Word of the Week - Archive page 1

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meaning nose

Schnoz, meaning nose, is originally a Yiddish word that is in common usage in the English language and may be found in many dictionaries. Such words which have been accepted into common English are affectionately termed 'Yinglish' and there are more of them than you might think!

Other Yinglish words with which you may be familiar include:

glitch- meaning slip up, spanner-in-the-works, problem
schmooze - meaning to network, socialise, chat
kosher- meaning alright, legitimate, OK.
chutzpah - (pronounced to rhyme with foot-spa) means audacity, impudence.
klutz - meaning a clumsy or inept person.
schmuck - meaning a fool, an idiot, a gullable person.
bupkes - (supposed to be pronounced baub-kess, but more often said to rhyme with pup-kiss) meaning nothing, used to criticize the fact that something was much smaller than expected or deserved as in 'I worked hard but the pay was bupkes' or 'I worked with that guy and he did bupkes'.

Yiddish is a beautifully rich language which can so accurately capture the sentiment meant when describing the human condition. In many ways it has that same descriptiveness found in Scots as you will see from our Scots word of the week pages. It is perhaps best described in this excerpt from the description of the book "Meshuggenary : Celebrating the World of Yiddish" by Payson R. Stevens, Charles M. Levine, Sol Steinmetz :

"Yiddish is rich and soulful, thick with pathos, full of humor and self-deprecating wit and sarcasm -- as a language it uniquely captures the essence of what, or who, it describes. If you've ever noshed on a bagel, or yelled at the schmuck who had the chutzpah to cut you off at the traffic light, you've been enriched and empowered by Yiddish. "

The origins of the Yiddish language itself make very interesting reading. The following information was taken from www.jewfaq.org, a very informative website about all aspects of Judaism and Jewish culture.Visit this site and learn more about the history of the Yiddish language.

History of Yiddish.

excerpt from www.jewfaq.org:

"Yiddish was at one time the international language of Ashkenazic Jews (the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe and their descendants). A hybrid of Hebrew and medieval German, Yiddish takes about three-quarters of its vocabulary from German, but borrows words liberally from Hebrew and many other languages from the many lands where Ashkenazic Jews have lived.

At its height less than a century ago, Yiddish was understood by an estimated 11 million of the world's 18 million Jews, and many of them spoke Yiddish as their primary language. Yiddish has fallen on hard times, a victim of both assimilation and murder. Today, less than a quarter of a million people in the United States speak Yiddish, about half of them in New York."

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The ritual placing of a body in a grave, inhumed, inhuming, inhumes

This weeks rather morbid word of the week is Inhumation, meaning to place a body in a grave. It is also, as I found when I typed the word into Google, the name of a 'brutal death metal band' from Connecticut. I haven't heard any of their music, but for a metal band their vocabulary (of death related words at least) is impressive.

I was unable to find any quotes which directly contain this weeks word, instead I include some quotes concerning death and burial in general for your amusement. There is also a little bit about the history of ritual burial that you may find interesting.

"All places are alike, and every earth is fit for burial."
Christopher Marlowe

"There is nothing quite so good as burial at sea. It is simple, tidy, and not very incriminating."
Alfred Hitchcock

"The average Ph.D. thesis is nothing but a transference of bones from one graveyard to another."
J. Frank Dobie, "A Texan in England", 1945

"Leisure without literature is death and burial alive."
Seneca quotes (Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD)

Historical evidence of Ritual Burial

This text was taken from answers.com:

"The first evidence of deliberate burial was found in European caves of the Paleolithic period. Prehistoric discoveries include both individual and communal burials, the latter indicating that pits or ossuaries were unsealed for later use or that servants or members of the family were slain to accompany the deceased. Both practices have been followed by various peoples into modern times. The ancient Egyptians developed the coffin to keep bodies from touching the earth; this burial practice was continued by the Greeks and Romans when they used the burial form of disposal. The word burial has been applied to funerary practices other than interment, such as sea burial, or tree burial (which usually precedes later interment). Secondary burial frequently occurs to terminate a period of mourning."

