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Today's Word



May 20, 2019
This week’s theme
Tosspot words borrowed from other languages

This week’s words

Previous week’s theme

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with Anu Garg

You’d think the word skyscraper is relatively recent, but it has been a part of the English language since 1791. What? We had skyscrapers back then?

Yes, except those were not the skyscrapers you’re thinking about. In the beginning the word was applied to a sail on a ship. Then it got around, being used for a tall hat, a tall horse, a tall person, a tall story, a few other tall things, and finally to tall buildings.

That’s a lot of scraping! What a hardworking word!

The same word appears in many Romance languages in a tosspot form (verb + noun), such as Spanish rascacielos, French gratte-ciel, Italian grattacielo, and Portuguese arranha-céu (literally, scrapes the sky).

The word skyscraper is quite vivid, but it would be better in the tosspot form, scrapesky, no?

We have lots of tosspot words in the English language and we have borrowed many tosspot words from other languages. This week, we’ll take a look at five of them, borrowed from French, Dutch, and Italian.

If you speak another language, what tosspot words exist in your language? What tosspot words have you come up with? Share it below or email us at words@wordsmith.org. But first, make sure it is a tosspot. A tosspot is a word coined by the formula verb + noun, but the important thing is that the noun is the object of the verb. So pickpocket is a tosspot word because a pickpocket picks pockets; repairman is not, because a repairman does not repair a man, unless you call your doctor a repairman (better to use sawbones).



noun: A small item of food served as an appetizer.

From French amuse-gueule (literally, amuses the mouth), from amuser (to amuse) + gueule (mouth). A synonym, another tosspot word from French, is amuse-bouche. Earliest documented use: 1963.

“To get things going, we were served an amuse-gueule of cauliflower mousse in cups.”
Gloria Deutsch; Wine, Food, and Art; Jerusalem Post (Israel); Apr 19, 2019.

A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury. -John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist (20 May 1806-1873)

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