Word Buzz Wednesday: Reichstag fire, Dirty Thursday, pink noise

Fasnacht Basel 2012

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a fiery cautionary tale; a cacophonous parade; your next all-girl punk band.

Reichstag fire

“Whenever citizens and politicians feel threatened by executive overreach, the ‘Reichstag Fire’ is referenced as a cautionary tale.”

Lorraine Boissoneault, “The True Story of the Reichstag Fire and the Nazi Rise to Power,” Smithsonian.com, February 21, 2017

On February 27, 1933, says Smithsonian.com, “a sizeable portion of the parliamentary building in Berlin, the Reichstag, went up in flames from an arson attack.” Hitler blamed the attack on the Communists, proclaiming that “this murderous pest” must be crushed “with an iron fist.” On February 28, an act was drawn up that “abolished freedom of speech, assembly, privacy and the press,” and “legalized phone tapping and interception of correspondence.”

Later evidence suggested that the individual convicted for the arson, Marinus van der Lubbe, couldn’t have acted alone, and witness testimony suggested the Communists weren’t involved at all, but “the group of Nazis who investigated the fire and later discussed its causes with historians covered up Nazi involvement to evade war crimes prosecution.”

kangaroo care

“When he had to go back in to hospital with an umbilical cord infection I’d go in early every morning and last thing at night to do kangaroo care.”

Lena Corner, “Could ‘Kangaroo Care’ Change The Way We Treat Premature Babies?” Digg, February 7, 2019

Kangaroo care, says Cleveland Clinic, is “a method of holding a baby that involves skin-to-skin contact.” The baby is placed upright inside the “pouch” of parent’s shirt and against their bare chest, much like the way a mother kangaroo carries her young.

The method originated in late 1970s Bogotá, Colombia, where “the death rate for premature infants was 70 percent.” Researchers discovered the babies “who were held close to their mothers’ bodies for large portions of the day not only survived, but thrived.”

Dirty Thursday

“Lucerne’s spectacular event starts on so-called ‘Dirty Thursday’ at 5am, and there’s little let up from then on in.”

Party like the Swiss at these eight spectacular carnivals,” The Local, February 21, 2017

Dirty Thursday, or Schmutzigen Donnerstag, refers to the Thursday before Ash Wednesday in some parts of Switzerland, and often kicks off Fasnacht, or carnival time, complete with parades of “costumed brass bands” playing “dissonant chords of marches and pop songs,” known in Swiss-German as Guggenmusik.

Baily’s beads

“Another point of interest is what’s called ‘Baily’s Beads,’ little twinkles that appear around the rim of the moon as the sun shines through craters and gets blocked by peaks.”

Charlie Wood, “Scientists need YOU to help make a solar eclipse movie,” Christian Science Monitor, February 21, 2017

Baily’s beads refer to “a row of bright spots observed” before and after a total solar eclipse, during which “the slender, unobscured crescent of the sun’s disk appears momentarily like a row of bright spots resembling a string of beads.” The term is named for English astronomer Francis Baily, who observed the phenomenon during an annular eclipse of the sun on May 15, 1836.

pink noise

“The pink noise is around 80 decibels, about equal to that of a dishwasher and completely safe.”

Philip E. Ross, “Mercedes’s Pink Noise Says: Prepare For Impact,” IEEE Spectrum, February 7, 2017

Pink noise is like white noise but lower — that is, with more low-frequency components. Mercedes-Benz is using pink noise as a precrash feature, says IEEE Spectrum. Now not only will you be protected with an automatically tightened seatbelt and airbags, your ears will be safeguarded against the deafening sounds of a crash by a burst of pink noise. That triggers the acoustic reflex, in which the stapedius muscle “contracts, bracing it, the bones of the inner ear, and the eardrum.”

18 Linguistic (And Literal) Animal Blends

2 Zonkeys

You may have heard of the pizzly, a cross between polar and grizzly bears. Normally, never the twain shall meet: polar bears are marine mammals, says the Washington Post, while grizzlies are landlubbers. However, the twain are meeting now as sea ice shrinks and the tundra expands.

Pizzlies (or grolars if you prefer) got us thinking about other animal mixes. Check out these 18 linguistic and literal beastly blends.

Tigon, liger

These tiger hybrids are perhaps the most well-known of unusual animal fusions. A tigon is a cross between a male tiger and a female lion while a liger is the product of a male lion and a female tiger. Slate warns that while crossbreeding two big cats may seem like a no-brainer, there are downsides. For instance, ligers can “suffer from unsustainable growth.” Often, as a result, “their hearts give out.”

The word tigon first appeared in English in the late 1920s, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The first tigon may have been shown in a touring British circus in the 19th century while one of the most famous early tigons was presented to the Zoological Gardens in Regent’s Park in 1924 or 1928. While the first ligers on record may be from 1824, the word didn’t appear in print until about 1938.

Leopon, jagulep

A leopon is the product of a leopard and a lion, and may have first been bred in the early 20th century. A jagulep is what you get when you cross a jaguar and leopard.

