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What words could be more fascinating than ones that pinpoint the personalities of people in our world? Such will be our theme this week.

janissary – one of a group of a highly loyal supporters

So say the dictionaries, but I think the term is more specific. It implies a ruthlessness and near-religious zeal. As in our quote.
    Lenin saw that a resolute and well-disciplined group could by ruthless terror overthrow whatever other regime might attempt to replace [the tsars]. [H]e was resolved to prepare the appropriate instrument. He had little use for theories about the necessity of waiting for the workmen to rise of their own initiative in order to accomplish the grand revolution. What he needed was a well-trained bodyguard of revolutionist janissaries, deaf to any argument but his own, free from all inhibitions, impervious to the voices of reason or humanity.
    – Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (ellipses omitted)
 
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Interesting to note a second kind of fierce soldier - the Mamelukes. Like the Janissaries a few centuries later, Mamelukes were "dhimmi" (non-Muslims) pressed into military service.


RJA
 
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The two words, janissary (also janizary) and mamaluke have histories, too, the one from Turkish and the other from Arabic: janissary < Old French jehanicere < Old Italian giannizero < Ottoman Turkish yanī çeri 'new army' (< yanī 'new' + cheri 'special troops' < Persian chērīh 'bravery, victory' < chēr 'brave, victorious', and mamaluke < French mameluk < Arabic malūk 'slave' (< passive participle of malaka 'to possess' < West Semitic root *mlk 'to rule, dominate', cf. Hebrew melek 'king'). Two points of interest: Turkish yanī was obviously associated with Latin juvenis 'young' (and its subsequent derivations in the Romance languages) and MLK, the root for king in Hebrew, is the initials of Martin Luther King, Jr. His father being a minister, I always wondered if it were intentional.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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the root for king in Hebrew, is the initials of Martin Luther King, Jr. His father being a minister, I always wondered if it were intentional.
I'm thinking not.
 
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Originally posted by wordcrafter:


janissary – one of a group of a highly loyal supporters

It implies a ruthlessness and near-religious zeal.


Well, perhaps not ruthless, but certainly infused with religious zeal were the Papal Zouaves, a troop formed in Rome in the 1860's (largely composed of French Canadians, for some obscure reason) whose mandate was the defence of the Pope. Today there is the famous Swiss Guard, which fulfills the same (probably now ceremonial) function.
 
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probably now ceremonial

The Pontifical Swiss Guards are armed (with pikes, swords, and modern weapons). One of their duties is to guard the pope. Candidates must have had military training in Switzerland and must be single and Catholic. Most of them are from German-speaking cantons.


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Turkish yanī was obviously associated with Latin juvenis 'young'

So who borrowed from whom?
 
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So who borrowed from whom?

I'm not sure if the similarity is borrowing or coincidence. I meant the words in Romance seem to have been reshaped by a supposed (folk) connection between the two words. Sorry I wasn't more clear. If the various languages had just borrowed yanī çeri, the initial glide wouldn't have been represented as a /ʤ/ in Italian or a /ʒ/ in French, or so it seems to me.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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voluble – characterized by ready or rapid speech

Interesting history: the word comes from Latin for 'to roll', as in a wheel that 'revolves'. That should give you the hint that this is not an entirely complimentary term, but rather has the sense of talking too much, of habitually rolling on and on and on and on and …
    Homer [my dog] stopped coming when I called, which was unacceptable … I put a leash on him and yanked him to me, and was voluble with praise and generous with treats when he complied …
    – Jon Katz, A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs, and Me

    Roosevelt … described Rudyard Kipling as a pleasant little man, bright, nervous, voluble, but rather underbred.
    – Aida D. Donald, Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt
 
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iuvenis is from PIE *yuwen-. I don't think you need to posit a reshaping based on Turkish.
 
