Monday, June 29, 2015

Word of the day: praxis

The word of the day is praxis:

  1. practice, as distinguished from theory; application or use, as of knowledge or skills.
  2. convention, habit, or custom.
  3. a set of examples for practice.
1581, from M.L. praxis "practice, action" (c.1255, opposite of theory), from Gk. praxis "practice, action, doing," from stem of prassein "to do, to act."(

"I don't see any real distinction between religion and magic, or for that matter between gods and magicians.  I think divine power is just another form of magical praxis.  You know what Arthur C. Clarke said about technology and magic, right?  Turn it around.  What is advanced magic indistinguishable from?  Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from the miraculous."

 - Lev Grossman, The Magician King

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Word of the day: derrick

The word of the day is derrick:

  1. Machinery. a jib crane having a boom hinged near the base of the mast so as to rotate about the mast, for moving a load toward or away from the mast by raising or lowering the boom.
  2. Also called oil derrick. the towerlike framework over an oil well or the like.
  3. a boom for lifting cargo, pivoted at its inner end to a ship's mast or kingpost, and raised and supported at its outer end by topping lifts. (

"Because they were the size of derricks, its arms moved slowly, traversing enormous distances, but they never stopped moving."

 - Lev Grossman, The Magician King

Friday, June 26, 2015

Word of the day: hypnagogic

The word of the day is hypnagogic:

  1. of or pertaining to drowsiness.
  2. inducing drowsiness. (

"It was a will-o'-the-wisp leading her onward, farther into the perilous marsh of Bed-Stuy, deeper into a dreamlike, hypnagogic state."

- Lev Grossman, The Magician King

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Word of the day: verger

The word of the day is verger:

Chiefly British. a church official who serves as sacristan, caretaker, usher, and general attendant. (

"The atmosphere was of an old country church from which the verger had stepped away for a few minutes."

- Lev Grossman, The Magician King

Word of the day: vergescu

The word of the day is vergescu:

The white shield that was the mark of noviceknights, especially in Arthurian legend. (

"Quentin felt like the little boy at the beginning of The Lorax, at the mysterious tower of the dismal Once-ler.  They should have been facing down bellowed challenges from black knights bearing the vergescu, or solving thorny theological dilemmas posed by holy hermits.  Or at the very least resisting the diabolical temptations of ravishing succubi.  Not fighting off seasonal affective disorder."

- Lev Grossman, The Magician King

Word of the day: piste

The word of the day is piste:

(in fencing) a regulation-size strip, usually 2 meters wide and 14 meters long, on which fencers compete. (

"A man was on his hands and knees on the floor ruling out the piste with a lump of chalk."

 - Lev Grossman, The Magician King

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Word of the day: windlass

The word of the day is windlass:

a device for raising or hauling objects, usually consisting of a horizontal cylinder or barrel turned by a crank, lever, motor, or the like, upon which a cable, rope, or chain winds, the outer end of the cable being attached directly or indirectly to the weight to be raised or the thing to be hauled or pulled; winch.

device for raising weights by winding arope round cylinder, c.1400, alterationof wyndase (1293), from Anglo-Fr. windas,and directly from Scand. source such asO.N. vindass, from vinda "to wind" (seewind (v.)) ass "pole, beam." (

"They walked, slowly, all the way from one end of the docks to the other, stepping over taut guy ropes and squashed and dried fish carcasses and weaving their way around massive stanchions and windlasses and through labyrinths of stacked crates."

 - Lev Grossman, The Magician King

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Word of the day: cordite

The word of the day is cordite:

smokeless, slow-burning powdercomposed of 30 to 58 percentnitroglycerin, 37 to 65 percentcellulose nitrate, and to percentmineral jelly.

smokeless explosive," 1889, from cord; so called for its "curiously string-like appearance" in the words of a newspaper of the day. (

"An hour after the press conference, Feinstein, in her small office on the second floor of City Hall, saw her fellow-supervisor Dan White run past... Minutes later, she heard gunshots and smelled cordite."

 - Connie Bruck, "The Inside War: To expose torture, Dianne Feinstein fought the C.I.A.—and the White House", 22 June 2015 The New Yorker (

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Word of the day: valedictory

The word of the day is valedictory:

  1. an address or oration delivered at the commencement exercises of a college or school on behalf of the graduating class.
  2. any farewell address or oration. (

"After five decades in politics, Feinstein, at eighty-one, is the oldest sitting member of the Senate, where a late term is often less a valedictory than a chance for activism: think of Edward Kennedy or Mitch McConnell."

 - Connie Bruck, "The Inside War: To expose torture, Dianne Feinstein fought the C.I.A.—and the White House", 22 June 2015 The New Yorker (

Word of the day: brindle

The word of the day is brindle:

gray or tawny with darker streaks or spots

"marked with streaks, streaked with a dark color," 1670s, from M.E. brended (early 15c.), from bren "brown color" (13c.), noun made from pp. of brennen "burn," perhaps meaning "marked as though by branding or burning." Form altered perhaps by influence of kindled

"Item 2188, Infant Teething Toy: Features a hundred tasty blobs of pre-congealed lead-based paint.  Specify January Dun, February Brindle, March Khaki, or November Gray."

 - Bruce McCall, "Shouts & Murmurs: Shop till we make you drop", 22 June 2015 The New Yorker (

Monday, June 15, 2015

Word of the day: rutile

The word of the day is rutile:

a common mineral, titanium dioxide, TiO 2 , usually reddish-brown in color with a brilliant metallic or adamantine luster, occurring in crystals (

"Shortly after the Nature paper, Fujishima realized that practical H2 production would be difficult with his catalytic system.  Single rutile crystals of TiO2 were hard to get, and even when they were available, yields were low."

 - A. Maureen Rouhi, "Akira Fujishima: Photocatalysis pioneer shares his adventures with titanium dioxide", 8 June 2015 Chemical & Engineering News (

Friday, June 12, 2015

Word of the day: chaff

The word of the day is chaff:

to mock, tease, or jest in a good-natured way; banter (

"Three patrol wagons were drawn up at the curb, and the whole neighborhood had turned out to see the sport; there was much chaffing, and a universal craning of necks."

 - Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Word of the day: portiere

The word of the day is portiere:

a curtain hung in a doorway, either to replace the door or for decoration. (

"The floor was of tessellated marble, smooth as glass, and from the walls strange shapes loomed out, woven into huge portieres in rich, harmonious colors, or gleaming from paintings, wonderful and mysterious-looking in the half-light, purple and red and golden, like sunset glimmers in a shadowy forest."

 - Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

Word of the day: brick

The word of the day is brick:

verb (used with object)

  1. Informal. to cause (an electronic device) to become completely nonfunctional

"I have never seen a work of fiction so perfectly capture the out-of-nowhere shock of discovering that you've just bricked something important because you didn't pay enough attention to a loose wire."

 - Randall Munroe, "The Martian", 10 June 2015 (

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Word of the day: schmatte

The word of the day is schmatte:

  1. an old ragged garment; tattered article of clothing.
  2. any garment (

"If Blanche DuBois took stock and said, 'This is where it's at, and I'm going to get rid of these schmatte clothes and get me a nice pants suit, and look smart here, with a pocketbook and a hat'—she would have been all right."

 - Joan Rivers, as quoted by Emily Nussbaum, "Last girl in Larchmont", 23 February & 2 March 2015 The New Yorker (

Word of the day: quiff

The word of the day is quiff:

a lock or curl of hair brought forward over the forehead.

"curl or lock of hair over the forehead," 1890, originally a style among soldiers, of unknown origin. Perhaps connected with quiff "a puff or whiff of tobacco smoke" (1831, originally Southern U.S.), held to be a variant of whiff (q.v.). (

"Zadak is a youthful forty-three, with a sharp quiff and an unlined face, and was a comedy nerd before he became a comedy manager: hanging around the Second City Chicago, moving to L.A. to study screenwriting, hoping to be an improv guy himself."

- Zadie Smith, "Brother from another mother: Key and Peele's chameleon comedy", 23 February and 2 March 2015 The New Yorker (

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Word of the day: hoary

The word of the day is hoary:

  1. gray or white with age
  2. ancient or venerable
  3. tedious from familiarity; stale

O.E. har "gray, venerable, old," the connecting notion being gray hair, from P.Gmc. *khairaz, from PIE *koi- "to shine." German retains the word as a title of respect, in Herr. Of frost, it is recorded in O.E. (hoar-frost is late 13c.), expressing the resemblance of the white feathers of frost to an old man's beard. Used as an attribute of boundary stones in O.E. (probably in ref. to being gray with lichens), hence common in place names.


"Last month, when 'American Sniper' earned ninety million dollars in its first weekend of wide release, it demolished one of Hollywood's hoariest myths—that opening a big movie in January is a recipe for disaster."

 - James Surowiecki, "Rethinking the seasonal strategy", 23 February & 2 March 2015 The New Yorker (

Word of the day: skelly

The word of the day is skelly:

a game played on the floor (usually in the foyer of the project building) using bottle tops etc... that are filled with wax. Usually crayon wax melted with a lighter into the top. Boxes are set up about 4 to 5 feet away from each other in a diagonal fashion. Players must move from box to box totaling 10 or more boxes. In the center is a set of boxes referred to as "Skelly". Skelly is synonymous with jail (yes, played in the hood go figure). You flick tops with a finger/thumb motion across ground to slide box to box ultimately hoping to get to the center unscathed. Meanwhile knocking the hell out of other players tops and "knocking them out the box" thereby eliminating your opponents. Usually the "top" aka Skelly top is made from a gallon milk top or some other lid from a beverage. Some flamboyant players will use olive jar tops or pickle jar tops (again filled with wax and pretty heavy) which serve a dramatic purpose when knocking the hell out of an opponents top. Finesse and strategy play important roles in ones success as you must be able to flick tops into small boxes drawn on the floor. Missing your box jeopardizes being put in Skelly and thereby not being able to participate for a period. Using a large top makes for a dramatic smacking of the opponents top out of their box. A successful player will move from box to box until flicking their top into center box thus winning game. You can be knocked into or out of Skelly by a sympathetic person. (

"Wearing a charcoal scarf and striding backward, tour-guide style, David noted, 'We used to play skelly here, and I had a fistfight there.'"

 - Tad Friend, "Brooklyn Boy", 23 February & 2 March 2015 The New Yorker (

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Word of the day: chyron

The word of the day is chyron:


1970s: from Chyron Corporation, its manufacturer. (

"But Stewart's series also provided a psychic salve, especially during the worst parts of the past few elections and the run-up to the Iraq War.  If you were driven nuts by the twenty-four-hour shouters, if you couldn't bear to watch any more of the flashing chyrons and Sam the Eagle gravitas, here was your catharsis."

 - Emily Nussbaum, "No more late nights", 23 February & 2 March 2015 The New Yorker (