Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for January 31, 2021 is:

nostrum • NAHSS-trum  • noun

: a usually questionable remedy or scheme : panacea


Critics argue that the mayor’s plan to revitalize the downtown area by offering tax breaks to businesses is a costly and ineffective nostrum.

“People are seeking reassurance from homespun investment advice, like the old nostrum that the percentage of stocks in your portfolio should be equal to 100 minus your age, come what may.” — Robert J. Shiller, The New York Times, 2 Apr. 2020

Did you know?

“Whether there was real efficacy in these nostrums, and whether their author himself had faith in them, is more than can safely be said,” wrote 19th-century American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, “but, at all events, the public believed in them.” The word nostrum has often been linked to quack medicine and false hopes for miracle cures, but there’s nothing deceitful about its etymology. It has been a part of English since at least the early 17th century, and it comes from the Latin noster, meaning “our” or “ours.” Some think that specially prepared medicinal concoctions came to be called nostrums because their purveyors marketed them as “our own” remedy. In other words, the use of nostrum emphasized that such a potion was unique or exclusive to the pitchman peddling it.

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