Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 25, 2016 is:
berate \bih-RAYT\ verb
: to scold or condemn vehemently and at length
When her son arrived home way past curfew without so much as a phone call or text, Nancy berated him for his lack of consideration.
"We'd announced the tour and Mick looked at it and went, 'I can't do this,' which was not great news at all. I wanted to slightly berate him, 'What the heck?!,' but he sounded so sad. He really wasn't up to it." — Paul Rodgers, Billboard.com, 13 April 2016
Did you know?
Berate and rate can both mean "to scold angrily or violently." This sense of rate was first recorded in the 14th century, roughly two centuries before the now more familiar (and etymologically unrelated) rate meaning "to estimate the value of." We know that berate was probably formed by combining be and the older rate, but the origins of this particular rate itself are somewhat more obscure. We can trace the word back to the Middle English form raten, but beyond that things get a little murky. It's possible that rate, and by extension berate, derives from the same ancient word that led to the Swedish rata (meaning "to find blame, despise") and earlier the Old Norse hrata ("to fall, stagger"), but this is uncertain.
On this day in 1978, Louise Joy Brown, the world’s first baby to be conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF) is born at Oldham and District General Hospital in Manchester, England, to parents Lesley and Peter Brown. The healthy baby was delivered shortly before midnight by caesarean section and weighed in at five pounds, 12 ounces.
Before giving birth to Louise, Lesley Brown had suffered years of infertility due to blocked fallopian tubes. In November 1977, she underwent the then-experimental IVF procedure. A mature egg was removed from one of her ovaries and combined in a laboratory dish with her husband’s sperm to form an embryo. The embryo then was implanted into her uterus a few days later. Her IVF doctors, British gynecologist Patrick Steptoe and scientist Robert Edwards, had begun their pioneering collaboration a decade earlier. Once the media learned of the pregnancy, the Browns faced intense public scrutiny. Louise’s birth made headlines around the world and raised various legal and ethical questions.
The Browns had a second daughter, Natalie, several years later, also through IVF. In May 1999, Natalie became the first IVF baby to give birth to a child of her own. The child’s conception was natural, easing some concerns that female IVF babies would be unable to get pregnant naturally. In December 2006, Louise Brown, the original “test tube baby,” gave birth to a boy, Cameron John Mullinder, who also was conceived naturally.
Today, IVF is considered a mainstream medical treatment for infertility. Hundreds of thousands of children around the world have been conceived through the procedure, in some cases with donor eggs and sperm.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 24, 2016 is:
simulacrum \sim-yuh-LAK-rum\ noun
2 : an insubstantial form or semblance of something : trace
"Most theater shows aim to conjure a simulacrum of reality onstage." — Rohan Preston, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 21 Apr. 2015
"There, hanging above you, is a simulacrum of a tardigrade, otherwise known as a water bear or moss piglet, at about 5,000 times larger than life-size." — James Gorman, The New York Times, 3 Apr. 2015
Did you know?
It's not a figment of your imagination; there is a similarity between simulacrum and simulate. Both of those English words derive from simulare, a Latin verb meaning "to copy, represent, or feign." In its earliest English uses, simulacrum named something that provided an image or representation (as, for instance, a portrait, marble statue, or wax figure representing a person). Perhaps because a simulacrum, no matter how skillfully done, is not the real thing, the word gained an extended sense emphasizing the superficiality or insubstantiality of a thing.
On July 24, 1911, American archeologist Hiram Bingham gets his first look at Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca settlement in Peru that is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
Tucked away in the rocky countryside northwest of Cuzco, Machu Picchu is believed to have been a summer retreat for Inca leaders, whose civilization was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. For hundreds of years afterwards, its existence was a secret known only to the peasants living in the region. That all changed in the summer of 1911, when Bingham arrived with a small team of explorers to search for the famous “lost” cities of the Incas.
Traveling on foot and by mule, Bingham and his team made their way from Cuzco into the Urubamba Valley, where a local farmer told them of some ruins located at the top of a nearby mountain. The farmer called the mountain Machu Picchu, which meant “Old Peak” in the native Quechua language. The next day–July 24–after a tough climb to the mountain’s ridge in cold and drizzly weather, Bingham met a small group of peasants who showed him the rest of the way. Led by an 11-year-old boy, Bingham got his first glimpse of the intricate network of stone terraces marking the entrance to Machu Picchu.
The excited Bingham spread the word about his discovery in a best-selling book, sending hordes of eager tourists flocking to Peru to follow in his footsteps up the Inca trail. The site itself stretches an impressive five miles, with over 3,000 stone steps linking its many different levels. Today, more than 300,000 people tramp through Machu Picchu every year, braving crowds and landslides to see the sun set over the towering stone monuments of the “Sacred City” and marvel at the mysterious splendor of one of the world’s most famous man-made wonders.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 23, 2016 is:
vatic \VAT-ik\ adjective
"Compared with [Stan] Lee's wisecracking dialogue and narrative prose, [Jack] Kirby's writing was stilted and often awkward, though at times it rose to a level of vatic poetic eloquence." — Jeet Heer, The New Republic, 7 Aug. 2015
"[Walt Whitman] dreamed of a new democratic civilization, which he pictured ultimately as a worldwide revolutionary democracy of labor—the vision that you can see in his vatic and ecstatic processional poem 'Song of the Broad-Axe.'" — Paul Berman, Tablet (tabletmag.com), 3 May 2016
Did you know?
