I know of no more enjoyable intellectual activity than working on a dictionary.



Hulbert quote


from J. R. Hulbert, cited here.


The Week in Words Also-Rans for February, 2013

Here’s the words that, while interesting, were not Week-worthy:

February 1: mot-diese, Captcha, kanban, windowing.

adverse product mix

Ford Motor Co.’s stock is getting run over today, as investors worry that the auto maker’s profit growth will plateau this year in part because of what CFO Bob Shanks referred to as “adverse product mix.” That phrase is a car business euphemism for a condition in which an auto maker sells more low-profit cars and small sport utility wagons, and fewer of its larger, more expensive models.

The opposite of “adverse product mix” is the “ideal” or “optimal product mix.”

For Ford, Small Cars Mean Smaller Profit, January 29


Africom declined to discuss any plans for deploying drones—which are sometimes called “ISR,” in military parlance—to Niger.

“ISR” stands for “intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance,” referring to the types of tasks the drones are supposed to be used for.

U.S. to Expand Role in Africa, January 29


Stimpmeters languished until the 1970s, when turf-maintenance techniques began to push the limit of what grasses could tolerate and superintendents needed a tool to better monitor greens and to help keep them consistent across a course. The most meticulous superintendents stimp a sampling of greens every day.

The Stimpmeter is named after its designer, golfer Edward Stimpson. They are sold only to professional golf course superintendents.

Ta-Da! Stimpmeter Makeover, January 25


Her focus is on Shamil, the legendary Muslim guerrilla who resisted Russian conquest from 1834 to 1859. “To the Russians,” she writes, “he was known as the Red Devil; he wore a crimson tcherkesska [a kind of long coat], his beard was red, his legend steeped in blood and daring.”

According to a 1904 article by Joseph A. Baer, a lieutenant in the US Cavalry, the tcherkesska is a below-knee-length, close-fitting coat with red or blue shoulder straps, which has pockets on each side of the chest for gun cartridges.

Max Boot on books about guerrillas, January 25

bokeh porn

The great advantage of a more light-sensitive camera is that you can make radical adjustments to the aperture, allowing filmmakers to indulge in what’s become known as “bokeh porn”—shallow depth-of-field shots in which sharply defined subjects are placed against artily smeared backgrounds.

The word “bokeh” comes from a Japanese word meaning “blur” and is pronounced “BOH-kay”.

Lens Flair, January 25

February 8: Alfisti, jammer, jughandle, decalcomania.


Outside the store we have a little talk about how he must be sage (the French equivalent of “being good,” which implies that the child has wisdom about the situation, and is in control of himself).

“Sage” (which is short for “sois sage”, usually translated as “be good!”) is pronounced to rhyme with the “Taj” of Taj Mahal.

How to Parent Like the French This Weekend, February 1


People have pointed to the rise of the Internet as fueling a “nerd renaissance” of sorts, making it totally OK to be a poindexter in public. But that’s because a lot of nerds are now rich, and even if money can’t buy you love, it can buy you flattery. (And company.)

The word “poindexter” meaning “nerd” supposedly comes from a character created in the late 1950s for the Felix the Cat TV cartoons — Poindexter was the smarty-pants nephew of The Professor, Felix’s arch-enemy.

Defending Nerds: Why GoDaddy’s Bar Refaeli Ad Was An Epic Fail, February 4


To describe an awkward presentation several years ago, he coined the word “fiaster”—a combination of “fiasco” and “disaster.” Mr. Durban sprinkles the word into his conversations, and “fiaster” even caught on among some Silver Lake employees, people familiar with the firm said.

Another recent blendword that includes “disaster” is the Stephen Colbert coinage “disadvertunity,” which is an advertising opportunity during a natural disaster.

The Hidden Deal Maker Behind the Dell Buyout, February 5


Scientists are divided about whether underarm sweat—which includes apocrine and eccrine sweats, along with naturally occurring bacteria —contains compounds that may have a pheromone-like affect on humans.

Apocrine comes from Greek roots meaning “to set apart” or “to separate”; eccrine comes from Greek roots meaning “to secrete,” and is also related to the root for “separate”.

Why Stress Makes You Sweat, February 4

February 15: gugak, squeezies, chillwave, anosmia.


We find Hannah and Ray outside of Cafe Grumpy’s discussing a word that Hannah believes she has just coined: ‘sexit’, or a ‘sexy exit’. The conversation moves back into the cafe where Ray rains on Hannah’s coining parade with the help of Urban Dictionary to prove that her new word isn’t actually new.

The earliest example on Urban Dictionary dates from 2008, where the word is glossed as “when someone makes an exit from a certain area, but does it in a sultry manner.”

‘Girls,’ Season 2, Episode 5, ‘One Man’s Trash’: TV Recap, February 10


Spondo’s founder and Australian chief executive Geoff Collinson explained the name Spondo came from a play on the word “Spondoolies”, which is sometimes used to describe money.

Spondoolies is a variant of the older form “spondulicks,” which dates back to at least the mid-1800s in the US. Michael Quinion (of World Wide Words) gives some plausible etymologies, such that it may come from a Greek word for a kind of shell once used as currency, or from a Greek root meaning “spine,” alluding to stacked coins looking like vertebrae.

Video Streaming Start-Up Spondo Launches Series A Raising, February 12


His violent overthrow in 1973 was preceded by vast demonstrations of citizens marching through the streets banging empty pots and pans—a form of popular protest called cacerolazos.

Cacerolazos can be translated as “casserole strikes,” and comes from Spanish roots meaning “saucepan” and “bang.”

In Venezuela, Plenty of Oil, Not Enough Food, February 11

February 22: glidepath, air gap, anthypophora, returnship.


We read of Wash’s mother, Mena, a “saltwater” slave stolen from Africa who initiates her son into the secret traditions that both whites and “countryborn” slaves fearfully refer to as “conjure”—the making of stone altars and talismanic pouches holding hair and roots that connect Wash to a spirit world inaccessible to whites.

Conjure comes from a Latin word meaning “to swear together, conspire.” Its use in the West Indies and southern US dates at least to the late 1800s.

Slave Narratives From Unlikely Sources, February 15


A vibrant yellow sauce called tucupi must be boiled for 20 minutes to eliminate its lingering natural toxicity.

Tucupi is made from the manioc root, and the raw liquid contains hydrocyanic acid (related to prussic acid).

The Year of Cooking Dangerously, February 14


That brief and unfruitful relationship—of which she claimed to have no memory—set off a pained debate in the feuilletons about cooperation, resistance and the German past.

A feuilleton is a section of a newspaper or other publication devoted to light news, criticism, gossip, fashion, and so on. It comes from a French word meaning “little leaf.”

She Regretted Nothing, February 15

The Week in Words Also-Rans for January, 2013

Here’s the words that, while interesting, were not Week-worthy:

January 5: MOOC, droppage, jukochodai, slow steaming.


The author would have us look to the East, particularly China, where filiopietism—privileging family, particularly parents and elders, above all others—reigns.

Filiopietism comes from Latin roots meaning “son” and “dutifulness”. “Pietism” without the prefix filio- can be used to mean “affected or exaggerated piety.” There is also the nonce-word “filiism,” which was used to mean (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) “undue partiality for one’s own son.”

The Secular Faith, December 27


Nancy and Gaston were two middle-aged, not particularly attractive people,” she writes. “He was a selfish, career-obsessed philanderer; she was febrile, needy and given to ‘shrieking,’ yet the discipline, tenderness and gentillesse of their relationship exposes the limits of many modern sexual mores.

Gentillesse is usually translated as “kindness,” but implies the performance of kind acts, rather than just kind words or the absence of unkindness.

Pursuer Become The Pursued, December 30

baby stays 

“Race France to France” is full of the jargon of the ocean-racing game, with references to keel hinge pins and baby stays and PBO rigging, but there is enough mayhem and side-story-telling to keep even the uninitiated engaged.

Baby stays are “inner forestays,” and help support the lower mast. PBO rigging is rigging made of polybenzoxazole, which is stronger and lighter than steel. Hinge pins, well, they pin hinges.

There and Back Again, January 1


Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cut its forecast for this season’s citrus production in Florida by 5%, to 146 million boxes from 154 million. Among the reasons it cited was an increased rate of droppage—a term referring to fallen fruit—now projected to be the highest since 1970.

The term “droppage” is also used to refer to fallen fruit other than citrus, including stone fruit, grapes, cranberries, and even tree nuts such as almonds.

Disease Rips Through Florida Citrus, January 2


January 11: reminder packaging, laolaiqiao, fake books, hysteresis.


The villagers—Bulgarian-speaking Muslims, sometimes referred to as ‘Pomaks’ or ‘people who have suffered’—only marry in winter.

Alternative theories about the etymology of “Pomak” include that it came from a Greek word meaning “drinker” or from a Bulgarian word meaning “helper.” The word Pomak is considered offensive by some Bulgarian Muslims.

Photos of the Day: Jan. 3, January 3


Mr. Potter makes extensive use of imperial re-scripts—legal rulings produced as responses to particular cases in order to set precedents for the future.

The word re-script (also written “rescript”) comes from a Latin word meaning “written reply”; it is also used to describe a letter from the Pope or a papal decision on a question of ecclesiastical law or doctrine.

A Ruler Touched by the Divine, January 5


Unfortunately, doing so can be a confusing maze because most Web companies approach these questions differently Google for example won’t shut a Gmail account without a court order, while Facebook actively seeks to either shut down accounts belonging to the deceased, or “memorialize” them – a process that leaves the person’s Facebook account online for his existing friend network to see and interact with, but prevents anyone from logging in to it.

The memorialized Facebook page is part of a greater trend to commemorate lives in places other than graveyards and mausoleums. Other types of memorializations include the “ghost bike” — a white-painted bike placed where a cyclist was killed and the “descansos”, memorials placed along highways to remember loved ones killed in automobile accidents.

What To Do Online When a Loved One Dies, January 4

January 18: Delphos, gers, peak-car, quantified self

combat breathing

A simple technique, sometimes called combat breathing, can help even an untrained person overcome extreme stress. Our breathing is automatic, but you can also control your breathing, unlike your heart rate or your adrenaline levels. In very stressful situations, take four deep breaths, on a four-count (breathe in for four beats, hold, breathe out for four beats), and this can bring you back from a state of super-arousal.

“Autogenic breathing” is a more technical term used for “combat breathing,” which is also called “tactical breathing.”

Apocalypse Tips, From Antibiotics to Zombies, January 11


The general public is partly to blame for this because of its reliance on easy-to-crack passwords such as “123456” or “password.” But the hackers also are getting smarter. Banding together in what’s known as crowdhacking, they use thousands of machines to solve password puzzles, Deloitte said.

“Crowd-” as a prefix used mean a group of unrelated people working together towards a common problem, is also found in crowdsourcing (pushing small tasks to a group of widely distributed people), and crowdfunding (finding many small investors for a venture).

Don’t Count Traditional PCs Out Just Yet, January 15


I’m not talking about the saccharine inanities of Barbara Cartland or the more recent sexed-up dramas. Those are the sorts of books Heyer herself dubbed “breast-sellers.”

The term “bodice-ripper,” which has been used for romance novels where the heroine is paired with a very domineering male (sometimes called an “alpha”) is occasionally considered offensive.

The Escape Artist, January 11

January 25: funambulist, metatarso-phalangeal, tongqi, omas.


The TSA said Thursday that it will replace most of the scanners—known as backscatters—with ones that filter images to depict only potentially hazardous items on a generic human silhouette, rather than an image of the traveler’s body.

The backscatter machines are also called “whole body imagers” and (by the ACLU) “virtual strip search” machines, because of the detailed images they produce.

TSA to Halt Revealing Body Scans at Airports, Jan 18


Thai black glutinous rice, a long-grain type used in Southeast Asian puddings, porridges and breads, is sticky when cooked due to a high starch content. Matt Blondin, executive sous-chef of Daisho, in Toronto, combines the inky stuff with chicken stock, white wine and Parmesan for a risotto-like take on juk, a Chinese rice porridge.

Juk is very similar to the rice gruel called ‘congee’, and is often used as a “feel-better” food, like chicken soup.

Black and White And Red All Over, January 18


The 2010 documentary, which helped popularize the term “Catfish” (which has come to be defined as someone who uses an online scheme to pretend to be someone else) follows Yaniv “Nev” Schulman as he starts an online relationship with a woman who turns out to be concealing a very different identity.

As slang, “catfish” can also mean an unattractive person, or (according to the New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English) “a person who speaks too much and thinks too little.”

The ‘Catfish’ Team on Manti Te’O and How to Avoid Getting Catfished, January 18
sissy bounce

To envision his version of it, imagine the most outlandish down-South hip-hop and then fold in spectacular aspects of Mardi Gras and a teeming, preening drag show. Big Freedia’s liking for the latter made him (or her, as it were) an ambassador for the subgenre referred to as “sissy bounce,” but there’s no sense in getting too categorical about music so big-spirited and irrepressible.

The scholar Alix Chapman has described “sissy bounce” as taking the essential elements of bounce music (including call-and-response elements and a beat known as “triggerman”) and using it to “comment and explain” the lives of people marginalized by their sexuality or gender.

