Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 16, 2016 is:
quincunx \KWIN-kunks\ noun
: an arrangement of five things in a square or rectangle with one at each corner and one in the middle
The sculptures in the square were arranged in a quincunx with the outer ones marking the perimeter and the middle one serving as the centerpiece.
"The towers of Angkor Wat—shaped in a quincunx, five points in a cross—were named after Mount Meru, the home of the gods believed in Indian myth to lie at the center of the world." — William Dalrymple, The New York Review of Books, 21 May 2015
Did you know?
In ancient Rome, a quincunx was a coin with a weight equal to five twelfths of a libra, a unit of weight similar to our pound. The coin's name comes from the Latin roots quinque, meaning "five," and uncia, meaning "one twelfth." The ancients used a pattern of five dots arranged like the pips on a die as a symbol for the coin, and English speakers applied the word to arrangements similar to that distinctive five-dot mark.
On this day in 1929, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out its first awards, at a dinner party for around 250 people held in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California.
The brainchild of Louis B. Mayer, head of the powerful MGM film studio, the Academy was organized in May 1927 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement and improvement of the film industry. Its first president and the host of the May 1929 ceremony was the actor Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. Unlike today, the winners of the first Oscars–as the coveted gold-plated statuettes later became known–were announced before the awards ceremony itself.
At the time of the first Oscar ceremony, sound had just been introduced into film. The Warner Bros. movie The Jazz Singer–one of the first “talkies”–was not allowed to compete for Best Picture because the Academy decided it was unfair to let movies with sound compete with silent films. The first official Best Picture winner (and the only silent film to win Best Picture) was Wings, directed by William Wellman. The most expensive movie of its time, with a budget of $2 million, the movie told the story of two World War I pilots who fall for the same woman. Another film, F.W. Murnau’s epic Sunrise, was considered a dual winner for the best film of the year. German actor Emil Jannings won the Best Actor honor for his roles in The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh, while 22-year-old Janet Gaynor was the only female winner. After receiving three out of the five Best Actress nods, she won for all three roles, in Seventh Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise.
A special honorary award was presented to Charlie Chaplin. Originally a nominee for Best Actor, Best Writer and Best Comedy Director for The Circus, Chaplin was removed from these categories so he could receive the special award, a change that some attributed to his unpopularity in Hollywood. It was the last Oscar the Hollywood maverick would receive until another honorary award in 1971.
The Academy officially began using the nickname Oscar for its awards in 1939; a popular but unconfirmed story about the source of the name holds that Academy executive director Margaret Herrick remarked that the statuette looked like her Uncle Oscar. Since 1942, the results of the secret ballot voting have been announced during the live-broadcast Academy Awardsceremony using the sealed-envelope system. The suspense–not to mention the red-carpet arrival of nominees and other stars wearing their most beautiful or outrageous evening wear–continues to draw international attention to the film industry’s biggest night of the year.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 15, 2016 is:
eminently \EM-uh-nunt-lee\ adverb
: to a high degree : very
The candidate is so eminently qualified that it is difficult to imagine why she would not get the position.
"… in the interest of exercise and getting to know my town a little better, my New Year's resolution was this: Walk every block of this eminently walkable little city in 2016." — Tim Buckwalter, LancasterOnline.com (Lancaster, Pennsylvania), 18 Mar. 2016
Did you know?
When British physician Tobias Venner wrote in 1620 of houses "somewhat eminently situated," he used eminently in a way that now seems unusual. Venner meant that the houses were literally located in a high place, but that lofty use of eminently has since slipped into obsolescence. The term also formerly had the meaning "conspicuously," a use that reflects its Latin root, eminēre, which means "to stand out." That meaning, like the elevated one, is now obsolete. The figurative sense that is still prominent today also began appearing in English texts in the 1600s.
On this day in 1937, Madeleine Albright, Americaâs first female secretary of state, is born Maria Jana Korbelova in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic).
The daughter of Czech diplomat Josef Korbel, Albright fled to England with her family after the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939. Though Albright long believed they had fled for political reasons, she learned as an adult that her family was Jewish and that three of her grandparents had died in Nazi concentration camps. The family returned home after World War II ended but immigrated to the United States in 1948 after a Soviet-sponsored Communist coup seized power in Prague. Josef Korbel became dean of the school of international relations at the University of Denver (where he would later train another female secretary of state, Condoleeza Rice).
After graduating from Wellesley College in 1959, Albright married Joseph Medill Patterson Albright of the prominent Medill newspaper-publishing family. With an MA and PhD from Columbia University under her belt, Albright headed to Washington, D.C., where she worked for Maineâs Senator Edmund S. Muskie and served on the National Security Council in the administration of President Jimmy Carter. She and Joseph Albright divorced in 1982. During the Republican presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Albright worked for several nonprofit organizations and taught at Georgetown Universityâs School of Foreign Service.
With a DemocratâBill Clintonâin the White House again in 1992, Albright found herself at the center of Washingtonâs most powerful circle. In 1993, Clinton appointed her ambassador to the United Nations. In that post, Albright earned a reputation as a straight-talking defender of American interests and an advocate for an increased role for the U.S. in U.N. operations. In late 1996, Clinton nominated Albright to succeed Warren Christopher as U.S. secretary of state. After her nomination was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, she was sworn in on January 23, 1997.
As secretary of state, Albright pursued an active foreign policy, including the use of military force to pressure autocratic regimes in Yugoslavia and Iraq, among other troubled regions. Her trip to North Korea in October 2000 to meet with leader Kim Jong Il made her the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit that country. She drew some criticism for her tough position on U.S. sanctions against Iraq, which led to many civilian deaths in that country and fueled the rage of Muslim extremists such as Osama bin Laden.
