Monday, August 31, 2015

Word of the day: vitiate

The word of the day is vitiate:

  1. to impair the quality of; make faulty; spoil.
  2. to impair or weaken the effectiveness of.
  3. to debase; corrupt; pervert.
  4. to make legally defective or invalid; invalidate
1534, from L. vitiatus, pp. of vitiare "tomake faulty, injure, spoil, corrupt," fromvitium "fault, defect, blemish, crime,vice" (

"On March 5 the legislature voted its 'adhesion to the new government.'

"Other official elements in the state vitiated this resolution, however.  Several federal police corps of northern Maderista origins would not accept the new regime."

 - John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Friday, August 28, 2015

Word of the day: latifundio

The word of the day is latifundio:

  1. a great estate of Latin America or Spain. (

"'I found,' he later recalled, 'that Morelos lacked three things—first plows, second books, and third equity.  And it had more than enough latifundios, taverns, and bosses."

 - John Womack, quoting Francisco Naranjo, Jr. in Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Word of the day: pacifico

The word of the day is pacifico:

  1. a peaceful person.
  2. a native of Cuba or the Philippine Islands who did not resist the Spanish occupation.

"On December 20 Zapata issued general orders to his Liberating Army of the South to provide 'every class of guarantees in the villages and fields and on the roads, respect and aid civil authorities who have been legally and freely elected,' and not to let revolutionary forces or pacificos 'destroy or burn the property of the haciendas, because these will be the patrimony and source of work for the villages.'"

 - John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

I think in this context it just means "not revolutionary forces".

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Word of the day: Prince Albert

The word of the day is Prince Albert:
  1. long, double-breasted frock coat. 

"In Mexico City revolutionaries took office, and Prince Albert coats replaced khaki jackets."

 - John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Word of the day: boomlet

The word of the day is boomlet:

  1. a brief increase, as in business activity or political popularity. (

"Besides, in various towns and villages boomlets developed for Zapata for governor."

 - John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Word of the day: atavism

The word of the day is atavism:

  1. Biology.
    1. the reappearance in an individual of characteristics of some remote ancestor that have been absent in intervening generations.
    2. an individual embodying such a reversion.
  2. reversion to an earlier type; throwback.
1833, from F. atavisme, coined 1830s from L. atavus "ancestor," from at- perhaps here meaning "beyond" + avus "grandfather," from PIE *awo- "adult male relative other than the father" (see uncle). (

"The revolution all seizures of land seemed to be outbursts of atavistic communism."

- John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Word of the day: indemnity

The word of the day is indemnity:

  1. protection or security against damage or loss.
  2. compensation for damage or loss sustained.
  3. something paid by way of such compensation.
  4. protection, as by insurance, from liabilities or penalties incurred by one's actions.
  5. legal exemption from penalties attaching to unconstitutional or illegal actions, granted to public officers and other persons.

"'Look, Señor Madero,' he said, 'if I take advantage if the fact that I'm armed and take away your watch and keep it, and after a while we meet, both of us armed the same, would you have a right to demand that I give it back?'  Certainly, Madero told him; he would even ask for an indemnity."

- John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Word of the day: dragoon

The word of the day is dragoon:

  1. to set dragoons or soldiers upon; persecute by armed force; oppress.
  2. to force by oppressive measures; coerce
1622, from Fr. dragon "carbine, musket,"because the guns the soldiers carried"breathed fire" like dragon. The verb isfrom 1689, lit. "to force by the agency ofdragoons" (which were used by the Fr.kings to persecute Protestants). (

"Now, with the official Maderista affiliation broken, whoever emerged as chief in charge would have to so so the hard way—by convincing his peers he deserves their backing.

"This was a feat neither political ambition nor military ferocity could accomplish.  The machinery to dragoon local followers did not exist.  If a village resented a self-appointed chief, it simply kept its men home."

 - John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Word of the day: bushwhacker

The word of the day is bushwhacker:

  1. a person or thing that bushwhacks.
  2. (in the American Civil War) a guerrilla, especially a Confederate.
  3. any guerrilla or outlaw.
  4. Australian Slang. an unsophisticated person; hick.
1809, Amer.Eng., lit. "one who beats the bushes" (to make his way through), perhaps modeled on Du. bosch-wachter "forest keeper." In American Civil War, "irregular who took to the woods" (1862), variously regarded as patriot guerillas or as freebooters. (

"But Zapata and the other chiefs knew that their ill-armed and untried men could not fight pitched battles yet, at Cuautla or any other place, as guerreros (warriors) or guerrilleros (bushwhackers)."