The Pop Scene: Keeping Their Composure, January 22


Swagged-up Mecha-Hitlers, Glitter Bombs, and Stodge: The Week in Words Also-Rans 2012

Each week, I choose a half-dozen or so words from the Wall Street Journal for the Weekend Edition’s Week in Words column, and from the words I choose, my editor there, Ryan Sager, selects the words that run in the paper.  As an end-of-year exercise, I thought it would be fun to blog all the also-ran words of 2012.

Note: these words & their descriptions below did not have the benefit of the excellent editors of the WSJ, especially Peter Saenger, Gary Rosen, and John Edwards. (Guys, thanks for improving all you touched in 2012!)

(Format below is date & link to column, words that did make it in, and then the words that were also-rans.)

January 6: like-jacking, moitié-moitié, resto-mod, supremes.


Bona fide top hats (also known as opera hats and stovepipes) are hand-crafted from felted beaver fur or silk, and are collapsible—for easy storage in opera house cloak rooms and the like.

Other terms for a top hat include “plug hat,” “high hat”, “topper,” “silk hat” (even when made from beaver fur), “beaver”, “belltopper”, and “gibus” (especially used for the collapsible variety).

Time to Top Up? (December 31)

estate condition

It was apparently part of an estate shortly to go on the market, and in what high-end real-estate brokers euphemistically refer to as “estate condition.”

“Estate condition” usually means an apartment whose previous owner had not done any updates or renovations for quite some time. The implication is that the previous owner had died and their heirs are not interested in updating the property. (It can also mean the place is full of left-behind stuff.)

Secret Views on Display (January 4)

January 13: Chollima, neophiliacs, tail-swallowing, consistory.

to Wulff

The reports about his angry voicemail message to Mr. Diekmann prompted German Twitter users to create a new word—to Wulff—used to describe someone who leaves a long, obnoxious voicemail message on someone’s mobile phone.

Urban Dictionary defines this practice as “voicemauling.”

Resignation Calls Remain for German President (January 5)


Certain patients can avoid emergency exploratory surgery of the abdomen — even some who still have bullets lodged inside them — explains Adil Haider, an associate professor of surgery, anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the senior author of a recently published study on so-called selective non-operative management (SNOM) of those injuries.

The acronym SNOM can also stand for Scanning Near-field Optical Microscopy.

A Gunshot Wound to the Abdomen No Longer Means Automatic Surgery, (January 9)


The head of the State University of New York called for “systemness” in her second “State of the University” address on Monday. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher coined the term to emphasize that the 64 campuses in the nation’s largest university complex need to work together to lower costs, improve productivity and stimulate the economy of the state.

SUNY Chief delivers ‘State of University’ speech (January 9)

January 20: freekeh, mouse type, quark, weibo.

middle-income trap

Chinese officials and experts say the country will accelerate the urbanization process over the next two decades in order to avoid the “middle-income trap,” a term coined by the World Bank to describe stagnation in a country when per capita GDP reaches $3,000.

The middle is not the best place to be, it seems: Oxford University Press anointed “squeezed middle” as their word of the year for 2011, defining it as “the section of society regarded as particularly affected by inflation, wage freezes and cuts in public spending during a time of economic difficulty, consisting principally of those on low or middle incomes.”

China Turns Predominantly Urban (January 18)


The puree acts as a glue in the dish, though it’s delicious in its own right and demonstrates her love of offsetting sweet with savory. Preparing it is simple. “It’s 50% butter, 50% stodge,” says Ms. Wong. “Sea salt helps elevate the flavor.”

The word stodge can be used for any heavy and fattening semi-solid food; as a verb it can mean “to fill full, gorge with food.”

Potatoes’ Sweet Side, Revealed  (January 19)


These books are also sometimes known as “high-low,” meaning high-interest plots with lower levels of vocabulary.

Other things called “high-low” are a lace-up boot that covers the ankle; a poker game where both high and low hands can win the pot; the journalistic ability to mix serious and light topics; a fashion aesthetic in which expensive brands are mixed with mass-market items; and in retailing, rolling back prices on some items while raising them on others.

Books for Better English (January 16)

January 27: Xoloitzcuintli, flexitarians, T-rays, ischemic.


DuPont said Tuesday that it expects customers in the consumer-electronics sector to continue destocking ahead of a midyear recovery as new smartphones come to market, though the outlook is brighter for other industrial users, notably in North America.

The opposite of destocking is channel-stuffing, when suppliers force sellers to hold more inventory than is likely to be sold in a particular time period.

DuPont’s Profit Declines Slightly (January 25)


With Irakere, he crafted a subversive musical response to Cuba’s postrevolution rejection of American culture and planted a seed for the Cuban dance music later known as timbá.

The origin of timbá may be onomatopoetic (as in the sound of a drum); it may also be related to an old Spanish word used to describe a group of gamblers who used a drum (timbal) as a card table. (La Timba is also a neighborhood in Havana.)

Second-Generation Genius (January 20)

solar maximum

Such storms are likely to become more frequent as the sun approaches its “solar maximum,” predicted for May of next year.

The solar maximum (also called the “solar max”) is the period of peak solar cycle activity. The solar cycle is also known as the sunspot cycle.

Big Solar Storm Hits Earth (January 25)

February 3: pay-fors, kaiseki, socialbots, and jeu perlé.


The field is so new that it didn’t have a name until 1995, when Indiana University neuroscientist Olaf Sporns dubbed the nervous system’s tangle of cells and synapses the “connectome” (pronounced connect-tome).

The science of studying the connectome is known as connectomics.

Probing the Brain’s Mysteries (January 24)

golden cross

Many chart watchers believe this technical event–referred to as a “golden cross”–marks the spot when a bounce within a bear market transitions to a bull market.

The opposite pattern — when the 50 day moving average (50 DMA) crosses below the 200-day moving average (200 DMA) is called the death cross or the black cross.

S&P 500’s “Golden Cross” Makes Uptrend Technically Official (February 1)

unexplained dermopathy

However, it isn’t possible to say from the data whether the mysterious skin condition — “unexplained dermopathy,” as the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention calls it — is a new ailment or part of an existing condition like delusional infestation, according to the researchers from the CDC, Kaiser Permanente Northern California and several academic institutions.

Dermopathy means, essentially, “skin disease” from Greek roots meaning “skin” and “suffering”.

CDC Study Finds Fibers Aren’t Cause of Morgellons (January 25)


February 10: wether, echo boomers, osteoclast, mirliton.


I bridged my way up two mostly featureless walls for 50 feet with no protection and then scampered onto a ledge.

In rock climbing, “bridging” is the technique of stretching from one hold to another.

The Nose in a Day (February 2)


Another international team aims to clear up the confusion caused by experts around the world using different terminology for gluten-related problems; celiac disease alone has been called sprue, gluten-sensitive enteropathy and gluten intolerance.

Sprue may be related to a Flemish word meaning “to sprinkle”. Sprue is also used for the diseases called thrush (a fungal infection of the mucous membranes) and psilosis (which comes from a Latin word meaning “the action of stripping flesh”, from the raw state of the membranes affected).

Deciphering the Ailments Tied to Gluten (February 7)


Or maybe a radical feminist, or, wait–this one’s cool: an anarcha-feminist!

The prefix “anarcha-” here seems to be a feminized version of “anarcho-“, which shows up in compounds such as anarcho-communist, anarcho-punk, anarcho-vegan, and others (from anarchy, which comes from a Greek word meaning “without a leader”).

Liz Phair on Why Lana Del Rey Scares Rock’s Boys Club (February 4)


If employees are late to this meeting, often called a “daily scrum,” they sometimes must sing a song like “I’m a Little Teapot,” do a lap around the office building or pay a small fine, says Mike Cohn, president of Mountain Goat Software, Lafayette, Colo., an Agile consultant and trainer.

The word “scrum” comes from “scrimmage”, which is itself a variant of the word “skirmish”, or battle.

No More Angling for the Best Seat; More Meetings are Stand-Up Jobs (February 2)

February 17: devore, appoggiatura, hypergamy, park and bark.

glitter bomb

After Mr. Santorum finished speaking, another covered him in a blizzard of glitter, known as a “glitter bomb.”

Other Republican candidates have also been the victims of “glittering”, as glitter bombing is also known; when Newt Gingrich was glitter bombed in 2011, the protester said “Feel the rainbow, Newt!”

Santorum in Tacoma: Protesters and a Glitter Bomb (February 14)


Filipinos use the term “sisig” to describe a variety of sour and meaty snacks that are widely known as the unofficial national dish for Filipino beer-drinkers, mixing spicy chili peppers, the sour taste of vinegar and calamansi juice, and the saltiness of salt and soy sauce.

“Sisig” is a Kapampangan word, from the province of Pampangan. Other popular Pampangan dishes include tocino (fried pork fatback) and kare-kare (oxtail stew with peanut sauce).

Crocodile’s on the Menu in Davao City (February 10)


Wilson’s use of molten beeswax — called encaustic — is based on an ancient technique used in hieroglyphics. It requires a great deal of patience and control, with one piece taking up to six months to complete.

“Encaustic” comes from Greek words meaning “to burn in”. Encaustic painting is mentioned in classical sources, including in Pliny’s Natural History, where he says “We do not know who first invented the art of painting with wax colors and burning in the painting.”

NYC artist recognized for his unique beeswax art (February 9)


The New York Knicks coach calls him “Linderella.” Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin arrived on Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre with the Knicks, who are riding a five-game winning streak thanks to the former Harvard player.

Other words inspired by Jeremy Lin include “Linsanity” and “Linfatuation” (to describe the behavior of his rabid fans), “Linning” (what the Knicks are doing with Lin) and “Lindulging in Linguage” (what headline writers are doing with Lin-prefixed words).

‘Linderella’ Arrives in Toronto with Knicks (February 14)

February 24: Fasching, noodlers, Bollygarchs, pelmet.

tight pants syndrome

“The diagnosis can be made easily in the office by comparing the size of the trousers with the abdominal girth. There is usually a discrepancy of 7.5 centimeters or more,” Dr. Bessa wrote, coining the term “tight pants syndrome.”

Other semi-medical conditions named for clothing include “white jacket syndrome” (which doesn’t affect the wearer, but affects patients made nervous by medical professionals in white jackets, causing their blood pressure to go up); “town and gown syndrome” (describing rivalries between general practitioners — the towns — and specialists — the gowns, usually affiliated with universities). DRESS syndrome is not about clothing: DRESS stands for “Drug Rash with Eosinophilia and Systemic Symptoms”.

Tight Ties, Killer Heels: Clothes Make the Fashion Victims (February 21)

headache ball

After the debris fell — with the heavy “headache ball” that hangs from the tip of the crane landing about a foot from him — Clark ran toward the collapsed crane “to see whether there was anything I could do,” he recalled.

The headache ball (or wrecking ball) is also called the “skull cracker,” for obvious reasons. It is connected to the whipline or runner line.

Crane owner goes on trial in deadly NYC collapse (February 21)

March 2: embrain, the czech, kangas, light-field.


Incidentally, an umlaut is also called a diaeresis, which is defined as a diacritic consisting of two dots. Who knew?

Another similar mark is the Greek trema, also used to show that two vowels side-by-side are pronounced separately.

Vol 25, No. 2 (February 28)


Ray Kurzweil believes computers will soon think like humans and ultimately merge with us, a notion he has dubbed “the singularity.”

This sense of term “singularity” was coined by Vernor Vinge, in a 1993 op-ed piece in Omni magazine. The idea is that at some point in the future the world will change so drastically that we cannot imagine what it would be like — in the same way that we cannot know what it is like inside a black hole.

Ray Kurzweil Talks About ‘Singularity’ And Theory’s Critics (February 22)


But while the event’s first outing was in 2009, its roots go deeper: to the late 1960s and 1970s, an era when lukthung and molam, musical genres from Thailand’s rural north and northeast, were pressed onto seven-inch records.

Lukthung comes from “pleng luk thung,” which means “song of a child of the fields” and is sometimes called the country music of Thailand. Another genre of Thai music is “luk krung” or “child of the city” songs.

Vintage Thai Music Goes Global (February 23)

March 9: stiction, shoescribers, cheechako, winglet


Most of them would end up copying the “Mathematical Analyzer, Numerical Integrator, and Computer,” or MANIAC—the machine that von Neumann’s team created in five feverish years, from 1946 to 1951. (It is more commonly known as the “IAS machine,” because the director of the Institute thought the name MANIAC too colloquial—indeed, it had begun as the nickname frustrated engineers gave the ENIAC.)

Other -AC computer acronyms of the same era include the RAYDAC (the Raytheon Digital Automatic Computer), the SWAC (the Standards Western Automatic Computer), SEAC (the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer), CSIRAC (the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Automatic Computer), and BINAC (the Binary Automatic Computer).

The Nucleus of the Digital Age (March 3)


In 2003, they opened Pie Face, helped by Fong’s brother-in-law, a French pastry chef (his buttery crust adds puff pastry on top to the brisee crust on bottom).

The word brisee is short for “pâte brisée,” which means “broken pastry.”

