Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 20, 2016 is:
nefarious \nih-FAIR-ee-us\ adjective
: flagrantly wicked or impious : evil
"The company will not call you to ask for your Social Security or account number, but nefarious scammers might." — Ellen Marks, The Albuquerque Journal, 31 July 2016
"Mention the word 'drugs,' and most people think of nefarious, evil substances bought in the dead of night from shadowy figures who carry guns and feed off of the weaknesses of addicts who seek out their poison with shaking, trembling hands." — Steve Wildsmith, The Daily Times (Maryville, Tennessee), 25 July 2016
Did you know?
Vicious and villainous are two wicked synonyms of nefarious, and, like nefarious, both mean "highly reprehensible or offensive in character, nature, or conduct." But these synonyms are not used in exactly the same way in all situations. Vicious may imply moral depravity or it may connote malignancy, cruelty, or destructive violence. Villainous applies to any evil, depraved, or vile conduct or characteristic, while nefarious (which derives from the Latin noun nefas, meaning "crime") suggests flagrant breaching of time-honored laws and traditions of conduct.
On this day in 1973, in a highly publicized “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, top women’s player Billie Jean King, 29, beats Bobby Riggs, 55, a former No. 1 ranked men’s player. Riggs (1918-1995), a self-proclaimed male chauvinist, had boasted that women were inferior, that they couldn’t handle the pressure of the game and that even at his age he could beat any female player. The match was a huge media event, witnessed in person by over 30,000 spectators at the Houston Astrodome and by another 50 million TV viewers worldwide. King made a Cleopatra-style entrance on a gold litter carried by men dressed as ancient slaves, while Riggs arrived in a rickshaw pulled by female models. Legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell called the match, in which King beat Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. King’s achievement not only helped legitimize women’s professional tennis and female athletes, but it was seen as a victory for women’s rights in general.
King was born Billie Jean Moffitt on November 22, 1943, in Long Beach, California. Growing up, she was a star softball player before her parents encouraged her to try tennis, which was considered more ladylike. She excelled at the sport and in 1961, at age 17, during her first outing to Wimbledon, she won the women’s doubles title. King would rack up a total of 20 Wimbledon victories, in singles, doubles and mixed doubles, over the course of her trailblazing career. In 1971, she became the first female athlete to earn more than $100,000 in prize money in a single season. However, significant pay disparities still existed between men and women athletes and King lobbied hard for change. In 1973, the U.S. Open became the first major tennis tournament to hand out the same amount of prize money to winners of both sexes.
In 1972, King became the first woman to be chosen Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsperson of the Year” and in 1973, she became the first president of the Women’s Tennis Association. King also established a sports foundation and magazine for women and a team tennis league. In 1974, as a coach of the Philadelphia Freedoms, one of the teams in the league, she became the first woman to head up a professional co-ed team.
The “mother of modern sports” retired from tennis with 39 Grand Slam career titles. She remained active as a coach, commentator and advocate for women’s sports and other causes. In 2006, the USTA National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open, was renamed in King’s honor. During the dedication ceremony, tennis great John McEnroe called King “the single most important person in the history of women’s sports.”
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 19, 2016 is:
eclogue \ECK-log\ noun
: a poem in which shepherds converse
Modern critics tend to have little tolerance for the idealized world of the old eclogues, in which poverty is bathed in golden light.
"[Matt] Pavelich begins his novel with an excerpt from W. H. Auden's Pulitzer Prize-winning poem, 'Age of Anxiety.' Auden's is a fascinating and hair-raising eclogue that affects the novel throughout its long journey." — The Missoula (Montana) Independent, 27 May 2004
Did you know?
