High-Vocabulary Word of the Day

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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Gormless

Posted by kazvorpal on January 22, 2013


Gormless Charlie BrownGormless

Weak of mind or (occasionally) body, especially if one is gullible or clumsy

Examples:

And then you look at me gormless, like the salmon’s raw when it was requested medium. And what did you say?
Gordon Ramsey, Hell’s Kitchen (2005)

Now, If I were you, which arguably I am, I would be asking myself in a gormless sort of voice, “Did that bridge really collapse or is my good friend Clarence just playing an hilarious jape?” The answer, monkey man, is that I don’t even know myself. One way to find out. Please, don’t get us killed.
— Clarence, Penumbra (the video game)

[After Angel stops Spike from biting Cordelia]
Spike: She’s evil, you gormless tit!
Cordelia: Excuse me? Who bit whom?
Angel: Did you call me a tit?
Cordelia: I thought he had a soul.
Spike: I thought she didn’t.
Cordelia: I do.
Spike: So do I.
Cordelia: Well, clearly mine’s better!
Angel, episode You’re Welcome

Etymology:

The word is actually “gaumless”, gaum meaning “attentiveness”. But the British tendency to add an R into their pronunciation (America can sound like Americer) has altered the spelling.

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Shibboleth

Posted by kazvorpal on January 17, 2013


Shibboleth: Southerner vs YankeesShibboleth

A term, trait, belief, or action used to identify people belonging to the same group

Example:

The liberty of the citizen to do as he likes so long as he does not interfere with the liberty of others to do the same, which has been a shibboleth for some well known writers, is interfered with by school laws, by the Post Office, by every state or municipal institution which takes his money for purposes thought desirable, whether he likes it or not.
Oliver Wendel Holmes, Jr. Lochner v. New York

He boldly challenged the most cherished shibboleths of American political thought…a systematic critique of the very principle of American democracy.
— S. T. Joshi, Mencken’s America (2004)

During the war Gramsci drew these concerns together in a vitriolic attack on the favourite shibboleth of prewar anarchism and socialism: Esperanto.
Carl Levy, Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red (2012)

But maybe prayer is a road to rise,
A mountain path leading toward the skies
To assist the spirit who truly tries.
But it isn’t a shibboleth, creed, nor code,
It isn’t a pack-horse to carry your load,
It isn’t a wagon, it’s only a road.
And perhaps the reward of the spirit who tries
Is not the goal, but the exercise!
— Edmund Vance Cooke, Prayer, The Uncommon Commoner.

Etymology:

According to Judges 12 of the Old Testament, people called Ephraimites were unable to say “shibboleth” (a word meaning “flood”), pronouncing it “sibboleth”. This allows them to be identified and killed by enemy Gileadites:

And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay; 6 Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.

Judges 12:4-6

Posted in Culture, Grammar / Syntax, history | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Nabob

Posted by kazvorpal on January 13, 2011


Nabob

Wealthy, powerful or influential individual, usually of exaggerated self-importance

Examples:

In the United States today, we have more than our share of nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H club — the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.
— William Safire, written for a Spiro Agnew speech (1970)

We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Pig after pig. Cow after cow. Village after village. Army after army. And they call me an assassin. What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassin? They lie. They lie, and we have to be merciful, for those who lie. Those nabobs. I hate them. I do hate them.
— Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now (1979)

How can republican institutions, free schools, free churches, free social intercourse exist in a mingled community of nabobs and serfs; of the owners of twenty thousand acre manors with lordly palaces, and the occupants of narrow huts inhabited by “low white trash?”
— Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, to a meeting of the Pennsylvania delegation in Congress (1865)

Etymology:

  • Used in India and Pakistan, originally for governors imposed by the Mongol empire, this is related to the Arabic honorific, na’ib

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