Word of the Day: 9/21/15 – 9/25/2015

Good morning and happy Monday. This week, Wordsmith will be featuring five words that describe words. Yes, you read that correctly. Enjoy your Monday; I hope to see you during the rest of the week to learn of these descriptors.

kenning (KEN-ing)

noun: a figurative, usually compound, expression used to describe something. For example, whale road for an ocean and oar stead for a ship.

From Old Norse kenna (to know). Ultimately from the Indo-European root gno- (to know), which is also the source of know, recognize, acquaint, ignore, diagnosis, notice, normal, prosopagnosia, gnomon, anagnorisis, and agnosia.
Earliest documented use: 1320.
Kennings were used especially in Old Norse and Old English poetry.

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“The hero, Beewolf (a kenning for bear, named the ‘bee wolf’ for its plundering of hives), heads to the Golden Hall.”
John Garth; Monster Munch; New Statesman (London, UK); May 30, 2014.

“In the dawn of the English language the earliest poets or scops invented words like ‘battleflash’ to describe a sword, or they would identify a boat by its function with a kenning like ‘wave-skimmer’.”
Samuel Hazo; What’s in a Name?; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Feb 17, 2008.

mot juste (mo ZHOOST)

noun: the right word

From French mot juste (right word). Earliest documented use: 1896. A related term is bon mot.

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“Bennett Miller is a filmmaker who thinks his way long and hard into each project, and indeed each sentence, always groping for the mot juste.”
Tim Robey; ‘It’s a Film About Fathers and Fatherliness’; The Daily Telegraph (London, UK); Jan 8, 2015.

holophrasm (HOL-uh-fraz-um)

noun: 1. a one-word sentence; “Go.”
2. a complex idea conveyed in a single word; “Howdy?” for “How do you do?”

From Greek holos (whole) + phrasis (speech). Earliest documented use: 1862

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“Holophrasms aren’t common in English, but any verb in command form can be holophrastic — Go, Help, Run.”
Kathryn Schulz; What Part of ‘No, Totally’ Don’t You Understand?; The New Yorker; Apr 7, 2015.

pochismo (po-CHEEZ-mo)

noun: 1. an English word borrowed into Spanish, often given a Spanish form or spelling, such as mopear (to mop) instead of trapear or limpiar.
2. American customs, attitudes, etc., adopted by a Hispanic in the U.S. and perceived pejoratively by his compatriots.

From Spanish pocho (discolored, faded). Earliest documented use: 1944

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“It was not until I was an adult and studying Spanish literature formally at the University of Texas at Austin that I questioned the fine line which designated certain words as pochismos and others as acceptable Spanish.”
Aida Barrera; Looking for Carrascolendas; University of Texas Press; 2001.

Notes (from Wordsmith)
Pocho is a derogatory term used by a Hispanic for a fellow countryman living in the US who is perceived to have lost his culture and adopted American attitudes, and speaks Spanglish (Spanish heavily influenced by English).

antonomasia (an-toh-noh-MAY-zhuh)

noun: 1. the use of an epithet or title for a proper name, for example, the Bard for Shakespeare.
2. the use of the name of a person known for a particular quality to describe others, such as calling someone brainy like Einstein. Also known as eponym.

From Latin, from Greek antonomazein (to name differently), from anti- (instead of) + onoma (name). Earliest documented use: 1589

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“In Florence, a rich and famous city of Italy, in the province called Tuscany, there dwelt two rich and principal gentlemen called Anselmo and Lothario, which two were so great friends, as they were named for excellency, and by antonomasia, by all those who knew them, the Two Friends.”
Miguel de Cervantes; Don Quixote of the Mancha. (Translation: Thomas Shelton)

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