noun: exemption or freedom from punishment, harm, or loss
Penalties for breaking the law can be made harsher, but without extra funding for its enforcement, people will continue to violate it with impunity.
“Carlos Zarate, a congressman who sits on the Philippine House of Representatives’ Human Rights Committee, said in an interview Tuesday that the arrest of General Palparan did not signal an end to the problem of security forces committing abuses with impunity.” — Floyd Whaley, The New York Times, August 13, 2014
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Impunity (like the words pain, penal, and punish) traces to the Latin noun poena, meaning “punishment.” The Latin word, in turn, came from Greek poinē, meaning “payment” or “penalty.” People acting with impunity have prompted use of the word since the 1500s, as in this 1660 example by Englishman Roger Coke: “This unlimited power of doing anything with impunity, will only beget a confidence in kings of doing what they list [desire].” While royals may act with impunity more easily than others, the word impunity can be applied to the lowliest of beings as well as the loftiest: “Certain beetles have learned to detoxify [willow] leaves in their digestive tract so they can eat them with impunity” (Smithsonian, September 1986).
verb1 : to make a liar of (oneself) under or as if under oath 2 a : to reject, deny, or renounce under oath b : to renounce earnestly
Tina forswore flying after the latest airline mishap left her stranded in Chicago for eighteen hours.
“… the film finds Cotillard playing an ordinary woman who, shortly after recovering from a period of depression, finds herself being laid off in unusual circumstances. If she can persuade a majority of her colleagues to forswear their annual bonuses then she can keep her job.” — Donald Clarke, The Irish Times, August 22, 2014
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Forswear (which is also sometimes spelled foreswear) is the modern English equivalent of the Old English forswerian. It can suggest denial (“[Thou] would’st forswear thy own hand and seal” — John Arbuthnot, John Bull) or perjury (“Is it the interest of any man … to lie, forswear himself, indulge hatred, seek desperate revenge, or do murder?” — Charles Dickens, American Notes). But in current use, it most often has to do with giving something up, as in “the warring parties agreed to forswear violence” and “she refused to forswear her principles.” The word abjure is often used as a synonym of forswear, though with less emphasis on the suggestion of perjury or betrayal of the beliefs that one holds dear.
bucket shop \BUK-ut-SHAHP\
noun1 : a gambling establishment that formerly used market fluctuations (as in commodities) as a basis for gaming 2 : a dishonest brokerage firm
“Today … the SEC is able to intervene more quickly to shut down frauds, like boiler rooms or bucket shops pushing bogus stocks….” — The Orange County Register, October 15, 2001
“As a result, dozens of operations have sprouted up on the Caymans to supply directors, from one-man bucket shops to powerhouse law firms.” — Azam Ahmed, The New York Times, July 2, 2012
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In the 1870s, a bucket shop was a lowly saloon that sold beer and other cheap hooch in buckets. How did the term make the jump from watering hole to Wall Street? No one is really sure. Some speculate that it may have been because of the small-time gambling that took place at the original bucket shops, while others claim it derives from the bucket elevator used to transport things between the Chicago Board of Trade and a market for small investors housed directly below it. By the 1880s, bucket shop was being used for pseudo “investment houses” where gamblers bid on the rise and fall of stock prices. These days the term is used for any business that sells cut-price goods, especially airline tickets.
adjective: attempting to put into effect an abstract doctrine or theory with little or no regard for practical difficulties
“As doctrinaire as I may be about players being ready to play every day,” Coach said, “they are also human beings; I need to accept they are going to need breaks once in a while.”
“We use endorsement interviews to see how candidates interact with their opponents, how politically daring (or doctrinaire) they are and whether they’re thinking more about the public’s good or their own campaigns.” — Elizabeth Sullivan, Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), September 21, 2014
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Doctrinaire didn’t start out as a critical word. In post-revolutionary France, a group who favored constitutional monarchy called themselves Doctrinaires. Doctrine in French, as in English, is a word for the principles on which a government is based; it is ultimately from Latin doctrina, meaning “teaching” or “instruction.” But both ultraroyalists and revolutionists strongly derided any doctrine of reconciling royalty and representation as utterly impracticable, and they resented the Doctrinaires’ influence over Louis XVIII. So when doctrinaire became an adjective, “there adhered to it some indescribable tincture of unpopularity which was totally indelible” (Blanc’s History of Ten Years 1830-40, translated by Walter K. Kelly in 1848).
noun1 : a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion 2 : a formal decision given by a court 3 : the capacity for judging or the exercise of this capacity
Theresa showed good judgment by clearing her family out of the house as soon as she smelled gas.
“Christenson said he’ll reserve judgment on the larger iPhone 6 until he holds one in his hand.” — Neil Nisperos, Redlands Daily Facts (California), September 10, 2014
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Judgment can also be spelled “judgement,” and usage experts have long disagreed over which spelling is the preferred one. Henry Fowler asserted, “The OED [Oxford English Dictionary] prefers the older and more reasonable spelling. ‘Judgement’ is therefore here recommended.” William Safire held an opposite opinion, writing, “My judgment is that Fowler is not to be followed.” “Judgement” is in fact the older spelling, but it dropped from favor and for centuries “judgment” was the only spelling to appear in dictionaries. That changed when the OED (Fowler’s source) was published showing “judgement” as an equal variant. Today, “judgment” is more popular in the U.S., whereas both spellings make a good showing in Britain.
adverb: with all possible speed
“You must leave posthaste,” Virginia theatrically admonished her guests, “or you’ll miss your ferry!”
“Yes, West Palm Beach commissioners should green-light the chief’s efforts to address the issue posthaste.” — Palm Beach Post, September 3, 2014
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In the 16th century, the phrase “haste, post, haste” was used to inform “posts,” as couriers were then called, that a letter was urgent and must be hastily delivered. Posts would then speedily gallop along a route, with a series of places at which to get a fresh horse or to relay the letter to a fresh messenger. Shakespeare was one of the first to use a version of the phrase adverbially in Richard II. “Old John of Gaunt … hath sent post haste / To entreat your Majesty to visit him,” the Bard versified. He also used the phrase as an adjective (a use that is now obsolete) in Othello: “The Duke … requires your haste-post-haste appearance,” Lieutenant Cassio reports to the play’s namesake. Today, the word still possesses a literary flair attributable to the Bard.
noun: intellectuals who form an artistic, social, or political vanguard or elite: intelligentsia
The book’s author claims that a successful society must have both a strong commitment to democratic ideals and a well-established clerisy.
“The situation was so dire that it required nothing less than scientific experts freed from constitutional strictures to run the government and the elevation of intellectuals and artists to the status of a new cultural clerisy.” — Daniel DiSalvo, The Washington Times, February 18, 2014
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English philosopher-poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) believed that if humanity was to flourish, it was necessary to create a secular organization of learned individuals, “whether poets, or philosophers, or scholars” to “diffuse through the whole community … that quantity and quality of knowledge which was indispensable.” Coleridge named this hypothetical group the clerisy, a term he adapted from Klerisei, a German word for clergy (in preference, it seems, to the Russian term intelligentsia which we borrowed later, in the early 1900s). Coleridge may have equated clerisy with an old sense of clergy meaning “learning” or “knowledge,” which by his time was used only in the proverb “an ounce of mother wit is worth a pound of clergy.”