trompe l’oeil

Pronounced: tromp loi

Notes: No credit for knowing the language this word comes from


Yesterday’s word

The word sedulous means

  • involving or accomplished with careful perseverance
  • diligent in application or pursuit
Background

The word traces back to the Latin se dolus, literally meaning “without guile”. The two words eventually merged into one, sedulo (sincerely, diligently), which became sedulus in Latin and became our word in English.

First usage

This word came into English in the mid-1500s

sedulous

Pronounced: SEH-juh-luhs, adj

Notes: I was off on this word; I associated it with something sinister or unpleasant, and that’s not at all the case for this word


Yesterday’s word

The word ullage means “the amount of liquid by which a container falls short of being full” – a pretty handy word.

Background

The word comes from Old French noun ouillage/eullage, which come from the verb ouiller/eullier (to fill a cask), with the root word ouil (eye, hole).

First usage

The word showed up in the mid-1400s

ullage

Pronounced: UL-ihj, noun

Notes: A nice, useful word that I did not know


Yesterday’s word

The word tarantism means “a dancing mania or malady of late medieval Europe”

Background

In the 1500s the town of Taranto in Italy was hit by a dance craze; people had a hysterical impulse to dance and was called “tarantism”. Some people claimed that this impulse was caused by the bite of the the European wolf spider, called “tarantula” — also after the name of the town. The folk story was that dancing was the only cure to the bite. Musicians would show up in the region to help cure the epidemic. There is some belief that the Italian folk dance called the “tarantella” resulted from this craze (note that this is the word that I referred to as knowing); however, “tarantella” may have just come from the town name instead of the dance name.

First usage

The word showed up in the mid-1600s

tarantism

Pronounced: TA-run-tih-zuhm, noun

Notes: I didn’t know this word, but it is related to a word I have heard of


Yesterday’s word

The word Bluebeard refers to a marries and kills one wife after another

Background

As I noted yesterday, I knew the meaning of this word; it was the background that I didn’t know. I’ve always thought that Bluebeard was a real person – probably by association with Blackbeard, who was a real person. Bluebeard comes from a fairy tale by Charles Perrault. The main character, Raoul, has the nickname Bluebeard due to his bluish beard. He marries multiple times, and forbids each wife to enter a certain room. One wife does, and finds the bodies of his earlier wives. Thus the word came to mean a man who has married several times. A similar phrase for women is “black widow”.

First usage

The word came into English in the late 1700s

Bluebeard

Pronounced: BLUE-beard, noun

Notes: I know the word, but the background was utterly new to me


Yesterday’s word

The word palinode means

  • an ode or song recanting or retracting something in an earlier poem
  • a formal retraction
Background

The story goes that Stesichorus, a Greek poet in the 6th century BC, was struck blind after writing a poem insulting Helen of Troy. His sight was restored after he wrote an apologetic palinode – he used the Greek word palinĊidia, from palin (back or again) with aeidein (to sing). English poets borrowed the Greek word for their own nodes.

First usage

This word came into English in the 1500s

palinode

Pronounced: PAH-luh-node, noun

Notes: I was thinking it might be related to “palliative”, but it isn’t.


Yesterday’s word

The word prosopopeia means “a figure of speech in which..”

  • …an imaginary or absent person is represented as acting or speaking
  • …an inanimate object or something abstract is represented as possessing human form; personification
Background

The word comes from Latin prosopopoeia, which comes from Greek prosopopoiia (personification), which is made up of pros- (facing) plus ops (eye) plus poiein (to make)

First usage

This word showed up in the mid-1500s


Rejected word

I rejected circadian because I was pretty close to the meaning.

prosopopeia

Pronounced: pruh-so-puh-PEE-uh (also spelled prosopopoeia)

Notes: Quite a long word!


Yesterday’s phrase

The phrase scarlet pimpernel means, as one might guess, “a person who rescues others from mortal danger by smuggling them across a border”.

Background/Notes

The book The Scarlet Pimpernel came out in 1903 and was popular. English speakers began to use scarlet pimpernel to refer to anyone who smuggled people in danger to a safe haven in another country. Over the years, the term has become more generalized and can now refer to a person who is daring, mysterious, or evasive.

First usage

This word began to be used in the early 1900s.


Rejected word

I rejected wraith because I knew the meaning.

scarlet pimpernel

Pronounced: SKAR-luht PIM-per-nuhl, noun

Notes: I have read the book, The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy, and I have seen the 1982 film (with Anthony Andrews & Jane Seymour) as well as the 1934 film (with Leslie Howard & Merle Oberon), but I had no idea that this was a word, which is why it is included here. I suspect nearly everyone can guess the definition.


Yesterday’s word

The word mugwump means “an independent, especially in politics”.

Background/Notes

The word is humorously explained as someone who sites on a fence with his mug (face) on one side, and his wump (rump) on the other. In truth, the word comes from the Massachusett word mugquomp (leader, great man). Massachusett is a language in the Algonquian language family. The word was used in 1884 to describe a Republican who refused to support their candidate, James Blaine, who had a reputation for corruption. These mugwumps supported Grover Cleveland, making him President of the United States.

First usage

The word showed up in the mid-1800s.

mugwump

Pronounced: MUG-wump, noun

Notes: I’ve run across this word, but couldn’t define it properly


Yesterday’s word

The word pinder refers to a peanut.

Background/Notes

This word, according to the dictionary I looked it up in, says that it is primarily used in South Carolina. The word itself comes from the Bantu language in Africa; the peanut itself is native to South America (not the United States), and was first taken to Africa, where it acquired this name (among others). It was then brought to North America. Other words for peanut are “groundnut”, “earthnut”, and “goober” (or as I heard it in grade school, “goober pea”). Like pinder, “goober” comes from the Bantu language.

First usage

This word showed up in the late 1690s


Rejected word

The word dyspepsia was a borderline case: I was pretty close to the meaning, although there is a sense of the word that I wasn’t aware of, but I still decided not to use it.

pinder

Pronounced: PIN-der, noun

Notes: This is a word I’ve never heard (that I know of); I ran across it while reading the definition of another word


Yesterday’s word

The word hebetude means “lethargy, dullness”.

Background

This word comes from Late Latin hebetudo (dullness, bluntness). This derives from the Latin root hebes (dull).

First usage

The word first showed up in the early 1600s


Rejected word

I knew the meaning of inane, so it didn’t make the cut