Word of the day

The word for today is…

stemwinder (noun) -? 1. a stemwinding watch.
2. a rousing speech or orator.

Source : The Free Dictionary

Etymology : It all goes back to the humble watch. Before there were electronic battery-powered wrist watches, before there were manually wound (or self-winding) mechanical watches, before there were even watches worn on one?s wrist, there were pocket watches. And if you go way back, those pocket watches were wound with a separate tiny key. This may sound cute, but it was a major drag, because the process was awkward and the key was easily lost. So in 1842, when the French watchmaker Adrien Philippe (co-founder of Patek-Philippe) invented a ?keyless? watch that was wound by turning its ?stem? (a knurled knob on the side of its case, today called the ?crown?), it was such an improvement that it won Philippe a Gold Medal at the French Industrial World?s Fair.

It?s hard to imagine today, but the new ?stemwinder? watch became an instant public sensation of almost delirious intensity, the iPod of its day. It was so popular, in fact, that within a few years the term ?stemwinder? entered the lexicon as a synonym for anything excellent and exciting. By the end of the 19th century, ?stemwinder? was being used to mean, first, an energetic person, then a rousing public speaker, and finally an especially inspiring speech itself.

Interestingly, as the public memory faded of how revolutionary the ?stemwinder? invention had been, the word took on the slightly more focused sense of a speech which not only impresses but galvanises a crowd to action, perhaps by analogy to a watch spring being wound up (?After all the calls to unity, ..a stemwinder in the old tradition from Hubert Humphrey,? Sargent Shriver was formally nominated for Vice-President,? T.H. White, 1974). This is the sense in which we use ?stemwinder? today.

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