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Today's Word



Aug 12, 2019
This week’s theme
Words from space travel

This week’s words
moon shot
rocket science
space cadet

moon shot
Buzz Aldrin on the moon
Photo: Neil Armstrong

Previous week’s theme
Words borrowed (adopted) from other languages
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with Anu Garg

Once upon a time, American presidents inspired people to do great things (nowadays, they are known for tweeting “total loser” and “fake news” to anyone telling the truth). Speaking in 1962, John F. Kennedy said:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

President Kennedy inspired people to build a spaceship and land on the moon (nowadays, presidents inspire people to build a wall and con them into thinking someone else is going to pay for it).

Just seven years after Kennedy mobilized people to dream big, dream out-of-this-world, on July 20, 1969, we had landed on the moon. This was an improbable effort, but never underestimate the determination of a people united in a common cause, a cause beyond themselves.

At one time, we considered ourselves a part of the rest of the humanity -- one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind -- but now, we get off putting little refugee kids in cages.

Houston, we have a problem. How far we have traveled in those seven years (240,000 miles to moon, but light years in progress) and yet how far back we have traveled in the just last couple of years.

To mark the 50th anniversary of moon landing, this week in A.Word.A.Day we’ll see five words from the world of space exploration that have now entered the general parlance.

moon shot

(MOON shot)

1. A mission to the moon.
2. A highly ambitious, unlikely project with great potential impact.
3. In sports, an act of hitting or throwing a ball very high.

From moon + shot, from Old English sceot/gesceot. Earliest documented use: 1949. Also, there’s an earlier citation from 1873, in the sense, lit by moonlight.

“Sen. Angus King: You know, Joe Biden, this is a deeply personal issue for him, and he’s talked about a cancer moon shot.”
Trump’s 2020 Campaign Kick-off Rehashes Grievances; New Day (New York); Jun 19, 2019.

“Mooney sent a moon shot over the centerfield fence for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead.”
Dave Seamon; Lady Cougars Shut Out Crestwood; Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Pennsylvania); May 1, 2019.

See more usage examples of moon shot in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

It has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought -- that is to be educated. -Edith Hamilton, educator and writer (12 Aug 1867-1963)

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