Monday, October 10, 2016

Word of the day: quoits

The word of the day is quoits:

a game in which rings of rope or flattened metal are thrown at an upright peg, the object being to encircle it or come as close to it as possible

1388, "curling stone," perhaps from O.Fr. coite "flat stone" (with which the game was originally played), lit. "cushion," variant of coilte (see quilt). Quoits were among the games prohibited by Edward III and Richard II to encourage archery. In ref. to a heavy flat iron ring (and the tossing game played with it) it is recorded from c.1440.


"She refuses the swimming pool, the quoits, the badminton, the endless, pointless games."

 - Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Word of the Day: spate

The word of the day is spate:

  1. a sudden, almost overwhelming, outpouring: a spate of angry words.
  2. British.
    1. a flood or inundation.
    2. a river flooding its banks.
    3. a sudden or heavy rainstorm.
early 15c., originally Scottish and northern English, "a sudden flood, especially one caused by heavy rains or a snowmelt," of unknown origin. Perhaps from O.Fr. espoit "flood," from Du. spuiten "to flow, spout;" related to spout. Figurative sense of "unusual quantity" is attested from 1610s.


"The Louveteau River was in spate; bushes and trees torn up by the roots eddied and snagged."

 - Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

Word of the day: harmonium

The word of the day is harmonium:

  1. an organlike keyboard instrument with small metal reeds and a pair of bellows operated by the player's feet.

"We found the attic, with boxes of old books and stored quilts and three empty trunks, and a broken harmonium, and Grandmother Adelia's headless dress form, a pallid, musty torso."

 - Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Word of the day: aborning

The word of the day is aborning:


  1. in birth; before being carried out: The scheme died aborning.


  1. being born; coming into being, fruition, realization, etc.: A new era of architecture is aborning.

"The democratic society that Alexis de Tocqueville described in the 1830s was still aborning in the 1780s."

 - Joseph J. Ellis, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Word of the day: bagatelle

The word of the day is bagatelle:
  1. something of little value or importance; a trifle.
  2. a game played on a board having holes at one end into which balls are to be struck with a cue.
  3. pinball.
  4. a short and light musical composition, typically for the piano.
1630s, "a trifle," from Fr. bagatelle "knicknack, bauble, trinket" (16c.), from It. bagatella "a trifle," dim. of L. baca "berry." As "a piece of light music," it is attested from 1827.


"Until we solve the world's desperate socio-economic problems, we can't waste our time on bagatelles like obscure Native American languages."

 - Jared Diamond quoting a hypothetical counterargument in The World Until Yesterday

Word of the day: tsuris

The word of the day is tsuris:
  1. trouble; woe.

"Really, why go through the trouble of leaving home, battling T.S.A. lines, enduring delayed flights, and all the other travel tsuris when you can just stay where all the tourists want to be anyway, in N.Y.C.?"

 - Bob Mankoff, "The Cartoon Lounge: No Place Like Home", 27 July 2016 (

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Word of the day: regnant

The word of the day is regnant:
  1. reigning; ruling (usually used following the noun it modifies)
  2. exercising authority, rule, or influence.
  3. prevalent; widespread.

"Though the term is only used three times in the full body of his work, the invisible hand has become the regnant image of Smith’s philosophy."

 - John Paul Rollert, "Of Morals and Markets", Spring 2016 The University of Chicago Magazine (

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Word of the day: nuncio

The word of the day is nuncio:
  1. a diplomatic representative of the pope at a foreign court or capital: equal in status to an ambassador.
papal envoy, 1528, from It. nuncio (now nunzio), from L. nuntius "messenger," from PIE base *neu- "to shout" (cf. Gk. neuo "to nod, beckon," O.Ir. noid "make known").


"When an American general arrived to confer with the papal nuncio, the U.S. Army blared music from loudspeakers to prevent journalists from eavesdropping."

 - Alex Ross, "The sound of hate", 4 July 2016 The New Yorker (

Word of the day: inveigh

The word of the day is inveigh:

to protest strongly or attack vehemently with words; rail (usually followed by against)

1486, "to introduce," from L. invehi "to attack with words," originally "carry oneself against," from passive inf. of invehere "bring in, carry in," from in- "against" + vehere "to carry" (see vehicle). Meaning "to give vent to violent denunciation" is from 1529.


"Most important, if Bush’s faith gave him certainties that became overweening and dangerous during his Presidency, why did they not so manifest themselves while he was on the road to Damascus fifteen years earlier, or when he was inveighing against nation-building in 2000?"

 - Thomas Mallon, "W is for why", 4 July The New Yorker (

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Word of the day: mentation

The word of the day is mentation:
  1. mental activity.
1850, from L. ment- "mind" (see mental) + -ation.


"Unlike Foster's emphasis on the mentation of his beasts, Thwaites is focused on achieving the physicality of the goat."

 - Carolyn Ristau, "Wild Things", 17 June 2016 Science (