Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 28, 2016 is:
invincible \in-VIN-suh-bul\ adjective
: incapable of being conquered, overcome, or subdued
"He calls the mixture Bulletproof coffee. Drink it, the name implies, and you'll feel invincible." — Gordy Megroz, Bloomberg Businessweek, 4 May 2015
"Eventually he stops terrorizing poor Holly Hunter and retires to Superman's spaceship … where he uses the Krypton Siri to create the invincible supervillain whom Batman and Superman will have to fight after they're done throwing each other through various walls…." — Rob Havilla, Deadspin, 23 Mar. 2016
Did you know?
The origins of invincible are easily subdued. The word derives, via Middle French, from Late Latin invincibilis—a combination of the negative prefix in- with vincibilis, an adjective meaning "conquerable," from the Latin verb vincere, "to conquer." Other descendants of vincere in English include convince, evince, vanquish, and even victor. Vincere also gave English vincible, meaning (unsurprisingly) "capable of being overcome or subdued," though it is significantly less common than invincible.
On this day in 1945, “Il Duce,” Benito Mussolini, and his mistress, Clara Petacci, are shot by Italian partisans who had captured the couple as they attempted to flee to Switzerland.
The 61-year-old deposed former dictator of Italy was established by his German allies as the figurehead of a puppet government in northern Italy during the German occupation toward the close of the war. As the Allies fought their way up the Italian peninsula, defeat of the Axis powers all but certain, Mussolini considered his options. Not wanting to fall into the hands of either the British or the Americans, and knowing that the communist partisans, who had been fighting the remnants of roving Italian fascist soldiers and thugs in the north, would try him as a war criminal, he settled on escape to a neutral country.
He and his mistress made it to the Swiss border, only to discover that the guards had crossed over to the partisan side. Knowing they would not let him pass, he disguised himself in a Luftwaffe coat and helmet, hoping to slip into Austria with some German soldiers. His subterfuge proved incompetent, and he and Petacci were discovered by partisans and shot, their bodies then transported by truck to Milan, where they were hung upside down and displayed publicly for revilement by the masses.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 27, 2016 is:
belvedere \BEL-vuh-deer\ noun
The couple wandered down to the belvedere at the edge of the bluff to take in the vivid colors of the sunset.
"… he chiefly talked of the view from the little belvedere on the roof of the casino, and how it looked like the prospect from a castle turret in a fairy tale." — Henry James, Roderick Hudson, 1875
Did you know?
It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder—and someone with a belvedere will likely have a great deal of beauty to behold. Given the origins of the word, belvedere is the ideal term for a building (or part of a building) with a view; it derives from two Italian words, bel, which means "beautiful," and vedere, which means "view." The term has been used in English since the 1570s.
On this day in 4977 B.C., the universe is created, according to German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler, considered a founder of modern science. Kepler is best known for his theories explaining the motion of planets.
Kepler was born on December 27, 1571, in Weil der Stadt, Germany. As a university student, he studied the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus’ theories of planetary ordering. Copernicus (1473-1543) believed that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the solar system, a theory that contradicted the prevailing view of the era that the sun revolved around the earth.
In 1600, Kepler went to Prague to work for Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, the imperial mathematician to Rudolf II, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Kepler’s main project was to investigate the orbit of Mars. When Brahe died the following year, Kepler took over his job and inherited Brahe’s extensive collection of astronomy data, which had been painstakingly observed by the naked eye. Over the next decade, Kepler learned about the work of Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), who had invented a telescope with which he discovered lunar mountains and craters, the largest four satellites of Jupiter and the phases of Venus, among other things. Kepler corresponded with Galileo and eventually obtained a telescope of his own and improved upon the design. In 1609, Kepler published the first two of his three laws of planetary motion, which held that planets move around the sun in ellipses, not circles (as had been widely believed up to that time), and that planets speed up as they approach the sun and slow down as they move away. In 1619, he produced his third law, which used mathematic principles to relate the time a planet takes to orbit the sun to the average distance of the planet from the sun.
Kepler’s research was slow to gain widespread traction during his lifetime, but it later served as a key influence on the English mathematician Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) and his law of gravitational force. Additionally, Kepler did important work in the fields of optics, including demonstrating how the human eye works, and math. He died on November 15, 1630, in Regensberg, Germany. As for Kepler’s calculation about the universe’s birthday, scientists in the 20th century developed the Big Bang theory, which showed that his calculations were off by about 13.7 billion years.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 26, 2016 is:
inveterate \in-VET-uh-rut\ adjective
1 : firmly established by long persistence
2 : confirmed in a habit : habitual
Since Ernie is an inveterate liar, we naturally didn't believe him when he told us he'd met the movie star.
"As an inveterate letter writer, I started sending email as soon as I could sign on with dial-up, and became impatient to connect via DSL." — Deborah Lee Luskin, The Rutland (Vermont) Herald, 25 Feb. 2016
Did you know?
