Thursday, September 27, 2012

word of the day: multiparous

The word of the day is multiparous:

Etymology:  < post-classical Latin multiparus producing numerous offspring (1508; < classical Latin multi- multi- comb. form + -parus : see -parous comb. form) + -ous suffix. Compare oviparous adj., uniparous adj., vermiparous adj., viviparous adj. In sense 2 after French multipare (1849 or earlier, as adjective and noun; 1803 in sense 1). 
1. Zool. Producing several offspring at one time; polytocous. Now rare.
2. Obstetr., Veterinary Med., and Agric. Designating or belonging to a woman or other female mammal who has had two or more pregnancies resulting in the birth of offspring. (OED)

"FoxO1 ablation caused hyperglycemia with reduced β cell mass following physiologic stress, such as multiparity and aging.

 - Talchai et al., "Pancreatic β Cell Dedifferentiation as a Mechanism of Diabetic β Cell Failure", Cell. 2012 Sep 14;150(6):1223-34. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.07.029

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

word of the day: tonsure

The word of the day is tonsure:

Etymology:  < French tonsure (14th cent. in Godefroy), or < Latin tonsūra a shearing or clipping, < tondēre , tons-um
1. gen. The action or process of clipping the hair or shaving the head; the state of being shorn. 
2.a. spec. The shaving of the head or part of it as a religious practice or rite, esp. as a preparation to entering the priesthood or a monastic order.
b. The part of a priest's or monk's head left bare by shaving the hair.
3. The clipping  (a) of coin;  (b) of shrubs or hedges. Obs. rare. (OED)

"Much of the human hair used in wigmaking and weave-styling grew on Indian heads - a significant amount of it, Neufeld's book reveals, coming from a temple in the town of Tirupati, where every year two million people are ritually tonsured."

 - Rebecca Mead, "Field notes: Hair today", 24 September 2012 The New Yorker

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

word of the day: klieg

The word of the day is klieg:

Etymology:  < the name of two brothers, A. T. and J. H. Kliegl, who invented it in the U.S.
a. In full, klieg light. Orig., a kind of arc lamp invented for use as a studio light; hence, any powerful electric light used in film-making, or in television. (OED)

"If Sameen became his public spokesperson, the media would camp outside her house and there would be no escape from the glare of publicity; her private life, her daughter’s life, would become a thing of klieg lights and microphones."

 - Salman Rushdie, "The disappeared: How the fatwa changed a writer's life", 17 September 2012 The New Yorker

Monday, September 24, 2012

word of the day: schmegegge

The word of the day is schmegegge:

(Yiddish) baloney; hot air; nonsense (

TED:  Sal, I'm happy you and your sister are getting along.  I really am...but our house is way too small for her, Ralph, your mom, and your mom's schmegegge of a boyfriend.
SALLY:   What?
TED:  Gerald's been teaching me some Yiddish words...which I now feel bad I just used to insult him.

 - Francesco Marciuliano, 21 September 2012 "Sally Forth"

So can it also be used to describe someone who is full of hot air, or is part of the joke that Ted's not using the word correctly?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

word of the day: mountebank

The word of the day is mountebank:

Etymology:  < Italian montambanco, montimbanco (late 17th cent.), contracted form of monta in banco (1598 in Florio), lit. ‘mount on bench’ ( < monta imperative of montare mount v. + in on + banco bench: see bank n.2), with reference to the raised platform used by itinerant salesmen.
1.a. An itinerant charlatan who sold supposed medicines and remedies, freq. using various entertainments to attract a crowd of potential customers. Later also (more generally): an itinerant entertainer. Now chiefly hist.
b. gen. A charlatan, a person who falsely claims knowledge of or skill in some matter, esp. for personal gain; a person who pretends to be something he or she is not, in order to gain prestige, fame, etc.  Formerly used freq. of corrupt clergy and others assuming false piety or religiosity. (OED)

"As for the British Muslim “leaders,” whom, exactly, did they lead? They were leaders without followers, mountebanks trying to make careers out of her brother’s misfortune. For a generation, the politics of ethnic minorities in Britain had been secular and socialist. This was the mosques’ way of getting religion into the driver’s seat."

 - Salman Rushdie, "The disappeared: How the fatwa changed a writer's life", 17 September 2012 The New Yorker

Saturday, September 22, 2012

word of the day: peccadillo

The word of the day is peccadillo:

Etymology:  Partly < Spanish pecadillo (first attested 1545–65, although probably earlier: compare peccadilian n.) < pecado sin ( < classical Latin peccātum error, moral lapse, in post-classical Latin also sin (Vetus Latina) < peccāre (see peccant adj. and n.) + -ātum -ate suffix1) + -illo , diminutive suffix (see -illus suffix), and partly < Italian peccadiglio (1534) < Spanish pecadillo
A minor fault or sin; a trivial offence. (OED)

"“It isn’t a strong case for intentional misconduct. It seems it’s peccadilloes,” says Pierre Pica, a linguist at the French National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, who has criticized the investigation."

  - Eugenie Samuel Reich, "Misconduct ruling is silent on intent", 13 September 2012 Nature

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

word of the day: volte-face

The word of the day is volte-face:
Etymology:  French, < Italian volta faccia, < volta turn + faccia face.
The act of turning so as to face in the opposite direction; fig. a complete change of attitude or opinion. (OED)

"This was quite a volte-face for Morgan, but it was just the start.  The eye-color ratios convinced him that gene theory wasn't bunk."

 - Sam Kean, The Violinist's Thumb and Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by our Genetic Code

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

word of the day: loupe

The word of the day is loupe:

Etymology:  French: compare loop n.4
A small magnifier used by a watchmaker or jeweller. (OED)

"Morgan set himself up at the fly room's central desk.  Cockroaches scuttled through his drawers, nibbling rotten fruit, and the room was a cacophony of buzzing, but Morgan stood unperturbed in the middle of all, peering through a jeweler's loupe, scrutinizing bottle after bottle for de Vries's mutants.""

 - Sam Kean, The Violinist's Thumb and Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by our Genetic Code

Monday, September 17, 2012

word of the day: emprise

The word of the day is emprise:

Etymology:  < Old French emprise, emprinse, Common Romanic = Provençal empreza, Spanish empresa, Italian impresa < late Latin *imprensa, < participial stem of *imprendĕre (in Old French emprendre) to take in hand, < in- in + prehendĕre to take.
1.a. An undertaking, enterprise; esp. one of an adventurous or chivalrous nature. 
b. A purpose, intent. Obs. 
2.a. abstr. Chivalric enterprise, martial prowess. 
b. Difficulty, greatness of undertaking. Obs. 
c. Pre-occupation, absorption of thought. Obs. 
3.a. Renown, glory, distinction. Obs. 
b. Value, estimation. Obs.  [? Influenced by price n.] 
4. ? Spoil, prey. Obs. (OED)

"So when Galton designed an equally elegant experiment to hunt for gemmules in rabbits, Darwin heartily encouraged the emprise."

 - Sam Kean, The Violinist's Thumb and Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by our Genetic Code

Sunday, September 16, 2012

word of the day: arrack

The word of the day is arrack:

Etymology:  Ultimately Arabic, ʿaraq sweat, juice, especially in ʿaraq at-tamr ‘the (fermented) juice of the date,’ whence extended to all sorts of fermented beverages.
A name applied in Eastern countries to any spirituous liquor of native manufacture; especially, that distilled from the fermented sap of the coco-palm, or from rice and sugar, fermented with the coco-nut juice. (OED)

"The expo was as much a social affair as a scientific endeavor: as patrons wandered through exhibits about sanitation and sewers, they gulped mint juleps and spiked arrack punch and kumiss (fermented mare's milk produced by horses on-site) and generally had a gay old time."

 - Sam Kean, The Violinist's Thumb and Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by our Genetic Code

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Word of the day: Polytron

The word of the day is Polytron:

Etymology:  < poly- comb. form + -tron suffix.
A proprietary name for: a machine used for mixing, homogenizing, dispersing, or emulsifying, chiefly in the preparation of biological samples for analytical purposes.  (OED)

"The heads (20 g) were homgenized in 100 ml of 0.25 M sucrose containing 50 mM Tris-HCl (pH 7.4), 1 mM EDTA, 0.5 mM DTT, 0.5 mM phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride (PMSF), 50 uM ATP (buffer A), using a polytron."