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Meaning: having knowledge of; "he had no awareness of his mistakes"; "his sudden consciousness of the problem he faced"; "their intelligence and general knowingness was impressive" [syn: awareness, consciousness, cognizance, knowingness]

We also really liked the related word:

Animadvert - To remark or comment critically, usually with strong disapproval or censure

Meanings taken from Dictionary.com

Quotes containing the word of the week:

"Justice als takes cognisance of those who glean after the reaper"
- Michel de Montaigne

"a man... who animadverts on miserly patients, egocentric doctors, psychoanalysis and Lucky Luciano with evenhanded fervor"
Irwin Faust

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Meaning: Personal behavior assumed for effect, an imitation of behavior, posing, posturing, or 'putting on airs'.

This week we were most interested in other words which may be used to describe affectation. These were:

Coxcombry - A word meaning foppishness conceit

Coquetry - Playful behavior affected for the purposes of flirtation

Magniloquence - "the act of using important-sounding words: employing impressive words and an exaggeratedly solemn and dignified style"
Encarta® World English Dictionary [North American Edition] © & (P) 1999-2000

Here are some quotes using affectation:

"Great cultural changes begin in affectation and end in routine."
Jacques Barzun, French-American historian and educator

"One of the best temporary cures for pride and affectation is seasickness; a man who wants to vomit never puts on airs."
Josh Billings, American Comedian 1818-1885

"Whatever it is that makes a person charming, it needs to remain a mystery once the charmer is aware of a mannerism or characteristic that others find charming, it ceases to be a mannerism and becomes an affectation. And good Lord, there is nothing less charming than affectations!"
Rex Harrison, British Actor 1908-1990

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Full of keen anticipation or excitement; eager.

Agog is thought to come from the French phrase en gogue "having a good time". English borrowed it as agog because that's what en gogue sounded like to English ears. When English took the phrase in the 15th century, it did so with the meaning eager, presumably as in "eager to have a good time".

The French word gogue "merriment" seems to have changed to gogo, though it retained its original meaning. The phrase à gogo now means merrily as well as eager. There is also the phrase vivre à gogo "to live like a lord" or "in abundance". This latter phrase apparently gave à gogo the added meaning of "in abundance" or "galore".

The story of how English acquired go-go (as in go-go dancer and go-go boots) goes like this: a French night club owner named his club after the film Whiskey Galore which, in French, was Whiskey à Gogo. An American night club in Washington D.C. borrowed the French club's name, thinking that gogo sounded an awful lot like English go reduplicated, with a hip and cool air about it. The owner of this club installed cages where dancers in the newly-fashionable mini-skirts and boots performed the latest dances. This inspired Smokey Robinson's hit song Going to à Gogo and the rest is history.

This description was take from the bi-weekly online word origin magazine "Take Our Word For It", please visit their website for a great deal of fascinating information!

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meaning: fit together exactly, of identical shapes; "triangles tessellate"

Description take from mathforum.org:

A dictionary will tell you that the word "tessellate" means to form or arrange small squares in a checkered or mosaic pattern. The word "tessellate" is derived from the Ionic version of the Greek word "tesseres," which in English means "four." The first tilings were made from square tiles.

We used this word in reference to large, segmented, astronomical telescope mirrors which are formed by tessellated mirrors.

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meaning : a sharp high-pitched cry (especially by a dog) [syn: yelping] v : bark in a high-pitched tone; "the puppies yelped" [syn: yip, yap]

US and British children will know the word "yelp" from Dr. Seuss' learn-to-read classic "Hop on Pop", which includes a picture of two yelping dogs, floating away in a flood, saying:

"Yelp. Help. We yelp for help."

Definition taken from Dictionary.com, Dr Seuss information taken from an online discussion board and personal childhood experience : )

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  1. not to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty; "grim determination"; "grim necessity"; "Russia's final hour, it seemed, approached with inexorable certainty"; "relentless persecution"; "the stern demands of parenthood" [syn: grim, relentless, stern, unappeasable, unforgiving, unrelenting]
  2. not capable of being swayed or diverted from a course; unsusceptible to persuasion; "he is adamant in his refusal to change his mind"; "Cynthia was inexorable; she would have none of him"- W.Churchill; "an intransigent conservative opposed to every liberal tendancy" [syn: adamant, adamantine, intransigent]

Also: Inexecrable (alternate spelling)

Inexecrable is obsolete, if indeed it really ever existed as an English word outside certain copies of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice (IV.i.128), where it is probably a misspelling of inexorable. If not, then it may be a hyperbolic nonce word version of execrable, meaning "disgusting, detestable, wretched, cursed." Inexorable means "not to be moved by words" and hence "relentless," "inflexible." She was inexorable, determined to have her way, and not to be made to change her mind.

