1. to make a crackling sound; crackle.
Kate could hardly remember now the dry rigid pallor of the heat, when the whole earth seemed to crepitate viciously with dry malevolence; like memory gone dry and sterile, hellish.
– D. H. Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent, 1926
When she came into the room, shaking rain-pearls from the hem of her black coat, I could feel her excitement–when she was like that the air around her seemed to crepitate as if an electric current were passing through it.
– John Banville, Athena, 1995
Crepitate derives from Latin crepitātus, the past participle of crepitāre “to rattle, rustle, chatter,” a frequentative verb from crepāre and having the same meaning. The word entered English in the 17th century and meant “to break wind, fart,” a meaning that crepitāre had in Latin; the word’s politer senses date from the 19th century.
1. the voice of the people; popular opinion.
Polls are certainly useful devices for plumbing the depths of the vox populi.
– James D. Williams, “Detroit News Poll Not Quite What It Seems,” The Crisis, June–July 1992
Because of the recent silencing of most European democracies, in the choice of Willkie that night there was, even to many cynical or Democratic ears, an exciting, stirring sound, as of vox populi.
– “From Life’s Correspondents: Flanner on Willkie,” Life, October 28, 1940
Vox populi is of Latin origin, and is often found in the maxim vox populi, vox Dei meaning “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” It entered English in the mid-1500s.
1. the art of writing words with the proper letters, according to accepted usage; correct spelling.
2. the part of language study concerned with letters and spelling.
3. a method of spelling, as by the use of an alphabet or other system of symbols; spelling.
4. a system of such symbols: Missionaries provided the first orthography for the language.
5. an orthographic projection, or an elevation drawn by means of it.
… at bottom I disrespect our orthography most heartily, and as heartily disrespect everything that has been said by anybody in defence of it. Nothing professing to be a defence of our ludicrous spellings has had any basis, so far as my observation goes, except sentimentality.
– Mark Twain, “Chapters from My Autobiography,” North American Review, Volume CLXXXV, 1907
“Pardon me, sir. An urgent message just come on the despatch cart.” “‘Came,’ Constable.” The inspector examined the note. “Extraordinary. It seems, Constable Thackeray, that someone is asking me to release you from my class. I shall not refuse. Since the finer points of orthography have eluded you for so long, I am sure that they can wait another week.
– Peter Lovesey, Abracadaver, 1972
Orthography stems from the Greek word orthós meaning “straight, upright, correct.” It entered English in the early 1400s.
1. going beyond the requirements of duty.
2. greater than that required or needed; superfluous.
The manner of the Quartermaster had that air of supererogatory courtesy about it which almost invariably denotes artifice; for, while physiognomy and phrenology are but lame sciences at the best, the perhaps lead to as many false as right conclusions, we hold that there is no more infallible evidence of insincerity of purpose, short of overt acts, than a face that smiles when there is no occasion, and the tongue that is out of measure smooth.
– James Fenimore Cooper, The Pathfinder, 1840
But you are always given to surprise me with abundant kindness–with supererogatory kindness. I believe in that, certainly.
– Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning to H. S. Boyd, August 14, 1844
Supererogatory stems from the Medieval Latin superērogātōrius, with the root word ērogāre meaning “to pay out.” It entered English in the late 1500s.
1. (of a usually complicated technical or computer process) done, operating, or happening in a way that is hidden from or not understood by the user, and in that sense, apparently “magical”: I just downloaded an automagical update to my word processing software that somehow fixed the problems.
According to Sterling, the result “is that I no longer inventory my possessions inside my own head. They’re inventoried through an automagical inventory voodoo, work done far beneath my notice by a host of machines. I no longer bother to remember where I put things.”
– Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying, 2010
The scientific community calls this approach “automagical” … The manufacturer wants us to believe in–and trust–the magic. Even when things work well, it is somewhat discomforting to have no idea of how or why.
– Donald A. Norman, The Design of Future Things, 2007
Automagical entered Engish in the 1980s. Its first element, auto, stems from the Greek autómatos meaning “self-moving”; magical can be traced to the Greek magikós.
Word of the Day : April 5, 2016
1 : the inflectional forms of a noun, pronoun, or adjective
2 : a falling off or away : deterioration
3 : descent, slope
The most common declension in modern English is the set of plural nouns marked as plural with a simple “-s.”
“You jump in and begin seeing and hearing simple words in the foreign language and start translating, learning nouns, verbs, and other parts of speech without memorizing declensions and without tears.” — Reid Kanaley, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 2 May 2016
Did You Know?
Declension came into English (via Middle French) in the first half of the 15th century, originating in the Latin verb declinare, meaning “to inflect” or “to turn aside.” The word seems to have whiled away its time in the narrow field of grammar until Shakespeare put a new sense of the word in his play Richard III in 1593: “A beauty-waning and distressed widow / … Seduc’d the pitch and height of his degree / To base declension and loath’d bigamy.” This “deterioration” sense led within a few decades to the newest sense of the word still in common use, “descent” or “slope.” The 19th century saw still another new sense of the word—meaning “a courteous refusal”—but that sense has remained quite rare.
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1. a slightly disreputable barroom.
P. Dusenheimer, standing in the door of his uninviting groggery, when the trains stopped for water, never received from the traveling public any patronage except facetious remarks upon his personal appearance.
– Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, The Gilded Age, 1873
A volleyball court seemed to occupy the confectioner’s shop, the confectioner was nearly on top of the bridal shop, and the bridal shop had insinuated itself into the groggery next door.
– Lawrence Millman, “The Bay Islands,” Islands, February, 1994
Groggery is an Americanism formed on the basis of the word grog meaning “a strong alcoholic drink.” It entered English in the early 1800s.
1. pertaining to, situated in, or forming small or narrow spaces or intervals between things or parts.
2. Anatomy. situated between the cells of a structure or part: interstitial tissue.
1. Crystallography. an imperfection in a crystal caused by the presence of an extra atom in an otherwise complete lattice.
Philosophy should never have been purified. Rather than being seen as a problem, “dirty hands” should have been understood as the native condition of philosophic thought–present everywhere, often interstitial, essentially interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary in nature. Philosophy is a mangle. The philosopher’s hands were never clean and were never meant to be.
– Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle, “When Philosophy Lost Its Way,” New York Times, January 11, 2016
We are come to a world within the world. In these alien reaches, these maugre sinks and interstitial wastes that the righteous see from carriage and car another life dreams.
– Cormac McCarthy, Suttree, 1979
Interstitial derives from the Latin interstitium meaning “interstice” or “an intervening space.” It entered English in the mid-1600s.
1. a highest point or state; culmination.
2. the point on the celestial sphere vertically above a given position or observer.
And at the zenith of his fame, how he would suddenly appear at the old village and stalk into church, brown and weather-beaten, in his black velvet doublet and trunks, his great jack-boots, his crimson sash, his belt bristling with horse pistols, his crime-rusted cutlass at his side, his slouch hat with waving plumes, his black flag unfurled, with the skull and crossbones on it, and hear with swelling ecstasy the whisperings, “It’s Tom Sawyer the Pirate!–the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main!”
– Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876
Hence it can hardly be wondered at that as his learning accumulated his practice dissolved, until at the very moment when he had attained the zenith of his celebrity he had also reached the nadir of his fortunes.
– Arthur Conan Doyle, The Mystery of Cloomber, 1889
Zenith comes from the Middle English cenith, which in turn traces back to the Old Spanish zenit. The lineage continues to the Arabic samt meaning “road” as in samt ar-rās, “road above one’s head.”