Mystery meat no more: Meat pies are gaining ground (March 2)


Its main room has a large bronze antelope head on a white adobe wall that tops a curved fireplace, known as a kiva.

The word kiva is also used for an underground room (often round) used by some Pueblo people for religious rituals.

Crime (Writing) Pays: Authors’ Desert Retreat (March 2)


Modeled on currency engravings, The Wall Street Journal’s first foray into illustrating the news — the now iconic stipple drawing known as the hedcut — has been celebrated for transforming the common news maker portrait into a series of dots and lines that is somehow both less and more than the photographic original.

The “hed” in the word “hedcut” may come from newspaper jargon “hed,” meaning the headline of a story.

‘The Class of 2008″: A Remarkable Year in Stipple (March 2)

March 16: shengnu, quenelle, romantica, telebot.


To be fair, traders say that “muppet” is a well-known Wall Street moniker for dopey clients. It’s not a Goldman specific term. And the Wall Street parlance may well have originated with the British usage of muppet, which basically means idiot.

Jim Henson, the creator of the original Muppets, claimed the name was arbitrary coinage, but it has often been explained as a blend of “marionette” and “puppet.” The OED defines the “idiot” sense of “muppet” as “someone enthusiastic but inept.”

Goldman’s Muppet Moment: Keeping Clients on a String? (March 14)

the double buck

True or false—and this might be tougher than the one up top—your faithful, humble reporter, perhaps more used to the luxuries of canapés, town cars and stuffed penguins than anything in the great outdoors, participated in the cross cutting exercise, otherwise known as “the double buck.”

The double buck is one of the events of the Lumberjack World Championships; others include the hot saw, the standing block chop, and the underhand chop. The world record in the double buck event, for cutting through a 20-inch-diameter white pine log, is 4.77 seconds.

The Scent of a Lumberjack (March 14)

pink slime

School districts soon will be able to opt out of a common ammonia-treated ground beef filler critics have dubbed “pink slime.”

The term “pink slime” was coined by former USDA scientist Gerald Zirnstein.

(AP article no longer available at WSJ.com) (March 14)


Here you use an old mathematician’s trick called relaxation, which amounts to this: When you’re faced with a hard problem, replace it with an easier one.

In addition to the mathematical meaning and the “rest and recreation” sense, the word relaxation was also used to refer to the practice of sending a heretic to a secular authority for execution, or, in Scots law, to release from a sentence of exile.

The Fuzzy Path May Be Shortest (March 10)


A drink known as Irp was served at the court of the pharaohs.

Egyptian wine was made from grape, date, or palm juice, and was often sweetened with honey. Like modern vintners, Egyptians also marked their wine jars with the geographical source of grapes used in the vintage.

Vignerons Lay Down Roots The World Over (March 15)

March 23: MIMO, flexicurity, Drapetomania, nibs.


Her latest material of choice is tinalak, which is hand-woven by the residents of Lake Sebu, in the South Cotobato province. Used in her winter 2012 collection, “In Dreams You Are,” tinalak is made from a fiber called abaca that derives from plants in the banana family.

Other types of cloth made from abaca fibers include sinamáy (from abaca fibers only, often plain and undyed), medriñque (colored fabric made from abaca), jusi (from abaca mixed with pineapple fiber), and lupis (made from very fine-grade abaca fiber).

A Hat to Upgrade Any Outfit (March 12)


Normally, agencies coordinate their efforts, a process known as deconfliction. Without it, two investigators might work the same source.

The term “deconfliction” seems to come from military use, referring to the process of making sure that aircraft and airborne weapons (or military and civilian aircraft) don’t collide with one another during operations.

(AP article no longer available) (March 21)

wheelbarrow seed

Volume V offers such glimpses of Americana as white lampblack (a nonexistent item of the sort that newbies being hazed are asked to fetch; others include the classic left-handed monkey wrench, strap oil, wheelbarrow seed and a round square) and spot dances (where the couple closest to a marked spot on the floor when the music stops wins a prize).

Other go-find-’ems used for hazing include sky hooks, buckets of steam and gallons of prop wash, and chemlight batteries.

The Word Wagon (March 16)


It is a full-body massage, often using oil or lotion, that includes a variety of strokes, including “effleurage” (gliding movements over the skin), “petrissage” (kneading pressure) and “tapotement” (rhythmic tapping).

Effleurage comes from a French word meaning “to stroke lightly”; petrissage from a French word meaning “to knead” (and ultimately from a Latin word meaning “a female baker”); and tapotement from a French word meaning “to tap.”

Don’t Call It Pampering: Massage Wants to Be Medicine (March 13)

March 30: racinos, adularescence, dead-cat space, corobotics.

cheese eaters

A “cheese eater” is an informant. A “blanket party” is throwing a blanket over an inmate then beating him. “Diesel therapy” is when troublemaking inmates are shackled and driven around in the back of a prison bus. Misbehave often, and you risk taking a trip to the “SHU”—the Special Housing Unit—also known as “the hole” or solitary confinement.

The site prisontalk.com lists these words and others helpful to “fish” (new prisoners unused to prison life) and “lags” (experienced prisoners) alike.

School for Scoundrels: Doing Time in Prison Prep School (March 26)


In traditional drapery, the rule of thumb is to measure fabric at three times the window width, resulting in folds of excess fabric known as the “stack.” Once, the stack might have covered up to a third of the entire window.

The distance from the side of the windowframe to the end brackets of the curtain hardware (which allows the curtains to clear the window when open) is sometimes called the stackback. Turning fabric 90 degrees so that the lengthwise grain runs horizontally, instead of vertically, in order to create wide curtains without seams, is known as railroading.

The Comeback Curtain (March 27)


During a visit to Sheboygan, Mr. Santorum stopped by a bowling alley and bowled three-consecutive strikes, known as a “turkey.”

It is not known whether Mr. Santorum is also a cranker (someone who puts enough spin on the ball to make it swerve across the lane). Bowling terminology also includes words such as sleeper (a pin hidden behind another pin), and sour apple (a 5-7-10 split).

Santorum, Confident of Louisiana Victory, Turns to Wisconsin (March 24)


From there, tamaleros spread across the U.S. and became a familiar sight in small-town America for decades afterward.

Other vendors of Mexican food include paleteros (ice-cream) and eloteros (ears of corn, often with chile powder). The word tamalero is also used for the ceramic pots used to steam tamales.

As American as Fajita Pie (March 23)

April 6: mevushal, Showels, fungoes, APTs.

coconut snatching

The team was famous for its international scouting and what its coaches referred to as “coconut snatching,” which meant experimenting with players until they found the right position.

According to Paul Dickson, the author of Dickson’s Baseball Dictionary, the term was invented by Branch Rickey, who said that on the islands, it took two people to get coconuts: the coconut snatcher, up in the tree, and the coconut catcher, down on the ground. In Rickey’s story, the coconut snatcher was always trying to talk the coconut catcher into switching jobs.

L.A.’s New Stars (March 30)


Pipeline companies, utilities and railroads rushed to build networks of their own along their rights of way—or bury empty plastic tubes, known as conduit, that telecom companies would then use as pathways for their fiber-optic cable.

The word conduit came into English via French from a Latin word meaning “to lead together, collect.”

Optical Delusion? Fiber Booms Again, Despite Bust (April 3)

combat rope

Some trainers teach exercises that involve moving a rope up and down to produce a wavelike motion. The training system, often called combat or battling rope, was first developed for combat sports such as mixed martial arts, as a means to work out at a higher level of intensity.

Combat rope exercises have names like “double slam split squat”, “bottle openers”, and “wide arm slams”.

From a Ball and Basket to a Stick and Some Ice (April 2)


But the government has become more aggressive in its oversight of Chinese Internet companies, which are required to police their own sites and remove any content deemed “harmful” by officials in a process Internet users jokingly call “harmonizing,” in reference to government campaigns for a more harmonious society.

Chinese bloggers sometimes also use the word “river crab” to refer to internet censors, because the Chinese word for river crab sounds like the word for “harmony,” or censorship.

China Eases Crackdown on Internet (April 3)

April 13: dark pool, sonification, showrooming, roustabout.


In the meantime, “breakup,” or what locals refer to as the Alaskan Spring, is coming with bigger-than-usual headaches in this city of 292,000.

After breakup comes “greenup,” another Alaskan term, which refers to the time when birch and aspen leafbuds open just enough to show as green in the forest canopy.

Winter Seems Eternal in Alaskan City (April 8)


The two writers share a hatred for processed junk, and one suspects that they’d enjoy some of the same meals. Mr. Cowen, however, has no time for locavorism—the pathology that leads some diners to exclude all but local products from their diets—and shows a winning appreciation for food beyond its raw ingredients.

Locavorism comes from locavore, a fairly new word coined in 2005 by the women behind locavores.com, who challenged people in the Bay area of California to eat foods from within a hundred-mile radius for a month. (The spelling localvore is now much less common.)

Invisible Hand to Mouth (April 9)


There are no state regulations for lay practitioners, and the term “certified hypnotherapist” has little meaning, since some groups that issue certificates have very lax standards.

The hypno- of hypnotherapist and hypnotism comes from a Greek root meaning “sleep”. Hypnotists have also been called mesmerizers, neurypnologists, pathetists, and biologizers.

Medical Hypnosis: You Are Getting Very Wealthy (April 9)

egg roulette

The festival’s four egg contests include a five-minute hardboiled-egg eating contest, usually winnable with 25, and egg roulette, where contestants smash one of six eggs against their face. Five of the eggs are cooked; only one is loaded.

Egg roulette (also called Russian egg roulette) is one of the events in the World Alternative Games, which also includes gravy wrestling, bog snorkelling, and “octopush,” a kind of underwater hockey.

Big is Better for Chocolate Eggs, But Big Hen’s Eggs Are No Big Deal (April 6)

April 20: boondocking, particularist, hotelling, bar codes.


At the hospital the next morning, doctors said she had a 99% blockage in her left anterior descending artery—known as “the widowmaker,” since blockages there are so often fatal.

Aside from heart attacks, other “widowmakers” have included dead branches caught high in trees (likely to fall and kill those below); the B-26 and F-104 airplanes; climbing the Matterhorn; and the cape buffalo.

If You’re Stricken, Minutes Matter, Yet Many Ignore Signs, Delay Treatment (April 16)


For troubled cities, the biggest chunk of relief from Albany this year arrived via a one-shot rise in revenue through an advance payment in state aid. The budget device, known as a “spin-up,” didn’t cost the state extra money. But it’s frowned upon by fiscal watchdogs as a gimmick, because the added dose of cash is good only for a year.

Spin-up is also used to refer to the time it takes for a traditional hard drive to be ready for use, and to a martial-arts technique for getting from a lying to a standing position.

Governor Feels Squeeze (April 13)


The cookies, in fact, were donated from the popular Bethel Bakery around the corner from the community center, and once Mr. Romney’s comment was broadcast on local airwaves offended residents took to Facebook and Twitter to complain. The episode was inevitably called “CookieGate.” The bakery is offering a CookieGate special Wednesday and Thursday: free half dozen cookies with every dozen purchased.

The suffix -gate (based on the Watergate scandal) is now an all-purpose suffix indicating any controversy. Previous -gates have included Nannygate, Zippergate, Troopergate, Wikigate, Glaciergate, Sleevegate, and Twittergate.

Romney’s Cookie Comment Bites Back (April 18)

Harlem shake

As part of rap impresario Sean “Diddy” Combs’ roster of talent at Bad Boy Records in the late 1990s and early 2000s, G. Dep scored a rap-chart hit with “Special Delivery,” and the video for his “Let’s Get It” helped popularize a loose-limbed dance called the Harlem shake.

Many popular dances originated in Harlem, including the lindy hop. Another Harlem-labeled dance is the “Harlem shuffle.”

AP article no longer available (April 17)


In 1942, in his best-selling “Generation of Vipers,” Philip Wylie coined the term “momism” to describe what he claimed was an epidemic of mothers who kept their sons tied to their apron strings, boasted incessantly of their worth and demanded that politicians heed their moralizing.

Momism was also used to describe a theory where mothers “confuse” children by assuming masculine roles in the household. The parallel term “dadism” is not used to refer to fathers who supposedly “confuse” children by assuming a more maternal role; instead it seems to be mostly used as a hashtag to call out “dad-like” sayings (“settle down or I’ll turn this car around!”).

The Battle of All Mothers (April 12)

April 27: bolt, Popo, actigraphy, and nearology.


The brand has maximized what B-school types refer to as WTP, or willingness to pay.

The companion term for the producer is WTA, “willingness to accept (payment)” used to represent the minimum amount someone is willing to accept in order to relinquish goods (or to accept something undesirable).

Patagonia’s Founder is America’s Most Unlikely Business Guru (April 25)

benefit corporation

Registering as a “benefit corporation” lets a firm declare—in its articles of incorporation—that the fiduciary duty of its executives includes “consideration of the interests of workers, community and the environment,” and not just the bottom line.

The shorthand form “B Corp” is used both for the legal entity known as a benefit corporation, and for other kinds of corporations (C-corps or LLCs) that have been certified as having “positive impact” by the B Lab organization.

