Good morning and welcome to the first week of words on the newly launched site! This week, Wordsmith has selected five “coined” words, which means they are re-purposed, reused, or created for the individual who spoke them first. The etymologies will be especially important in understanding how these words came to be. Have a great week!

snowclone (SNO-klon)

noun: a cliché adapted to a new use.
For example, a statement of the form “X is the new Y” (such as “Gray is the new black”). See more examples here.

Coined by economics professor Glen Whitman in 2004, after the popular (but erroneous) idea that Eskimos have many words for snow, which is extended by others into the form: If Eskimos have N words for snow, X surely have N words for Y.

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“The next time you read about a ‘hidden epidemic’, be aware that you are drifting into a snowclone: recent hidden epidemics have involved chlamydia, illiteracy, autism, and gambling.”
David Rowan; The Next Big Thing; The Times (London, UK); Dec 3, 2005.

ecdysiast (ek-DIZ-ee-ast)

noun: a person who disrobes to provide entertainment for others

Coined by writer and editor H.L. Mencken in 1940, from ecdysis (shedding or molting), from Greek ekdysis (casting off), from ek- (out) + dyein (to put on)

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“Lena Dunham drenched the market with her formidable musings under the title of Not That Kind of Girl, a biography memoir in the great tradition of Pamela Anderson and other literary ecdysiasts.”
Rex Murphy; The Year in Activist Feminism; National Post (Canada); Dec 27, 2014.

petrichor (PET-ri-kuhr)

noun: the pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry spell

Coined by researchers I.J. Bear and R.G. Thomas in 1964, from Greek petros (stone) + ichor (the fluid that supposedly flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology)

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“They declared that they have found the earthy scent of petrichor, as if it was secretly drizzling in some deep corner of the city undetected by meteorologists. And when it rained on Monday, they smiled with pride and said: ‘I told you so.’”
Eye on Sky; The Times of India (New Delhi); Mar 17, 2016.

exaptation (ek-sap-TAY-shuhn)

noun: the adaptation of a trait for a purpose other than for which it was evolved.
For example, feathers were evolved for warmth and later co-opted for display and/or flight

Coined by Stephen Jay Gould in 1981. A blend of ex- (out) + adaptation, from ad- (towards) + aptare (to fit), from aptus (apt)

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“The gradual development of propulsion devices like wings and flagella, by contrast, can be explained by exaptation, the process by which ‘a feature that originally evolved for one purpose is co-opted for a different purpose’. Both feathers and flightless wings might have developed originally for the purpose of thermoregulation rather than flight.”
Kenneth Krause; Design, Doubts, and Darwin; Skeptical Inquirer (Amherst, New York); Nov 2006.

blet (blet)

verb transitive: to overripen to the point of rotting

Coined by the botanist John Lindley in 1835, from French blettir (to overripen)

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“She is now bletting a tray of medlars (allowing them to start to rot) for medlar jelly, which is great with cheese.”
Catherine Cleary; The City Where the Wild Things Are; Irish Times (Dublin); Sep 27, 2011.

%d bloggers like this: