Friday, July 05, 2013

word of the day: timbal

The word of the day is timbal:

Etymology:  = modern French timbale (1646 in Hatzfeld & Darmesteter), Italian timballo , Spanish timbal , Portuguese timbal , timbale , substituted for, and apparently altered from, earlier French attabale (Cotgrave 1611), Italian taballo (Florio 1611), Spanish atabal , Portuguese attabale , see atabal n. It is not clear in which language or under what influence the change was made (perhaps in Italian, which had already dropped initial a): compare the French alteration of tabour to tambour. The spelling tymbal was apparently due to the influence of cymbal. 
1. Entomol. A membrane (resembling a drum-head) in certain insects, as the cicada, by means of which a shrill chirping sound is produced. (OED)

"The live cicadas he'd set loose in the church apparently had stagefright and refused to sing, although one perched on a microphone, as though to lip- (or timbal-) synch."

 - Nick Paumgarten, "Brood dude", 24 June 2013 The New Yorker

Thursday, July 04, 2013

word of the day: aspic

The word of the day is aspic:

aspic, n.1 
Etymology:  < French aspic asp, < Provençal aspic , unexplained derivative of Latin aspid-em , nominative aspis : see asp n.2 
1.a. By-form of asp n.2, used chiefly in poetry. 
b. attrib. 
c. fig. 
2. transf. ‘A piece of ordnance which carries a 12 pound shot. The piece itself weighs 4250 pounds.’ C. James Mil. Dict. 1816. (Perh. only French.) (OED)

aspic, n.2
Etymology:  < French aspic (in huile d' aspic vulgar form of huile de spic) for spic, < Italian spigo the Great Lavender, originally Spikenard, = Old French espic < Latin spīcus (in medieval Latin) Spikenard, doublet of spīca spike.
The Great Lavender or Spike ( Lavandula Spica), a plant from which a volatile aromatic oil is obtained. (OED)

Etymology:  < French aspic. Littré suggests its derivation < aspic asp, because it is ‘froid comme un aspic,’ a proverbial phrase in French. 
A savoury meat jelly, composed of and containing meat, fish, game, hard-boiled eggs, etc. Also attrib. in aspic-jelly. (OED)

"His painting 'A Visit from the Old Mistress' (1876) reports on the state of the nation a decade after 'Prisoners'.  A lone figure of authority, in this case a stony white dowager, faces three antagonists: variously unwelcoming black women, in head scarves, one of whom holds a child.  The interloper evidently must bargain for services that used to be her perquisite.  She may get them, but with no conceivable abatement of the festering memories and the interminable consequences of slavery.  The painting's shadowed tones and ruddy hues suspend the scene in an aspic of anguish."

 - Peter Schjeldahl, "The seething hell: portraying the Civil War", 3 June 2013 The New Yorker

I have no idea what that means.  Is it literally the color of an aspic (meat jelly)?

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

word of the day: rangy

The word of the day is rangy:

Etymology:  Probably partly < range n.1 + -y suffix1, and partly < range v.1 + -y suffix1. 
1. orig. U.S. 
a. Of an animal: adapted for or capable of ranging; having long limbs and a lean body.
b. Of a person: tall and thin, with long limbs. 
c. Of a plant or tree: tall and spindly with long branches, or a long stem or trunk; (of a branch, etc.) long and thin. 
2. orig. and chiefly Austral. Mountainous, hilly. 
3. Chiefly N. Amer. Of a place: having room for ranging; spacious.
4. Of great scope or compass; expansive, broad, wide-ranging. (OED)

"But Homer's most important efforts, like 'Prisoners', are quiet, singling out persons within uniforms.  Of special note is 'The Bright Side' (1865), in which four black Union teamsters relax outside a tent, from which another pokes his head, clenching a pipe in his teeth and glaring at us.  Here are men of rangy dignity, defying any objectifying gaze."

 - Peter Schjeldahl, "The seething hell: portraying the Civil War", 3 June 2013 The New Yorker

No, I still don't know what he means.  "Wide-ranging"?  But what does that mean when applied to dignity?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

word of the day: ambrotype

The word of the day is ambrotype:

Etymology:  ? < Greek ἄμβροτος immortal (? imperishable), or perhaps amber n.1 and adj., + type n. 
The name given in U.S. to a photograph on glass, in which the lights are produced by the silver, and the shades by a dark background showing through. (OED)

"'The Civil War and American Art' complements another show at the Met, 'Photography and the American Civil War', which opened in April with a theatrical profusion of vintage prints, stereographs, ambrotypes, and tintypes, notably from the studios of the pioneering photojournalist Mathew Brady and of Alexander Gardner, a former Brady staff photographer who set up in competition with him."

 - Peter Schjeldahl, "The seething hell: portraying the Civil War", 3 June 2013 The New Yorker

Monday, July 01, 2013

word of the day: casuistry

The word of the day is casuistry:

Etymology:  < French casuiste (Spanish casuista , Italian casista ), < Latin cāsus case

The science, art, or reasoning of the casuist; that part of Ethics which resolves cases of conscience, applying the general rules of religion and morality to particular instances in which ‘circumstances alter cases’, or in which there appears to be a conflict of duties. Often (and perhaps originally) applied to a quibbling or evasive way of dealing with difficult cases of duty; sophistry. (OED)

"Aside from staged eccentricity, freak tourism, and eye-popping spectacle, Ripley trafficked in anachronism, hyperbole, and casuistry."

 - Jill Lepore, "The odyssey: Robert Ripley and his world", 3 June 2013 The New Yorker