Patagonia’s Founder is America’s Most Unlikely Business Guru (April 25)


Cicero described to the Times how he recruited fixers known as “gestores,” strategizing with them on who and how to bribe, and approving Wal-Mart’s payments to the fixers that covered the bribe, which was invoiced in code and then “purified” in accounting records as legal fees.

The Spanish gestor (sometimes translated as “manager”), comes from a Latin word meaning “to carry”. Gestors in Spain sometimes work out of offices called gestoria.

Wal-Mart FCPA Probe Focuses On Mexico Amid Report Of Cover-Up (April 23)


Retired Japanese bureaucrats frequently move to management positions in the private sector in a practice known as “Amakudari,” or “descent from heaven.”

A similar practice is called yokosuberi (side slip), where bureaucrats move into positions in government-owned companies. Retired civil servants who move from one lucrative private-sector post to another are sometimes called wataridori (migrating birds).

Japan Tobacco to Break Free of Government (April 24)

black-drop effect

Once the results were compared, it became obvious that an optical phenomenon called the black-drop effect had distorted the results, and the 1761 calculations of the distance between the Earth and the sun varied widely—by some 20 million miles.

In the black-drop effect (in Latin, the “gutta nigra”) the planet briefly looks pear-shaped when it is just inside and touching the edge of the sun’s disk.

The Celestial Event That Sparked a Revolution (April 20)

May 4: wardriving, belted lav, FPC, azan.

Windsor hum

The so-called Windsor hum, described as a low-frequency rumbling sound, has rattled windows and knocked objects off shelves in this border community just across the Detroit River from the Motor City.

Other places that have suffered from similar unexplained “hums” include Taos, Auckland, Bondi, Beaufort (a small town in County Kerry, Ireland), and Kokomo.

Canadians Make a Racket Over Mysterious ‘Windsor Hum’ (April 30)

work sharing

The idea, known as work sharing, is that you can get partial benefits when your company cuts part of your job.

In Europe, this practice is known as “Kurzarbeit,” or “short work”. The hours of a number of employees are reduced in order to avoid layoffs.

Secondary Sources: Moral Case for Capitalism, Job Sharing, Taxmageddon Chart (May 1)

long toss

Several times a week, and even sometimes on days when they’re pitching, they take a few minutes to play catch with someone who is standing unusually far away from them. As simple as it sounds, this training method, which is known as “long toss,” is, to many people associated with baseball, revolutionary. And in a lot of ways, it’s controversial, too.

“Long toss” is also called “long catch,” and should not be confused with a “saliva toss” or an “aqueous toss” — both terms for a spitball.

Throwing Long to Throw Short (April 30)


Sure, I liked lamb yassa (grilled lamb marinated in mustard powder, vinegar and lemon juice), egusi soup (a spicy Nigerian mix based on ground melon seeds), baobab juice and pineapple fritters, but there were some painful encounters with mystery meats (oxtail, goat) and fufu, a large white blob of cassava that looks like cream of wheat and tastes like raw sourdough.

The word fufu is of West African origin, and is also spelled foo-foo and fou-fou.

Next Stop for Food Fanatics: Africa (April 27)

May 11: interdict, sauropod, subluxation, geofencing.


In 1999 Lionel Tiger coined the word “bureaugamy” to refer to the relationship between officially impoverished mothers of illegitimate children and the government.

This word seems to be a blend of the ‘bureau’ of “bureaucracy” (originally from a French word meaning “writing desk”) and -gamy, a suffix derived from a Greek root meaning “marriage”.

The Lonely Life of Julia (May 3)


An ad critic for Adage, an industry trade magazines, called the posthumous pitchman: “Madison Avenue’s first pitchzombie.”

“Pitchzombie” is a gender-neutral addition to “pitchman” and “pitchwoman”. “Zombie” is of West African origin; “pitch” in the sense of “sell” has been used since at least the 1940s.

Pepsi Brings Back the King of Pop (May 4)


The U.S. Forest Service has decided to use hand saws to hack up the icy carcasses of a small herd of cows that wandered into a federal forest this winter and died. That will solve a vexing problem that locals had dubbed the “cownundrum.”

Cownundrum is (of course) a blend of “cow” and “conundrum”. The origin of “conundrum” is unclear; it may (like “cownundrum”) have started as a joke or as a parody of a Latin term.

Frozen Cattle in a Cabin: Quite the ‘Cownundrum’ (May 2)


Saturday’s event is a “supermoon,” the closest and therefore the biggest and brightest full moon of the year.

Other moon rarities include the “blue moon” (the third full moon in a season with four full moons, or the second full moon in a month), the “harvest moon” (the full moon nearest to the autumn equinox), the “hunter’s moon” (the first full moon after the harvest moon), and the “black moon” (a second new moon in a month).

Look! Up in the sky! It’s Supermoon! Due Saturday (May 5)

May 18: grexit, brostep, over-sharenting, social jet lag.

Generation C

I fit the profile of what Nielsen recently defined as “Generation C,” adults between 18 and 34 who are deeply invested in digital life (the “C” stands for “connected”).

Generation C is also known as Generation Z (following Generations X and Y) and Generation M (for “multitasking”).

The Facebook-Free Baby (May 12)


The tanning-booth industry says groups like the American Cancer Society mix advocacy and science with outrage over media portrayals such as the heavily tanned mother in New Jersey — dubbed “tanorexic” by the tabloids — who is accused of causing skin burns to her young daughter in a tanning booth, and the “gym, tanning, laundry” mantra of “Jersey Shore.”

Tanorexic is a blend of “tan” and “anorexic” (which comes from Greek roots meaning “lack of desire”). Other “-exic” words include “manorexic” (for a man who suffers from anorexia), bleach-orexic (someone overly concerned with teeth-whitening), and age-orexic (someone obsessed with looking youthful).

NY considers ban on indoor tanning for minors (May 10)


In New Zealand, where a local version of Marmite is more popular than Aussie Vegemite, a crisis dubbed “Marmaggedon” unfolded after the country’s only factory closed late last year for nine months to repair damage caused by an earthquake in Christchurch.

Marmite (pronounced MARmite) comes from a French word for a round covered earthenware or metal cooking pot (pronounced marMEET).

Aussie Delicacy Vegemite Loses Some of Its Savory Appeal (May 10)


Art historians revere Man Ray for inventing solarization, a darkroom technique that gives photo subjects a shadowy halo.

Solarization is produced by exposing the print to light in the darkroom. Modern photo-editing tools can also produce this effect digitally.

The Surreal Selling of Man Ray: The $20 Million Collection in the Garage (May 11)

May 25: Guero, sonifying, hypogonadism, green shoe.

Dutch Disease

Coined after a surging Dutch guilder eviscerated Holland’s manufacturing industry in the aftermath a giant natural gas discovery in 1959, “Dutch Disease” refers to the loss of competitiveness that labor-intensive industries suffer when a currency appreciates on the back of rapid growth in a capital-intensive resource sector.

Other “national diseases” include the English Disease, which can refer to both football hooliganism and rickets; the French disease (what sixteenth-century Italians called syphilis — the French called it the “disease of Naples”); and the Belgian disease (excessive patronage, rule-bending, and nepotism in government).

Aussie Dollar Gives Locals ‘Dutch Disease’ (May 16)

shareholder spring

In what observers have dubbed the “shareholder spring,” an increasing number of investors have used AGMs to protest what they perceive to be excessive levels of pay.

The phrase “shareholder spring” is modeled on the “Arab spring” and the “Prague spring”; Michael Quinion (of the WorldWideWords site) has traced “spring” in the sense of “revolt” back to discussions of the revolutions of 1848 in Europe.

Shell Shareholders Latest To Warn On Executive Pay (May 21)


So far, it is hard to know how many users are paying for the services yet. Many companies are offering a limited amount of free storage space, but charge if users want more, a business model known as “freemium.”

The word freemium may have been coined in a comment on a 2006 blog post by venture capitalist Fred Wilson. Freemium has also been used to describe a gift (such as a refrigerator magnet) included in a direct mail solicitation.

Cloud Access Becoming Next ‘Must Have’ for Mobile (May 22)

zipper garage

“A zipper may look like a zipper, but then you find that it has a waterproof coating, that it uses extra-small stitches for better durability, and that it has a ‘zipper garage’ that parks the zipper pull so it won’t flap around in the wind.

Other non-car garages include the “appliance garage” (a cabinet used to store kitchen appliances) and the “cootie garage” (a hairstyle where elaborate braids or puffs were arranged over the ears).

Why Asia is a Hub for Bikes (May 21)


Two weeks ago, a top manager for Finmeccanica SpA, a state-controlled aerospace and nuclear-engineering conglomerate, was shot in the knee outside his home in Genoa. The attack, known as a “kneecapping,” harkened back to the “Years of Lead,” when the left-wing Red Brigades terrorist group battled against the Italian state.

Other body verbs include “ankle” (to dance, or to walk away from); “hip” (to explain something to someone); “elbow” (to reject; also to warn someone of the approach of the police); “neck: (to kiss, fondle); and “buttock” (in wrestling, a kind of throw).

Prosecutors Probe Italy Blast (May 20)


In one case, he had to escape his boat in a hydraulic—a punishing river feature that keeps a person underwater. Kayakers call this being in a Maytag (as in a washing machine) or getting window-shaded (spun again and again).

A hydraulic can also be called a “keeper hole” or a “sticky”. Other rafting terms include haystacks (waves caused by obstacles on the river bottom or by slowing current) and hair (very fast or turbulent water).

How to Survive a Rushing River (May 21)

June 1: desquamation, Ulysses contracts, SLATs, chinoise.


The phrase “Galapagos syndrome” or the tongue-twisting literal translation “Galapagozation,” became common here in the mid-to-late 2000s when talking about Japanese mobile phones, which were extremely advanced for the time, yet couldn’t be used outside the country.

The Galapagos get their name from a Spanish word for a species of tortoise.

Japanese M&A: Beating the Galapagos Syndrome (May 30)


O’Neill has been fined four times and currently faces a 45-day suspension because one of his horses was found to have an excess level of total carbon dioxide following a race — frequently a sign of an illegal practice known as milkshaking.

If you know there’s been “milkshaking” or that a horse has been otherwise “dusted” or “bombed” (given drugs before a race) or “woken up” (given electric shocks or drugs before a race) you might have “drum” (reliable inside information about a horse race).

I’ll Have Another’s trainer responds to criticism (May 29)


According to the document, members discussed offering “unassignable priests” $20,000 to accept the process known as laicization.

Laicization comes from “laic”, via Latin, from a Greek word meaning “the people”. An obsolete synonym of “laic” is “borrel”, which means “belonging to the laity” and may come from a word for a kind of coarse clothing.

Wis archdiocese paid priests to leave ministry (May 31)


According to a 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine commissioned by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, cannabis can potentially help with pain relief, nausea reduction and appetite stimulation, among other things. The study also noted that possible adverse effects include diminished motor skills and dysphoria, or unpleasant feelings.

Some other -phorias (which come from a Greek root meaning ‘to bear’) are euphoria (a feeling of overwhelming well-being), the Scirophoria (an ancient Greek festivals where statues of the gods were carried under a canopy [skiron]), and the lampadephoria (an Ancient Greek torch-race in honor of Prometheus or Vulcan).

Joint Effort: Reefer Roadshow Asks Seniors to Support Medical Pot (May 28)

June 8: urticaria, gaokao, turntablism, miche.


The list of so-called remedies is long, too, ranging from coffee grounds to Vicks VapoRub to cocoa butter and others that do little to erase the unsightly striae, as the marks are called by doctors.

The word striae is also used for streaks or bands in glass and for the fillets that separate the flutes of columns. It comes from a Latin word meaning “a furrow” or “a flute of a column.”

Quick Cures/Quack Cures: Stretch Marks (June 1)


Donuts has raised more than $100 million in a mammoth Series A round, not to make crispy, dunk-able diet killers, but to become a registry for generic top-level domains or “gTLDs,” a new type of unique, online identifier.

TLDs include country-code TLDs (ccTLDs, such as .uk, for the United Kingdom), and generic top-level domains such as .gov, .edu, .com, .mil, .org, and .net.

Donuts Raises $100M-Plus To Deliver ‘Dot-Anything-You-Want’ Domain Names (June 5)

fuel poverty

The U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change commissioned a report (led by Prof. John Hills of the London School of Economics) to examine the issue of “fuel poverty,” defined as when fuel bills take up more than 10% of household income.

Fuel poverty (sometimes called “energy poverty”) is contrasted with “affordable warmth”; the 2000 Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act in England and Wales was passed to ensure that “as far as is reasonably practicable, persons do not live in fuel poverty.”

Europe’s Green Energy Suicide (June 5)


“For example, ‘Double Negative’ is out there and we respect the fact that you have to drive to see it,” the curator says. “But Robert Smithson took a different approach, establishing the system of the site and the nonsite.” Mr. Kaiser is referring to the fact that Smithson conceived of three manifestations of his piece: not only the actual spiral in Utah but a 35-minute film and an essay, both included in the show.

