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John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

Good words to have


The exact origins of the word hoodlum are not known, but one theory is that the word derives from hudelum, an adjective that means "disorderly" in dialects of German spoken in and around the region of Swabia.

A young troublemaker is sometimes called a hooligan, it most likely derives from the name of Patrick Hooligan, an Irish youth purported to have wreaked havoc in the streets of Southwark, England, in the late 19th century.

English speakers created acerbic in the 19th century by adding -ic to the adjective acerb. Acerb had been around since the 17th century, but for most of that time it had been used only to describe foods with a sour taste. (Acerb is still around today, but now it's simply a less common synonym of acerbic.) Acerbic and acerb ultimately come from the Latin adjective acerbus, which can mean "harsh" or "unpleasant." Another English word that comes from acerbus is exacerbate, which means "to make more violent or severe."

Gemutlich: (guh-MOOT-lik, -MUT-likh)  Cozy; comfortable; pleasant; friendly. From German gemüetlich (cozy, comfortable, etc.), from Gemüt (nature, mind, soul) + -lich (-ly).

Baroque came to English from the French word barroque, meaning "irregularly shaped." At first, the word in French was used mostly to refer to pearls. Eventually, it came to describe an extravagant style of art characterized by curving lines, gilt, and gold.

Peregrinate. PAIR-uh-gruh-nayt  1: to travel especially on foot : walk 2: to walk or travel over : travers. Latin word peregrinatus, the past participle of peregrinari, which means "to travel in foreign lands." The verb is derived from the Latin word for "foreigner," peregrinus, which was earlier used as an adjective meaning "foreign."That term also gave us the words pilgrim and peregrine, the latter of which once meant "alien" but is now used as an adjective meaning "tending to wander" and as a noun naming a kind of falcon.

Refurbish was borrowed into English in the 14th century from Anglo-French furbiss-, a distant relative of Old High German furben, meaning "to polish." In its earliest uses furbish also meant "to polish," but it developed an extended sense of "renovate" shortly before English speakers created refurbish with the same meaning in the 17th century.


Myriad (MIR-ee-ehd) A large number. From Greek myriás (ten thousand, countless)

Nugatory (NOO-guh-tor-ee, NYOO-)  Of little value; trifling.From Latin nugatorius (trifling), from nugari (to trifle). In Greek mythology, Lethe was the name of a river in the underworld that was also called "the River of Unmindfulness" or "the River of Forgetfulness." Legend held that when someone died, he or she was given a drink of water from the river Lethe to forget all about his or her past life. Eventually this act of forgetting came to be associated with feelings of sluggishness, inactivity, or indifference. The name of the river and the word lethargic, as well as the related noun lethargy, all derive from lēthē, Greek for "forgetfulness."

Au courant (o koo-RAN) 1. Up-to-date; fully-informed. 2. Fashionable.From French au courant (literally, in the current, i.e. knowledgeable or up-to-date), from Latin currere (to run). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kers- (to run), which also gave us car, career, carpenter, occur, discharge, caricature, cark, discursive, and succor.

Plethora (PLETH-uhr-uh)  An abundance or excess. From Latin plethora, from Greek plethore (fullness), from plethein (to be full). In the beginning the word was applied to an excess of a humor, especially blood, in the body.

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