Sunday, February 8th
Way Back When Word of the Day:
You weren't around in the 1970s? Oh well, it's never too late to celebrate an old craze. This one -- an object made of knotted cords, or the art of doing this -- first appeared in English in the 19th century, but got a big boost 100 years later. Immediate origins are French or Italian, but the ultimate ancestor is Arabic.
Monday, February 9th
Hard to Track Word of the Day:
Mayo is the easy way out if spelling doubts arise about the name of this tasty fat-filled spread. This French word has enjoyed a handful of spellings since its first 19th-century appearance and merits an etymology of nearly 300 words in the OED, the gist of which is "origin uncertain."
Tuesday, February 10th
But of Course Word of the Day:
Save this one for those occasions where there can be no doubt: it means "necessarily true or logically certain." The Greek root verb behind apodictic (deiknynai, "show") also finds its way, with various permutations into diction, digit, and paradigm.
Wednesday, February 11th
Flash on This Word of the Day:
This Latinate verb is doomed to a career of marginal use because it has no sound sense: its sound doesn't suggest anything about its meaning, whereas its homegrown (in English, that is) synonyms, sparkle and flash, seem to call up their meaning more successfully. Points to note: no relation to corrugate, and spelled with only one r.
Thursday, February 12th
Nature's Way Word of the Day:
We salute this term from biology today, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, the man who observed the phenomenon in nature and named it. It's the engine that drives evolution and is sometimes contrasted with artificial selection, the process by which breeders select traits in species that they find desirable.
Friday, February 13th
Bedtime Story Word of the Day:
This helpful hormone is in the news again, as a possible aid in reducing diabetes risk. It's named on the same pattern as serotonin with the mela- part derived from Greek for "black" -- presumably in connection with darkness, night, and sleep, the activity that melatonin promotes best.
Saturday, February 14th
On Your Feet Word of the Day:
It's a rare word from Tarascan that makes it into English, but this one, denoting a sandal with the upper made of woven leather straps, is certainly the poster child. The language, increasingly called P'urhépecha these days, is a linguistic isolate spoken by about 100,000 people in the Mexican state of Michoacán.