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Hard English Vocabulary

2.38MB. 10 audio & 36 images. Updated 2016-02-26.

Description

A deck of words collected over the years from the 'A Word A Day' mailing list as well as some other sources.

Sample (from 1811 notes)

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Back scaramouch \SKAR-uh-mouch, -moosh\
Front noun1. (lowercase) A rascal or scamp. 2. A stock character in commedia dell'arte and farce who is a cowardly braggart, easily beaten and frightened.[Scaramouch entered English in the 1600s from the Italian scaramuccia literally meaning "skirmish." It is ultimately of Germanic origin.]…it seemed that the scaramouch in question had gained a wonderful ascendency over almost everybody in the Jeroboam. - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1851
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Front fustian \FUSS-chun\
Back noun1. A strong cotton and linen fabric.2. High-flown or affected writing or speech; broadly; anything high-flown or affected in style.["Fustian" has been used in English for a kind of cloth since the 13th century, but it didn't acquire its high-flown sense until at least three centuries later. One of the earliest known uses of the "pretentious writing or speech" sense occurs in Christopher Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus when Wagner says, "Let thy left eye be diametarily [sic] fixed upon my right heel, with quasi vestigiis nostris insistere," and the clown replies, "God forgive me, he speaks Dutch fustian." The precise origins of the word "fustian" aren't clear. English picked it up from Anglo-French, which adopted it from Medieval Latin, but its roots beyond that point are a subject of some dispute.]"Despite its fustian moments and overuse of exclamation points, I find Modern Love greatly moving." - Michael Dirda; Scenes from a Marriage; The Washington Post; Oct 5, 2003.
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Front Tergiversation
Back verbEvasion of straightforward action or clear-cut statement; equivocation.[The Latin ancestors of tergiversation (tergum, meaning "back"; vertere, meaning "to turn") together translate roughly as "to turn one's back." Since the 16th century, tergiversation has described the reversal or desertion of a position or cause. Nowadays, it turns up in diplomatic or political discussions. As the late word maven William Safire explained of the related verb, tergiversate, in 2004, "When engaged in by a politician you oppose, the verb tergiversate, pronounced with a soft g, is a choice favored by pedants, meaning 'to switch sides like an apostate.'"]
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