The leopard itself was originally thought to be a hybrid, specifically between a lion and a panther, says Online Etymology Dictionary. The word is from the late 13th century and comes from the Late Latin leopardus, literally “lion-panther.” The word jaguar is from about 1600 and is Portuguese in origin, ultimately coming from the Guarani jaguá, yaguar, “dog.”

Coydog, wolf dog, coywolf

While you won’t find any labradoodles or cockapoos here (check out our classic dog words post for those), you will find these coyote, wolf, and dog concoctions. The coydog isn’t a shy Fido but the result of a coyote and feral dog pairing. A wolf dog, while also a dog trained to hunt wolves, is the lovechild of a wolf and a dog. Finally, a coywolf is the output of a coyote-wolf union.

Wholphin

What do you get when you cross a female bottlenose dolphin and a male false killer whale? A wholphin of course.

The word wholphin is a medley of Old English and Greek parts. The word whale is from the ninth century and comes from the Old English hwæl. Dolphin is from the 14th century and ultimately comes from the Greek delphis, which is related to delphys, “womb,” possibly from the idea “of the animal bearing live young, or from its shape.”

Mule, hinny

A mule may not be exotic, but it is indeed an amalgam, in this case of a male donkey and female horse. Meanwhile, a hinny is a mix between a male horse and a female donkey.

While infertile, mules might be considered a result of hybrid vigor, also known as heterosis, in which “increased vigor or other superior qualities [arise] from the crossbreeding of genetically different plants or animals.” Mules are stronger than horses of similar size yet eat less, and have the endurance and independence of donkeys.

The word mule is from the 12th century and is Latin in origin. Hinny is from the 1680s and comes from the Greek innos, which has the same sense but is of unknown origin.

Zonkey, zorse, zebrinny

A zebra hybrid is known as a zebroid, a term attested to 1899, according to the OED: “The zebroid, or hybrid between the horse and the zebra, ‘will be the mule of the 20th century’.” Zebroids include the zonkey, a cross between a zebra and donkey; the zorse, the offspring of a female horse and male zebra; and the zebrinny, that of a male horse and female zebra. The term zebrinny was coined by one Professor E. C. Ewart. Like mules, zebroids are almost always infertile, says Slate, and sometimes experience dwarfism.

Dzo, zobo, yakalo

The dzo, zobo, and yakalo are, you guessed it, yaks crossed with, respectively, a domesticated cow, a zebu, and the American bison or buffalo.

The dzo is the sterile male while the dzomo is the fertile female. Like the mule, they’re a product of hybrid vigor, and are considered larger and stronger than other yak and cattle in the region. The words dzo, dzomo, zobo, and yak are Tibetan in origin. Yak, which comes from gyag, is thought to be imitative.

Geep

No, not that not that Jeep. A geep is a sheep-goat hybrid. Such successful matings are rare, says Modern Farmer, and “most resulting pregnancies are never carried to term.” Understandably, some experts are suspicious of those claiming to have a real-life geep on their hands. “There are lots of anecdotes floating around about these hybrids,” says a professor from UC Davis, “but there are very few legitimate documented cases.”

Cama

The cama is what you get when you cross two long-necked creatures. Size-wise, the infertile cama is between the camel and the llama, says Slate. It doesn’t have a hump but it does “seem to have a thicker bone structure than” a llama. Its coat is “long-haired and llama-y while the tail is more camelicious—which is also the name of a popular camel milk brand, FYI.”

For even more animal hybrids, check out this list.

Word Buzz Wednesday: pocket veto, gacha, cake culture

Lucy in the background

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a passive aggressive veto; gacha gaming; and don’t let them eat cake.

pocket veto

“Thomas said he did not know why the prior administration did not authorize the operation, but said the Obama administration had effectively exercised a ‘pocket veto’ over it.”

Spencer Ackerman, Jason Burke, and Julian Borger, “Eight-year-old American girl ‘killed in Yemen raid approved by Trump’,” The Guardian, February 1, 2017

According to History, Art & Archives, there are two kinds of presidential vetoes. With a regular veto, which is a “qualified negative veto,” the “President returns the unsigned legislation to the originating house of Congress” with a “veto message.” If Congress collects a two-thirds vote of each house, it can override this veto.

A pocket veto, however, can’t be overridden. It “becomes effective when the President fails to sign a bill after Congress has adjourned and is unable to override the veto.” The pocket veto is so called, says Online Etymology Dictionary, because the President retains the bill “figuratively, in his pocket.” The term originated around 1842 while the act itself was first used in 1812 by President James Madison.

orenda

Orenda (Huron) – the power of the human will to change the world in the face of powerful forces such as fate.”

David Robson, “The ‘untranslatable’ emotions you never knew you had,” BBC, January 26, 2017

The Huron language is also known as Wyandot or Wendat, an Iroquoian language. Iroquoian languages are a Native American language group spoken in the eastern U.S. and southeast Canada.

gacha

Gacha is the most prized of the dark arts that Japanese gamemakers have used to make their country the most lucrative mobile gaming market per user in the world.”

