Hodor sobre esse desenho: "Hodor?"

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: Hodor-ing, haterbragging, and hater-cricketing.


“Tax advisers whose job it is to help clients steer through some of this muddle have already coined a term to sum up the confusion: ‘avoision’.”

Richard Dyson, “There’s nothing wrong with tax avoidance: we’re all forced to do it,” The Telegraph, April 18, 2015

Tax avoision is the “non-payment of tax that cannot clearly be seen as either tax avoidance, which is legal, or tax evasion, which is illegal.”

Some examples of tax avoidance from The Telegraph, a British publication, include saving in “Isas and pensions,” investing in “tax-free National Savings accounts,” and carefully recalling “the legitimate expenses with which to reduce taxable profits.” Tax evasion, says The Telegraph, is the deliberate concealment or understatement of income or assets.

Avoision is somewhere between “aggressive avoidance” and full-blown evasion. The word is a blend of avoidance and evasion.

chitlin’ circuit

“Stand-up comedy offered a way out of this dead end, even at the low pay he initially earned since he was relegated to the ‘chitlin’ circuit’ reserved for black comedians.”

Jeet Heer, “Don’t Forget What Richard Pryor Taught Us: Offensive Comedy Can Be Liberating,” New Republic, April 13, 2015

The chitlin’ circuit refers to “a circuit of nightclubs and theaters that feature African-American performers and cater especially to African-American audiences.”

According to NPR, “the entertainers called it the Chitlin’ Circuit because club owners sold chitlins and other soul food dishes out of their kitchens.” The name “may also have been a play on the Borscht Belt, a moniker given to the Catskills Mountain region in upstate New York where many Jewish families vacationed during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.”

Chitlins are the boiled and fried small intestines of pigs. The word is a variant on chitterlings, which may come from the Old English cieter, “intestines.”

expressive aphasia

“Whether he intended it or not, Martin created a character who is a textbook example of someone with a neurological condition called expressive aphasia.”

Jordan Gaines Lewis, “Neuroscience explains why Hodor in Game of Thrones only says ‘Hodor,’” Quartz, April 13, 2015

Aphasia is “partial or total loss of the ability to articulate ideas or comprehend spoken or written language, resulting from damage to the brain caused by injury or disease.” In expressive aphasia, speech or writing specifically is severely impaired.

The word aphasia comes from the Greek aphatos, “speechless.”


“The haterbrag embodies a couple of typical complaints that people like Franzen lodge against social media culture: It’s a narcissistic overshare.”

Amanda Hess, “My Haters, Myself,” Slate, April 13, 2015

The haterbrag, says Slate, is kind like the “humblebrag’s evil (but funnier) stepsister.” Essentially, haterbragging is bragging about how much hate one gets, especially on social media. An example is celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves.


“While not an enthusiast of the sport by any means, Sledge inadvertently became forever associated with the game of cricket, with the term ‘sledging’ arguably derived from his name.”

Percy Sledge: Soul singer’s link to cricket’s sledging,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, April 15, 2015

Sledging refers to, in cricket, “the practice of a fielder making insulting or comical references to an opposition batsman with the aim of distracting him.”

So what does a British sports term have to do with an American African R&B singer? One theory is that it originated in the mid-1960s from Australian cricketer Grahame Corling, who teased another player about his wife having an affair by singing the Sledge tune, “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

Another theory says sledging has nothing to do with Percy Sledge: in the mid-1960s, a player “reacted to an incident ‘like a sledgehammer’, with all on-field insults and obscenities at opponents henceforth known as ‘sledging’.”

[Photo via Flickr: “Hodor sobre esse desenho: “Hodor?'” CC BY 2.0 by Bruna Schenkel]



Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: a dinosaur dust-up; who said what; and money doesn’t always buy happiness.

Bone Wars

“The name Brontosaurus goes back to the so-called Bone Wars of the late 1800s, when rival fossil hunters Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope raced new dinosaur names into the scientific literature.”

