July 27, 2011

Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day

The OED sends a word to subscribers each day for free.  It's useful and fun--without even asking, I found out that "jarhead" meant a mule, and then any member of the U.S. Army, before it came to mean a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. Subscribe here to Word of the Day.

Some recent favorites:

Dogpatch, n. … Etymology: Dogpatch, the name of an impoverished rural community in the comic strip Li'l Abner by ‘Al Capp’ (Alfred Gerald Caplin, 1909–79) … U.S. … (The type of) an unsophisticated, impoverished rural community.

1976 N.Y. Times 11 Feb. 1/5 Many Northerners used to think of the states below the 37th parallel as a vast Dogpatch fit only for the nation's amusement and contempt.

ipsative, adj. … Etymology: classical Latin ipse ipse pron. + -ative suffix, after normative adj. … Psychol. … Designating or involving a measurement or scale calculated relative to a person's own performance or responses, rather than those of others.

Mother's Day, n.

2. U.S. slang (chiefly in African-American usage). The day on which a person (usually a woman) receives money, esp. unearned money such as a welfare payment.

1979 Los Angeles Times 18 Nov. II. 1 Mother's day..is when Social Security, veterans' pension and disability and welfare checks are delivered. 1991 Economist (Nexis) 30 Mar. 17 On Chicago's south side the day the monthly cheque arrives is nicknamed ‘mother's day’, because that is the day when absent sons and husbands turn up.

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