Sunday, June 30, 2013

word of the day: verglas

The word of the day is verglas:

Etymology:  French, < verre verre n. + glas (modern French glace ) ice: see glace n.1

n. the phenomenon of rain freezing as it falls and forming a glassy coating on the ground, trees, etc.

"In 2008, he climbed the Nordwand in two hours and forty-seven minutes - less time than it takes to watch 'Cloud Atlas'.  The style was pure, too: he waited until a storm had left fresh ice and covered old tracks, and he used no ropes or protection of any kind - just crampons and ice axes, in a technique called dry-tooling.  Later, he repeated the climb for a film crew, doing pitches over and over, waiting for the setup of each shot, and the footage of him dry-tooling verglas, and running up near-vertical snowfields, where one mistake could mean a mile-long plunge, brought him international renown."

 - Nick Paumgarten, "The manic mountain: Ueli Steck and the clash on Everest", 3 June 2013 The New Yorker

Sunday, June 16, 2013

word of the day: belay

The word of the day is belay:

Etymology:  Old English bi- , belęcgan < Germanic *bilagjan, in Old High German bileckan , bilegen , modern German belegen , Dutch beleggen ; < bi- , be- prefix + lagjan , in Old English lęcgan to lay v.1
5.a. Naut. To coil a running rope round a cleat, belaying pin, or kevel, so as to fasten or secure it; to fasten by so putting it round. Said especially of one of the small ropes, used for working the sails. Also in Mountaineering. (OED)

"After an hour, Steck and the others reached the level of Camp 3, where they would have to traverse the face to get to their tent, which meant they needed to cross over the fixed line.  They chose a spot where four Sherpas were at the belay, below the lead fixer, and moved slowly past them, taking care, Steck says, not to touch the ropes with their crampons or to kick chunks of ice onto the Sherpas working below."

 - Nick Paumgarten, "The manic mountain: Ueli Steck and the clash on Everest", 3 June 2013 The New Yorker

Saturday, June 15, 2013

word of the day: serac

The word of the day is serac:

Etymology:  < Swiss-French sérac, originally the name of a kind of white cheese; the transferred application was doubtless suggested by similitude of form. (OED)

"By the end of the month, they were established at Camp 2, at 21,300 feet, beyond the top of the Khumbu Icefall, a tumbling portion of the Khumbu Glacier mined with crevasses and seracs."

 - Nick Paumgarten, "The manic mountain: Ueli Steck and the clash on Everest", 3 June 2013 The New Yorker

Friday, June 14, 2013

word of the day: sclerotic

The word of the day is sclerotic:

Etymology:  < medieval and modern Latin sclērōticus (medieval Latin in feminine form sclerotica n.), < late Greek *σκληρωτικός having the property of hardening, pertaining to sclerosis or hardening, < σκληροῦν : see scleroma n. 
A. adj.1 
1.a. Anat. In sclerotic coat, sclerotic membrane, sclerotic tunic = B. 1 
.b. Of or pertaining to, or connected with the sclerotic coat of the eye. sclerotic bone, sclerotic plate = sclerotal n.; sclerotic ring, the ring formed by the sclerotic bones of the eyeball.
 2. Of medicines: Adapted to harden the tissues.
3. Pathol. Of or pertaining to sclerosis; affected with sclerosis. 
4. Bot. Hardened, stony in texture. sclerotic cells, grit-cells or sclereids; sclerotic parenchyma, grit-cells or stone-cells in pears, etc.
5. fig. Unmoving, unchanging, rigid. (OED)

"The V.A. is a sclerotic and overwhelmed bureaucracy; it barely has the resources to maintain its current level of health coverage, let alone expand it."