Paul Rincon, “Brontosaurus dino name is revived,” BBC, April 7, 2015

The Bone Wars were also known as the Great Dinosaur Rush. Paleontologists Marsh and Cope were fiercely competitive, “resorting to bribery, theft, and destruction of bones,” as well as attacking each other in scientific publications.

Churchillian Drift

“But the subsequent misattribution is a textbook example of a widespread phenomenon in the world of quotations: Churchillian Drift.”

Erin McKean, “The Wise Words of Maya Angelou. Or Someone, Anyway,” The New York Times, April 9, 2015

Churchillian Drift, says McKean, “is the process by which any particularly apt quotation is mistakenly attributed to a more famous person in the same field.”

In the case of Maya Angelou, a quote from lesser known author Joan Walsh Anglund was attributed to Angelou and inscribed on a postage stamp honoring the world-famous poet.

Easterlin paradox

“Gilovich’s findings are the synthesis of psychological studies conducted by him and others into the Easterlin paradox, which found that money buys happiness, but only up to a point.”

Jay Cassano, “The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things,” Fast Company, March 30, 2015

The Easterlin paradox says that while high income does correlate with happiness, it’s a short-term high: in the long run, making a lot of money doesn’t make you happier. The concept is named for economist Richard Easterlin.

hot take

“The problem with the Dove post was not its subject or its slant, he suggested in a tweet Thursday evening, but that it was a ‘hot take.’”

Julia Turner, “In Defense of the Take,” Slate, April 10, 2015

The term hot take, says Turner, has become a journalistic putdown. Takes refer to “quick responses” and “often glib opinions” online writers are forced to produce about “any event that occurs” in order to drive traffic and revenue.

The hot take originates from sports media, “usually connoting a blowhard ranting about some personnel decision or play call gone wrong.” Urban Dictionary defines hot take as “simplistic moralizing rather than actual thought,” as opposed to a strong take.

wha gwan

“Before speaking to a crowd of people, the president did his best ‘Wha Gwan’, which resulted in all kinds of jump and wave from yardies everywhere.”

Shenequa Golding, “Big Tings A Gwan: Barack Obama Visits Jamaica And Does Spot On Patois Impersonation,” VIBE, April 9, 2015

Wha gwan is Jamaican patois for “What’s going on?” or “What’s up?” Yardie is slang for someone from Jamaica. The word comes from “government yards,” another name for Jamaican social housing projects.

[Photo via Flickr: “Dinosaur,” CC BY 2.0 by Kevin Dooley]


5 Cherry Blossom Terms, Translated

April 13, 2015

If you’re in the D.C. area you’re in luck: it’s “peak bloom” week for cherry blossoms. If you don’t have the chance to enjoy the pink pulchritude in our nation’s capital or elsewhere, please enjoy the stories behind these five Japanese cherry blossom terms. hanami “The Japanese tradition of ‘hanami’ – or the cherry blossom […]

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Word Buzz Wednesday: cord-never, kayfabe, sneakerhead

April 8, 2015

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: cutting the literal and figurative cords; a Pig Latin-y carny term; and addiction to footwear. Chicago Sunroof “The way Jimmy sees it, that Chicago Sunroof was the start of all of his problems.” Kevin P. Sullivan, […]

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Word Buzz Wednesday: ili pika; mukbang; telomere

April 1, 2015

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: the elusive “magic rabbit”; performance binge eating; and space-time-aging mind meld. Ili pika “Meet the Ili pika (Ochotona iliensis), an extremely elusive, cuddly creature that is rarely seen by human eyes.” Jenny Zhang, “Adorable Teddy Bear-like […]

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The Language of Taste

March 31, 2015

Last week the 2015 nominees for the James Beard awards were announced. Among the nominated are mostly chefs and restaurants, but also included are food writers. Food plus words, what’s not to love? In celebration, we’re taking a look at the language of taste. gustatory “She was if the word gustatory had grown legs and […]

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Orphan Words: Let the Bidding Wars Begin!

March 30, 2015

Last week you may have noticed that we started featuring “orphan” words on Twitter. First off, what the heck is an orphan word? It’s any word that has yet to be adopted in our Adopt a Word program. A featured orphan word is up for bidding — that is, it goes to the highest bidder […]

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