Some people say only thin lines separate poetry, prophecy, and madness. We don't know if that's generally true, but it is in the case of vatic. The adjective derives directly from the Latin word vates, meaning "seer" or "prophet." But that Latin root is, in turn, distantly related to the Old English wōth, meaning "poetry," the Old High German wuot, meaning "madness," and the Old Irish fáith, meaning both "seer" and "poet."
On this day in 1984, 21-year-old Vanessa Williams gives up her Miss America title, the first resignation in the pageant’s history, after Penthouse magazine announces plans to publish nude photos of the beauty queen in its September issue. Williams originally made history on September 17, 1983, when she became the first black woman to win the Miss America crown. Miss New Jersey, Suzette Charles, the first runner-up and also an African American, assumed Williams’ tiara for the two months that remained of her reign.
Vanessa Lynn Williams was born March 18, 1963, in Millwood, New York, to music teacher parents. She attended Syracuse University and studied musical theater. In 1982, while working a summer job as a receptionist at a modeling agency in Mt. Kisco, New York, photographer Thomas Chiapel took the nude pictures of Williams, telling her they’d be shot in silhouette and that she wouldn’t be recognizable. After Williams became Miss America, the photographer sold the pictures to Penthouse without her knowledge. Williams later dropped lawsuits against the magazine and photographer after it was learned that she had signed a model release form at the time the photos were taken.
The Miss America pageant, which prides itself on projecting a wholesome, positive image of women, began in 1921 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as a stunt developed by local businessmen to extend the summer tourist season. In 1945, the Miss America Organization handed out its first scholarship. Today, it provides over $45 million each year in cash and tuition assistance to contestants on the national, state and local levels. In 1954, the competition was broadcast live for the first time. Beginning in the 1980s, contestants were required to have a social platform, such as drunk-driving preventionor AIDS awareness, and Miss America winners now travel an estimated 20,000 miles a month for speaking engagements and public appearances. In 2006, following a decline in TV ratings, the pageant moved from Atlantic City for the first time in its history and took place in Las Vegas, where a new Miss America was crowned in January instead of September.
Vanessa Williams rebounded from the Miss America scandal and went on to a successful entertainment career as an actress and recording artist, performing on Broadway as well as in movies and television and releasing a number of popular albums.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 22, 2016 is:
usufruct \YOO-zuh-frukt\ noun
1 : the legal right of using and enjoying the fruits or profits of something belonging to another
2 : the right to use or enjoy something
He has willed all of his property to the conservation society, though his children will retain the house as a 50-year usufruct.
"When there's no will, the state of Louisiana gives the surviving spouse a usufruct on the property." — Mary Anna Evans, Plunder, 2012
Did you know?
Thomas Jefferson said, "The earth belongs in usufruct to the living." He apparently understood that when you hold something in usufruct, you gain something of significant value, but only temporarily. The gains granted by usufruct can be clearly seen in the Latin phrase from which the word developed, usus et fructus, which means "use and enjoyment." Latin speakers condensed that phrase to ususfructus, the term English speakers used as the model for our modern word. Usufruct has been used as a noun for the legal right to use something since the mid-1600s. Any right granted by usufruct ends at a specific point, usually the death of the individual who holds it.
On this day in 2003, U.S. Army Private Jessica Lynch, a prisoner-of-war who was rescued from an Iraqi hospital, receives a hero’s welcome when she returns to her hometown of Palestine, West Virginia. The story of the 19-year-old supply clerk, who was captured by Iraqi forces in March 2003, gripped America; however, it was later revealed that some details of Lynch’s dramatic capture and rescue might have been exaggerated.
Lynch, who was born April 26, 1983, was part of the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company from Fort Bliss, Texas. On March 23, 2003, just days after the U.S. invaded Iraq, Lynch was riding in a supply convoy when her unit took a wrong turn and was ambushed by Iraqi forces near Nasiriya. Eleven American soldiers died and four others besides Lynch were captured.
Lynch, who sustained multiple broken bones and other injuries when her vehicle crashed during the ambush, was taken to an Iraqi hospital. On April 1, she was rescued by U.S. Special Forces who raided the hospital where she was being held. They also recovered the bodies of eight of Lynch’s fellow soldiers. Lynch was taken to a military hospital in Germany for treatment and then returned to the United States.
Lynch’sstory garnered massive media attention and she became an overnight celebrity. Various reports emerged about Lynch’s experience, with some news accounts indicating that even after Lynch was wounded during the ambush she fought back against her captors. However, Lynch later stated that she had been knocked unconscious after her vehicle crashed and couldn’t remember the details of what had happened to her. She also said she had not been mistreated by the staff at the Iraqi hospital and they put up no resistance to her rescue. Critics–and Lynch herself–charged the U.S. government with embellishing her story to boost patriotism and help promote the Iraq war.
In August 2003, Lynch received a medical honorable discharge. She collaborated on a book about her experience, I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story, which was released later that year. In April 2007, Lynch testified before Congress that she had falsely been portrayed as a “little girl Rambo” and the U.S. military had hyped her story for propaganda reasons. According to Lynch: “I am still confused as to why they chose to lie and tried to make me a legend when the real heroics of my fellow soldiers that day were, in fact, legendary.” She added: “The truth of war is not always easy to hear but is always more heroic than the hype.”