word | 1 Jan 11:24 2008

Methuselah


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The Word of the Day for January 1 is: 

Methuselah   \muh-THOO-zuh-luh\   noun
          1 : an ancestor of Noah held to have lived 969 years 
    *2 : an oversize wine bottle holding about six liters

Example sentence:
          William's colleagues brought him a Methuselah of champagne to celebrate his retirement, and there was
still half a bottle left after all the glasses were poured. 

Did you know?
          What do Jeroboam, Methuselah, Salmanazar, Balthazar, and Nebuchadnezzar have in common?
Larger-than-life biblical figures all, yes (four kings and a venerable patriarch), but they're all also
names of oversized wine bottles. A Jeroboam is the equivalent of about four 750-milliliter bottles
(about 3 liters). One Methuselah holds about eight standard bottles' worth, a Salmanazar 12, a Balthazar
16, and a Nebuchadnezzar a whopping 20. No one knows who decided to use those names for bottles, but we do
know that by the 1800s "Jeroboam" was being used for large goblets or "enormous bottles of fabulous
content." Later, sometime early in the 20th century, "Methuselah" and all the other names were chosen for
specific bottle sizes.

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word | 2 Jan 11:24 2008

syllabub


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The Word of the Day for January 2 is: 

syllabub   \SILL-uh-bub\   noun
          : milk or cream that is curdled with an acid beverage (as wine or cider) and often sweetened and served as a
drink or topping or thickened with gelatin and served as a dessert

Example sentence:
          On special occasions, grandma would serve syllabub for dessert.

Did you know?
          Syllabub's a concoction whose name has had almost as many variations as there are versions of how to make it:
"solybubbe," "sullabub," "sullibib," "sellibub," "sallibube," "sillie bube," "sillybob" -- even
"sillibucke" and "silly-bauk" in some dialects. There are theories about the word’s origins, but no
one knows for sure where the name came from. (There's no connection to "silly," as far as we know, though
imbibing it might make one act that way.) We do know that both the name "syllabub" and the concoction itself
go back to at least the 16th century. Today, we're more likely to encounter "syllabub" in a historical
novel than on the menu at a local drinking spot, at least in the United States, but those fortunate enough to
taste the drink/dessert often give it rave reviews.

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word | 3 Jan 11:24 2008

facile


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The Word of the Day for January 3 is: 

facile   \FASS-ul\   adjective
          1 a : easily accomplished, handled, or attained  *b : shallow, superficial 
     2 a : ready, fluent  b : poised, assured 

Example sentence:
          The book is well-organized, but the author's conclusions are unduly facile. 

Did you know?
          Would you have guessed that "facile" and "difficult" are related? They are! "Facile" comes to us through
Middle French, from the Latin word "facilis," meaning "easy," and ultimately from "facere," meaning "to
make or do." "Difficult" traces to "facilis" as well, but its history also involves the negative prefix
"dis-," meaning "not." "Facile" can mean "easy" or "easily done," as befits its Latin roots, but it now
often adds the connotation of undue haste or shallowness, as in "facile answers to complex questions." 

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word | 4 Jan 11:24 2008

googol


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The Word of the Day for January 4 is: 

googol   \GOO-goll\   noun
          : the figure 1 followed by 100 zeros equal to 10 to the hundredth power

Example sentence:
          In January 1997, astronomers Fred Adams and Gregory Laughlin predicted that the universe would end in a
number of years equal to approximately one googol.

Did you know?
          Around 1930, American mathematician Edward Kasner found himself working with numbers as large as 10 to the
100th power -- that's a one followed by 100 zeroes. While it is possible to write that number using standard
scientific notation, Dr. Kasner felt that it deserved a name of its own. According to his own account, Dr.
Kasner asked his nine-year-old nephew, Milton Sirotta, to pick a name, promising the boy that he would use
the word in the future. Milton made up the word "googol," and so the enormous number was christened. Dr.
Kasner kept his promise, and the word has spread and been widely adopted by mathematicians and the general
public alike.

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word | 5 Jan 11:24 2008

chthonic


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The Word of the Day for January 5 is: 

chthonic   \THAH-nik\   adjective
          : of or relating to the underworld : infernal 

Example sentence:
          Laleh compared entering her brother's basement bedroom to a descent into chthonic regions: it was dark and
odd-smelling, and she was a little frightened of what she might find there.