Definition from Dictionary.com, information about inexecrable taken from Bartleby.com

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Historically meaning, "according to religious law"

  1. Of, relating to, or required by canon law.
  2. Of or appearing in the biblical canon.
  3. Conforming to orthodox or well-established rules or patterns, as of procedure.
    1. A standard way of writing a formula. Two formulas such as 9 + x and x + 9 are said to be equivalent because they mean the same thing, but the second one is in "canonical form" because it is written in the usual way, with the highest power of x first. Usually there are fixed rules you can use to decide whether something is in canonical form. Things in canonical form are easier to compare.
    2. The usual or standard state or manner of something. The term acquired this meaning in computer-science culture largely through its prominence in Alonzo Church's work in computation theory and mathematical logic.
  4. Of or belonging to a cathedral chapter.
  5. Of or relating to a literary canon: a canonical writer like Keats.
  6. Music. Having the form of a canon.

Definition taken from Dictionary.com

In Science:

This term 'Canonical Ensemble' has meaning in both Thermodynamics and Quantum Mechanics

A canonical ensemble in statistical mechanics is an ensemble of dynamically similar systems, each of which can share its energy with a large heat reservoir, or heat bath. Equivalently, the members of the ensemble can be considered loosely-couple to each other so that they can share the total energy. The distribution of the total energy amongst the possible dynamical states (ie the members of the ensemble) is given by the partition function.

A further generalisation of this is the grand canonical ensemble in which the systems may share particles as well as energy.

Information taken from Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia

The Interesting history of 'Canonical':

This word has an interesting history. Non-technical academics do not use the adjective "canonical" in any of the senses defined above with any regularity; they do however use the nouns "canon" and "canonicity" (not "canonicalness"* or "canonicality"*). The "canon" of a given author is the complete body of authentic works by that author (this usage is familiar to Sherlock Holmes fans as well as to literary scholars). "The canon" is the body of works in a given field (e.g. works of literature, or of art, or of music) deemed worthwhile for students to study and for scholars to investigate.

The word "canon" derives ultimately from the Greek "kanon" (akin to the English "cane") referring to a reed. Reeds were used for measurement, and in Latin and later Greek the word "canon" meant a rule or a standard. The establishment of a canon of scriptures within Christianity was meant to define a standard or a rule for the religion. The above non-technical academic usages stem from this instance of a defined and accepted body of work. Alongside this usage was the promulgation of "canons" ("rules") for the government of the Catholic Church. The usages relating to religious law derive from this use of the Latin "canon". It may also be related to arabic "qanun" (law).

Hackers invest this term with a playfulness that makes an ironic contrast with its historical meaning. A true story: One Bob Sjoberg, new at the MIT AI Lab, expressed some annoyance at the incessant use of jargon. Over his loud objections, GLS and RMS made a point of using as much of it as possible in his presence, and eventually it began to sink in. Finally, in one conversation, he used the word "canonical" in jargon-like fashion without thinking. Steele: "Aha! We've finally got you talking jargon too!" Stallman: "What did he say?" Steele: "Bob just used "canonical" in the canonical way."

Of course, canonicality depends on context, but it is implicitly defined as the way *hackers* normally expect things to be. Thus, a hacker may claim with a straight face that "according to religious law" is *not* the canonical meaning of "canonical".

History of the word canonical taken from the online dictionary of Datasegment.com

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From the latin, literally meaning untamable.

  • Incapable of being overcome, subdued, or vanquished; unconquerable
  • Not to be subdued; untamable; invincible; as, an indomitable will, courage, animal.


