Set 32 – Five New Words for Dec 2

Theme:: Loan translations

1. psychological moment  (sy-kuh-LOJ-i-kuhl MOH-muhnt)

noun: The most appropriate time for achieving a desired result; the critical moment.

“I always pride myself in recognizing the psychological moment, and acting on it.”

2. running dog

noun: A servile follower; lackey.

From Chinese zougou, from zou (running) + gou (dog), apparently as an allusion to a dog running to follow his or her master’s commands. This term was employed in Chinese Communist terminology to refer to someone who was considered subservient to counter-revolutionary interest. Earliest documented use: 1925.

“Before now, I never suspected Strickland of being a running-dog, lickspittled lackey of the Nanny State.”

3. potpourri (poh-poo-REE, POH-poo-ree)

1. A mixture of dried flower petals, spices, herbs, etc., kept for fragrance.
2. A musical medley.
3. A mixture of incongruous things.

From French pot pourri, literally rotten pot (loan translation of Spanish olla podrida), from pot (pot) + pourri (rotten), from pourrir (to rot). English has borrowed not only the loan translated term potpourri from French, but also the original Spanish olla podrida. It has borrowed from other languages a whole bunch of terms to describe hodgepodge or miscellany, such as, from Swedish smorgasbord, from French salmagundi, and from Hungarian goulash. Earliest documented use: 1611.

“The Moisture Festival, an exuberant potpourri of variety and burlesque, is now in its seventh year and as raffishly welcoming as ever.”

4. blue blood (BLOO bluhd)

1. An aristocratic or socially prominent lineage.
2. A member of such a family.

Loan translation of Spanish sangre azul (blue blood). The term arose from the visible veins of light-skinned royalty. Earliest documented use: 1835.

“It figures that a golf blue blood would feel at home on such a classic course. ‘I love telling people that my great-uncle is a Masters champion, and that’s how my dad got started, and that’s the reason I play the game,’ Haas said.”

5. deus ex machina (DAY-uhs eks MAH-kuh-nuh, -nah, MAK-uh-nuh)

noun: An unexpected or improbable person or event that saves a seemingly hopeless situation.

From Latin deus ex machina, deus (god) + ex (from) + machina (machine), loan translation of Greek theos apo mekhanes. Earliest documented use: 1697.

In ancient Greek and Roman drama, often a god was lowered onto the stage by means of a crane to help a protagonist from a hopeless situation. Well, you can say they had rather mechanical plots.

“Warren Buffet is the deus ex machina of the stock market, a constant background presence who could decide from his bathtub in 2011 to rescue confidence in Bank of America with bags of cash.”


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