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


Pardon My … SMS

I’ve been meaning for ages to link to this article about French SMS language. Fascinating. 

Most secondary-school pupils have their own mobile telephones, and they use an abbreviated phonetic language to communicate. A2M1, for instance, means à demain, or “see you tomorrow”. JTM is je t’aime (I love you). Or try:Ta HT 1 KDO? (T’as acheté un cadeau?, or have you bought a present?).