Because of his strength and toughness as well as his constant attention to the welfare of his army, his soldiers affectionately called him Old Hickory. Hickory was as tough a substance as they knew, and General Andrew Jackson was, in their minds, indomitable.
--Robert V. Remini, The Battle of New Orleans

A diminutive but indomitable woman, she stepped into the fray blasting the project as a "monstrosity."
--Al Goodman, "Soccer's Din Threatens Poet's Rest In Spain," New York Times, October 18, 1998

Billed for weeks beforehand as an indomitable man-tamer, Donato packed the circus in St-Quentin that July, easily eclipsing the London lion-tamer offered as a rival attraction by Wombwell's Great British Menagerie.
--Hilary Spurling, "The Unknown Matisse: A Life of Henri Matisse: The Early Years, 1869-1908

And of course, Asterix and Obelix the well loved children's cartoon characters were known as the 'Indomitable Gauls'!

Definition and quotes taken from Dictionary.com

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Definition and quotes taken from Dictionary.com

  1. Of the nature of or constituting a portent; foreboding:
    "The present aspect of society is portentous of great change" (Edward Bellamy).
  2. Full of unspecifiable significance; exciting wonder and awe:
    "Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity" (Herman Melville).
  3. Marked by pompousness; pretentiously weighty.
  4. Of the nature of a portent; containing portents; foreshadowing, esp. foreshadowing ill; ominous.
    "For, I believe, they are portentous things." --Shakespeare.
    "Victories of strange and almost portentous splendor." --Macaulay.

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  1. Marked by a lack of adroitness; inept.
  2. Of a quality opposed to adroitness; clumsy; awkward; unskillful.
  3. not adroit; e.g. "a maladroit movement of his hand caused the car to swerve"; "a maladroit translation"; "maladroit propaganda".

To understand the origin of "maladroit," you need to put together some French (or at least Middle French and Old French) building blocks. The first is the word "mal," meaning "bad," and the second is the phrase "a droit," meaning "properly." You can parse the phrase even further into the components "a," meaning "to" or "at," and "droit," meaning "right, direct, straight." Middle French speakers put those pieces together as "maladroit" to describe the clumsy among them, and English speakers borrowed the word intact back in the 17th century. Its opposite, of course, is "adroit", which we adopted from the French in the same century.

Definition taken from Dictionary.com, origins of the word taken from Merriam-Webster online

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Definition taken from Dictionary.com

  1. Lacking quickness of perception or intellect. Characterized by a lack of intelligence or sensitivity: e.g. an obtuse remark.
  2. Not distinctly felt: e.g. an obtuse pain.
  3. Not sharp, pointed, or acute in form; blunt.
  4. Having an obtuse angle: an obtuse triangle.
  5. Botany: Having a blunt or rounded tip: an obtuse leaf.
  6. (angles) greater than 90 degrees but less than 180 degrees.

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Definition: Relating to a long word; characterised by using long words.

We owe this word to the Roman writer Horace, who wrote in his Ars Poetica (The Art of Poetry): "Proicit ampullas et sesquipedalia verba2 ("He throws aside his paint pots and his words that are a foot and a half long"). It comes from Latin sesqui–, one and a half, plus ped, a foot. It was borrowed into English in the seventeenth century and has become a favourite of those writers who like self-referential terms, or are addicted to polysyllabic humour.

It appears, somewhat disguised, in The History of Mr Polly by H G Wells:

"Words attracted [Mr Polly] curiously, words rich in suggestion, and he loved a novel and striking phrase. His school training had given him little or no mastery of the mysterious pronunciation of English, and no confidence in himself... He avoided every recognized phrase in the language, and mispronounced everything in order that he shouldn’t be suspected of ignorance but whim. 'Sesquippledan', he would say. 'Sesquippledan verboojuice.' "

Somebody who uses long words is a sesquipedalianist, and this style of writing is sesquipedalianism. The noun sesquipedality means "lengthiness". If such words are not enough, there’s always hyperpolysyllabicsesquipedalianist for someone who enjoys using really long words.

This wonderful article about the meaning and origins of Sesquipedalian is taken from World Wide Words.

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Just for fun

A little peek into the lighter side of life within the Heriot-Watt Waves & Fields group.

Word of the Week: