Word Buzz Wednesday: hellastorm, nut rage, Strange Fruit

by Angela Tung on December 17, 2014


Buzz, buzz, it’s that time again! Our picks for most buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: what to call a big rainstorm in NorCal; how not to react to macadamias; and what not to name your PR firm.


“And with Capitol Hill again scrambling to find a way to fund the government before leaving town for the rest of the year, the cromnibus is the country’s best hope of avoiding a shutdown.”

Andrew Rafferty and Luke Russert, “Washington Speak: What Is the ‘Cromnibus’?” NBC News, December 9, 2014

The cromnibus is, as NBC News puts it, “the love child of a ‘continuing resolution’ (CR) and ‘omnibus’ spending bill,” D.C. terms for “measures Congress has approved to keep the government funded” and avoid a government shutdown.

A continuing resolution is an appropriations bill that sets aside money for “specific federal government departments, agencies, and programs.” An omnibus spending bill — where omnibus translates from Latin as “for all” — packages many smaller appropriations bills into “one larger single bill that could be passed with only one vote in each house.”

This recent legislation was nicknamed cromnibus, says NPR, because “it combines the traditional sweeping scope of an omnibus spending bill with a continuing resolution,” in this case for the Department of Homeland Security, which “would only be funded through February, in a move that seeks to limit President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration.”

Also, don’t miss Fritinancy’s write-up on this Washington-esque word of the week.


“Even though it’s still raining, the worst of #hellastorm is over. While many Bay Area residents lost power or the will to work yesterday, we didn’t lose the ability to find humorous aspects of the storm.”

Ann-Marie Alcantara, “The Most Bay Area Images from #Hellastorm,” The Bold Italic, December 12, 2014

Hellastorm refers to severe rainstorms that hit much of northern California late last week. Hella is a slang intensifier meaning “a lot” and seems to have originated in the Bay Area in the 1970s although the Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest citation is from 1987 in the Toronto Star: “The horse went hella whoopin’ down the trail, trailing 50 feet or more of the best Berkley Trilene Monofilament line.”

Last week’s hellastorm was a result of the Pineapple Express, the “jetstream and accompanying strong, moist airflow from the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands” — home of the pineapple industry —  to the U.S. west coast. It’s also a marijuana strain and “stoner action comedy.”

Also last week Scotland suffered a weatherbomb, a storm which originated in the Arctic “where it had rapidly developed in strength in a process known as explosive cyclogenesis.” Lightning struck areas of Scotland 5,000 times (also known as hella lightning although that’s not the technical term).

nut rage

“‘Nut rage,’ as it was soon dubbed, seemed a truly remarkable tale of arrogance and entitlement, the story of one first-class passenger with powerful connections inconveniencing more than 200 others over a bag of nuts.”

Adam Taylor, “Why ‘nut rage’ is such a big deal in South Korea,” The Washington Post, December 12, 2014

Nut rage refers to an incident in which former Korean Air vice-president Heather Cho berated an airline employee for serving macadamia nuts “incorrectly” and forcing “the taxiing plane to return to the gate so that the chief flight attendant could be kicked off.” He was also apparently forced to kneel “to apologize for the transgression.” Cho has since resigned and apologized.

Other types of rages — or bursts of anger often out of proportion with the “transgression” — include road rage, air rage, and roid rage.

Strange Fruit

“That seems to be the lesson of ‘Strange Fruit Public Relations,’ an Austin, Texas-based PR firm that has committed to rebranding after being informed—or reminded—that it takes its name from a famous 1930s song about African-American lynchings.”

Zach Schonfeld, “Twitter to ‘Strange Fruit PR’: Maybe Don’t Name Your PR Firm After a Song About Lynchings,” Newsweek, December 9, 2014

Billie Holiday first recorded the song Strange Fruit in 1939. Written as a poem by teacher Abel Meeropol, it “protested American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans.” The “strange fruit” of the song refers to the hanging bodies of lynched African Americans.

Strange Fruit PR — which recently changed its name to Perennial Public Relations — was aware of the name’s troubling historical associations, says The Root, but thought the 1939 song would not “be top of mind in the public consciousness.”

white marriage

“Sarah’s decision to enter into what is known in Iran as ‘white marriage’ would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.”

Can Iran ‘control’ its cohabiting couples?BBC News, December 9, 2014

A white marriage in Iran refers to a couple living together before marrying. As BBC News says, “in a country where strict Islamic laws mean shaking hands with the opposite sex is illegal, cohabitation is a crime that risks severe punishment.”

White marriage — not to be confused with mariage blanc or a white wedding — is so-called “because of its association with the western world.”

[Photo: “Angry Squirrels,” CC BY 2.0 by Asta Adamonyte]



Welcome to the latest installment of Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we bring you the latest words that have caught our eye. This week: a troubling policing policy; a shaky method for cyber-security; and a fishy commute.

broken windows

“‘Broken windows’ is an order-maintenance strategy that encourages cops to enforce quality-of-life laws on the grounds that, essentially, nits breed lice.”

Justin Peters, “Loose Cigarettes Today, Civil Unrest Tomorrow,” Slate, December 5, 2014

The broken windows theory suggests that “conspicuous signs of social disorder, such as graffiti and vandalism, create a climate of neglect in which serious crime can flourish,” says the Oxford English Dictionary.

The theory was put forth by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in a 1982 article for The Atlantic: “One unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.”

This theory, says Slate, “presumes that a disorderly environment where small laws are broken with impunity leads to bigger problems,” which was “the mindset that led the police to approach [Eric] Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.” While the NYPD commissioner is a “big proponent” of this type of policing, “there’s no evidence that the policy is effective in reducing violent crime.”


“Demonstrators staged a ‘die-in’ in Brooklyn, New York, late Thursday. They lay in the middle of Atlantic Avenue. An eerie silence descended as the protesters, who had cardboard coffins, stopped chanting.”

Dana Ford, Greg Botelho and Ben Brumfield, “Protests erupt in wake of chokehold death decision,” CNN, December 4, 2014

A die-in, says the OED, is “a political demonstration in which people play dead.” The term first referred to demonstrations specifically against “nuclear and other fatal weapons,” and seems to have originated in 1970.

Die-in plays off of sit-in, “an organized protest demonstration in which participants seat themselves in an appropriate place and refuse to move,” and originally “designating a communal act of protest by African Americans against racial segregation in the United States,” according to the OED.

Recent die-ins have been demonstrations against the decision by a grand jury not to indict the police officer who put Staten Island man Eric Garner in an illegal chokehold, causing his death.



“The color specialists at Pantone, a subsidiary of color-science group X-Rite Inc., have announced that ‘marsala,’ a reddish brown, will be the color of the year in 2015.”

Meghan DeMaria, “‘Marsala’ is Pantone’s 2015 color of the year,” The Week, December 3, 2014

Marsala, in addition to being a Sicilian city, a kind of wine, and something, like chicken, cooked with that wine, is also now apparently a color. But not just any color: marsala is the “it” color of 2015.

A reddish-brown, we’re assuming the color is named for the sauce of the same name.

[Image via Jessica Yu]

patch and pray

“Nonetheless, at every level, there has been an awakening that the threats are real and growing worse, and that the prevailing ‘patch and pray’ approach to computer security simply will not do.”

Nicole Perlroth, “Hacked vs. Hackers: Game On,” The New York Times, December 2, 2014

A patch in computer science is “a piece of code added to software in order to fix a bug, especially as a temporary correction between two releases,” while to patch as a verb means to insert such a fix. The patch and pray method refers to continually implementing ad hoc fixes — rather than making design decisions based on “known properties and and well-understood analyses” — and hoping for the best.


“There are two types of upstreamers. The opportunists time their rides backward so they still catch the same train they would have caught had they waited. The die-hards, meanwhile, ride back and catch a later train, trading time for comfort.”

Libby Rainey, “BART’s ‘upstreamers’ chase rare commodity: an open seat,” SFGate, December 1, 2014

Upstreamers, like salmon swimming against the stream, ride the BART in the opposite direction of rush hour traffic, as well as their destination. Their goal, however, isn’t to spawn and die but to snag an empty seat before the cars fill up. BART calls this backriding.


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