yen (noun) 

Yen (YEN) – aside from being the basic monetary unit of Japan – is a strong desire, craving, or urge. As used by Mark Waters: “My first inkling that I might have a yen for directing came when I realized I enjoyed creating plays for my various sports teams more than I actually liked playing the game.”

 

Continue Reading

trenchant (adjective) 

Trenchant (TREN-chunt) means intense, forceful. As used by William Milligan Sloane in The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte: “Bonaparte’s contributions to the discussion were terse and trenchant.”

Continue Reading

archetype (noun) 

An archetype (AR-kuh-tipe) is a very typical example of a person or thing. As I used it today: “There are many ways to write a lead. You can begin with a story or a secret or a prediction or a surprising fact. Each of these is an archetypal approach to beginning a sales pitch.”

Continue Reading

rampant (adjective) 

When you describe something as rampant (RAM-punt), you mean that it is not only common, it is getting worse in an uncontrolled way. As I used it today: “[Confusion about what is meant by the ‘Big Idea’] is rampant across the marketing world. Even within The Agora companies, many marketers and copywriters use ‘Big Idea’ to mean different things.”

Continue Reading

hamartia (noun) and anagnorisis (noun)

Two terms from classical Greek tragedy. Hamartia (hah-mar-TEE-uh) is a fatal flaw or mistake that leads to the protagonist’s downfall. Anagnorisis (a-nag-NOR-ih-sis) is the point at which the protagonist recognizes his/her (or some other character’s) true nature. As I used them today: “Is life an ongoing struggle between the stress of playing blind and the pain of being forced to see? Are we locked into the tragic choice between hamartia and anagnorisis?”

 

Continue Reading

brandish (verb) 

To brandish (BRAN-dish) is to wave or flourish something (especially a weapon) in an ostentatious, menacing, or aggressive way. As used by Eric Liu: “The next time someone… brandishes the special status conferred upon him by the accident of birth, ask him this: What have you done lately to earn it?”

Continue Reading

transcendent (adjective) 

Something that is transcendent (tran-SEN-dunt) is beyond or above the range of normal or merely physical human experience. As I used it today: “[Iris Murdoch] says that you cannot experience [beauty] fully with your rational mind. You need a ‘shift of consciousness’ from your everyday way of thinking to a sort of transcendent awareness.”

Continue Reading

Machiavellian (adjective) 

Someone who is Machiavellian (mak-ee-uh-VEL-ee-un) is focused on his own interests – scheming, deceiving, and manipulating others to achieve his goals. The word comes from the 16thcentury Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, best known for writing “The Prince” – a political treatise that advocated ruthless tactics for gaining political power.

Continue Reading

glom (verb) 

To glom (GLOM) onto something is to grab hold of it. As I used it today: “REGN-EB3 is made up of three antibodies that glom onto the [Ebola] virus, preventing it from replicating inside the host’s bodyand triggering the host’s immune system to kill the infected cells.”

Continue Reading

caducity (noun) 

Caducity (Kuh-DOO-sih-tee) is the quality of being transitory or perishable. It can be used as a synonym for senility. As used by J.G. Millingen in Curiosities of Medical Experience: “Let us deduct even from old age the years of infancy, the years of caducity, and the years of sleep – alas!”

Continue Reading