Albrightâs term ended with the election of President George W. Bush in 2000. Though there was talk of her entering Czech politics, she returned to her teaching post at Georgetown and became chair of a nonprofit organization, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 14, 2016 is:
subpoena \suh-PEE-nuh\ noun
: a writ commanding a person designated in it to appear in court under a penalty for failure
Subpoenas have been issued to several of the defendant's family members ordering that they testify at trial.
"'If we have to compel them to come in, then that's what we're going to do,' he said, referring to possible subpoenas." — Sandra Tan, The Buffalo News, 8 Apr. 2016
Did you know?
If you think you recognize the sub- in subpoena as the prefix meaning "under, beneath, below," you're on target. Subpoena arrived in Modern English (via the Middle English suppena) from the Latin sub poena, a combination of sub and poena, meaning "penalty." Other poena descendants in English include impunity ("freedom from penalty"), penal ("of or relating to punishment"), and even punish. There is also the verb subpoena, as in "Defense lawyers have subpoenaed several witnesses to the crime."
One year after the United States doubled its territory with the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark expedition leaves St. Louis, Missouri, on a mission to explore the Northwest from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.
Even before the U.S. government concluded purchase negotiations with France, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned his private secretary Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, an army captain, to lead an expedition into what is now the U.S. Northwest. On May 14, the “Corps of Discovery”–featuring approximately 45 men (although only an approximate 33 men would make the full journey)–left St. Louis for the American interior.
The expedition traveled up the Missouri River in a 55-foot long keelboat and two smaller boats. In November, Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader accompanied by his young Native American wife Sacagawea, joined the expedition as an interpreter. The group wintered in present-day North Dakota before crossing into present-day Montana, where they first saw the Rocky Mountains. On the other side of the Continental Divide, they were met by Sacagawea’s tribe, the Shoshone Indians, who sold them horses for their journey down through the Bitterroot Mountains. After passing through the dangerous rapids of the Clearwater and Snake rivers in canoes, the explorers reached the calm of the Columbia River, which led them to the sea. On November 8, 1805, the expedition arrived at the Pacific Ocean, the first European explorers to do so by an overland route from the east. After pausing there for the winter, the explorers began their long journey back to St. Louis.
On September 23, 1806, after almost two and a half years, the expedition returned to the city, bringing back a wealth of information about the largely unexplored region, as well as valuable U.S. claims to Oregon Territory.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 13, 2016 is:
venerate \VEN-uh-rayt\ verb
1 : to regard with reverential respect or with admiring deference
2 : to honor (something, such as an icon or a relic) with a ritual act of devotion
"In William Shakespeare's classic, the Romans venerate their leader, but Brutus sees that Julius Caesar may be too powerful for the good of the nation." — Chris Kocher, The Star-Gazette (Elmira, New York), 10 Mar. 2016
"Robert Mickens, a longtime Vatican analyst, said venerating saints or praying at the tombs of martyrs is a time-honored Catholic practice, but he questioned the decision to display the remains of the two saints." — Jim Yardley, The New York Times, 5 Feb. 2016
Did you know?
Venerate, revere, reverence, worship, and adore all mean to honor and admire profoundly and respectfully. Venerate implies a holding as holy or sacrosanct because of character, association, or age. Revere stresses deference and tenderness of feeling ("a professor revered by students"). Reverence presupposes an intrinsic merit and inviolability in the one honored and a similar depth of feeling in the one honoring ("she reverenced the academy's code of honor"). Worship implies homage usually expressed in words or ceremony ("he worships their memory"). Adore implies love and stresses the notion of an individual and personal attachment ("we adored our doctor"). Venerate, incidentally, traces back to the Latin verb venerari, from vener-, meaning "love" or "charm."
On May 13, 1846, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly votes in favor of President James K. Polk’s request to declare war on Mexico ina dispute over Texas.
Under the threat of war, theUnited Stateshad refrained from annexing Texas afterthe latterwon independence from Mexico in 1836. But in 1844, President John Tyler restarted negotiations with the Republic of Texas, culminating with a Treaty of Annexation. The treaty was defeated by a wide margin in the Senate because it would upset the slave state/free state balance between North and South and risked war with Mexico, which had broken off relations with the United States. But shortly before leaving office and with the support of President-elect Polk, Tyler managed to get the joint resolution passed on March 1, 1845.Texas was admitted to the union on December 29.While Mexico didn’t follow through with its threat to declare war, relations between the two nations remained tense over border disputes, and in July 1845, President Polk ordered troops into disputed lands that lay between the Neuces and Rio Grande rivers. In November, Polk sent the diplomat John Slidell to Mexico to seek boundary adjustments in return for the U.S. government’s settlement of the claims of U.S. citizens againstMexico and also to make an offer to purchase California and New Mexico. After the mission failed, the U.S. army under Gen. Zachary Taylor advanced to the mouth of the Rio Grande, the river that the state of Texas claimed as its southern boundary.
Mexico, claiming that the boundary was theNueces Riverto the northeast of the Rio Grande, considered the advance of Taylor’s army an act of aggression and in April 1846 sent troops across the Rio Grande. Polk, in turn, declared the Mexican advance to be an invasion of U.S. soil, and on May 11, 1846, asked Congress to declare war onMexico, which it did two days later.
After nearly two years of fighting, peace was established by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on February 2, 1848. The Rio Grande was made the southern boundary ofTexas, andCalifornia andNew Mexicowere ceded to the United States. In return, the United States paidMexico the sum of $15 million and agreed to settle all claims of U.S. citizens against Mexico.