 - John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Monday, August 24, 2015

Word of the day: venial

The word of the day is venial:

  1. able to be forgiven or pardoned; not seriously wrong, as a sin (opposed to mortal ).
  2. excusable; trifling; minor
  3. c.1300, from O.Fr. venial, from L. venialis "pardonable," from venia "forgiveness, indulgence, pardon," related to venus "sexual love, desire" (see Venus).
  4. ( 

"Harmful as they were, all these blunders remained venial: negligence, misinformation, or stupidity might explain them.  But when Escandón moved from the organization of government to the practice of ruling, he carried out a policy that was too systematic and clear to be a mistake—the direct service of the planters' economic and political interests."

 - John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Word of the day: pulque

The word of the day is pulque:

  1. a fermented milky drink made from the juice of certain species of agave in Mexico.

"He also permitted the sale of pulque and rum on market days, in direct violation of Escandón's orders; and drunk as well as exasperated, the local peons and common people of the town began rioting."

- John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Word of the day: bailiwick

The word of the day is bailiwick:

  1. the district within which a bailie or bailiff has jurisdiction.
  2. a person's area of skill, knowledge, authority, or work
"district of bailiff," mid-15c., baillifwik, from bailiff (q.v.) O.E. wic "village" (see wick (2)). Figurative sense of "one's natural or proper sphere" is first recorded 1843. (

"And repercussions extended far beyond Dabbadie's bailiwick."

 - John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Word of the day: whistle stop

The word of the day is whistle stop:

  1. a small, unimportant town, especially one along a railroad line.
  2. a short talk from the rear platform of a train, especially during a political campaign.
  3. a brief appearance, single performance, or the like, in a small town, as during a political campaign or theatrical tour. (

"Then, almost as a challenge, the pro-Escandón newspaper in Mexico City, El Diario, announced in mid-week that Escandón's champions would shortly begin a whistle-stop tour through Morelos."

 - John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Word of the day: gachupín

The word of the day is gachupín:

chiefly Southwest sometimes disparaging
:a Spanish settler in America who immigrated from Spain (

"'Besides, Don Pancho...was a friend of the poor man.  He even had a fellow shot when he was governor—a gachupín landlord who'd had a peon thrashed almost to death.  You don't have any idea,' she went on, 'how the landlords and especially their gachupín managers abuse people around here.'"
- John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Friday, August 14, 2015

Phrase of the day: nolo contendere

The phrase of the day is nolo contendere:

(in a criminal case) a defendant's pleading that does not admit guilt but subjects him or her to punishment as though a guilty plea had been entered, the determination of guilt remaining open in other proceedings.

"I think some of the first work was done around 1960-1961, when one investigator was found to be falsifying records and was actually prosecuted by the Justice Department; he pleaded nolo contendere."

- Frances Kelsey, "Autobiographical Reflections", 2014 (

Word of the day: hatchet man

The word of the day is hatchet man:

  1. professional murderer.
  2. writer or speaker who specializes indefamatory attacks, as on politicalcandidates or public officials.
  3. person whose job it is to executeunpleasant tasks for superior, asdismissing employees.

"General Reyes had long seemed a likely heir to Díaz; and under a new cover of a party, the Reyista Democrats now looked forward to a personal deal in the old style.  For that, they might use Escandón's military and social connections.  Chief among this group was the Organizing Club's other executive secretary, Heriberto Barrón, a notorious Reyes hatchetman."

 - John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Word of the day: hacienda

The word of the day is hacienda:

  1. a large landed estate, especially one used for farming or ranching.
  2. the main house on such an estate.
  3. a stock raising, mining, or manufacturing establishment in the country. 
1760, from Sp., "estate, plantation," from L. facienda "things to be done," from facere "to do" (

"They knew the meeting must be important.  To make sure everyone could come, the elders had called for this evening, on a Sunday.  And to hide it from the hacienda foremen, they had passed the word around in private instead of ringing the church bell."