Although the eclogue appears in the Idylls of the Greek poet Theocritus, it was the 10 Eclogues (or Bucolics) of the Roman poet Virgil that gave us the word eclogue. (The Latin title Eclogae literally means "selections.") The eclogue was popular in the Renaissance and through the 17th century, when less formal eclogues were written. The poems traditionally depicted rural life as free from the complexity and corruption of more citified realms. The eclogue fell out of favor when the poets of the Romantic period rebelled against the artificiality of the pastoral. In more modern times, though, the term eclogue has been applied to pastoral poems involving the conversations of people other than shepherds, often with heavy doses of irony.
On this day in 1957, the United States detonates a 1.7 kiloton nuclear weapon in an underground tunnel at the Nevada Test Site (NTS), a 1,375 square mile research center located 65 miles north of Las Vegas. The test, known as Rainier, was the first fully contained underground detonation and produced no radioactive fallout. A modified W-25 warhead weighing 218 pounds and measuring 25.7 inches in diameter and 17.4 inches in length was used for the test. Rainier was part of a series of 29 nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons safety tests known as Operation Plumbbob that were conducted at the NTS between May 28, 1957, and October 7, 1957.
In December 1941, the U.S. government committed to building the world’s first nuclear weapon when President Franklin Roosevelt authorized $2 billion in funding for what came to be known as the Manhattan Project. The first nuclear weapon test took place on July 16, 1945, at the Trinity site near Alamogordo, New Mexico. A few weeks later, on August 6, 1945, with the U.S. at war against Japan, President Harry Truman authorized the dropping of an atomic bomb named Little Boy over Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, on August 9, a nuclear bomb called Fat Man was dropped over Nagasaki. Two hundred thousand people, according to some estimates, were killed in the attacks on the two cities and on August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers.
1957’s Operation Plumbbob took place at a time when the U.S. was engaged in a Cold War and nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. In 1963, the U.S. signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which banned nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, underwater and outer space. A total of 928 tests took place at the Nevada Test Site between 1951 and 1992, when the U.S. conducted its last underground nuclear test. In 1996, the U.S signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits nuclear detonations in all environments.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 18, 2016 is:
loll \LAHL\ verb
1 : to hang or let hang loosely : droop
2 : to recline, lean, or move in a lax, lazy, or indolent manner : lounge
"'Ginny, please wake up,' Harry muttered desperately, shaking her. Ginny's head lolled hopelessly from side to side." — J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 1999
"We took the subway to the vast English Garden, where we cooled our feet in a stream and lolled around on wide couches at the Seehaus Beer Garden, quaffing from massive steins of German beer while chatting it up with new friends." — Jeanne Potter, The San Luis Obispo (California) Tribune, 12 Oct. 2015
Did you know?
Loll has origins similar to those of another soothing verb, lull, which means "to cause to rest or sleep." Both words can be traced back to 14th-century Middle English and probably originated as imitations of the soft sounds people make when resting or trying to soothe someone else to sleep. Loll has also been used in English as a noun meaning "the act of lolling" or "a relaxed posture," but that use is now considered archaic. In its "recline" or "lean" sense, loll shares synonyms with a number of "l" verbs, including loaf, lounge, and laze.
On this day in 1793, George Washington lays the cornerstone to the United States Capitol building, the home of the legislative branch of American government. The building would take nearly a century to complete, as architects came and went, the British set fire to it and it was called into use during the Civil War. Today, the Capitol building, with its famous cast-iron dome and important collection of American art, is part of the Capitol Complex, which includes six Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings, all developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.
As a young nation, the United States had no permanent capital, and Congress met in eight different cities, including Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, before 1791. In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which gave President Washington the power to select a permanent home for the federal government. The following year, he chose what would become the District of Columbia from land provided by Maryland. Washington picked three commissioners to oversee the capital city’s development and they in turn chose French engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant to come up with the design. However, L’Enfant clashed with the commissioners and was fired in 1792. A design competition was then held, with a Scotsman named William Thornton submitting the winning entry for the Capitol building. In September 1793, Washington laid the Capitol’s cornerstone and the lengthy construction process, which would involve a line of project managers and architects, got under way.
