Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Word of the Day

I do a word of the day with my friend Christina. No real criteria except that it has to amuse me. Anyway, here's what we've done so far:

Apocryphal [uh-pok-ruh-fuhl]
1) of doubtful authorship or authenticity
2) false, spurious 
3) in a biblical context, it means non-canonical.

Milquetoast [milk-tohst]
1) weak, ineffectual, timid, unassertive, bland person, place or thing.

If it sounds like "milk toast" that's no coincidence.

Shibboleth [shib-uh-lith, ‐leth]
1) pronunciation, custom, principle, belief, behavior, mode of dress, etc. distinguishing a particular class or group of people. 
2) common saying with little current meaning or truth. 
3) slogan, catchword.

Some examples: the pronunciation of Nevada ("a" as in "dad", rather than as in "father") and Boise ("boysee" instead of "boyzee") is used as shibboleth to identify locals. In computer security, shibboleth refers to digital credentials (such as passwords) or physical credentials (such as RFID cards or fingerprint scans) used to protect computer access. Interestingly, the word "shibboleth" itself was once used as shibboleth: in the Old Testament, Gileadites pronounced it as shibboleth, which distinguished them from Ephraimites who pronounced it as sibboleth.

Sangfroid [sahn-frwa]
1) composure or coolness as shown in danger or under trying circumstances.

If you know French, then you know that sang is blood, froid is cold, so sangfroid literally means cold-blooded. Sometimes spelled with a hyphen, as in sang-froid.

New words for this week:

Palaver [puh-lav-er, lah-ver]
1) noun: prolonged and idle discussion 
2) verb: to talk unnecessarily at length.

Protean [proh-tee-uhn, proh-tee-]
1) variable, readily assuming different shapes or forms.

Protean comes from Proteus, the Greek shape-shifting sea-god.

edit: added pronunciations, another definition to shibboleth, and a new word, milquetoast.


  1. I palaver all the time. We should probably include pronunciations because I'll forget them.

  2. yes, how do you pronounce Shibboleth anyways?