Smithson used the word “nonsite” specifically to refer to the landscape art’s “absence in the gallery,” calling the nonsite “an abstract container.”

When You Need a Giant Canvas for Your Work (June 5)

June 15: swirlogram, frozen middle, spraywork, aigrette.

Big Sandy

The Wall Street Journal walked around “Big Sandy” with former jockey and current New York Racing Association racing analyst Richard Migliore.

According to language researcher Barry Popik, Belmont has been called the “Big Sandy” since at least the early 1900s. Other racetrack nicknames include the “Big A” (Aqueduct) and “The Spa” (Saratoga).

The Best Way to Conquer Big Sandy (June 7)


You might hear them referred to as underground or antirestaurants. More than a simple private kitchen, where a chef will present a menu in a single unlicensed premises, the best supper clubs combine good food and drink with an element of theatrics. That’s where the hush-hush nature of many of them comes into play.

Other types of restaurant include the facetious “brestaurant” (in which the servers, usually women, wear tight-fitting and low-cut outfits), and the eco-restaurant (which typically serves organic and local food, and uses alternative energy sources).

Dinner Is Ready (Tell No One) (June 7)


The classic European city bike is the Dutch stadsfiets, usually equipped with three gears.

Stadsfiets is a Dutch term that translates as “city bicycle.”

An Urban Cyclist’s Criteria (June 7)

June 22: pachislot, tape bombs, massaman, intercondylar.


As part of its application, Slovenia even credits the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph as having ordered a Slovenian Kranjska klobasa and after taking a bite exclaiming enthusiastically: “But this is no ordinary sausage, it is Carniolan sausage!”
Carniola is a region of Slovenia (with a small part in Italy) that was formerly a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Happy Ending for Sausage Lovers in Cross-Border Food Fight (June 20)


The agents, using a tactic called gun-walking, allowed suspected smugglers to buy about 2,000 firearms, without intercepting the weapons.

In gun-walking, agents allow suspected illicit or “straw” gun buyers to purchase weapons in order to trace arms-trafficking ring leaders.

Vote to Sanction Holder Escalates Gun-Probe Fight (June 20)

bath salts

Proponents hope the device, called TruNarc, will help officers quickly discern illicit substances at a time when police are seeing a surge in new, harder-to-identify designer drugs such as the psychoactive powders known as “bath salts.”

The active ingredients in the drug known as “bath salts” are usually amphetamine-like chemicals, such as methylenedioxypyrovalerone and mephedrone. By marketing these substances as “bath salts” and labeling them as “not for human consumption” sellers have evaded regulation in many states.

Police Hoping Drug Scanner is Narcotics Game Changer (June 17)

June 29: mutts, tambour, melittin, duckeasies.


An old restaurant near Rome’s stockyards served him rigatoni alla pajata—the intestines of a freshly-slaughtered nursing calf still containing the curdled milk of its mother.

Cooking the pajata, sometimes called pagliata, causes the mother’s milk inside the intestines to curdle into a cheeselike consistency.

Offal Tale: For This Club, Everything Is on the Menu (June 24)


Few would dispute that southern Louisiana is boudin heaven. The local version is a sausage made of pork, rice and various seasonings. Trickier to answer is which of three competing Cajun communities is its official mecca.

The word boudin (pronounced: boo-DAN) comes from a French word for “black pudding,” a kind of sausage made with blood and a filler, often grain.

Cajun Towns Feud About Sausage With Links to the Past (June 26)


But that bump came at a cost: increases in cortisol, a stress hormone, and a measure of inflammation called CRP, which can raise the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

CRP stands for C-reactive protein, and its levels rise in the blood in response to inflammation.

Not All Calories Equal, Study Shows (June 26)


In his flaming red derby and silk tie, Norman Cohn cuts a dashing figure as he strides through New York City’s Javits Center, offering nods and wise words to purveyors of everything from “sporks”—spoons that double as forks—to pressurized pens that write underwater.

Cutlery hybrids not as well-known as the spork include the splayd (sometimes spelled splade), a spork with one or more sharp edges, allowing it to also be used as a knife, the spife, a spoon with a knife-blade handle, and the knoon, a spoon with a bladed edge.

In the Land of Giveaways, Mr. Cohn Is the Sultan of Swag (June 25)

July 6: derecho, Kubb, mandals, prêt-à-couture.


Mr. Robinson was taken with glitchy electro-house, music that’s full of unexpected edits, noises, bursts, skips, splices and samples of other tracks. “It’s music you couldn’t have made without a lot of effort,” he said. He dubbed it “complextro.”

Complextro, a blend of “complex” and “electro,” shares its “glitchy” sound with genres such as fidget house and microhouse.

A Powerhouse, And He’s Not Yet 20 (July 4)

ursolic acid

Ursolic acid is a natural compound found in the waxy coats on apples and other fruits and herbs. Previous research showed that ursolic acid increased the activity of a protein that stimulated muscle growth and glucose metabolism in mice.

Ursolic acid, also known as “urson”, is also found in the leaves of the bearberry, which is how it got its name. (Ursa is Latin for bear.)

Fat Fighting Is Part of the Apple’s Peel (July 2)


In a study published online in Epilepsia in June, Dr. Cunningham and colleagues examined direct electrical activity in patients’ brains through electrodes that had previously been implanted for treatment purposes. The researchers noticed one type of wave, known as glissandi, with a unique pattern prior to a seizure. Unlike most brain waves, which move more slowly over time, the glissandi started moving faster.

The word “glissandi” comes from a French word meaning “to slide.”

Studying How Body Rhythms Help Diagnose Diseases (July 2)


Whitney Smith, director of the nonprofit flag-research firm FRC2 in Beverly, Mass., and one of the world’s leading authorities on vexillology, a term he says he coined decades ago, says the image is so minuscule it is impossible to know what the carver meant to depict, or if the dots were added later.

The word vexillology comes from a Latin word meaning “flag”. The first citation in the Oxford English Dictionary is dated 1959; Mr. Smith is cited for “vexillologist” from 1965.

Seeing Stars: Innkeeper’s View of Powder Horn Carving Unfurls Flag Debate (July 2)

July 13: garrigue, tapada, Rednecksploitation, mendozer.


To Dr. Manheimer, the medical “system” isn’t one at all but is instead “a congeries of interest groups that has carved up and distorted how health care is paid for and delivered into Balkanized protected feudal states enlarged and serviced by armies of lawyers and K Street lobbyists and willing-and-able politicians.”

The word “congeries” comes from a Latin word meaning “a heap or pile,” from an earlier word meaning “to carry together.”

The View from Bellevue (July 11)


“Chasers” run after racers to grab their flags, while “stumblers” are supposed to “crawl, shuffle, drag, or perform any other type of slow movement in order to horrify runners and take their flags,” according to instructions for zombies on the race website.

The popularity of zombies in fiction has led to a kind of taxonomy of zombies, sometimes called Zombology. In addition to chasers (fast zombies, such as those in the movies 28 Days Later) and stumblers (the classic, slow-moving zombies), there are terms such as “voodoo zombies” (ones supposedly created by magic) and “cybernetic zombies” (machines with reanimated human body parts).

For Die-Hard Zombie Fans, A Chance to Romp With the Undead (July 8)


“It’s classic and not all logo-ed up,” says Ms. Holeva, who maintains a budget-ista fashion blog called TrendHungry.

The suffix -ista, formerly used mostly to mean “someone who follows a particular principle,” is now often used to denote people (usually women) who are interested in or involved in fashionable activities of particular types, on the model of “fashionista”: trendistas follow or predict trends; vintagistas prefer or deal in vintage clothing; recessionistas are fashionable despite the recession, and so on.

Coach Comes Around to Reclaim Its Iconic Look (July 11)


It’s a whiz-bang feature, sure, but it’s not there just for fun like the iBook app’s faux paper curling page-turn. That’s a novel skeuomorphic feature that becomes annoying after five minutes.

A skeuomorph is a design feature copied from a similar object in another material, especially when that feature is not necessary for functionality in the new material. Skeuomorph comes from Greek words meaning “vessel” and “form”.

Tablet + Comics = BAM! (July 6)

July 20: bingsu, panchayat, glass cliff, reshoring.


Ms. Young said that every day she looks in a book called an ephemeris for insights into the movement of the planets. “It’s always correct,” she pointed out.

Ephemeris comes from a Greek word meaning “calendar” or “diary.”

Psychics and Supernatural Sweets (July 12)


Warning: You could be at risk of contracting “CEO-itis.” … An affliction of arrogance that plagues many people picked for powerful posts, its symptoms include a tendency toward isolation, belief that you’re smarter than others, preference for loyalists, aversion to changing course even in the face of failure –and love of royal treatment.

The suffix “-itis” is usually used to refer to inflammation or disease of a particular part of the body, as in bronchitis or tonsilitis.

Finding a Cure for “CEO-itis” (July 12)


Dubbed “seasonnaires” by Jack Wills, they are this tony town’s latest crop of It Kids.

The word “seasonnaire” is usually used to refer to someone who works at a ski resort during the busy season.

New Celebrity: the Clerk (July 13)

strangle swap

The trader set up the strategy known as a strangle swap — selling one “strangle” position to buy another — that plays out over the next four months.

Long strangles involve purchasing both put and call options; short strangles sell puts and calls. In both types, the options have the same expiration, but different strike prices. A strangle where both options are in-the-money is sometimes called a “guts.”

Trader’s VIX ‘Strangle Swap’ Sparks Buzz (July 13)

July 27: memex, bombfellow, gu gu gu, démarche.


The river’s bendy banks gave the conquerors who passed through this region pause and produced the epithet popularized by Strabo 2,000 years ago: “From the course of this river all windings are called meanders.”
The word “meander” to mean “convoluted speech” has been used in English since at least the late 1500s. The word is also used to mean a labyrinth or maze.

A Famous River’s Unhappy Descent (July 22)


An “intentcast” goes out to the marketplace, revealing only what’s required to attract offers.

The corresponding action is “intentcatching” — and if an intent isn’t caught, it could result in MLOTT — “money left on the table”.

The Customer as a God, July 20


Mr. Cooper, a biochemist, explains different methods of gaining an edge, such as the use of stimulants, steroids and the hormone erythropoietin, which aids in endurance sports like cycling by allowing the blood to carry more oxygen.

Erythropoietin comes from Greek roots meaning “red” and “forming”.

Prescriptions For Victory (July 24)


“He was a very personable fellow,” Justice Scalia says of Mr. Wallace in an interview. “As co-Snoots, we got along very well,” he adds, using a term Mr. Wallace popularized for those whose taste in diction runs to the persnickety. According to a 2001 Wallace essay, it could stand for “Syntax Nudniks of Our Time.”

The word snoot is also used (informally) to refer to a snout or nose, and also to a device used to direct light from a camera flash.

How David Foster Wallace Prompted a Scalia Book (July 23)

August 3: whiff whaff, eutrophication, legends, ambo.


“It’s depressing. Who wants to sit through something like that?” said Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Games’ organizing committee, known as Locog.

LOCOG stand for “London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

The Day Badminton Went Badly (August 1)


In interviews Monday, a half-dozen Olympic judokas dismissed the federation’s argument that wearing a head scarf could be dangerous.

A judoka is “someone who practices judo” or “a judo expert.” Judo is usually translated as “gentle way.”

A Saudi Athlete’s Conflict—Rules or Religion (July 31)


Witten built a reputation as a master at spray-painting extravagant graffiti pieces on freight and subway trains, called train-bombing, in the neighborhoods where he now teaches his 6-year-old daughter, Lulu, to skateboard.

In his 1987 book Punto de vista ciudadano (“From the City’s Point of View”), the scholar Armando Silva has identified seven elements that distinguish graffiti from other types of media, including marginality, anonymity, spontaneity, dependency on elements of the setting (including layout and color), speed, precariousness (in the use of cheap and easily-obtainable materials), and a quality he calls fugacidad, “fleetingness” or “ephemerality.”

1970s NY graffiti artists still have urge to tag (July 29)

ambush marketing

It also actively battles “ambush marketing,” as the sale or marketing of nonofficial goods by nonsponsors is called.

Ambush marketing is also called guerrilla marketing and stealth marketing. Ambush marketing techniques include buying outdoor display advertising near — but not in — events, creating promotions that run at the same time as events, and handing out merchandise near events so that spectators become “walking billboards” for a brand.

Omega Scores Over Rolex in London (July 30)

August 10: Époisses, wormholes, hydrazine, Mobot.


Ms. Wilson suggested a layer of acoustic “wedgeboard”—a sheet of foam with egg-shaped ridges—glued to the kitchen subfloor. It works, says Mr. Harvey. Noise from downstairs gets muffled, and “doesn’t disturb what you’re doing in the kitchen.”

The term “wedge board” (with or without a space) is also used to describe a physical-therapy tool used for stretching exercises for the Achilles tendon and a board used with a table saw to cut wedge-shaped pieces.

Airy, Sleek—And Really Loud (August 8)

security moms

Suburban women tend to be liberal on social and cultural issues, but they are open to the Republican approach on economics, meaning their votes are often up for grabs. Dubbed “security moms” in 2004, these women were important to George W. Bush’s re-election victory before swinging to Mr. Obama four years later. They account for about 20% of the electorate.