 - Nicholas Schmidle, "In the crosshairs", 3 June 2013 The New Yorker

Thursday, June 13, 2013

word of the day: nystagmus

The word of the day is nystagmus:

Etymology:  < post-classical Latin nystagmus a rapid involuntary movement of the eyeball (F. Boissier de Sauvages Nosologia Methodica (1768)) < ancient Greek νυσταγμός nodding, drowsiness < the base of νυστάζειν to nod, to be sleepy ( < the same Indo-European base as Lithuanian snūsti (stem snūd-) to begin to doze, grow drowsy) + -μος, suffix forming nouns.
1. Involuntary, rapid, oscillating movement of the eyeballs (most commonly from side to side); an instance or type of this. (OED)

"Just before 2 A.M. on March 5, 2010, Kyle was driving alone in central Dallas, near Love Field, when he lost control of his truck and crashed into a wooden fence, nearly ending up in someone’s swimming pool. A policeman found Kyle with 'bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, breath smelling of alcoholic beverage, unsteady balance and nystagmus.' Kyle told him, 'I’m stupid. I was drinking and driving. I missed the turn. It was my fault.'"

 - Nicholas Schmidle, "In the crosshairs", 3 June 2013 The New Yorker

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

word of the day: salmagundi

The word of the day is salmagundi:

Etymology:  < French salmigondis (in the 16th cent. salmiguondin, salmingondin), of obscure origin. 
1. Cookery. A dish composed of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, onions with oil and condiments. (OED)

"'Colin Quinn Unconstitutional' is a salmagundi of alternative history (George Washington loved 'setting fires in barns and torturing animals'), mordant rumination ('No praying in school - unless some kid is shooting up the school'), and arresting analogy (he likens the separation of powers to the Three Stooges, with Moe walloping Curly when he gets out of line)."

 - Tad Friend, "On closer inspection: framers unframed", 3 June 2013 The New Yorker

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

word of the day: ambit

The word of the day is ambit:

Etymology:  < Latin ambit-us a going round, a compass; < amb- about + -itus going, < ī-re to go. 
1. A circuit, compass, or circumference. 
2. esp. A space surrounding a house, castle, town, etc.; the precincts, liberties, ‘verge’. 
3. The confines, bounds, limits of a district.
4. fig. Extent, compass, sphere, of actions, words, thoughts, etc. (OED)

"Two years earlier, in a commencement address at Xavier University, he discussed the importance of being able 'to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us—the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town.'  He went on, 'When you think like this—when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers—it becomes harder not to act, harder not to help.'"

 - Paul Bloom, quoting Barack Obama, "The baby in the well: the case against empathy", 20 May 2013 The New Yorker

Monday, June 10, 2013

word of the day: biff

The word of the day is biff:

Etymology:  Imitative.
1.a. trans. To hit, strike. Also to biff (a person) one. 
b. fig. To deal a blow to, to refute, to ‘stump’ (see also quot. 1895). 
c. To throw. Also intr. Austral. and N.Z. 
2. intr. To go, proceed. Esp. with off, to leave, depart. 
3. The verb used adverbially with go, in the sense of ‘with a violent blow’.  (OED)

"Are you about to get busted for a zero-to-sixty presumption of intimacy? Biffed by a stranger’s unaccountable rage? Anytime you are approaching an ambush point, Social Trapster will flare red, and suggest an alternate route: 'Ixnay on the oopidstay, this person was involved in the making of that film!'"

 - Karen Russell, "Vision Quest", 20 May 2013 The New Yorker

Sunday, June 09, 2013

word of the day: gnome

The word of the day is gnome:

Etymology:  < Greek γνώμη thought, judgement, opinion; plural γνῶμαι sayings, maxims (Latin sententiae ), < γνω- root of γιγνώσκειν to knows adj.

A short pithy statement of a general truth; a proverb, maxim, aphorism, or apophthegm. Also spec. with reference to Old English verse. (OED)

"Where some scholars are gnomic in style, Nagy piles his sentences high with thin-sliced exposition. ('There are about ten passages—and by passages I simply mean a selected text, and these passages are meant for close reading, and sometimes I’ll be referring to these passages as texts, or focus passages, but you’ll know I mean the same thing—and each one of these requires close reading!')"

 - Nathan Heller, "Laptop U: Has the future of college moved online?", 20 May 2013 The New Yorker