Wordnik word of the day: seidel

Today’s word of the day is seidel, a mug or glass for beer. It comes to English from German, in which language it means stein.

The exact size of a seidel depends upon the place and time. The November 1890 issue of the St. Louis Medical and Surgical Journal says it equals a quart. This 1878 table of equivalencies more precisely says that in Austria a seidel was about 0.6229 of a pint, which is about 295 milliliters. Other measures have it from somewhat less than to much more than a quart.

H.L Mencken knew what a seidel was, as well as the full measure of his fellow men: “The average man, at least in England and America, has such rudimentary tastes in victualry that he doesn’t know good food from bad. He will eat anything set before him by a cook that he likes. The true way to fetch him is with drinks. A single bottle of drinkable wine will fill more men with the passion of love than ten sides of beef or a ton of potatoes. Even a Seidel of beer, deftly applied, is enough to mellow the hardest bachelor. If women really knew their business, they would have abandoned cooking centuries ago, and devoted themselves to brewing, distilling, and bartending.” (From Prejucides: Second Series, 1920, New York: Knopf.)

Wordnik word of the day: indicia

Today’s word of the day is indicia, a plural noun meaning “identifying marks” or “indications.” It’s a favorite of legal minds: “If the defendant is dishonorable, it can take advantage of this window by doing everything possible to cover its tracks; documents will be shredded, electronic evidence will be scrubbed, and any other indicia of wrongdoing will disappear.” It’s from the Latin plural of indicium, a notice, information, discovery, sign, mark, token.

Wordnik word of the day: pluck

Today’s word of the day is pluck. Naturally, if we’re going to choose a word that seems so ordinary, we’re going to tell you about a meaning that isn’t. This pluck is the heart, liver, windpipe, and lungs of a sheep, ox, or other animal used as butchers’ meat. It’s also used figuratively or humorously for similar parts of a human being, especially when talking about “having the pluck” or “being plucky,” meaning, “showing courage and spirit in trying circumstances” or “being bold or brave.” In other words, “having the guts or the stomach to do something” or “showing intestinal fortitude.”

Why doesn’t anyone ever say, “He has the belly button to do what’s right?”

Wordnik word of the day: maven

In memory of the man who helped popularize the word in English, today’s word of the day is maven, “a person who has special knowledge or experience; an expert.” It’s from the Yiddish meyvn, from Hebrew mēbîn, which is the active participle of hēbîn ‘to understand.’ Thanks to the maven himself, William Safire, who passed away over the weekend.