Word of the Day!




1. (in an ancient Roman villa) a garden walk planted with trees.
2. (in ancient Greek and Roman architecture) a covered portico, as a promenade.


The ordinary length of a xyst was a stadium, and, as this bridge was at the southern end of the Xyst, the first wall which passed along the northern end of it must have been about 600 feet to the north of the bridge…
— , Archaeologia: Or Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity: Volume 44 , 1873

Paganism never troubled itself to be angry with mere philosophers who aired their elegant doubts in the shady xystus.
— F.W. Farrar , “The Victories of Christianity,” The Witness of History to Christ , 1870


Xyst comes from the Greek xystós meaning “a covered colonnade,” a space that was used for athletic exercises in ancient Greece. It entered English in the mid-1600s.


Happy Saturday everyone! Here’s your quote of the day…


I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world.

Walt Whitman

American poet Walt Whitman (born May 31, 1819) was working as a newspaper editor when he wrote Leaves of Grass. He self-published it and only sold ten copies of the first edition.

Word of the day!



1. next to the last: the penultimate scene of the play.
2. of or pertaining to a penult.

1. a penult.


I forced myself to picture the last moments. The penultimate breath. A final sigh. And yet. It was always followed by another.
— Nicole Krauss , The History of Love , 2005

It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth– penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words…
— Joseph Campbell , The Power of Myth , 1988


Penultimate combines a variation on the Latin paene meaning “almost” with ultimus meaning “final.” It entered English in the mid-1500s.

Quote of the day for Friday!


There is no secret to success except hard work and getting something indefinable which we call ‘the breaks.

Countee Cullen

Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen (born May 30, 1903) did not just write poetry—he also translated Medea from the Greek and wrote an autobiography of his cat titled My Lives and How I Lost Them.

Word of the day!




1. out-and-out nonsense; bunkum.

2. elements of low comedy introduced into a play, novel, etc., for the laughs they may bring.

3. sentimental matter of an elementary or stereotyped kind introduced into a play or the like.

4. false or irrelevant material introduced into a speech, essay, etc., in order to arouse interest, excitement, or amusement.


But American campaign biographies still follow a script written nearly two centuries ago. East of piffle and west of hokum , the Boy from Hope always grows up to be the Man of the People.
— Jill Lepore , “Bound for Glory,” The New Yorker , 2008

Probably nowhere else do the popular playmakers of Broadway reveal their imaginative shortcomings so clearly as in the employment of what is known colloquially as hokum.
— George Jean Nathan , Comedians All , 1919


Hokum emerged as theater slang in the US in the early 1900s and is thought to be a blend of hocus-pocus and bunkum .

Quote of the day!


In love, no question is ever preposterous.

André Brink

Happy 79th birthday, André Brink! The South African novelist was part of a movement to use Afrikaans to speak out against the apartheid government.

Word of the day!


MEEL-yuh-riz-uhm, MEE-lee-uh-


the doctrine that the world tends to become better or may be made better by human effort.


For a life worthy to be lived is one that is full of active aspiration, for something higher and better; and such a contemplation of the world we call meliorism.
— Paul Carus , Monism and Meliorism , 1885

The leaders rejected the soft meliorism of more secular activists, the idea that significant progress could be made through consciousness-raising and education campaigns, through consensus and gradual reform.
— David Brooks , “The Ideas Behind the March,” The New York Times , 2013


Meliorism entered English in the late 1800s. It comes from the Latin word melior meaning “better.”

Quote of the day!


Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming (born May 28, 1908) may have achieved everlasting fame as the creator of the dapper James Bond, but he was also the author of a popular children’s book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Word of the day!


BOON-dog-uhl, -daw-guhl


to do work of little or no practical value merely to keep or look busy.
to deceive or attempt to deceive: to boondoggle investors into a low-interest scheme.


a product of simple manual skill, as a plaited leather cord for the neck or a knife sheath, made typically by a camper or a scout.
work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
a project funded by the federal government out of political favoritism that is of no real value to the community or the nation.


To the cowboy it meant the making of saddle trappings out of odds and ends of leather, and they boondoggled when there was nothing else to do on the ranch.
— , The Chicago Tribune , 1935

Against this backdrop, what happens next in California has broad import. Will the Monterey Shale be a boon, a boondoggle or, worse, an environmental mess?
— Alex Prud’homme , “‘Fracking’ the Monterey Shale — boon or boondoggle?” Los Angeles Times , 2013


Boondoggle is an Americanism that dates to the 1930s. The term’s origin is obscure, but it was popularized during the New Deal as a pejorative word for government projects for the unemployed.

Quote of the day!


I’ve been homesick for countries I’ve never been, and longed to be where I couldn’t be.

John Cheever

American novelist John Cheever (born May 27, 1912) has been aptly described as “the Chekhov of the suburbs.” His writing may have saved his life. After enlisting, he published a book of short stories. An officer in the Signal Corps read and liked it, and had Cheever transferred to do communications work. Later, half of Cheever’s original infantry regiment died at Normandy.