Like veteran, inveterate ultimately comes from Latin vetus, which means "old," and which led to the Latin verb inveterare ("to age"). That verb in turn gave rise eventually to the adjective inveteratus, the direct source of our adjective inveterate (in use since the 14th century). In the past, inveterate has meant "long-standing" or simply "old." For example, one 16th-century writer warned of "Those great Flyes which in the springe time of the yeare creepe out of inveterate walls." Today, inveterate most often applies to a habit, attitude, or feeling of such long existence that it is practically ineradicable or unalterable.
On this day in 1954, the Salk polio vaccine field trials, involving 1.8 million children, begin at the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia. Children in the United States, Canada and Finland participated in the trials, which used for the first time the now-standard double-blind method, whereby neither the patient nor attending doctor knew if the inoculation was the vaccine or a placebo. On April 12, 1955, researchers announced the vaccine was safe and effective and it quickly became a standard part of childhood immunizations in America. In the ensuing decades, polio vaccines would all but wipe out the highly contagious disease in the Western Hemisphere.
Polio, known officially as poliomyelitis, is an infectious disease that has existed since ancient times and is caused by a virus. It occurs most commonly in children and can result in paralysis. The disease reached epidemic proportions throughout the first half of the 20th century. During the 1940s and 1950s, polio was associated with the iron lung, a large metal tank designed to help polio victims suffering from respiratory paralysis breathe.
President Franklin Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1921 at the age of 39 and was left paralyzed from the waist down and forced to use leg braces and a wheelchair for the rest of his life. In 1938, Roosevelt helped found the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later renamed the March of Dimes. The organization was responsible for funding much of the research concerning the disease, including the Salk vaccine trials.
The man behind the original vaccine was New York-born physician and epidemiologist Jonas Salk (1914-95). Salk’s work on an anti-influenza vaccine in the 1940s, while at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, led him, in 1952 at the University of Pittsburgh, to develop the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), based on a killed-virus strain of the disease. The 1954 field trials that followed, the largest in U.S. history at the time, were led by Salk’s former University of Michigan colleague, Dr. Thomas Francis, Jr.
In the late 1950s, Polish-born physician and virologist Albert Sabin (1906-1993) tested an oral polio vaccine (OPV) he had created from a weakened live virus. The vaccine, easier to administer and cheaper to produce than Salk’s, became available for use in America in the early 1960s and eventually replaced Salk’s as the vaccine of choice in most countries.
Today, polio has been eliminated throughout much of the world due to the vaccine; however, there is still no cure for the disease and it persists in a small number of countries in Africa and Asia.
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 25, 2016 is:
juxtapose \JUK-stuh-pohz\ verb
: to place side by side (as to compare or contrast)
Darlene has a keen eye for fashion, and she likes to juxtapose vintage pieces with contemporary styles to create new looks.
"ESPN posted an image of poverty outside Havana's sports stadium last week, to juxtapose the well-kept stadium with the shabby neighborhood around it." — Carolina Miranda, The Los Angeles Times (latimes.com), 28 Mar. 2016
Did you know?
A back-formation is a word that has come about through the removal of a prefix or a suffix from a longer word. Etymologists think juxtapose is a back-formation that was created when people trimmed down the noun juxtaposition. Historical evidence supports the idea: juxtaposition was showing up in English documents as early as 1654, but juxtapose didn't appear until 1851. Juxtaposition is itself thought to be a combination of Latin juxta, meaning "near," and English position.
On this day in 1983, the Soviet Union releases a letter that Russian leader Yuri Andropov wrote to Samantha Smith, an American fifth-grader from Manchester, Maine, inviting her to visit his country. Andropov’s letter came in response to a note Smith had sent him in December 1982, asking if the Soviets were planning to start a nuclear war. At the time, the United States and Soviet Union were Cold War enemies.
President Ronald Reagan, a passionate anti-communist, had dubbed the Soviet Union the “evil empire” and called for massive increases in U.S. defense spending to meet the perceived Soviet threat. In his public relations duel with Reagan, known as the “Great Communicator,” Andropov, who had succeeded longtime Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1982, assumed a folksy, almost grandfatherly approach that was incongruous with the negative image most Americans had of the Soviets.
Andropov’s letter said that Russian people wanted to “live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on the globe, no matter how close or far away they are, and, certainly, with such a great country as the United States of America.” In response to Smith’s question about whether the Soviet Union wished to prevent nuclear war, Andropov declared, “Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are endeavoring and doing everything so that there will be no war between our two countries, so that there will be no war at all on earth.” Andropov also complimented Smith, comparing her to the spunky character Becky Thatcher from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain.
Smith, born June 29, 1972, accepted Andropov’s invitation and flew to the Soviet Union with her parents for a visit. Afterward, she became an international celebrity and peace ambassador, making speeches, writing a book and even landing a role on an American television series. In February 1984, Yuri Andropov died from kidney failure and was succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko. The following year, in August 1985, Samantha Smith died tragically in a plane crash at age 13.