What is the Word of the Day?

By Johnathan Kaye for Sussex Online Speakers

A lot of the Toastmasters experience is about learning. Since my passion is etymology, it makes sense that my favourite aspect of that learning is language.

When, at the start of each meeting, the Toastmaster introduces their “supporting cast”, and the Grammarian steps up, I am all ears. I wait in anticipation for them to get to the good stuff: the Word of the Day.

The Word of the Day can be topical, in line with current events or a meeting’s theme; or it can be challenging, forcing people to really think about what they want to say; or they can be off-the-wall, strange, and unusual.

Some of my favourites:

Generous 

(Generously, Generosity) 

From Middle French genereux, and its source, Latin generōsus (“of noble birth”, “Superior”), from genus (“race, stock”), which itself stems from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵenh₁- (“to produce, beget”). 

Examples of usage are: 

  • Noble in behaviour or actions; principled, not petty; kind, magnanimous. [from 16th c.] 
  • Willing to give and share unsparingly; showing a readiness to give more (especially money) than is expected or needed. [from 17th c.] 
  • Large, more than ample, copious. [from 17th c.] 

Enthusiasm 

Intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval 

“Her energy and enthusiasm for life” 

  • Enthusiasm: Possessed by a god’s essence 
  • Enthuse: Possessed by a god 
  • Enthusiast: a zealot, one who believes themselves possessed of divine revelations. 
  • Enthusiastic: pertaining to irrational delusion in religion 

Armgly 

From Old English: Hearm + Gleo, (meaning “a positive feeling gained from another’s suffering”); 

Middle-English: Armglee (“laughing at the butt of the joke”); 

Examples: 

     ‘I had an armgly feeling.’ 

     ‘He smiled armgly at the joke.’ 

     ‘The viewers armglied at the losers.’ 

Okay, I admit, I made the last one up.

I created “armgly” when crafting an English translation of schadenfreude (“harm” + “glee”, in German).

The word of the day is a great way to expand your vocabulary, one word at a time, as you get to join others in attempting to cram the word this way and that into certain sentences for which it may never have been intended.

Here are some more fun – but unlikely -definitions!

  • Fastidious: an ugly sprinter
  • Quick: the noise made by a dyslexic duck
  • Isometric: I so don’t deal in yards, feet and inches

As you can see, a lot of fun can be had with the simple inclusion of a single word.

The Grammarian role

Besides supplying the word of the day, the role of Grammarian requires a different kind of listening. One is far too focused on how people are saying what they are saying to think about what they are saying.

During the evaluation section of the meeting when the Grammarian reports, more often than not a really good Grammarian will run out of time before they run out of things to comment on. Many a time, I have run the red light, in an attempt to get in all that I can.

By highlighting the lovely language, the grotty grammar, and the word of the day count Grammarians will never stop fighting to achieve that seemingly impossible goal – adding another few minutes onto their speaking time…

… and helping others to improve, of course.