slang : great in
quantity or amount : many, much
sentence: John and Mary
spent beaucoup bucks to decorate their
you know? In French, as
you may know, "beaucoup"
is an adverb meaning "a lot"
or "much" (as in "merci
beaucoup," meaning "thanks
a lot"). "Beaucoup"
isn't used on its own as an adjective
in French; if you want to say "many"
in French, you would use the phrase
"beaucoup de." In other
words, you would say "beaucoup
de livres" ("a lot of books"),
not "beaucoup livres." But
French grammar was thrown to the wind
when English speakers borrowed this
word. "Beaucoup" has been
used as a playful slang adjective
in English since at least 1918.
: to assail by words or arguments
: oppose or attack as false or lacking
Damaging testimony from several witnesses
helped the prosecutor impugn the defendant's
you impugn, you hazard repugnant pugnacity.
More simply put, you risk insulting
someone to the point where he or she
wants to sock you. The belligerent
implications of "impugn"
are to be expected in a word that
derives from the Latin verb "pugnare,"
which means "to fight."
In its earliest known English uses
in the 1300s, "impugn" could
refer to a physical attack (as in
"the troops impugned the city")
as well as to figurative assaults
involving verbal contradiction or
dispute. Over time, though, the sense
of physical battling has become obsolete
and the "calling into question"
sense has predominated. As you might
expect, the ancestors of "impugn"
also gave English other fighting words,
including "repugnant" and
1 : characterized
by such fineness of texture as to
permit seeing through *2 : characterized
by extreme delicacy of form : ethereal
3 : insubstantial, vague
"The very mist on the Essex
marsh was like a gauzy and radiant
fabric, hung from the wooded rises
inland, and draping the low shores
in diaphanous folds." (Joseph
Conrad, _Heart of Darkness_)
you guess which of the following words
come from the same Greek root as "diaphanous"?
epiphany B. triumphant C. fancy D.
phenomenon E. sycophant F. emphasis
G. phase H. phantom
Greek root "phainein" shows
through more clearly in some of our
quiz words than others, but it underlies
all of them except "triumphant"
(which derives from the Latin "triumphus").
The groundwork for "diaphanous"
was laid when "phainein"
(meaning "to show") was
combined with "dia-" (meaning
"through"). From that pairing
came the Greek "diaphanes,"
parent of the Medieval Latin "diaphanus,"
which is the direct ancestor of our
the sense illustrated in the example
: a descriptive name or epithet :
Baseball players have long been
known by colorful sobriquets such
as "The Georgia Peach" (Ty
Cobb) and "The Splendid Splinter"
This synonym of "nickname"
can be traced back to the Middle French
"soubriquet," which first
meant "tap under the chin,"
then "mockery." How did
we get from those meanings to "nickname"?
The answer to that question isn't
known for sure, but we can tell you
that the "nickname" meaning
was well established in French by
the time English speakers borrowed
the term in the mid-17th century.
In current English, the spelling "sobriquet"
is most common, but "soubriquet"
is also an accepted variant.
: one who gains illegal access
to the telephone system
The company has modified its phone
system in order to ward off phreakers.
"Phreakers" are modern day
troublemakers who specialize in attacks
on the telephone system. The word,
which became popular in the mid-1980s,
is probably a combination of the words
"phone" and "freak."
("Phreakers" are also known
as "phreaks" or "phone
phreaks.") A "phreaker"
can use either low-tech means, such
as whistling or using an instrument
to mimic the tones the phone system
utilizes to route calls and identify
payment, or the more high-tech tactic
of breaking into and manipulating
the phone company's computer system.
Their purpose is often to make long-
distance or other expensive calls
without paying, although some phreakers
seem more interested in causing damage
or havoc simply for the sake of doing
1 : a surface of a body or a region
*2 : the external aspects or appearance
of a thing
Although there have been changes
in the superficies of our lives, many
of the human dilemmas faced by our
ancestors are still quite recognizable.
the surface of "superficies"
and "surface" and you'll
find the very same Latin roots: "super-,"
meaning "on top," and "facies,"
meaning "face" or "aspect."
English speakers plucked "superficies"
right from Latin -- it means "surface"
in that language. Our word "surface"
came to us by way of Middle French,
where "sur-" (which comes
from "super-" and also means
"on top") was combined with
"face" (meaning "face";
from "facies"). We added
"surface" to our crop of
borrowed words around 1600 -- later
than "superficies." The
first known use of that word is from
1530. One tricky thing to keep in
mind about "superficies"
is that it can be singular (even though
it ends in an "s"!) or plural.
There is no "superficie"
the sense illustrated in the example
: a prolonged lamentation or complaint;
also : a cautionary or angry harangue
Mrs. Whinge waggled a finger
at us and launched into a doleful
jeremiad about how we would come to
no good end.
Jeremiah was a naysayer. That Jewish
prophet, who lived from about 650
to 570 B.C., spent his days lambasting
the Hebrews for their false worship
and social injustice and denouncing
the king for his selfishness, materialism,
and inequities. When not calling on
his people to quit their wicked ways,
he was lamenting his own lot; a portion
of the Old Testament's Book of Jeremiah
is devoted to his "confessions,"
a series of lamentations on the hardships
endured by a prophet with an unpopular
message. Nowadays, English speakers
use "Jeremiah" for a pessimistic
person and "jeremiad" for
the way these Jeremiahs carry on.
The word "jeremiad" was
actually borrowed from the French,
who coined it as "jeremiade."
: of, relating to, or characterized
by faithlessness or disloyalty : treacherous
Traitor! . . . the rustling serpent
/ Lurks in the thicket of the Tyrant's
greatness, / Ever prepared to sting
who shelters him." (Samuel Taylor
Coleridge, _The Fall of Robespierre_)
you know? We wouldn't lie
to you about the history of "perfidious"
-- even though the word itself suggests
deceitfulness. The modern English
meaning of "perfidious"
remains faithful to that of its Latin
ancestor, "perfidus," which
means "faithless." English
speakers have used "perfidious"
to mean "treacherous" since
at least 1572. One of the earliest
known uses of the term can be found
in Act V, scene iii of Shakespeare's
_All's Well That Ends Well_: the "perfidious
slave" Parolles is thought to
be an unreliable witness; he'll say
whatever it suits him to say. In contemporary
usage, "perfidious" not
only implies treacherousness, but
an inability to be reliable or honorable.
\NAY-vul-GAY-zing\ noun : useless
or excessive self-contemplation
sentence: Instead of
more of the feel-good lyrics and beats
that launched her to stardom, the
songs on the diva's sophomore release
border on tedious philosophizing and
you know? If you are scratching
your head over something, then you
are probably in a state of puzzled
contemplation. But if you are staring
at your navel, you could either be
indulging in some useless self-contemplation
or in a state of deep meditation.
If the latter, the technical term
for your activity would be "omphaloskepsis,"
which is a form of meditation that
has been practiced by mystics for
centuries. Navel-gazing is a pop form
of omphaloskepsis that is devoid of
any serious meditative value. The
word has been used more or less depreciatingly
since its first appearance in 1963.
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