Serious Restroom Sign

What’s that? You need a word break? You’ve come to the right place.

This week: the importance of vaccinations; the debate over sitting (or standing) to pee; and yet another -sexual.

herd immunity

“This is what scientists call ‘herd immunity,’ and its a huge reason we get vaccines in the first place.”

Sarah Kliff, “The scariest fact about the Disneyland measles outbreak,” Vox, January 23, 2015

In herd immunity, a significant proportion of the population is vaccinated, which protects those who have yet to be vaccinated. In the case of measles, infants can’t get the MMR vaccine until they’re a year old, which means, says Vox, that until then, “babies depend on the fact that everybody else around them gets vaccinated.”


“As if small businesses didn’t have enough to worry about when it comes to computer security, here’s another thing to keep you up at night: malvertising.”

Elizabeth Weise, “Malware in ads turn computers into zombies,” USA Today, January 20, 2015

Malvertising, a blend of malware and advertising, is malicious software “hidden in online advertising,” says USA Today.

One type of malvertising “grabs information off the user’s hard drive,” and as a result the hackers can “gain access to e-mail and bank account information.” Another type steals the user’s online persona, “turning their computer into one piece in a vast network of hijacked computers called a botnet,” and going online to visit and click on advertisements as though it were that user.

While this kind of malware doesn’t affect the user, it does affect advertisers “who paid for real people to see their ad, but instead are paying for robot views.”


“Most POPOs are not widely publicized or even marked, probably because property managers would prefer not to deal with any aggravation.”

Peter Lawrence Kane, “Downtown SF Might Lose a Ton of Public Spaces,” The Bold Italic, January 22, 2015

POPO stands for “privately-owned public open space,” and refers to “publicly accessible spaces in forms of plazas, terraces, atriums, small parks, and even snippets that are provided and maintained by private developers.” The term is also known as POPS, “privately-owned public space,” and seems to have been popularized by this book published in 2000.

POPOs originated from a 1980s policy in which commercial development in downtown San Francisco was only allowed “in exchange for public access,” says The Bold Italic. Now a proposed amendment would allow developers to pay a fee rather than providing public open space.


“The controversy pits stehpinklers (men who stand up to pee) against sitzpinklers (men who sit down), and it has taken some bizarre twists over the years.”

Uri Friedman, “A Victory for the Right to Pee Standing Up,” The Atlantic, January 23, 2015

Sitzpinkler and stehpinkler are both German. Sitz means “seat,” steh means “stand,” and pinkler comes from pinkel, which means, you guessed it, to pee.

In Germany there has been a long-running debate about “whether men should be encouraged to sit down when urinating,” says The Atlantic. Both pro- and con-sitzers feel strongly. Sitzpinkler has also come to mean “wimp,” while German supermarkets have taken to installing toilet gadgets that chastise men attempting to stehpinkel.

Meanwhile, a University of Chicago law professor is on a different sort of toilet crusade: increasing “excreting opportunities” for women in public restrooms. She proposes removing couches, full-length mirrors, and vanities, and replacing them with more toilets to sitzpinkel in.

(H/t Mededitor.)


“With the spornosexual movement in full flight, men are now constantly bombarded with potent imagery of celebrities with improbable physiques: some of the most potent and pervasive are from Hollywood.”

Max Olesker, “The Rise of the Spornosexual,” Esquire, January 12, 2015

First we had metrosexual. Then, lumbersexual. Now: spornosexual.

Spornosexuals are men who “strive to look like sportsmen or porn stars,” rather than bodybuilders, says Esquire. Journalist Mark Simpson, who introduced the word metrosexual in 1994, started writing about “sporno” culture in 2006, “noting the rise in hypersexualised, homoprovocative imagery of sportsmen.”

[Photo via Flickr, “Serious Restroom Sign,” CC BY 2.0 by Chad Kainz]


The Language of Convenience Stores

by Angela Tung on January 27, 2015

E-Mart Convenience Store
You might think of convenience stores as a 20th century phenomenon. After all, 7-Eleven, often touted as the “first ever” convenience store, opened in 1927. But the idea of a little shop where you can get some, if not all, of what you need is actually much older than that.

Location, location, location

The term corner shop first appeared in text around 1278, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED): “To Adam his son and Johanna his daughter a shop called ‘la Cornereschoppe.”

Corner shop is still used today in the UK while corner store seems to be used the south, west, and other parts of the U.S., as well as Canada, and is referred to as such regardless of location.

A dairy by any other name

In New Zealand, a dairy or dairy store sells more than milk, butter, and eggs. It sells other staples, newspapers, and more. So why is it called a dairy?

Back in the day, dairy farms delivered milk, eggs, and other perishables to homes. However, as early as the 13th century, says the OED, shops that sold milk, cream, etc. were sometimes called dairies.

New Zealand’s convenience stores aren’t the only ones that retain the legacy of the dairy farm. In Canada they’re referred to as milk stores, as well as, apparently, homo stores, named for homo or homogenized milk.

In Australia convenience stores are known as milk bars, although these may sell, in addition to sundries, fast food and “dairy based beverages” such as milkshakes.

A milk-bar cowboy, says the OED, is a derogatory New Zealand term from the 1950s referring to “a young man who, as part of a motorcycle gang, congregates in or around a milk-bar.” This term plays off drugstore cowboy, which originated in 1925 as “American English slang” for someone who loiters on sidewalks or at drugstores, or someone “who dresses or acts like a cowboy but has never been one.”

Party on

The term drugstore first appeared in 1771, according to the OED, and while they began as apothecaries and chemist shops, they’ve become a kind of combination pharmacy-convenience store.

Bodegas have more in common with drugstores than just convenience. This very New York term, which originally referred in Spanish to a wine shop or cellar, comes from the Greek apotheke, “depot, store,” which also gives us apothecary.

For liquor and crisps in the UK, you might go to an off-licence, or offy. The term off-licence originally referred to a license allowing the sale of alcohol for consumption off the premises, says the OED.

In Quebec, a convenience store that sells alcohol is known as a dépanneur, or dep for short, and translates from Canadian French as “one who gets you out of a jam.” Got a hankering for a Slim Jim and Jim Bean in Maine? Go to a package store, also known as a packie store (not to be confused with Paki shop, see below) a Northeast U.S. term for a convenience store that sells alcohol.

If you’re in the Midwest, visit a party store because of course buying alcohol means you’re having a party, or at least that’s our theory behind the term.

Variety is the spice of convenience store life

We’d argue that variety stores such as five-and-tens and dollar stores differ from convenience stores in that the focus is on low-price rather than convenience. However, there’s no doubt that diversity is a key convenience store component.

In the Philippines, convenience stores are known as sari-sari stores, in which sari-sari means, in Tagalog, “variety.” (Sari the dress, in case you were wondering, ultimately comes from the Sanskrit sati, “garment, petticoat.”). Meanwhile, in Australia, you can get “a wide variety of goods” at a mixed business, says the OED.

Say what?

Like homo store, there are some convenience store terms you might want to use sparingly, if at all.

Paki shop is an offensive term for a corner shop supposedly run by someone of Pakistan or South Asian descent. The word Paki itself is derogatory, referring to someone perceived to be from Pakistan or neighboring countries. The OED’s earliest citation for Paki shop is from 1983:

The ‘Paki-shop’—misnamed because most of them were owned, not by Pakistanis, but by Indians from East Africa—appeared to fulfill a vital service.

Arabe du coin, which translates as “Arabic corner,” is the French version of Paki shop, while chino, referring to a convenience store owned by someone of Chinese descent (again, perceived or otherwise), is still in use in Spain.

Some argue that one shouldn’t be offended by the term chino since offense is “not intended” (see accidental racism) while others say that in Spain racism is simply accepted.

How convenient

Now for the mother of all convenience store words: the term, convenience store. The phrase originated in the early 1960s, and around that time, several large chains opened including Becker’s in Toronto, Mac’s, also in Canada, Wawa in the Mid-Atlantic U.S., and Lawson in Japan.

Lawson? But that’s not a Japanese name. That’s because the popular convenience store, or konbini, began as Lawson’s Milk Company in Ohio. It became a chain of stores in the 1960s, and in the 1970s, was bought by Daiei, a large Japanese supermarket chain. Currently, there are over 11,000 Lawson stores in Japan.

Lawson isn’t the only American convenience store owned by a Japanese company. In 2005, 7-Eleven became a subsidiary of Seven & I Holdings Co., which formed was in the 1990s by Ito-Yakado, a general merchandise store.

7-Eleven wasn’t always called 7-Eleven, by the way. At first they were called Tote’m Stores, after the idea of customers “toting” away purchases. In 1946, the name was changed to 7-Eleven after its “new, extended hours” (also a catchy rhyme doesn’t hurt).

Other stores with names implying convenience are the ampm chain, Store 24 (acquired by Tedeschi Food Shops in 2002), and the Texas-based Stop N Go, which unfortunately gave rise to the term stop and rob, referring to how easily and often convenience stores are robbed. Now stop and rob refers to any convenience store.

(Special thanks to Will Fitzgerald, Jay Gatsby, Russell Horton, James D. Irwin, Chris Galvin Nguyen, Caitlin Olson, Joanna Schroeder, and other online friends.)

[Photo via Flickr, “E-Mart Convenience Store,” CC BY 2.0 by AJ Batac]
[Image via Tumblr, “Korova Milk Bar”]


Word Buzz Wednesday: altcoin, deflategate, tsundoku

January 21, 2015

Have a hankering for some buzzworthy words? You’re in luck: it’s Word Buzz Wednesday! This week: funny money; a football scandal; and reading — or not reading — piles of books. altcoin “That’s led to a glut of hundreds, if not thousands, of so-called altcoins. Who can keep track of them all?” “Your complete A-Z […]

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Congratulations! It’s a Word!

January 20, 2015

Late last year, Erin McKean announced at PopTech Wordnik’s new not-for-profit status, and along with that, our Adopt a Word program. You’ve probably heard of Adopt a Highway: in exchange for keeping a section of the highway clean, an organization is allowed a sign with its name posted along that section. Wordnik’s Adopt a Word […]

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Word Buzz Wednesday: bye Felicia; datasexual; manslamming

January 14, 2015

We hope by now you’re over your post-holiday social jet lag because it’s time for a new batch of buzzworthy words. This week: an Ice Cube-coined meme; being really into numbers; and passive aggression on the sidewalk. bye Felicia “Basically it’s me saying bye Felicia to the distractions, the people and things that aren’t supposed […]

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Word Buzz Wednesday: drifted virus, flat white, Operation Death Eaters

January 7, 2015

What better way to kick off 2015 than with a fresh batch of buzzworthy words? This week: a mutant flu virus, another kind of coffee, and an anonymous vigilante group, care of Harry Potter. drifted virus “Pharmacologist and writer David Kroll argues that the worry about ‘drifted viruses’ is overblown.” Scott Pham, “The Nation […]

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Word Buzz Wednesday: Columbusing, dark web, kleptothermy

December 31, 2014

An iguana and kitten get kleptothermic. Happy (almost) New Year! We’re closing out 2014 with our latest favorite buzzworthy words. This week: appropriating culture; the darkness of anonymity; and one way to get toasty this winter. Columbusing “Columbusing is a word that can be used to describe the reappropriation or perhaps misappropriation of African-American culture […]

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