 - John Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution

Word of the day: locum tenens

The word of the day is locum tenens:

a temporary substitute, especially for a doctor or member of the clergy. (

"I did some locum tenens work and then got into the new field of radioisotopes and radioisotope drugs."

 - Frances Kelsey, "Autobiographical Reflections", 2014 (

Word of the day: pharmacognosy

The word of the day is pharmacognosy:

the study of natural product molecules (typically secondary metabolites) that are useful for their medicinal, ecological, gustatory, or other functional properties (

"In CAS databases, pharmaceutical patents are categorized in right subsections.  Majority of Chinese pharmaceutical patents fall in the categories of biologics, pharmacognosy, pharmaceutics, formulation and compounding, and prosthetics and medical goods."

 - Matthew J. McBride and Roger J. Schenck, "Pharmaceuticals lead Chinese patent applications in 2014", C&EN Supplement, August 2015

Friday, August 07, 2015

Word of the day: dynamo

The word of the day is dynamo:

  1. an electric generator, especially for direct current
1882, short for Ger. dynamoelektrischemaschine, coined 1867 by its inventor, Ger. electrical engineer Werner Siemans (1816-92), from Gk. dynamis "power."


"Mercury and Earth both have an internal magnetic field similar to that of a giant magnet...  Both fields are thought to be generated by core dynamos, where the electrically conducting, liquid iron is stirred by convective motion..., sustaining the magnetic lines of force."

 - Julien Aubert, "Ancient planetary dynamos, take two: Magnetic studies of Earth and Mercury constrain their ancient core dynamics", Science 349:475 (31 July 3015)

Word of the day: blowzy

The word of the day is blowzy:

  1. having a coarse, ruddy complexion.
  2. disheveled in appearance; unkempt.
c.1770, from obsolete blouze (1570s), "wench, beggar's trull," perhaps originally a cant term. (

"One of the funny, but doom-laden, elements in 'A Christmas Garland' is the mockery of Glasworthy's and Bennett's loquaciousness, which carried within it the seeds of the idea that anything big and long is blowsy."

 - Adam Gopnik, "The Comparable Max: Max Beerbohm's cult of the diminutive", 3 August 2015 The New Yorker (

No, I'm not convinced that's what he meant.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Word of the day: po-faced

The word of the day is po-faced:

adjective Chiefly British.

  1. having an overly serious demeanor or attitude; humorless. (

"The tones tend to reappear as needed: 'Zuleika Dobson' (1911) is, with its po-faced climax of mass suicide among the Oxford undergraduates in despair at Zuleika's beauty, very much in the first, aesthetic manner."

- Adam Gopnik, "The Comparable Max: Max Beerbohm's cult of the diminutive", 3 August 2015 The New Yorker (

Unrelated, but I'd like to note here that I think the sole reason he wrote this article was so that he could say, "Reading Max, you can sense why Paris, in that last great exhalation of writing before the Great War, remade human consciousness, while London, during the same time, remade only its manners.  Dandies, it seems, are dandy; but belles-lettres is better."

Word of the day: bellwether

The word of the day is bellwether:

  1. wether or other male sheep that leads the flock, usually bearing a bell.
  2. a person or thing that assumes the leadership or forefront, as of a profession or industry: Paris is a bellwether of the fashion industry.
  3. a person or thing that shows the existence or direction of a trend; index.
  4. a person who leads a mob, mutiny, conspiracy, or the like; ringleader.
mid-15c., from bell + wether; the lead sheep (on whose neck a bell was hung) of a domesticated flock; used earlier in the figurative sense of "chief, leader" (early 15c.). (

"This inventive take on the traditional family novel nods at bellwethers of the genre but feels as if it could only have been written yesterday."

- "Briefly Noted", 3 August 2015 The New Yorker (

Phrase of the day: the yips

The phrase of the day is the yips:

The Yips is no mythological plague. For reasons unknown, players can encounter a mental hurdle that flat-out won't permit them to complete one of the game's mundane on-field tasks. (

"Performers are often reluctant to discuss stagefright.  They think it's bad luck.  (Likewise, most baseball players do not want to discuss the yips.)"

 - Joan Acocella, "I Can't Go On!", 3 August 2015 The New Yorker (