Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 28, 2016 is:
jeremiad \jair-uh-MYE-ud\ noun
: a prolonged lamentation or complaint; also : a cautionary or angry harangue
Mrs. Whinge waggled a finger at us and launched into a doleful jeremiad about how we would come to no good end.
"[Pope Francis's] now-famous jeremiads as pope against today's culture of excessive consumption and environmental degradation are rooted in a thrift ethic that he acquired early in life and never abandoned." — David Blankenhorn, The Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City), 11 Dec. 2015
Did you know?
Jeremiah was a Jewish prophet who lived from about 650 to 570 BC. He spent his days lambasting the Hebrews for their false worship and social injustice and denouncing the king for his selfishness, materialism, and inequities. When not calling on his people to quit their wicked ways, he was lamenting his own lot; a portion of the Bible's Book of Jeremiah is devoted to his "confessions," a series of lamentations on the hardships endured by a prophet with an unpopular message. Nowadays, English speakers use Jeremiah for a pessimistic person and jeremiad for the way these Jeremiahs carry on. The word jeremiad was actually borrowed from the French, who coined it as jérémiade.
At 11:38 a.m. EST, on January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Christa McAuliffe is on her way to becoming the first ordinary U.S. civilian to travel into space. McAuliffe, a 37-year-old high school social studies teacher from New Hampshire, won a competition that earned her a place among the seven-member crew of the Challenger. She underwent months of shuttle training but then, beginning January 23, was forced to wait six long days as the Challengerâs launch countdown was repeatedly delayed because of weather and technical problems. Finally, on January 28, the shuttle lifted off.
Seventy-three seconds later, hundreds on the ground, including Christaâs family, stared in disbelief as the shuttle broke up in a forking plume of smoke and fire. Millions more watched the wrenching tragedy unfold on live television. There were no survivors.
In 1976, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) unveiled the worldâs first reusable manned spacecraft, the Enterprise. Five years later, space flights of the shuttle began when Columbia traveled into space on a 54-hour mission. Launched by two solid-rocket boosters and an external tank, only the aircraft-like shuttle entered into orbit around Earth. When the mission was completed, the shuttle fired engines to reduce speed and, after descending through the atmosphere, landed like a glider. Early shuttles took satellite equipment into space and carried out various scientific experiments. The Challenger disaster was the first major shuttle accident.
In the aftermath of the disaster, President Ronald Reagan appointed a special commission to determine what went wrong with Challenger and to develop future corrective measures. The presidential commission was headed by former secretary of state William Rogers, and included former astronaut Neil Armstrong and former test pilot Chuck Yeager. The investigation determined that the disaster was caused by the failure of an âO-ringâ seal in one of the two solid-fuel rockets. The elastic O-ring did not respond as expected because of the cold temperature at launch time, which began a chain of events that resulted in the massive loss. As a result, NASA did not send astronauts into space for more than two years as it redesigned a number of features of the space shuttle.
In September 1988, space shuttle flights resumed with the successful launching of the Discovery. Since then, the space shuttle has carried out numerous important missions, such as the repair and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope and the construction of the International Space Station.
On February 1, 2003, a second space-shuttle disaster rocked the United States when Columbia disintegrated upon reentry of the Earthâs atmosphere. All aboard were killed. Despite fears that the problems that downed Columbia had not been satisfactorily addressed, space-shuttle flights resumed on July 26, 2005, when Discovery was again put into orbit.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 27, 2016 is:
proscribe \proh-SCRYBE\ verb
1 : to publish the name of as condemned to death with the property of the condemned forfeited to the state
2 : to condemn or forbid as harmful or unlawful : prohibit
The town passed an ordinance that proscribed the ownership of snakes and other exotic pets.
"Military law may proscribe conduct which is otherwise protected in the civilian world due to the different character of the military community and of the military mission." — Capt. Anne C. Hsieh, quoted in The Herald Democrat (Sherman, Texas), 18 Oct. 2015
Did you know?
Proscribe and prescribe both have Latin-derived prefixes meaning "before" attached to the verb scribe (from scribere, meaning "to write"). Yet the two words have very distinct, often nearly opposite meanings. Why? In a way, you could say it's the law. In the 15th and 16th centuries both words had legal implications. To proscribe was to publish the name of a person who had been condemned, outlawed, or banished. To prescribe meant "to lay down a rule," including legal rules or orders.
