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Apr 18, 2011
This week's theme
Words derived from musical instruments

This week's words
calliopean
pariah
clarion
second fiddle
highfalutin

calliope
A calliope
Photo: Robert Lz

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Do you like to toot your own horn? Perhaps to drum up support for your cause? Well, I don't mean to harp on this topic, but many musical instruments are used metaphorically in the English language. This week we've assembled a quintet of words derived from the names of such instruments. Their musical origins are not always obvious till you peek into the etymological orchestra pit.

Join us as we play the organ, percussion, brass, strings, and reeds this week.

calliopean

PRONUNCIATION:
(kuh-ly-uh-PEE-uhn)

MEANING:
adjective: Piercingly loud.

ETYMOLOGY:
After calliope, a musical instrument having a series of steam whistles played by a keyboard. The instrument was named after Kalliope, the Muse of heroic poetry in Greek mythology, from Greek kalli- (beautiful) + ops (voice). Earliest documented use: 1855.

USAGE:
"Sunday we were doing yardwork when our ears perked to one of the season's unmistakable aural cues... the calliopean siren's song of the ice cream truck."
Check It Out; The News & Observer (North Carolina); Mar 18, 2004.

"Rosalind Russell may have been more 'bankable', but didn't have The Merm's calliopean vocal cords."
Ivan M. Lincoln; 'Gypsy' Coming to Life Again; The Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah); Feb 20, 1994.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted. -Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

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