Shibboleth ‣ NOUN Shibboleth originally meant ear of corn in Ancient Hebrew. Today, because of a story in the bible, we use the word like this: For a test, based on distinctive pronunciation, of whether someone is in a particular ethnic or social group. More generally, for any practice, custom, or belief that serves to […]
Author Archive | Dr. Dexterous
bathos, bathetic ‣NOUN, ADJ Bathos: A descent from moving artistry to the ridiculous. Bathetic: To be full of bathos. Cf. pathos, pathetic ‘Bathos’ sounds like: BAY-thoss (IPA: ‘beθɑs, or British ‘beθɒs) Etymology Seeds of literary bitterness: In Ancient Greek, bathos (also sometimes transliterated as bathous) means depth. In 1727, the English poet (and not-very-nice-person) Alexander […]
pathos, pathetic ‣NOUN, ADJ Pathos: a quality that evokes sadness or pity. Pathetic: omg, like, such a loser. Cf. bathos, bathetic ‘Pathos’ sounds like: PAY-thoss (IPA: ‘peθɑs, or British ‘peθɒs) Etymology A divergence in connotation: In Ancient Greek pathos meant suffering. Modern English pathos and pathetic both come from that root (pathetic comes from a […]
avatar ‣ NOUN “Avatar” has three distinct (though historically connected) meanings: Literally: one of the physical embodiments of the Hindu god Vishnu (he could adopt various shapes); Figuratively: someone being such a good exemplar of a quality (e.g. goodness) that it’s like they’re the embodiment of that quality (e.g. “She’s an avatar of goodness”). On […]
The English Expletive Infix If you’re a native speaker of English you’ve probably heard (and maybe used) what linguists call the “expletive infix”—that’s when you insert an emphasizing “fuckin’” right inside of another word.
Introduction It may seem strange to think that a people can turn against the sound /p/—yet this is precisely what a large group of German speakers did, hundreds of years ago.
Guest co-author: Dr. Yuwen Lai There are four completely different words ‘mao’ in Mandarin Chinese, corresponding to these four English words: ‘cat’ ‘Mao’, as in Chairman Mao (this is a common surname, and originally meant ‘animal fur’) ‘rivet’ ‘hat’ Each of these four ‘mao’s has the exact same
Behemoth ■ N or ADJ ■ A great beast that God describes in the Bible (Job 40), Behemoth is something like a bad-ass hippo. Speakers today use behemoth to describe any kind of ginormous entity—especially huge and powerful organizations like Google or the NSA. The word originates from Hebrew, possibly based on the […]