Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Xanadu – Wacky Word Wednesday

Another week has flown by and that means it’s time for T for Translation to provide you with a new opportunity to beef up your vocabulary. Today’s Wacky Word Wednesday takes us out of last week’s subterranean depths to a place infinitely more hospitable. Indulge yourself and learn about this week’s feature – a word of legendary proportions.

Today’s definition from TermWiki.com

Xan·a·du

[zan-uh-doo]

-noun

a place of great beauty, luxury, and contentment.

Image of a cartoon sheep picking an apple in his Xanadu


The word Xanadu, derived from Mandarin Shangdu (上都), originates from the city where Kublai Khan, great Mongol ruler and founder of the Yuan dynasty, had his summer capital before he decided to settle down in Dadu (present day Beijing). The remnants of Xanadu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can still be found in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region of China. The city of Xanadu was famed for its idyllic beauty, luxury and overall paradise-like properties. Today, it can be used to describe just that.

Western accounts of the city of Xanadu date back to the times when direct East-West contact was only possible by making the arduous journey along the Silk Road. Marco Polo, medieval Europe’s well-known super traveler, has of course been attributed with visiting the site, and his telling account laid the foundation of the word’s current use in English. However, the use of Xanadu to describe places of supreme splendor, comfort, or beauty truly started to proliferate after Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Kahn was published (which was inspired by a later rendition of Marco Polo’s narrative by Samuel Purchas).

That Xanadu continues to receive mentions in popular culture truly speaks to its legendary idyllic beauty. Musicians, writers, moviemakers, and property developers have all been inspired by the magic that resonates with Xanadu. For example, the story of the 1980 cult film Xanadu and its musical spin-off revolve around a nightclub named after the Khan’s summer palace. Another, more acclaimed film, Citizen Kane (1941), featured a mansion named Xanadu, which, in turn, prompted Bill Gates to nickname his private estate
Xanadu 2.0.

If you’re not sure how to use Xanadu in a sentence, here are a few examples:

  • Three architects and a planner combine to create a Xanadu. (Oxford Dictionary)
  • We must build an enormous McWorld in Times Square, a Xanadu representing a McDonald’s from every nation. (The Awl)
  • A little bit of home improvement and I think we can turn this cabin into a real Xanadu.

Don’t forget to tune in next week for a new edition of Wacky Word Wednesday!

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