On January 27, 1888, the National Geographic Society is founded in Washington, D.C., for “the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.”
The 33 men who originally met and formed the National Geographic Society were a diverse group of geographers, explorers, teachers, lawyers, cartographers, military officers and financiers. All shared an interest in scientific and geographical knowledge, as well as an opinion that in a time of discovery, invention, change and mass communication, Americans were becoming more curious about the world around them. With this in mind, the men drafted a constitution and elected as the Society’s president a lawyer and philanthropist named Gardiner Greene Hubbard. Neither a scientist nor a geographer, Hubbard represented the Society’s desire to reach out to the layman.
Nine months after its inception, the Society published its first issue of National Geographic magazine. Readership did not grow, however, until Gilbert H. Grosvenor took over as editor in 1899. In only a few years, Grosvenor boosted circulation from 1,000 to 2 million by discarding the magazine’s format of short, overly technical articles for articles of general interest accompanied by photographs. National Geographic quickly became known for its stunning and pioneering photography, being the first to print natural-color photos of sky, sea and the North and South Poles.
The Society used its revenues from the magazine to sponsor expeditions and research projects that furthered humanity’s understanding of natural phenomena. In this role, the National Geographic Society has been instrumental in making possible some of the great achievements in exploration and science. To date, it has given out more than 1,400 grants, funding that helped Robert Peary journey to the North Pole, Richard Byrd fly over the South Pole, Jacques Cousteau delve into the sea and Jane Goodall observe wild chimpanzees, among many other projects.
Today, the National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions. National Geographic continues to sell as a glossy monthly, with a circulation of around 9 million. The Society also sees itself as a guardian of the planet’s natural resources, and in this capacity, focuses on ways to broaden its reach and educate its readers about the unique relationship that humans have with the earth.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 26, 2016 is:
zeugma \ZOOG-muh\ noun
: the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words in such a way that it applies to each in a different sense or makes sense with only one (as in "opened the door and her heart to the homeless boy")
A clever use of zeugma was demonstrated by Groucho Marx's character Rufus T. Firefly in Duck Soup (1933):"You can leave in a taxi. If you can't get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff."
"The hallmarks of [David Foster Wallace's] later fiction … are there from the first page…. So, too, are the performative contractions ('w/r/t' as 'with respect to'), lists and self-conscious rhetorical tropes that pepper non-fiction. I don't think anyone has ever wielded zeugma with such knowing playfulness." — Jon Day, The Financial Times, 26 Dec. 2014
Did you know?
"Zeugma, like the pun, is economical: it contracts two sentences into one . . .; it links unrelated terms—mental with moral, abstract with physical, high with low—and thus generates surprise," wrote Walter Redfern in Puns (1984). Zeugma, which has been a part of the English language since the 15th century, comes from Greek, where it literally means "joining." The Greek word has another connection to English as well. In the early 1970s, a chemistry professor named Paul Lauterbur developed a technique for producing images of internal organs. He called it zeugmatography because it involved the joining of magnetic fields. Lauterbur was awarded a Nobel Prize, but the name he chose didn’t stick. The technique is known today as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI.
On January 26, 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip guides a fleet of 11 British ships carrying convicts to the colony of New South Wales, effectively founding Australia. After overcoming a period of hardship, the fledgling colony began to celebrate the anniversary of this date with great fanfare.
Australia, once known as New South Wales, was originally planned as a penal colony. In October 1786, the British government appointed Arthur Phillip captain of the HMS Sirius, and commissioned him to establish an agricultural work camp there for British convicts. With little idea of what he could expect from the mysterious and distant land, Phillip had great difficulty assembling the fleet that was to make the journey. His requests for more experienced farmers to assist the penal colony were repeatedly denied, and he was both poorly funded and outfitted. Nonetheless, accompanied by a small contingent of Marines and other officers, Phillip led his 1,000-strong party, of whom more than 700 were convicts, around Africa to the eastern side of Australia. In all, the voyage lasted eight months, claiming the deaths of some 30 men.
