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Nov 15, 2006This week's theme
Words with a built-in definite article
This week's words
A Word A Day
the book "Delightful."
-The New York Times
A.Word.A.Daywith Anu Garg
albatross(AL-buh-tros) , plural albatross or albatrosses
[Apparently an alteration of Portuguese or Spanish alcatraz, from Arabic al-gattas (the diver, name for a kind of sea eagle).]
The name of Alcatraz Island near San Francisco, the site of a former maximum security prison, has the same origin.
The metaphorical second sense of the term goes back to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In the poem, a mariner kills an albatross for no reason. His shooting down of the bird brings a curse to the ship, and his shipmates throw the carcass of the dead bird around his neck, thus giving a powerful idiom to the English language. As a penance, the wizened mariner wanders, recounting his tale.
"What started off as a popular war has turned out to be something of
an albatross around Mr Bush's neck."
See more usage examples of albatross in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.
Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action. -George Washington, 1st US president (1732-1799)
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