 - Hiroko Inoue et al., "Partial purification and characterization of membrane-associated diacylglycerol kinase of Drosophila heads", Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1122:219 (1992)

Friday, September 14, 2012

word of the day: eclosion

The word of the day is eclosion:

Etymology:  < French éclosion, n. of action of éclore , < é- = ex- prefix1 + clore < Latin claudĕre to shut. 
Emergence from concealment; spec. in Entomol., the emerging of an insect from the pupa case, or of a larva from the egg.  (OED)

"Flies were collected within 1 day after eclosion, and kept on fresh cornmeal-agar-yeast food until they were 4 to 7 days old."

 - Hiroko Inoue et al., "Partial purification and characterization of membrane-associated diacylglycerol kinase of Drosophila heads", Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1122:219 (1992)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

word of the day: weltshmerz

The word of the day is weltschmerz:

Etymology:  German, formed as welt v.1 + schmerz pain.
A weary or pessimistic feeling about life; an apathetic or vaguely yearning attitude. (OED)

"If a reaction is warranted — and Miss Manners does not expect you to post one every time a 'contact' has weltschmerz — it should be done when the news is received."

 - Miss Manners, The Washington Post, 22 August 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

word of the day: schvartse

The word of the day is schvartze:

Etymology:  Yiddish, < shvarts black: compare swart adj. and n.
slang (depreciative).
A black person; spec. (in the U.S., with the ending -a or -e) a black maid. (OED)

"He goes on a few dates with a cute barista named Olivia.  She has this staggering Afro that she keeps kerchiefed down while she's at work.  Scott tells his sister all about her, redacting only two facts from his account: first, that they are not a serious couple; second, that while Olivia is half black she is also half Jewish.  On her mother's side, no less.  Olivia wasn't bat-mitzvahed, but she spits fire if she sees a 'Free Palestine' patch on a backpack.  She wants to take one of those birthright trips to Israel to explore her roots.  She encourages Scott to take one, too, but stops short of suggesting that they go together.  Scott makes his sister understand that Olivia is the first significant girl after Ellen, and so Priscilla tells their mother, and now it's a family scandal.  These poor narrow-minded, well-meaning Long Island racists!  All this tribal madness about bloodlines, purity - obsessions that have never worked out especially well for Jews.  Unless you count the six thousand years of survival (that's what Olivia would say), but then what about, for example, Tay-Sachs?  Anyway, he calls home more often.  The perplexed suffering in his mother's voice is not unwelcome.  He's pretty sure shvartseh is the only Yiddish word his father knows."

 - Justin Taylor, "After Ellen", 13 & 20 The New Yorker

molecule of the day: DETAPAC

The molecule of the day is diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (DETAPAC):


It's used to chelate metal ions, as in this paper.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

word of the day: ceilidh

The word of the day is ceilidh:

Etymology:  < Irish céilidhe, Scottish Gaelic cēilidh, < Old Irish céile companion.
  In Scotland and Ireland:
a. An evening visit, a friendly social call.
b. A session of traditional music, storytelling, or dancing. Also attrib. and fig.  (OED)

"Nearby, on the premises of the Army & Navy Club, Scotland was running what the Glasgow Herald had deemed a 'macschmoozathon.'  It was a blur of whiskey tastings and ceilidhs."

 - Lauren Collins, "Olympics postcard: Globe-trotter", 13 & 20 August 2012 The New Yorker

Monday, September 10, 2012

word of the day: raclette

The word of the day is raclette:

Etymology:  < French raclette (small) scraper (1788), traditional melted cheese dish, (also) type of cheese used in preparing the dish (1896), (in archaeology) stone tool of the scraper type discovered in the valley of the Vézère in south-west France
1.a. A scraper, a strigil. (Now only in sense 1b). 
b. Archaeol. A stone tool of the scraper type discovered in the valley of the Vézère in south-west France, and dating from the early Magdalenian period. 
2. Cookery. A dish traditionally made in parts of Switzerland and France, consisting of melted cheese served with potatoes, pickled onions, and gherkins; cheese of the type used in this dish. (OED)

"France, at Old Billingsgate, the former fish market, was a corporate scene.  But Switzerland had erected a climbing wall in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral.  Nice spread.  Appenzeller on tap, the air funky with the smell of raclette."

 - Lauren Collins, "Olympics postcard: Globe-trotter", 13 & 20 August 2012 The New Yorker

Sunday, September 09, 2012

word of the day: Tyrolean

The word of the day is Tyrolean:

Etymology:  < Tyrol (see def.) + -ean suffix.
A. adj.Belonging to Tyrol (often called ‘the Tyrol’), a former crown land of Austria-Hungary, embracing the present Austrian province of Tyrol and parts of northern Italy. 
B. n.A native or inhabitant of Tyrol. (OED)

"On a deck with a view of the Tower of London, some non-Austrian-looking office workers stood drinking pints of Steigl.  They had already got their pictures taken on the ski lift - there were goggles and everything - against a painted Tyrolean backdrop."

 - Lauren Collins, "Olympics postcard: Globe-trotter", 13 & 20 August 2012 The New Yorker

molecule of day: betaine

The molecule of the day is betaine:


It's an osmolyte, and in the news because of the publication of new structures of the betaine/Na+ symporter, showing four different conformations and allowing the entire transport cycle to be modeled.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

word of the day: geodesy

The word of the day is geodesy:

Etymology:  < post-classical Latin geodaesia (15th cent.) < ancient Greek γεωδαισία < Hellenistic Greek γεωδαιτης land surveyor
Originally: the measuring or surveying of land (now hist. and rare). Now chiefly: the branch of science and mathematics concerned with the precise measurement of the shape of the earth and of areas and positions on its surface, and with the spatial properties of the earth's gravitational field. (OED)

"NASA will be landing on Mars again. On 20 August, the agency announced that it had given the go-ahead to a mission that in 2016 would land near the equator of Mars to listen to the tremors rumbling through the planet’s interior. The US$425‑million mission, called InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) could expect to hear quakes as large as magnitude 5 in its two-year mission."

 - "Seven days: 17–23 August 2012", Nature, 22 August 2012

molecule of the day: FSBA

The molecule of the day is 5'-(4-fluorosulfonylbenzoyl)adenosine (FSBA):


It's used to covalently attach to ATP-binding sites, as in this paper.  For comparison, the structure of ATP is shown here:


Friday, September 07, 2012

molecule of the day: benzamidine

The molecule of the day is benzamidine:


It can be used to inhibit serine proteases, as in this paper.

word of the day: probative

The word of the day is probative:
Etymology:  < Middle French probatif convincing, founded on proof (late 14th cent.; French †probatif that can prove (1803)) and its etymon classical Latin probātīvus of or relating to proof < probāt- , past participial stem of probāre prove v. + -īvus -ive suffix. 
1. Having the quality or function of testing; serving or designed for trial or probation; probationary. Obs.
2.a. Chiefly Law. Orig. Sc. Having the quality or function of proving or demonstrating; affording proof or evidence; demonstrative, evidential.
b. Sc. Law. Designating a document that contains its own authentication or evidence of validity without requiring additional verification. (OED)

"Judges routinely exclude evidence when its prejudicial effect outweighs its probative value—an odd phrase that can be explained with an example from Hitt’s article. Robert Leonard’s testimony that the language of graffiti and threatening e-mails was “consistent with” the language of the defendant’s writings in other contexts is the equivalent of a witness pointing to someone in the courtroom and saying, “That man could have been the assailant.” “Could have been” is hardly sufficient when the standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But when an “expert” like Leonard tells a jury with little knowledge of science or linguistics that the language in one sample is consistent with the language in another, the prejudicial effect far outweighs any probative value that the observation might have in identifying the murderer."

 - James C. Raymond, President, International Institute for Legal Writing and Reasoning, New York City, letter to The New Yorker, 13 August 2012

Thursday, September 06, 2012

word of the day: travois

The word of the day is travois:

"A travaille is an Indian contrivance, consisting of two poles fastened together at an acute angle, with crossbars between. The point of the angle rests upon the back of the dog or horse, the diverging ends of the poles drag along the ground, and the baggage is put on to the crossbars." (OED)

"Germonpré and her colleagues suggest that these early dogs might have been beasts of burden. They cite ethnographic examples of peoples like the Blackfeet and Hidatsa of the American West, who bred very large, strong dogs specifically for hauling travois or strapped-on packs."

