Thursday, August 11, 2005

Word of the Day for Thursday August 11, 2005

nugatory \NOO-guh-tor-ee; NYOO-\, adjective:
1. Trifling; insignificant; inconsequential.
2. Having no force; inoperative; ineffectual.

Tygiel's forte as a historian is his eye for what may
appear nugatory or marginal but, when focused upon,
illuminates the temper of a given moment.
--Roberto Gonzlez Echevarria, "From Ruth to Rotisserie,"
[1]New York Times, July 2, 2000

Jacoby's offense was no offense -- or an error so nugatory
as to demand no more than a one-sentence explanation.
--Lance Morrow, "In Boston, a Foolish Consistency of Little
Minds," [2]Time, July 19, 2000

Socialism no longer restrains; trade unions do so much less
than they did; moral inhibitions over the acquisition and
display of wealth are nugatory.
--John Lloyd, "If not socialism, what will persuade the
rich willingly to pay more taxes to help the poor and
preserve a decent society?" [3]New Statesman, August 2,

Nugatory comes from Latin nugatorius, from nugari, "to
trifle," from nugae, "jests, trifles."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Word of the Day for Wednesday August 10, 2005

sojourn \SOH-juhrn; so-JURN\, intransitive verb:
To stay as a temporary resident; to dwell for a time.

A temporary stay.

Though he has sojourned in Southwold, wandered in
Walberswick, dabbled in Dunwich, ambled through Aldeburgh
and blundered through Blythburgh, Smallweed has never set
foot in Orford.
--Smallweed, "The trouble with hope," [1]The Guardian,
April 14, 2001

Yet he is now an accomplished student and speaker of
English, a literary editor and television producer, someone
who has sojourned in Paris and attended the International
Writing Program at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
--William H. Gass, "Family and Fable in Galilee," [2]New
York Times, April 17, 1988

As chance would have it, Degas's five-month sojourn in New
Orleans coincided with an extraordinarily contentious
period in the stormy political history of the city.
--Christopher Benfey, [3]Degas in New Orleans

During that long sojourn in Sligo, from 1870 to 1874, he
had lessons from a much loved nursemaid, Ellie Connolly;
later he received coaching in spelling and dictation from
Esther Merrick, a neighbour who lived in the Sexton's house
by St John's, and who read him quantities of verse.
--R. F. Foster, [4]W.B. Yeats: A Life

Sojourn comes from Old French sojorner, from (assumed) Vulgar
Latin subdiurnare, from Latin sub-, "under, a little over" +
Late Latin diurnus, "lasting for a day," from Latin dies,

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Word of the Day for Tuesday August 9, 2005

captious \KAP-shuhs\, adjective:
1. Marked by a disposition to find fault or raise objections.
2. Calculated to entrap or confuse, as in an argument.

The most common among those are captious individuals who
can find nothing wrong with their own actions but
everything wrong with the actions of everybody else.
--"In-Closet Hypocrites," [1]Atlanta Inquirer, August 15,

Mr Bowman had, I think, been keeping Christmas Eve, and was
a little inclined to be captious: at least, he was not on
foot very early, and to judge from what I could hear,
neither men nor maids could do anything to please him.
--M. R. James, [2]The Haunted Dolls' House and Other

Most authors would prefer readers such as Roiphe over
captious academic critics.
--Steven Moore, "Old Flames," [3]Washington Post, November
26, 2000

With the imperturbablest bland clearness, he, for five
hours long, keeps answering the incessant volley of fiery
captious questions.
--Thomas Carlyle, [4]The French Revolution

Captious is derived from Latin captiosus, "sophistical,
captious, insidious," from captio, "a taking, a fallacy,
sophism," from capere, "to take, to seize."

Monday, August 08, 2005

Word of the Day for Monday August 8, 2005

somniferous \som-NIF-uhr-uhs\, adjective:
Causing or inducing sleep.

He has gone outside the usual channels of stodgy academic
journals and somniferous lectures.
--David Gibson, "Separating Christ from Christianity,"
[1]The Record (Bergen County, NJ), June 9, 1996

And some cities are [2]eschewing the somniferous art museum
to invent newer, hipper institutions that honor our
fascination with contemporary culture: technology, space
flight, and even rock 'n' roll.
--Heidi Landecker, "Art Transplant," [3]Architecture, March

Filmed on location in England and using quotes from letters
and other documents of Pilgrim leaders, this video is rich
in detail and information. Its major drawback--and one that
may affect its effectiveness with its intended student
audience--is that it's as dull as dillweed, primarily due
to a somniferous narration.
--J. Carlson, "The Mayflower Pilgrims," [4]Video Librarian,
November 11, 1996

Somniferous comes from Latin somnifer, "sleep-bringing," from
somnus, "sleep" + ferre, "to bring."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Word of the Day for Sunday August 7, 2005

Word of the Day for Sunday August 7, 2005

castigate \KAS-tuh-gayt\, transitive verb:
To punish severely; also, to chastise verbally; to rebuke; to
criticize severely.

It was not good enough to castigate him for his sins.
--Frank Deford, "Knight is too easy a target," [1]Sports
Illustrated, May 25, 2000

Out in the world they marvelled that they were found
acceptable to others, after years of being castigated as
unsatisfactory, disappointing.
--Anita Brookner, [2]Falling Slowly

Though castigated by the Catholic Church, illegitimacy was
scarcely an unusual feature of Austrian country life.
--Ian Kershaw, [3]Hitler: 1889-1936: Hubris

For my lack of missionary zeal, I have been castigated by a
few militant atheists, who are irritated by my
disinclination to try persuading people to abandon their
faith that God exists (while some religious people regard
me as a militant atheist intent on promoting worship of
unspecified "secular idols").
--Wendy Kaminer, [4]Sleeping With Extra-Terrestrials

Castigate comes from Latin castigare, "to purify, to correct,
to punish," from castus, "pure."
Synonyms: punish, chastise, rebuke, reprove, reprimand.

Word of the Day for Saturday August 6, 2005

waylay \WAY-lay\, transitive verb:
1. To lie in wait for and attack from ambush.
2. To approach or stop (someone) unexpectedly.

When his mother praised certain well-behaved and neatly
dressed boys in the village, Jung was filled with hate for
them, and would waylay and beat them up.
--Frank McLynn, [1]Carl Gustav Jung

He returned to her night after night, until his brother,
Frank, waylaid him one evening outside Harriet's cabin and
beat him bloody.
--Lynne Olson, [2]Freedom's Daughters

Furious and humiliated, the boy waylaid Martha after
--Julian Barnes, [3]England, England

The women, who hold wicker baskets filled with flowers and
incense, are out to waylay tourists and to entice them into
buying the blooms and scents.
--Jacob Heilbrunn, "Mao More Than Ever," [4]New Republic,
April 21, 1997

Waylay comes from way (from Old English weg) + lay (from Old
English lecgan).

Synonyms: ambush, assail, bushwhack, set upon. [5]Find more at