | 8 Aug 06:00 2003

sawbones

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The Word of the Day for August 8 is:

sawbones   \SAW-bohnz\   noun 
      slang: physician, surgeon

Example sentence:
     Before going in for his appendectomy, Uncle George jokingly 
wondered aloud how much blood he'd have left after the old 
sawbones had sewn him back up.

Did you know?
     "Sawbones" first cut its teeth in Charles Dickens's 1837 
novel The _Pickwick Papers_, when Sam Weller said to Mr. 
Pickwick, "Don't you know what a sawbones is, sir? . . . I 
thought everybody know'd as a sawbones was a surgeon." By the 
late 19th century, the word had also been used by authors such 
as H. G. Wells and Mark Twain and was well established in 
English. 19th-century surgeons used saws to perform amputations, 
and the word "sawbones" was associated with unskillful hacking. 
Mercifully, medical technology has improved dramatically since 
then (the surgical saws used in procedures today are a far cry 
from the primitive tools of yesteryear), but the word "sawbones" 
is still used, often in a humorous context.

(Continue reading)

word | 9 Aug 06:00 2003

oligopsony

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The Word of the Day for August 9 is:

oligopsony   \ah-luh-GAHP-suh-nee\   noun
     : a market situation in which each of a few buyers exerts a 
disproportionate influence on the market

Example sentence:
     Fewer than 10 automakers worldwide dominate the industry, 
forcing suppliers into an oligopsony where the buyers can 
dictate prices.

Did you know? 
     You're probably familiar with the word "monopoly," but you 
may not recognize its conceptual and linguistic relative, the 
much rarer "oligopsony." Both "monopoly" and "oligopsony" are 
ultimately from Greek, although "monopoly" passed through Latin 
before being adopted into English. "Monopoly" comes from the 
Greek prefix "mono-" (which means "one") and "polein" ("to
sell"), while "oligopsony" derives from the combining form 
"olig-" ("few") and the Greek noun "opsonia" ("the purchase of 
victuals"), which is ultimately from the combination of "opson" 
("food") and "oneisthai" ("to buy").  It makes sense, then, 
that "oligopsony" refers to a "buyers' market" in which the 
seller is subjected to the potential demands of a limited pool 
(Continue reading)

word | 10 Aug 06:00 2003

propitiate

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The Word of the Day for August 10 is:

propitiate   \proh-PIH-shee-ayt\   verb
     : to gain or regain the favor or goodwill of : appease, 
conciliate

Example sentence:
     The locals invited some of the tourists to participate in a 
traditional ceremony in which offerings were made to propitiate 
the region's deities.

Did you know?
     Like its synonym "appease," "propitiate" means "to ease the 
anger or disturbance of," but there are subtle differences 
between the two terms as well. "Appease" usually implies 
quieting insistent demands by making concessions, 
whereas "propitiate" tends to suggest averting the anger or 
malevolence of a superior being. In fact, "propitiate" often 
occurs -- as in our example sentence -- in contexts involving 
deities, spirits, or other preternatural forces. You 
might "appease" your hunger, but to speak more colorfully, you 
could "propitiate the gods of hunger."

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(Continue reading)


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