 - Pat Shipman, "Do the Eyes Have It?  Dog domestication may have helped humans thrive while Neanderthals declined", The American Scientist May-June 2012

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

word of the day: echt

The word of the day is echt:

German, real, true, genuine.
Authentic, genuine, typical. (OED)

"Still, “The Juniper Tree,” which Tatar herself describes as “probably the most shocking of all fairy tales,” is not placed among the “Tales for Adults,” presumably because it is too characteristic, too echt Grimm, to be cordoned off in a special section."

 - Joan Acocella, "Once Upon a Time: The lure of the fairy tale", The New Yorker 23 July 2012

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

word of the day: latitudinarian

The word of the day is latitudinarian:

< Latin lātitūdin-, lātitūdo latitude n., after trinitarian, etc.
 A. adj.
Allowing, favouring, or characterized by latitude in opinion or action, esp. in matters of religion; not insisting on strict adherence to or conformity with an established code, standard, formula, etc.; tolerating free thought or laxity of belief on religious questions; characteristic of the latitudinarians (see B.).
B. n.

One who practises or favours latitude in thought, action, or conduct, esp. in religious matters; spec. one of those divines of the English Church in the 17th century, who, while attached to episcopal government and forms of worship, regarded them as things indifferent; hence, one who, though not a sceptic, is indifferent as to particular creeds and forms of church government or worship. (OED)

"Maria Tatar seems to be inheriting the position of dean of fairy tales, and in her “Annotated Brothers Grimm” (2004)—this is one of Norton’s series of copiously annotated classics—she apparently feels that she can afford to be nice to everyone. This makes some of the notes in her edition bewilderingly latitudinarian—she nods to Zipes, to Bettelheim, to Gilbert and Gubar."

 - Joan Acocella, "Once Upon a Time: The lure of the fairy tale", The New Yorker 23 July 2012

I'm not convinced "latitudinarian" was the word she wanted there.

Monday, September 03, 2012

word of the day: massif

The word of the day is massif:

< Middle French, French massif  
1. A large building, or a range of buildings regarded as a single block. Also: a mass of masonry or rock. (In later use generally understood as a fig. use of sense 2.)
2. A very large topographic or structural feature in the landscape; esp. a prominent mountain mass or compact group of mountains (usually composed of older, more resistant rock than its surroundings), which dominates an upland area. (OED)

"Hilu narrowly escaped capture, and he and thousands of his followers fled to live in the wilderness, many of them in caves in the spectacular stone massifs of South Kordofan: the Nuba Mountains."

 - Jon Lee Anderson, "A History of Violence", The New Yorker 23 July 2012

Sunday, September 02, 2012

word of the day: suzerain

The word of the day is suzerain:

< French suzerain, older s(o)userain , apparently < sus above, up ( < Latin sūsum , sursum , < sub from below, up + vorsum , versum , past participle of vertĕre to turn), after souverain sovereign n. and adj. 

a. A feudal overlord. In recent use, with reference to international relations, a sovereign or a state having supremacy over another state which possesses its own ruler or government but cannot act as an independent power. (OED)

"Sudan - derived from the Arabic word for 'land of the blacks' - was a lucrative source of chattel until the British suppressed the trade; the capital, Khartoum, in the north, was built by an Egyptian suzerain as a slaver station."

 - Jon Lee Anderson, "A History of Violence", The New Yorker 23 July 2012

Saturday, September 01, 2012

word of the day: liminal

The word of the day is liminal:

 < Latin līmin-, līmen threshold + -al suffix1.
a. gen. Of or pertaining to the threshold or initial stage of a process. rare.b. spec. in Psychol. Of or pertaining to a ‘limen’ or ‘threshold'. (OED)

"As you point out, the story ends with Yunior about to turn forty, which is a very liminal place to be, especially for an immigrant dude like him. It’s one thing to be an immigrant ten years out from arrival and quite another to be an immigrant thirty years out from arrival. When I was a young I always thought I would reach a point where my immigrant-ness would suddenly fall away, and I would miraculously become an American. Now I know that’s not what happens: being an immigrant is one of those things that is forever."

 - Junot Díaz, "This Week in Fiction: Junot Díaz", Page-Turner 16 July 2012

No, I'm still not sure what he means.