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No, I meant the Old Italian giannizero from Turkish yanī çeri. The /j/ > /ʤ/ just looked like folk etymologizing along the lines of juvenis > giovane. But the more I think about it, the more likely it seems to me that the change is just common enough. Forget I mentioned it. Wink


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I'm surprised to find how rarely this word is used.

endomorphic – having a heavy rounded body build, with a marked tendency to become fat
    Alexander Woollcott grew up in New Jersey, where he was unmercifully teased for his endomorphic body and thick spectacles. … he shocked his friends when in 1917 he volunteered to serve in the Great War. Not fit for any kind of military service (one officer called him “the pregnant mermaid”), he was soon transferred to th U.S. Army newspaper Stars and Stripes …
    – Mardy Grothe, Viva la Repartee
 
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younker – a young man
[My sense is that it has the connotation of ‘a bit wet behind the ears’.]
    When I was a younker a man with two nickels could feed like a king. The bartender was a little suspicious if you dug into the grub on the strength of one beer, but when you bellied up and ordered the second, you were a guest of the house and could eat your head off.
    – Robert Ruark, The Old Man and the Boy

    Then he said, 'It's not respectful, sir, of you younkers to be imitating of your relations.'
    – William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair
 
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fashionista – an enthusiast for the trends of fashion
(A mildly disparaging term, not just for the wearer of the clothing, etc., but also for the designers, models, fashion-writers, etc.)

Credit Quinion for today’s quote.
    Last week I finally realized that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be a true fashionista — one of those guys and gals who can stumble out of a swamp covered with leeches and still look like a million bucks.
    – Rocky Mountain News (Denver), Sept. 26, 1999
 
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reactionary – an extreme conservative; one opposed of progress or liberalism (also as an adjective)
    . . .I butted into the argument "This is a reactionary group. Correct? Right-wing loony lodge."
    . . .He nodded.
    . . ."So, considering that, and the high-level political and financial membership of this so-called hunting and fishing club, maybe we’re talking about a conspiracy to take over the government.”
    . . .He smiled and replied, “I think they already did that on Election Day.”
    – Nelson DeMille, Wild Fire
'Reactionary' is a common word. The word I’d hoped to present is stronger but ridiculously obscure, so obscure that you can insult someone with it without fear that he’ll understand! Just call him a misoeist, suffering from misoneism, the fear of anything new. (OED defines it as merely “dislike of novelty,” but I think of it as far stronger, as in its very first usage.)
    The fear of the unknown has been named misoneism, … It is best exemplified in children and savages. (1886; credit OED)
 
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quote:
Originally posted by wordcrafter:
I'm surprised to find how rarely this word is used.

endomorphic – having a heavy rounded body build, with a marked tendency to become fat

This was part of a system was devised by William Sheldon. http://www.innerexplorations.com/catpsy/t1c4.htm]His system
classed all humans into endomorphs, mesomorphs and ectomorphs, based on detailed measurements he made. We are all mixtures of these three elements, and they were related to the tendencies to certain ilnesses and to temperament.

Sheldon's system was widely taught in medical schools, but has now fallen into neglect.
 
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neglect

For those with an interest in Sheldonian somatotypes, this New York Times article makes for interesting reading. It fits in with some reading I've been doing lately, starting with Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man (1981) and then plumbing the depths of Henry H Goddard's The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness (1912) and J. David Smith's Minds Made Feeble: The Myth and Legacy of the Kallikaks (1985): eugenics movements in the USA and Germany, US Supreme Court cases upholding compulsory sterilization, the origins of IQ and intelligence testing.


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naif – a naïve person
(in either of two senses: 1. natural and unaffected; and 2. lacking the judgement to be aware of dangers)
    No one except a a naif or a political propagandist could believe that Israelis and Palestinians could live together in one state without civil war. Proponents of one state are mainly extremists like Hamas who want one state without Jews, or ultranationalist Israelis who would like to expel the Palestinians.
    – Trudy Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 3, 2007
 
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