The first years of settlement were nearly disastrous. Cursed with poor soil, an unfamiliar climate and workers who were ignorant of farming, Phillip had great difficulty keeping the men alive. The colony was on the verge of outright starvation for several years, and the marines sent to keep order were not up to the task. Phillip, who proved to be a tough but fair-minded leader, persevered by appointing convicts to positions of responsibility and oversight. Floggings and hangings were commonplace, but so was egalitarianism. As Phillip said before leaving England: “In a new country there will be no slavery and hence no slaves.”
Though Phillip returned to England in 1792, the colony became prosperous by the turn of the 19th century. Feeling a new sense of patriotism, the men began to rally around January 26 as their founding day. Historian Manning Clarke noted that in 1808 the men observed the “anniversary of the foundation of the colony” with “drinking and merriment.”
Finally, in 1818, January 26 became an official holiday, marking the 30th anniversary of British settlement in Australia. And, as Australia became a sovereign nation, it became the national holiday known as Australia Day. Today, Australia Day serves both as a day of celebration for the founding of the white British settlement, and as a day of mourning for the Aborigines who were slowly dispossessed of their land as white colonization spread across the continent.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 25, 2016 is:
harry \HAIR-ee\ verb
1 : to make a pillaging or destructive raid on : assault
2 : to force to move along by harassing
3 : to torment by or as if by constant attack
The young boy harried the kitten until it swiped him with its claws.
"Coming off a Thursday schedule packed with practice, a Pearl Harbor visit and a luau, the Aggies shot 54 percent on Friday and harried the Rainbow Wahine basketball team into turnovers that fueled an 82-41 rout at the Cannon Activities Center in Laie." — Jason Kaneshiro, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 6 Dec. 2015
Did you know?
Was there once a warlike man named Harry who is the source for today's word? One particularly belligerent Harry does come to mind: Shakespeare once described how "famine, sword, and fire" accompanied "the warlike Harry," England's King Henry the Fifth. But neither this king nor any of his namesakes are the source for the verb harry. Rather, harry (or a word resembling it) has been a part of English for as long as there has been anything that could be called English. It took the form hergian in Old English and harien in Middle English, passing through numerous variations before finally settling into its modern spelling. The word's Old English ancestors are related to the Old High German words heriōn ("to lay waste") and heri ("army").
On January 25, 1905, at the Premier Mine in Pretoria, South Africa, a 3,106-carat diamond is discovered during a routine inspection by the mine’s superintendent. Weighing 1.33 pounds, and christened the “Cullinan,” it was the largest diamond ever found.
Frederick Wells was 18 feet below the earth’s surface when he spotted a flash of starlight embedded in the wall just above him. His discovery was presented that same afternoon to Sir Thomas Cullinan, who owned the mine. Cullinan then sold the diamond to the Transvaal provincial government, which presented the stone to Britain’s King Edward VII as a birthday gift. Worried that the diamond might be stolen in transit from Africa to London, Edward arranged to send a phony diamond aboard a steamer ship loaded with detectives as a diversionary tactic. While the decoy slowly made its way from Africa on the ship, the Cullinan was sent to England in a plain box.
Edward entrusted the cutting of the Cullinan to Joseph Asscher, head of the Asscher Diamond Company of Amsterdam. Asscher, who had cut the famous Excelsior Diamond, a 971-carat diamond found in 1893, studied the stone for six months before attempting the cut. On his first attempt, the steel blade broke, with no effect on the diamond. On the second attempt, the diamond shattered exactly as planned; Asscher then fainted from nervous exhaustion.
The Cullinan was later cut into nine large stones and about 100 smaller ones, valued at millions of dollars all told. The largest stone is called the “Star of Africa I,” or “Cullinan I,” and at 530 carats, it is the largest-cut fine-quality colorless diamond in the world. The second largest stone, the “Star of Africa II” or “Cullinan II,” is 317 carats. Both of these stones, as well as the “Cullinan III,” are on display in the Tower of London with Britain’s other crown jewels; the Cullinan I is mounted in the British Sovereign’s Royal Scepter, while the Cullinan II sits in the Imperial State Crown.