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Apr 19, 2010
This week's theme
Allusions

This week's words
vanity fair
Old Man of the Sea
pygmalionism
sisyphean
achates

Vanity Fair from Pilgrim's Progress
Vanity Fair: An illustration from the book Pilgrim's Progress

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

When my daughter was little and scraped a knee, what brought the swiftest diversion wasn't candies or toys, but stories. Stories soothe us, teach us, take us to other worlds. Even when we grow up, our hunger for stories remains.

Each of this week's five words is a story in itself. From mythology, fiction, and poetry, they contain tales that are hundreds or thousands of years old. Through the allusions and metaphors in them we'll visit lands afar.

vanity fair

PRONUNCIATION:
(VAN-i-tee fair)

MEANING:
noun: A place characterized by frivolity and ostentation.

ETYMOLOGY:
After Vanity Fair, a fair that lasted all year long in the town of Vanity, in the novel Pilgrim's Progress by writer and preacher John Bunyan (1628-1688). In the fair were traded houses, honors, titles, kingdoms, pleasures, and much more -- sounds like an early version of eBay.

USAGE:
"[The Millionaire Fair] was a vanity fair of thin beautiful women sporting mink fur coats and low necklines decorated with glittering jewelry and dark-suited, elegant men shadowed by beefy bodyguards."
Maria Danilova; In Moscow, A Nouveau Riche Showcase; The Associated Press; Nov 3, 2006.

"In one corner was Karl Rove, presidential adviser and global-warming denier. In the opposite corner was the An Inconvenient Truth tag team of singer Sheryl Crow and documentary producer Laurie David. Their encounter took place Saturday night in Washington at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, a vanity fair for journalists, politicos, and celebrities."
The Lightning Round; The Philadelphia Inquirer; Apr 24, 2007.

See more usage examples of vanity fair in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
One is happy as a result of one's own efforts once one knows the necessary ingredients of happiness: simple tastes, a certain degree of courage, self denial to a point, love of work, and above all, a clear conscience. -George Sand [pen name of Amantine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin], novelist (1804-1876)

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