The 6.0 earthquake that hit the Napa Valley and destroyed some barrels of wine had a predictable aftereffect: the trotting out of the uncommon word temblor. Temblor is the favorite second-reference word among journalists for earthquake, and it seems to have little utility elsewhere.
I tweeted this bit of advice on the word, which is sometimes rendered incorrectly as tremblor (both tremble and temblor trace their roots to the Latin tremulus).
In the era of Facebook and Twitter we’re reposting all the time, so it’s no surprise a fellow editor would see someone refer to a clever repost instead of a clever riposte.
The word repost is a natural formation that goes back hundreds of years: To repost is simply to post again. Post, as in mail, referred originally to travel by relay of horses. But you could probably ask someone in the 17th century to repost a sign that fell down and you’d be understood.
I recently and unexpectedly acquired a Butterfly, a 12-foot sailing dinghy, and immediately signed up for lessons at a nearby sailing club. I’ve always had an interest, but now I need to learn my sheet from my stay and my bow from my aft.
I don’t casually browse dictionaries as often as I once did, but I’m still thrilled at moment of serendipity, when the dictionary yields a new word and distracts me from what I was supposed to be doing.
Today, I discovered wordhoard, a store of words and, therefore, the vocabulary of a person, group of people or an entire language. It may be an obvious compound, but it existed (without the a) in Old English.
The first time someone wrote luxurious, in a story called Arthur and Merlin, he meant lascivious, lecherous or unchaste, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. That was around 1330. Arthur and Merlin, by the way, also gives us the first recorded use of the insult biche-sone, or son of a bitch.
My British kin sniff at the American use of soccer for football, and so I am quick to point out the British origin of the word. Purists will always express impatience with those who don’t keep up with the lingo, but there is nothing inherently wrong with the wonderful word soccer.
I have a habit of hearing words in conversation that strike me as nonstandard and then losing the run of conversation while I mull things over in my head. Occupational hazard, I suppose. Digitalization was the most recent word to throw me off as I thought about the differences and commonalities of computer code and fingers and obsolete heart medication.
After author, poet, actor, singer, speaker, educator, activist and editor Maya Angelou died Wednesday at 86, one of the more obvious adjectives used to describe her was phenomenal. One of her many poems was Phenomenal Womanfrom 1978:
Now you understand Just why my head’s not bowed. I don’t shout or jump about Or have to talk real loud. …
The New York Public Library, a feat of architecture and public access, was dedicated on May 23, 1911. It was exactly 16 years after the Astor and Lenox libraries agreed to combine with the Tilden Trust to create a truly “free library and reading room” as envisioned by former governor Samuel Tilden when he made his $2.4 million bequest. On May 24, the day after the dedication, the NYPL opened to the public. Between 30,000 and 50,000 people visited on that first day.
A friend sent me a note about my visit to Cayo Oeste, using a Spanish translation for Key West. I got a lot of notes about Key West for this trip and many instructions on what spot to visit in my travels.
The original Spanish, though, was Cayo Hueso, or Bone Key, a name still found on some island businesses. The English key for a low-lying barrier island probably comes from cayo, influenced by quay, which is related to an earlier word key.