“Security mom” was preceded in the political swing-vote calculus by “soccer mom”, which was voted the word of the year for 1996 by the American Dialect Society. A related term for men is “NASCAR dad.”

Campaigns Put Focus On Suburban Women (August 8)


While adults tend to enjoy a concept known as airtime—the sense of being lifted off a ride’s seat and floating—that experience may unnerve younger riders.

Airtime can be produced by designing coasters that have small “rabbit hop” hills immediately following larger dips. This phenomenon is also sometimes called “negative G’s”.

Move Over, Kids, It’s Grown-Up Time, August 8


While private industry has been shrinking throughout the recession, the Pentagon’s civilian workforce has grown by 10% since 2009. This and other factors (such as the bureaucratic effect of “jointness,” or collaboration between the branches of the military) have bloated the ratio of contractors and support staff to warfighters.

According to “Joint Operational Warfare, Theory and Practice,” by Milan N. Vego, the lowest level of command in which jointness can be applied is (unsurprisingly) the “joint task force” (JTF) or the “combined joint task force” (CJTF).

Mackenzie Eaglen: Defense vs. Food Stamps—What Would You Choose? (August 7)

August 17: mouseburger, exposome, femtocells, vitreous.


In Mr. McLemore’s YouTube video, a pixellated character with a small ax navigates gloomy corridors pursued by “creepers,” the game’s green, exploding bad guys.

Creepers are silent (thus the name) until they are about to explode, at which point they make hissing noises. Creepers can be struck by lightning, turning them into “charged creepers” who do even more explosive damage than regular creepers.

Lovers of Minecraft Are Belting Out Odes to Digging and Smelting (August 12)


Kenn Sparks, a BMW spokesman, said its July sales total includes vehicles that were purchased by its dealers for use as what are known as “demos”— cars used on lots for test drives.

Other dealer slang includes “bumping” (persuading customers to buy a different model of car than the one that brought them to the lot) and “turn and earn” (the process by which car manufacturers use past sales to determine the future inventory available to the dealer).

BMW’s ‘Demo’ Sales Boost Results (August 15)


ASIC has drafted new market integrity rules requiring brokers to gain direct control over algorithm-based trades, known as algos, that would allow them to suspend orders and systems.

Algorithmic trading is also known as robotrading or black-box trading; HFT, or “high-frequency trading” is algorithmic trading where computers are used to perform trades faster than human traders can process the information used to drive them.

Australia Proposes Stricter Automatic Trading Rules (August 13)

August 24: benihana, make-goods, plenum, glamping.

man cave

Appreciate for a moment, what this momentous golf news sounds like to normal civilians on Planet Earth. Here on Earth, Augusta National’s bold decision to admit women—women!—to its khaki-pants man cave is completely hilarious.

“Man cave” is among the words recently added to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (along with “sexting” and “F-bomb”). M-W dates the first known use of “man cave” to 1992.

Sarcastic Golf Claps for Augusta National (August 21)


Manti are Uzbek steamed dumplings filled with lamb and minced onions. You can find them in Turkish restaurants, but they’ll be cherry-size and served in a yogurt-tomato sauce. In Uzbekistan, where my grandmother grew up, manti are about the size of a small plum and served with a garlicky yogurt sauce.

Manti are related to a Mongol dish called “man tou,” meaning “head of a southern savage.”

Babushka’s Dacha Dumplings (August 17)


“If we went down to Times Square and began culturing people’s noses, something like 10% to 20% of them carry the antibiotic-resistant staph infection MRSA,” he adds.

MRSA is short for “methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.”

Burning Question: Do Germs Spread on Airport Security Lines? (August 20)

August 31: alexithymia, sporran, gwang-dae, styptic.


Violence became so ubiquitous, so habitual, that historians and sociologists in Colombia coined the term “violentology” for its study.

Things studied by the violentologists (or violentólogos) included the mutilations of victims of violence (some mutilations were so common they had their own names, including the corte de franela and the corte de mico) and the methods and motivations of teenage sicarios, or hit men.

When Current Events Cast Their Shadows (August 24)


Still, the size of the group has led some local media outlets to bemoan the growing phenomenon of the “NEET” – an acronym for “not in employment, education or training.

The acronym was first used in the UK, and the first citation is from a 1999 report by the “Social Exclusion Unit”, although it was said to be in usage since at least 1996. NEET replaced the earlier term “status 0” or “status zer0”, which was coined by Howard Williamson, Professor of European Youth Policy at the University of Glamorgan in Wales. (Education was status 1, training status 2, and employment status 3.)

Japan’s Graduates Face Tough Job Market (August 28)


Some 98% of Indonesians said they gave alms annually, followed by 93% of Malaysians and Thais. Those were among the three highest rates for charity in the world. In most other Muslim communities, less than 80% of those surveyed participated in what is called zakat.

Zakat comes from the root of the Arabic word meaning “pure”, and is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Southeast Asian Muslims Among World’s Most Devout (August 27)

September 7: smasual, Manhattanhenge, brucellosis, surströmming.

Rayleigh scattering

The technology uses a well known effect of fiber-optic cables called Rayleigh scattering. “When you pass laser light down a fiber-optic cable you get backscatter [light reflected back]. With highly coherent laser you are able to [produce] exactly the same pulse time after time. You will then get exactly the same backscatter back, unless something affects it.”

Rayleigh scattering is named after Lord Rayleigh, a British physicist, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1904 for the discovery of argon. Rayleigh scattering is what causes us to see the sky as blue and sunsets as red or orange.

Turning a Fiber-Optic Cable into a Microphone (September 4)

mas camp

Each band sets up a temporary “mas camp,” typically in a rented storefront or basement, to serve as a combination retail outlet, registration center and costume-production factory.

The “mas” in “mas camp” comes from “masque”, a costume or disguise worn for dancing or parties. The wearing of the actual costumes in the parade can be done in a style known as “chipping,” which is sometimes described as a “rhythmic strut.”

These Skimpy Costumes Don’t Come Cheap (August 31)


For as long as many of us can remember, high-tech industries have flourished in the suburban office parks that are so ubiquitous in Silicon Valley, North Carolina’s Research Triangle and other “nerdistans.”

Nerdistan was used in 1997 by Joel Kotkin in The Washington Post, where he named Orange County, north Dallas, Northern Virginia, Raleigh-Durham, and Redmond as “technology-dominated, culturally undernourished” nerdistans.

The Joys of Urban Tech (August 31)

HEET turnstiles

He’s especially good on the new floor-to-ceiling HEET turnstiles (nicknamed “Iron Maidens”) in the New York subway.

HEET is an acronym for “High Entrance/High Exit” and is also known as a Rotogate (in the US). HEET turnstiles can turn in both directions, so can be used for both entrance to and exit from the subway. The waist-high three-arm turnstile is is called the Passimeter.

You Can’t Trust Airport Security (September 2)


On their websites, Philip Morris lists more than 100 different additives, Reynolds lists 158 and Lorillard lists 137. Many of these are flavorants; that is presumably why the list includes bergamot oil, fenugreek extract, geranium bourbon oil, ethyl vanillin, tangerine oil, sandalwood and something called “immortelle extract.”

The immortelle (from the French “fleur immortelle”) is a general name for flowers with papery blossoms which maintain their color after being dried.

What’s Really in Your Cigarette? (August 31)

September 14: flageolets, swellegance, alopecia, noodnik.


Local tastes are sophisticated yet simple, Mr. Carter says, and as an example he names Matterhorn’s popular Falling Water, a cocktail with 42 Below vodka infused with feijoa, a fruit sometimes called pineapple guava, plus Chi, a local sparkling water sweetened with honey, kiwifruit and herbs.

The Feijoa (also called the guavasteen) is named for the naturalist João da Silva Barbosa Feijo. It has medicinal as well as culinary uses, as a treatment for thyroid conditions, dysentery, and sunburn.

Think Global, Drink Local (September 12)


Once investors realized that Mario Draghi, the ECB president, had been true to his word, stock markets rallied, Spanish and Italian bond yields fell and, in a true sign of appreciation, traders started referring to the new measures by their acronym: “OMT,” for Outright Monetary Transactions.

OMT is occasionally used as shorthand for “one more thing,” the Steve-Jobsian finish to new Apple announcements. This week’s “one more thing” from Apple was a performance by the Foo Fighters at the iPhone 5 announcement.

Less-Rosy Reality (September 10)


In “controlled comforting,” parents return to the room of a crying baby at regular intervals to offer some limited soothing. (Parents often refer to this as a version of cry it out.) It is the technique known colloquially as “Ferberizing,” after Richard Ferber, the doctor who popularized it.

The problem of how to get babies to sleep through the night has been called “sleep training”, and has a significant technical vocabulary, including “graduated scheduled ignoring” (what it sounds like), “focal feeding” (a last feeding late at night to encourage sleeping through the night) and “fading” (gradually reducing features of a drawn-out bedtime routine).

Letting Babies Cry a Bit Is OK (September 10)


Historically, units situated near mines—like those at Monticello, which burn the low-grade coal known as lignite—didn’t need special assistance.

Lignite comes from a Latin word meaning “wood.”

Coal-Fired Plants Mothballed by Gas Glut (September 11)

September 21: gansey, alligator fruit, kora, sukuks.


The International Culinary Center in New York City now offers a concentration in culinary technology stressing scientific principles and hands-on experience with high-tech tools like those used for sous-vide.

Sous-vide comes from French words meaning “under” and “vacuum”. Cooks who use sous-vide techniques are informally called sous-viders.

Famous culinary school stresses science in kitchen (September 18)


And the lack of openness has allowed oligarchs, referred to as “minigarchs,” to flourish no matter which party is in power, the Transparency International report said.

Oligarch comes from Greek roots meaning few (oligo) and ruler (arch). English often reanalyzes words to form new suffixes, as here with -garch instead of -arch; other examples include -holic (from alcoholic) and -gasm (from orgasm).

Hungary’s Political Financing Problems Drive Corruption Issues (September 14)


Even supporters of the measure say it will be controversial in a country where legal and illegal mining by wildcatters—called garimpeiros in Portuguese—has left a trail of bloody land disputes with indigenous groups and environmental damage such as mercury spills.

Brazil Eyes New Mining Riches (September 17)


In 2002, in an incident of startling cruelty, the Saudi religious police prevented more than a dozen girls from fleeing their flaming school building in Mecca, thus condemning them to burn to death because, while trying to escape the fire, their abayas and veils didn’t fully cover them.

Other types of hijab (which includes the abaya) are the shayla (a scarf wrapped around the head and neck), niqab (face veils), the kandoura (an embroidered abaya), the jilbāb (an outer garment, much like a long coat), and the chador (common in Iran, a large semicircle of fabric, without armholes or sleeves).

Black Gold And Black Veils (September 18)

September 28: pediculosis, progeria, homosociality, summer melt.


The term “epal” comes from the Filipino world “mapapel”, which is used to describe people who take undeserved credit, but Ms. Paner says it can also refer to the “personal glorification of politicians.”

The popularization of the word “epal” has been credited to President Benigno Aquino III. For Tagalog speakers, the word supposedly also evokes the word “kapal”, someone who is thick-skinned.

Philippine Campaign Takes Aim at Boastful Politicians (September 21)


The game featured an appearance by Hitler, but this Hitler wore a giant Iron Man-like case of metal armor and shot at you with the chain guns he had instead of arms. “Mecha-Hitler,” as he came to be known, was later included in 1UP magazine’s list of the “25 Most Badass Boss Fights Of All Time.”

Mecha here comes from the Japanese meka, meaning “mechanical”, and giant robot-like machines are found in Japanese popular culture going back to the 1950s.

Borderlands 2 Shoots Irony in the Face (September 25)


His “Perky Jerky” gets an extra-long soak in marinade infused with “guarana,” a tropical berry that contains caffeine.

The word guarana comes into English via Portuguese, and is originally from a Tupian language of the Amazon basin. The seeds of the guarana look like eyeballs, and according to legend, the guarana plant came from the eyes of a child who was killed by a jealous god; another, consoling god took the right eye and planted it in the jungle, the source of wild gurarana, and planted the left eye in the village garden, becoming domesticated guarana.

Trying to End ‘Jerky Shame’ With Gourmet Flavors (September 26)


Foraged fare appears in dishes like American wagyu tenderloin with mushroom duxelle, as well as on the spa menu, with a pesto-infused body treatment made from the 30 pounds of basil the hotel harvested this past summer.

Duxelle (or duxelles) is the term for a sauce of chopped mushrooms, shallots, and parsley, credited to the seventeenth-century chef Pierre de la Varenne, and named for his employer, the Marquis d’Uxelles. (He is also credited with introducing waffles to the French.)

Foragers for Voyagers (September 21)

October 5: overproof, eurhythmics, sundowning, eruv.


Marc Anthony says in one of the most beautiful scenes in the play, “these are all honorable men”; men of honor, which is the same term used to describe members of the Mafia and the Camorra.