Did you know?
          "Chthonic" might seem a lofty and learned word, but it's actually pretty down-to-earth in its origin and
meaning. It comes from "chthon, "which means "earth" in Greek, and it is associated with things that dwell
in or under the earth. It is most commonly used in discussions of mythology, particularly underworld
mythology. Hades and Persephone, who reign over the underworld in Greek mythology, might be called
"chthonic deities," for example. "Chthonic" has broader applications, too. It can be used to describe
something that resembles a mythological underworld (e.g.,"chthonic darkness"), and it is sometimes
used to describe earthly or natural things (as opposed to those that are elevated or celestial).

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word | 6 Jan 11:24 2008

nettle


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The Word of the Day for January 6 is: 

nettle   \NET-ul\   verb
          1 : to strike or sting with or as if with nettles 
    *2 : to arouse to sharp but transitory annoyance or anger

Example sentence:
          You could tell by his nervous reaction that the town official was nettled by the reporter's probing questions.

Did you know?
          If you've ever brushed against nettles, you know those weeds have sharp bristles that can leave you
smarting and itching. The painful and irritating rash that nettles cause can last for days, but at least it
is a rash with a linguistic silver lining. The discomfort caused by nettles can serve to remind one that the
verb "nettle" is a synonym of "irritate." "Nettle" originated as a plant name that we can trace to the Old
English word "netel." Eventually, people likened the nagging itch caused by the plant to the nagging
aggravation of being annoyed, and "nettle" became a synonym of "vex," "peeve," and of course "irritate."

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word | 7 Jan 11:24 2008

boycott


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The Word of the Day for January 7 is: 

boycott   \BOY-kaht\   verb
           : to engage in a concerted refusal to have dealings with (as a person, store, or organization) usually to
express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions

Example sentence:
           The group boycotted the clothing company to protest its practice of employing sweatshop labor.

Did you know?
           In the 1870s, Irish farmers faced an agricultural crisis that threatened to result in a repeat of the
terrible famine and mass evictions of the 1840s. Anticipating financial ruin, they formed a Land League
to campaign against the rent increases and evictions landlords were imposing as a result of the crisis.
Retired British army captain Charles Boycott had the misfortune to be acting as an agent for an absentee
landlord at the time, and when he tried to evict tenant farmers for refusing to pay their rent, he was
ostracized by the League and community. His laborers and servants quit, and his crops began to rot.
Boycott's fate was soon well known, and his name became a byword for that particular protest strategy.

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word | 8 Jan 11:24 2008

cliometrics


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The Word of the Day for January 8 is: 

cliometrics   \klye-uh-MET-riks\   noun plural but singular in construction
          : the application of methods developed in other fields (as economics, statistics, and data processing) to
the study of history

Example sentence:
          For his doctoral thesis, Quentin used cliometrics to examine the impact of universal suffrage on economic
development. 

Did you know?
          "Cliometrics" comes from a combination of "Clio," the name of the Greek Muse of history, and "-metrics," as
in "econometrics" ("the application of statistical methods to the study of economic data and problems")
or "biometrics" ("the statistical analysis of biological observations and phenomena"). American
economists Douglass North and Robert Fogel developed cliometrics, a highly quantitative means for
studying the past. In 1993, North and Fogel won the Nobel Prize in Economics for their pioneering work.

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word | 9 Jan 11:35 2008

primeval


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The Word of the Day for January 9 is: 

primeval   \prye-MEE-vul\   adjective
          : of or relating to the earliest ages (as of the world or human history) : ancient, primitive

Example sentence:
          A small tract of land to the north contains the last remnants of the primeval forest that covered this region
a thousand years ago.

Did you know?
          First things first. "Primeval" comes from the Latin words "primus," meaning "first," and "aevum,"
meaning "age." In Latin, those terms were brought together to form "primaevus," a word that means "of or
relating to the earliest ages." Other English words that descend from "primus" include "prime" and
"primary," "primordial" (a synonym of "primeval"), and "primitive." "Primus" also gave rise to some
terms for folks who are number one in charge, including "prince" and "principal."

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word | 10 Jan 11:23 2008

anathematize


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The Word of the Day for January 10 is: 

anathematize   \uh-NATH-uh-muh-tyze\   verb
          : curse, denounce

Example sentence:
          The biography presents a balanced account of the life of a writer whose work was beloved by the masses and
anathematized by critics.

Did you know?
          When 16th-century English speakers needed a verb meaning "to condemn by anathema" (that is, by an official
curse from church authority), "anathematize" proved to be just the right word. But "anathematize"
didn't originate in English as a combination of the noun "anathema" and the suffix "-ize." Rather, our
verb is based on forebears in Late Latin ("anathematizare") and Greek ("anathematizein").
"Anathematize" can still indicate solemn, formal condemnation, but today it can also have milder
applications. The same is true of "anathema," which now often means simply "a vigorous denunciation."

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