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Jun 5, 2001
This week's theme
Words from the names of newspapers

This week's words
picayune
excelsior
laconic
sentinel
argus

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with Anu Garg

excelsior

Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio

excelsior (ik-SEL-see-uhr) noun

Wood shavings used for packing fragile items.

[From a trademark. From Latin, literally higher, from excelsus, high.]

"In a glint of needle light, of grass seeds, dew flecks, a friend is throwing her voice
While far inside a grainy heaven a butcher's apron ripples its dried blood in the wind.
The bark strippings, excelsior, the panicles of the garden. In the midst of summer a friend cuts greens and places them in a bowl as if they were fronds.
A friend is a vinegar - and now, pearl-shaped, in clusters, faces among her face,
As globes rise on the lawn, each above a root of recriminations."
Garden solstice; The Antioch Review; Jun 1, 1996.

The word excelsior is also the motto of the New York state. It is also the title of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Of course, here they are not exhorting us to take inspiration from wood shavings. Rather these refer to the Latin sense of the word. -Anu

Examples: The Daily Excelsior (India); the Excelsior (Mexico).

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If you are afraid of being lonely, don't try to be right. -Jules Renard, writer (1864-1910)
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