In 1800, Congress moved into the Capitol’s north wing. In 1807, the House of Representatives moved into the building’s south wing, which was finished in 1811. During the War of 1812, the British invaded Washington, D.C., and set fire to the Capitol on August 24, 1814. A rainstorm saved the building from total destruction. Congress met in nearby temporary quarters from 1815 to 1819. In the early 1850s, work began to expand the Capitol to accommodate the growing number of Congressmen. In 1861, construction was temporarily halted while the Capitol was used by Union troops as a hospital and barracks. Following the war, expansions and modern upgrades to the building continued into the next century.
Today, the Capitol, which is visited by 3 million to 5 million people each year, has 540 rooms and covers a ground area of about four acres.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 17, 2016 is:
gadarene \GAD-uh-reen\ adjective
The chairman was worried that in the company's gadarene rush to go public its original obligation to the customer would be forgotten.
"Virginia's innate conservatism has spared it from foolishly joining many a Gadarene rush. But its glacial embrace of change has also kept it from adopting necessary and beneficial reforms, such as charter schools and new revenue for transportation." — The Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch, 3 Feb. 2013
Did you know?
Gadara, in Biblical times, was a town just southeast of the Sea of Galilee. In the account given in the book of Matthew (8:28), Jesus, on a visit there, exorcised the demons from two possessed people and sent the demons into some nearby swine. The possessed swine ran in a mad dash down a steep bank into the Sea and drowned. Gadarene, an adjective used to describe a headlong rush (and often capitalized in recognition of its origin), made its first known plunge into our lexicon in the 1920s. The swine sometimes make an appearance as well, as when an imprudently hasty act is compared to "the rush of the Gadarene swine."
Beginning early on the morning of this day in 1862, Confederate and Union troops in the Civil War clash near Maryland’s Antietam Creek in the bloodiest one-day battle in American history.
The Battle of Antietam marked the culmination of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the Northern states. Guiding his Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River in early September 1862, the great general daringly divided his men, sending half of them, under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, to capture the Union garrison at Harper’s Ferry.
President Abraham Lincoln put Major General George B. McClellan in charge of the Union troops responsible for defending Washington, D.C., against Lee’s invasion. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac clashed first with Lee’s men on September 14, with the Confederates forced to retreat after being blocked at the passes of South Mountain. Though Lee considered turning back toward Virginia, news of Jackson’s capture of Harper’s Ferry reached him on September 15. That victory convinced him to stay and make a stand near Sharpsburg, Maryland.
Over the course of September 15 and 16, the Confederate and Union armies gathered on opposite sides of Antietam Creek. On the Confederate side, Jackson commanded the left flank with General James Longstreet at the head of the center and right. McClellan’s strategy was to attack the enemy left, then the right, and finally, when either of those movements met with success, to move forward in the center.
When fighting began in the foggy dawn hours of September 17, this strategy broke down into a series of uncoordinated advances by Union soldiers under the command of Generals Joseph Hooker, Joseph Mansfield and Edwin Sumner. As savage and bloody combat continued for eight hours across the region, the Confederates were pushed back but not beaten, despite sustaining some 15,000 casualties. At the same time, Union General Ambrose Burnside opened an attack on the Confederate right, capturing the bridge that now bears his name around 1 p.m. Burnside’s break to reorganize his men allowed Confederate reinforcements to arrive, turning back the Union advance there as well.
By the time the sun went down, both armies still held their ground, despite staggering combined casualties–nearly 23,000 of the 100,000 soldiers engaged, including almost 4,000 dead. McClellan’s center never moved forward, leaving a large number of Union troops that did not participate in the battle. On the morning of September 18, both sides gathered their wounded and buried their dead. That night, Lee turned his forces back to Virginia. His retreat gave President Lincoln the moment he had been waiting for to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, a historic document that turned the Union effort in the Civil War into a fight for the abolition of slavery.