The name Camorra may come from the word for a kind of short coat supposedly worn by members. Some associate the term Mafia with Sicily and Camorra with Campania; early sources also suggest that Camorra was more urban and Mafia more rural. The etymology of Mafia and mafioso is disputed, but it has been connected to an Arabic word meaning “place of refuge.”

Shakespeare as Their Confessor (September 28)


They suggest that the typical Muslim form of saving across generations, family trusts known as Waqfs, were not well suited for the pooling of capital across families, nor were they well suited to pursuing profit-making enterprises. What they were good at, though, was providing a safe way for an individual family to save its wealth over time.

Waqf (the Arabic plural is awqaf) comes from an Arabic root meaning “forbidding movement or exchange.” It is administered by a trustee called a mutawalli. Many Waqf were established by women, for whom it ensured control over property, the use of its income during their lifetimes, and the right to choose their own heirs.

Economics Journal: A Theory Why India’s Muslims Lag (October 3)

swagged up

Ramon Harewood, a 334-pound Baltimore lineman, said that the new jersey fits him fine and that the complainers are those who “like to look pretty” and be “swagged up.”

Someone who is “swagged up” (or, sometimes, “swagged out”) is expensively or elaborately dressed up.

The NFL’s 300-Pound Fashion Victims (October 3)


Yes, the kurti is everywhere – it is becoming a versatile, sought after garment in the U.S., even among non-Indians.

Kurti means “collarless shirt” in Hindi.

The U.S. Loves the Kurti (October 2)

October 12: boffo, ralli quilt, zoonosis, pen-testing.


Since weekly Variety’s founding in 1905—the daily paper came later, in 1933—Variety has been an influential chronicler of the business of entertainment. It coined its own language. The paper might describe a film’s box office as “boffo,” i.e. excellent, or report that an executive was “ankled,” or left without saying whether he quit or was fired.

Other Variety-speak terms include oater (a Western movie), praiser (a publicist), and sprocket opera (a film festival).

Variety Grabbed By Web Rival (October 9)

The play relies on transcripts of the cockpit voice recorder, which is referred to as CVR, or, in phonetic aviation lingo, “Charlie Victor Romeo.”

The “Alpha Bravo Charlie” system of spelling letters is known as the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, the NATO phonetic alphabet, or the ICAO (for International Civil Aviation Organization) alphabet. The first version, in 1927, used placenames and started “Amsterdam Baltimore Casablanca.”

Onstage in the Event of an Emergency (October 7)


And there’s been a very recent shift in taste toward “fancy shape” diamonds, such as princess, marquise, pear and other less-traditional cuts, Mr. Shor says.

The marquise cut, which has a pointed oval shape, is also known as the navette (from a French word meaning “little boat”). Marquise is the feminine form of marquis, which comes from a late Latin root meaning “frontier lord.”

Cashing In Your Jewelry (October 9)


In new accusations that came as the report was issued Monday, the chairman of the House intelligence committee said the panel has received “numerous” reports of Huawei equipment engaged in suspicious activities, such as shipping U.S. company data to China, a process known as “beaconing.”

Beaconing computers may (for instance) turn on and send large data packets home at odd hours, sometimes under the guise of the another sense of beaconing, in which network stations send data to other nodes in the network to advise of transmission problems.

Huawei Fires Back at the U.S. (October 8)

October 19: Levant, banging the beehive, makgeolli, pericoronitis.


An astrophysicist who helped design the Strategic Defense Initiative, better known as Star Wars, is among the scientists developing a laser system called a “photonic fence” to kill mosquitoes.

“Photonic” comes from a Greek root meaning “light”. The term was mostly used in science-fictional contexts early on, but is now a general scientific word for work in domains involving photons, such as lasters and fiber optics. Related terms include biophotonics (for techniques using light and cells, such as laser surgery) and microphotonics (the development of microscale optical devices, especially for communications).

In Latest Bid to Lord Over Flies, One Man Tries Salting Them Away (October 14)


Greenberg, who once dubbed docudrama “theater of fact,” would surely have been horrified by what his more flamboyant but less honest successors did to the genre.

Docudrama is (of course) a blend of “documentary” and “drama”. The term “drama-doc” is often sometimes used in the UK. Stage docudramas are occasionally called the “theatre of testimony” or “documentary plays.” (Filmmaker John Grierson is credited with coining the term “documentary” in 1926, but docudrama was not in wide use before the 1960s.)

‘Missiles’ and the Crisis on Television, October 15


We imagine that achieving a particular goal—the next promotion, the new car, retirement—will make us happy forever, only to find achieving our goal doesn’t bring us what we imagined. This is often referred to as the “hedonic treadmill.”

Hedonic comes from a Greek root meaning “pleasure.” Hedonics (or, more rarely, hedonology) is the study of pleasure; someone who has difficulty feeling pleasure (especially as a result of depression) is called “anhedonic.”

Can Money Buy Happiness? (October 12)

October 26: Bibendum, glycan, ovonics, boro.

takotsubo syndrome

Stress cardiomyopathy, the fear-related heart problem that affects healthy people, was first described by Japanese physicians in 1990 and dubbed “takotsubo syndrome,” after Japanese octopus traps, because patients’ hearts took on the same odd shape, ballooning in one area and contracting in another.

Takotsubo syndrome has also been called “apical ballooning syndrome” and “broken heart syndrome.”

Science Shows Even the Fit Can Be Scared to Death (October 22)


He said he would not let Mr. Romney reinvent himself in the campaign’s final weeks, describing his opponent’s perceived shifts as Romnesia.

Ben Zimmer, a linguist and the chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society, has documented the use of “Romnesia” back to April 4, 2011, in a blog post by Brian Rosman on the Health Care for All Massachusetts website.

Campaigns Strike Diverging Tones (October 20)


Cartouches (frame-like designs), borders, compass roses and other fixtures of antique maps, often from the 17th century, now characterize Ms. Brown’s own maps.

Cartouche comes (through French) from a Latin word meaning “paper,” and can specifically refer to decorations that look like pieces of paper with scrolled or rolled edges, used to display titles.

A Mapmaker Takes on the World (October 19)

November 2: Frankenstorm, vore, adiponectin, haikai.


Also called Brazilian walnut, ipe (pronounced ee-pay) wood is typically found in South America and some parts of Central America. It is one of the densest hardwoods available, three times harder than cedar.

Ipe wood is also sometimes called ironwood, guayacan, or lapacho, and can be used to describe at least twenty species of the genus Tabebuia. The bark of various species of ipe trees is also used for medicinal teas, to treat maladies ranging from headaches to snakebite.

Wood That’s Tough as Nails (October 25)


Mr. Lemonick has collected nearly all of the leading astronomers involved in the search for extrasolar planets—more than a dozen “exoplaneteers,” as he calls them—following them to mountain tops, lakeside lodges, roofs of buildings, and scattered offices around the country, to get them to explain what they’re doing and why.

In the Market for a Second Home (October 26)

The suffix -eer came into English from French, and is used to form nouns for people (such as rocketeer, muleteer, auctioneer, etc.), and is related to the similar suffix -ary (used in words like mercenary and secretary). The French form -ier still persists in words that are later arrivals into English, such as bombadier.


Wolves may kill deer and cows, but they also kill these smaller “mesopredators”—middle-of-the-food-chain carnivores.

The prefix “meso-” comes from a Greek root meaning “middle.” When a meso- or other predator eats enough of its prey that it affects the species that prey eats, that effect is called a “trophic cascade.”

Welcome Back, Wolves. Staying for Dinner? (October 26)

November 9: dancheong, epigraph, angioedema, sourdough.


For many attendees, the event was the first chance to venture out for a good time since Sandy hit. “I said, ‘Allons-y,’ let’s go!” said Ms. Midler, who dressed as the ghost of Coco Chanel.

Allons-y is French for “let’s go!” It has recently become mildly popular as a catchphrase in English after use by the BBC television character Dr. Who, in his tenth incarnation, as played by David Tennant.

Bette, Blondie And Bananas on Halloween (November 1)


Many of the pumps sent in to deal with Sandy are so-called dry-prime models. They use a compressor to blast air through a tube known as a venturi—after the Italian scientist Giovanni Battista Venturi, who died in 1822.

The Venturi flow meter (which measures the velocity of fluid glowing through a pipeline) and the Venturi tube (which narrows to increase the velocity and reduce the pressure of a gas or fluid passing through it) are also named after Venturi.

The Pumps That Are Saving New York (November 2)


“We take these classic dishes that people can relate to, and spruce them up through technique and ingredients,” says executive chef Nick Adams. A $9 fried green tomato sandwich comes layered with burrata cheese and avocado.

Burrata is a kind of mozzarella filled with cream. Burrata comes from an Italian word meaning “buttery” or “buttered.”

The Corner Store (October 31)


Social media also is feeding a subculture of “getting ready,” sometimes known as “pre-gaming,” where dressing and primping before a big event can sometimes overshadow the event itself.

Pre-gaming is also used to describe the practice of drinking alcoholic beverages before attending a party or sporting event, either to avoid on-site restrictions on alcohol consumption, or to ensure sufficient inebriation.

Face Time at the ‘Makeup Bar’ (October 31)

November 16: Y-word, kamnan, ophidiophobia, gull.


Valemax ships are nearly 400 yards long, almost four times the length of a football field and up to 50% bigger than the next largest carriers deployed across the globe, by Chinese or any other shipping lines.

Valemax ships are a kind of VLOC (very large ore carriers).

The term “Valemax” comes from the name of the company that owns them (Vale) and the suffix -max, probably by analogy to the “Panamax” ships that were the largest that could fit through the Panama canal. Other -max ships include the Q-max (the largest that can dock in Qatar), the Suezmax (the largest tanker that can pass laden through the Suez canal), and the Chinamax, a size of ship that allows for docking at the maximum number of ports.

Beijing Wields Big Stick Against Megaships (November 13)



He wasn’t content with the usual Royal Navy routine of having the men run the guns in and out for gunnery practice. He had his crews use real powder and ball, which he likely paid for himself. He was also partial to carronades, close-range guns known as “smashers,” useful in clearing enemy decks.

Carronades got the nickname “smashers” because their heavy, slower-moving cannonballs caused more splinters when hitting enemy ships.

The King Of Carronades (November 11)


What you have is a phenomenon called militainment—a crossing between the military world and entertainment world. In one direction, this is absolutely nothing new. Whatever form of entertainment humans were utilizing, it’s always been drawn towards depicting the stories of war. That’s true whether you’re talking about the very first epic poems, the very first books, to Hemingway novels.

Other “-tainment” words include agritainment (a type of agritourism, where farms include attractions such as corn mazes or hayrides), advertainment (advertisements that are supposedly fun to watch), edutainment and infotainment.

Secrets of Call of Duty: Black Ops II (November 12)

November 23: spezzato, ace, Porkopolis, exit hosts.


“I do some shopping in a big plastic cloud suspended on a crane,” and “dance the Biglemoi,” she says of the film, due to be released next spring. “It’s a great book—very surreal.”

“Biglemoi” can be translated from the French as “ogle-me” and is supposed to simulate “physical lovemaking.”

Audrey Après Amélie (November 15)


Mr. Castañeda, who lives in Whitestone, Queens, has been a bright light on Manhattan’s club scene for a decade, and more recently around the world, playing joropo folk music from the grassy Llanero plains of the Colombian-Venezuelan border.

Joropo, which is often played with a harp, a small guitar, maracas, and a singer, comes from a Spanish word meaning “a party.”

Swinging With the Hippest Harpist (November 15)

November 30: the bezzle, plongeur, metricated, baltagiya.


Baijiu is a clear, potent drink usually made from sorghum that is taken in shots and known for having a fiery taste. Baijiu is most famous in the West for being served to President Richard Nixon during his historic 1972 visit to China. Television reporter Dan Rather then famously described one variety as tasting like “liquid razor blades.”

Baijiu translates as “white alcohol.” When used medicinally, it may be called “qing jiu” (clear alcohol) or “hao jiu” (good alcohol).

Chinese Liquor Makers Take Hit (November 21)


Lest we forget, golf is as much about the mind as it is the body—ask anyone who has had the “yips.” The game can be so debilitating that the help of a neuroscientist sometimes seems required.

The origin of the word “yips” is obscure; some sources credit golfer Tommy Armour with popularizing the term. Baseball players affected by the yips include Steve Sax (who had it called “Steve Sax Syndrome”) and Steve Blass (“Steve Blass Disease”). Olympic archers suffer from a similar malady known as “target panic.”

Using Science to Ward Off the ‘Yips’ (November 23)


Foot Locker, which caters to die-hard aficionados known as “sneakerheads,” likes to time its big shoe releases to Black Friday and regularly draws long lines of shoppers willing to pay $200 or $300 for new sneakers.

Sneakerheads devote time to searching for “quickstrike” sneakers (only sold in sneaker boutiques), “hyperstrike” sneakers (ones made in extremely limited quantities, often for store owners or artists/designers and friends), and “tier 0” shoes (supposedly sold in fewer than a dozen stores). A particular pair of sought-after sneakers that is both rare and emotionally significant to a sneakerhead may be described as a “holy grail.”

Will Retailers’ Black Friday Strategies Work? (November 20)

December 7: pocket license, scagiola, scouring, Doodles.

impact sourcing

We don’t do outsourcing. We do impact sourcing. This is a new term that refers to employing individuals with limited opportunity for sustainable employment as principal workers in Business Process Outsourcing centers.

Terms for who does what work where include “outsourcing” (where a business function is transferred from a company to an external vendor); “multisourcing” (outsourcing, but to multiple vendors); “backsourcing” (taking a previously outsourced function back in-house); and “insourcing” (the general term for performing work in-house, whether or not that work had been outsourced previously).

‘Rising Star’ Leila Janah on Fighting Poverty (November 29)

Now that she has returned yet again, having been rehired by the company’s latest owner, Onward Holdings Co., Ltd., a Japanese holding company specializing primarily in apparel, in January, after an eight-year absence, Sander believes her primary mission is to steer the fashion line back to her famously exigent standards.

Exigent is a somewhat rare word meaning “requiring a great deal, exacting.” It comes from Latin roots meaning “out” and “drive.”

The Queen of Clean (November 29)


The royal couple needn’t worry if their baby is a girl: The government has been seeking to scrap the so-called rule of primogeniture, which hands the throne to a boy when possible.

Primogeniture comes from a post-classical Latin word meaning “right of the first-born child.” The Historical Thesaurus of English lists “first-begottenship” and “eldership” as synonyms for “primogeniture.”

As U.K. Royals Disclose Pregnancy, Name Game Begins (December 3)

December 14: benne, sufganiyot, barrel bomb, twoosh.


Though he is best known in the West for his association with the Beatles and George Harrison in particular—a friend and student who dubbed him “the godfather of world music”—and as father to Norah Jones, Shankar’s reputation at home emerged after a long period of study in Maihar, India, with Allauddin Khan, a composer and multi-instrumentalist who created the Hindustani music form known as the Maihar gharana, which Shankar embraced.

The word gharana means “house” or “family”, and in this context means “school.” Early gharanas were often family-based, with musical traditions passed from generation to generation.

‘The Godfather of World Music’ (December 12)


Mr. Bocuse was long known as what the French call a “phallocrat” (that wonderfully evocative term usually translated as “male chauvinist pig”). In 1975 he told the New York Times that “women lack the instinct for great cooking.”

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, phallocrat dates to 1965 in French, and was adopted into English roughly a decade later. It comes from a Greek root meaning “penis” and the suffix ‘-crat,’ created by backformation from words like “autocrat” and “democrat”, meaning “member of a group”.

Don’t Try This at Home (December 7)


They practiced instead what Prof. Sarasvathy calls “effectuation.” Rather than choosing a goal and then making a plan to achieve it, they took stock of the means and materials at their disposal, then imagined the possible ends. Effectuation also includes what she calls the “affordable loss principle.” Instead of focusing on the possibility of spectacular rewards from a venture, ask how great the loss would be if it failed. If the potential loss seems tolerable, take the next step.

Effectuation in the sense of “the process of carrying out or putting into effect” dates from the late sixteenth century in English.

The Power of Negative Thinking (December 7)

wet housing

You have also proposed building so-called wet housing, where residents are allowed to drink alcohol. Why is that a good idea?

Most shelters have zero-tolerance policies for drugs and alcohol; in addition to the “wet house,” some communities have “friendly user houses” where users are penalized with fines (rather than eviction) for drug use and “meth houses,” for people in methadone treatment programs. Shelters that are supposedly housing homeless for profit (rather than rehabilitation) are sometimes called “money mills.”

The Idea Man for Helping the Homeless (December 12)

December 21: supers, guayamisas, never events, and remarques.


Yet almost everything we know about the myths traces back to a single work, an Icelandic handbook called the “Prose Edda,” which was intended primarily as a guide for aspiring story-singers, known as skalds.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the English word “scold” is related to “skald,” possibly because of the behavior of satirical poets; in Icelandic law the word skáldskapr, “poetry,” can also be used to mean libelous verse.

The Poet King Of Iceland (December 13)


Tony Brown, a private investigator in Southern California, says he has spent nearly $60,000 preparing for Teotwawki — an acronym for “the end of the world as we know it”—or SHTF—when the “s— hits the fan.”

After Teotwawki (pronounced “Tee-ought-walk-ee”, according to Survivalblog.com) also known as EOTW, (“end of the world”), you may want to GOOD (Get Out of Dodge) in your BOV (bug-out vehicle) with your WWWF (weapon, “web gear” — a vest or bandolier used for carrying weapons, ammo, etc., water, and food) since the world will be WROL (“without rule of law”).

Preparing for the World’s End, Just in Case (December 19)


If passed, the new proposal will ban so-called “slims,” thin cigarettes produced by most tobacco companies and targeted mainly toward women, and force cutbacks on popular aromas, such as big doses of menthol, seen as more attractive to young people.

The words “light” and “mild” are prohibited in cigarette marketing in the US and many other countries, but the use of the words “long,” “slim,” “superslim,” or light-colored packaging (all of which smokers associate with lower-tar cigarettes) are not.

EU Proposes Tougher Tobacco Rules (December 19)


It was wonderful, marvelous, magnificent, superb, glorious, sublime, lovely, delightful …

Maud Newton was kind enough to tweet today about the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus, the first edition of which I worked on, way back when, and I thought it might be fun to blog about how it came to pass that there is a Word Note in that book that is credited jointly to David Foster Wallace … and me. 

So back in ought-whenever-it-was, the general consensus was that print thesauruses were dead, dead, dead, and that nobody would ever buy them again, but, leaving that aside, Oxford being Oxford and having to publish thesauruses much in the same way that birds gotta fly and fish gotta swim, we had to create a new one anyway. I was the person tasked with doing so. There was much wrangling back and forth about the source material for the book (reference books, like sourdough, are almost always grown from a "starter", rather than created from scratch), and it was finally decided to grow the OAWT from a Canadian thesaurus, rather than a UK one. The bulk of the work in Americanizing can be more properly thought of as "North Americanizing," and our colleagues at the (now shuttered) Canadian Oxford dictionary group had also done the majority of the heavy lifting in slimming down the stately flagship that is the New Oxford Thesaurus of English (usually abbreviated as NOTE). 

But just getting the right "starter" wasn't enough. What was going to bring the punters to the counter and make them plunk down their hard-earned cash for a reference book, one that was (by all accounts) going out of style? 

It was a long time ago, but I'm fairly certain the thought process went like this:

  1. What's a thesaurus? A thesaurus is a tool for writers.
  2. Let's put writers in the thesaurus! And brand it as "for writers by writers!"
  3. Who do we know?

One of the great things about working at OUP was that the list of "Who do we know?" goes back hundreds of years. Once we scrolled down to the "still alive" section of our joint address books, we were really spoiled for choice. So many fantastic writers! Soon we had a short list of names that was very long on talent: we had three Davids: Foster Wallace, Auburn, and the poet Lehman, Jean Strouse, Francine Prose, Zadie Smith … plus the OED's best friend, Simon Winchester. I lobbied hard to get Stephin Merritt (I made an all-Merritt mix CD for my boss at the time, to convince him), and also Michael Dirda. (Dirda is my favorite book reviewer, not least because he's vocal in his appreciation of Georgette Heyer.) I should also disclose here that I went to college with David Auburn, who, in addition to being a fine playwright, is also in my top-three list of human beings to work at a coffee shop with (and I married #1). 

We sent out the letters, asked the writers to choose the words for their notes, sent out copies of the OED (another thing you learn working at OUP: lots of people don't mind getting a print copy of the OED as part of their compensation), and then the notes came back. And, as was the standard practice, went out to be copy-edited, and (again in accordance with the practice) the copy-edited ms went back to the authors.

For some writers, reading the copy-edits is like going to the dentist. You know you have to, and you'll be happy, long-term, that you did, but the actual process involves a certain amount of drooling discomfort and incoherent mumbling. Other writers think of copy-editing as massage: someone works you over, and then you stumble out feeling good — kind of dazed, and a bit greasy, but good. 

David Foster Wallace's reaction to the copyedit was more like someone invited him to an all-day grammar seminar (with celebrity photo signings and vendor's expo hall), combined with a debating society picnic, where the topic was "RESOLVED: This Comma Should Be Removed." (You're not surprised, are you?)

So he called me. "I have a question …" he said. I looked at the first edit about which he had a question, and I realized that well, yes, it could go either way, and maybe I should haul out the Garner's (which I did), and then maybe I should haul out the Fowler's (which I did — all three editions, so we could be sure if and when anything changed), and then maybe CMOS had something to say about this particular issue? The OED?And would Googling help at all? 

And so the first hour went. 

By the end of the fourth hour, DFW was happy with the notes, and I was newly possessed of strong opinions about all sorts of language niceties I don't remember at all now — but which seemed perfectly clear at the time — and just as we were finishing up the last question on "effete", he said something along the lines of "you've put so much work into this particular one, you should put your name on it, too." I demurred, since I felt I was wearing an editor's hat, not an author's hat. And an editor's job, in my opinion, is to get rid of any and all obstacles that exist between the author and the success of the book. (I only wrote notes for the OAWT to bulk up the numbers — since I was on OUP's payroll anyway, we could add more features without affecting the P&L of the book).

DFW insisted. I demurred again. Then he said something like "Well, if you won't, we'll have to take it out." Well, when he put it that way … 

So that's the story of how my initials wound up on that note. (I wish I had the original ms, but almost everything was electronic, and I think what wasn't got recycled.) 

The OAWT is one of the projects I'm proudest of having worked on (and would be even without this story). It's a great book and many, many talented and thoughtful folks were involved in bringing it to a bookstore (and operating system) near you. 

And as a bonus for reading this far, here is a list of all the notes in the first edition (some of these may not be in the iOS dictionary widget edition), by author. Enjoy! 

David Auburn




druthers (at




fixing to (at about)

galoot (at klutz)





pulchritude (at







traipse (at walk)




Michael Dirda




crapulous (at drunk)





female (at woman)



limn (at describe)




politically correct
(at unprejudiced)


said (at say)


stippled (at spotted)




whilst (at although)


David Lehman



“Commencement” (at


dead cat bounce

“The Difference
Between Brutality and Cruelty” (at cruelty)

edgy, hip



foundation garments




“Made in the USA” (at
United States)

“One Day at a Time”
(at cliché)





“Sooner or Later” (at






Erin McKean



clothes horse





ham-fisted (at


kempt (at unkempt)


lagniappe (at extra)






paralipsis, proslepsis




smush (at crush)



triage (at prioritize)



Stephin Merritt

























Francine Prose


artiste (at performer)




Darwinian (at


ectoplasm (at spirit)


elitist (at snobbish)




longueur (at tedium)






spinster (at maiden)

storied (at mythical)





Zadie Smith

auricular (at ear)


cernuous (at droopy)

ensorcell (at enchant)

exilient (at exultant)

fornent (at facing2)

fulvous (at red)

mentalist (at maniac)


nullipara (at barren)


plash (at splash)

pleonexia (at greed)

prochronism (at date)

pulvinate (at plump)

pyrotechnical (at

salto (at gamble)

sciurine (at squirrel)

setaceous (at bristly)

sexercise (at

stillicide (at drop)

tabagie (at smoke)

thole (at endure)

vagitus (at cry)



Jean Strouse

achingly (at ache)


batty (at mad)

bloviate (at orate)



clueless (at


filch (at steal)


hook up (at pair)

hornswoggler (at


jeremiad (at


orchidaceous (at





shirty (at irritable)


whinge (at whine)

whup (at thrash)


David Foster Wallace

all of
















noma (at canker)


puchritude (at beauty)






Simon Winchester

adumbrate (at

baroque (at rococo)


enfeoff (at bargain)


haruspex (at

indiction (at tax)



mallemaroking (at




portmanteau (at


raspberry (at catcall)

Rechabite (at



uber (at ultra)

ur (at ultra)


 (The other feature of OAWT that I really liked was the "word spectrum" — you can see one here.)

Thinking Digital talk from last May …

Erin McKean of @Wordnik @ThinkingDigital 2011 from Codeworks Ltd on Vimeo.

I had a great time at this conference — really inspiring! Here's more about it: 

"If you've not heard of The Thinking Digital Conference, it's an annual gathering of creatives, innovators, businesspeople, entrepreneurs and techies. Each May, nearly 700 Thinkers gather over 3 days to explore and celebrate the ideas and innovations that are changing our world."

For the latest info on the Thinking Digital Conference please sign up here: http://www.thinkingdigital.co.uk


Thanks Herb!

from The Man Who Loved Children

Sam smiled, too, at their bent heads and was encouraged to say that “at the moment Looloo thought of nothing’ but eating of all the dickshunaries she could find and went around chock-full of big words aspewin’ em out and destroyin’ the peas of mind of the famerlee.”

Leaf through a dictionary or try to make one, and you will find that every word covers and masks a well so bottomless that the questions you toss into it arouse no more than an echo.

Paul Valery, French poet and critic, Collected Works of Paul Valery: Vol. 14: Analects, 1970 [via Wordspy]