Yuji Nakamura, “Nintendo Plays with Fire,” Bloomberg Technology, February 2, 2017

Gacha, says Bloomberg Technology, is a technique in which players can download and play games for free but are lured “into spending money to unlock special in-game items.” Basically, the players are “asked to spend money without knowing what they’re buying ahead of time.” The word gacha (“not to be confused with ‘gotcha’”) is imitative in origin, coming from “the sound Japanese vending machines make when dispensing toy capsules, whose contents can’t be seen prior to a purchase.”

cake culture

“Could your office cake culture be a public health hazard?”

Laura Hughes, “Civil servants warned office ‘cake culture’ could be a ‘public health hazard,’” The Telegraph, January 30, 2017

According to The Telegraph, civil servants in the UK were warned recently that bringing sweets “into work for birthdays and celebrations” could be a “public health hazard.” (It might also lead to the ingestion of a $29,000 cake.)

otonamaki

Otonamaki, which literally means ‘adult wrapping,’ is a new form of therapy used by new mothers to relieve the stress of birth.”

Hannah Yi, “Japanese women are being swaddled in cloth as a form of stress therapy,” Quartz, February 8, 2017

Another stress relief fad in Japan is rui-katsu, public or communal crying. You can even hire handsome men to wipe away your tears.

Word Buzz Wednesday: lagom, inemuri, Harperite

Sleeping on the train

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, our roundup of the most interesting words we discovered this week. The latest: the idea of “just right,” the art of sleeping on the job, and a franchise queen.

lagom

“Unlike hygge, which aims to capture a feeling, lagom is an ethos of moderation.”

Madeleine Luckel, “Forget Hygge: 2017 Will Be All About Lagom,” Vogue, January 5, 2017

While hygge is the Danish concept of coziness, lagom is the Swedish idea of “not too much, not too little,” says Vogue. This Goldilocks mentality translates from Swedish as “enough, sufficient, adequate, just right.”

inemuri

Inemuri has been practiced in Japan for at least 1,000 years, and it is not restricted to the workplace. People may nap in department stores, cafes, restaurants or even a snug spot on a busy city sidewalk.”

Bryant Rousseau, “Napping in Public? In Japan, That’s a Sign of Diligence,” The New York Times, December 16, 2016

Inemuri translates from Japanese as “sleeping on duty” or “sleeping while present,” says the New York Times. This idea of sleeping on the job “captures Japan’s approach to time, where it’s seen as possible to do multiple things simultaneously, if at a lower intensity.”

Inemuri is most common among “senior employees in white-collar professions,” and while both men and women indulge in the practice, “women are more likely to be criticized for it,” especially if they nod off in an “unbecoming” position.

Bean an Ti

“In his remarks, he called her ‘Bean an Ti’, woman of the house, a term that means far more in the original Irish than it does in translation.”

Niall O’Dowd, “America’s greatest center of Irish culture is going from strength to strength,” Irish Central, January 27, 2017

Bean an Ti has also come to refer to “a landlady who takes in students who wish to learn Irish in a family setting.”

boots and suits

“He is building ‘boots-and-suits’ alliances between skinhead soldiers and politically minded racists such as William Johnson of the American Freedom Party, who nearly sashayed into the Republican National Convention as an official delegate, until a reporter sniffed him out.”

Luke O’Brien, “My Journey to the Center of the Alt-Right,” The Huffington Post, November 3, 2016

The term boots and suits has a few different applications. It might refer to the military and administrators working together. Military Economics: The Interaction of Power and Money notes that getting  the boots and suits — in this case, military, political, legal and humanitarian resources for UN’s peacekeeping efforts — “to work together can be a problem.”

It could refer to the service industry and the idea of a divide between blue collar (the boots) and white collar (the suits) workers. It also might mean a kind of style that’s “part of Texas politics” or iconic of the Beatles.

Harperite

“Because the women—who became known as ‘Harperites’—usually lacked the funds for the upfront costs, Harper loaned them the money to buy the franchise.”

Jaimie Seaton, “Martha Matilda Harper, the Greatest Businesswoman You’ve Never Heard Of,” Atlas Obscura, January 11, 2017

Harperite comes from the name Martha Matilda Harper, “a former servant girl from Canada,” says Atlas Obscura, who “created the American hair salon industry, designed the first reclining salon chair, and went on to establish retail franchising as we know it today.” These franchisees were dubbed Harperites, and while “Ray Kroc of McDonald’s is widely credited with being the father of American franchising,” Harper “beat him to it by 60 years.”

The Year of the Rooster words

Rooster

Get your firecrackers and red envelopes ready, the Lunar New Year is almost here!

As you may know,  the Chinese zodiac rotates on a 12-year cycle, with an animal representing each year. This time around it’s the hardworking and ostentatious rooster, which got us thinking about the origin of rooster words. Here’s a brief history of those terms that go cock-a-doodle-doo.

Cock versus rooster

The word cock, referring to an adult male chicken, is quite old, originating in the late ninth century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It comes from the Old English cocc, “male bird,” and is imitative in origin.

The more salacious meaning of cock arose (ahem) around 1618. Rooster, perhaps a euphemistic shortening of the older roost-cock, is from the 1770s. The OED describes the term as chiefly used in North America, Australia, and New Zealand, while the Online Etymology Dictionary says rooster became “favored in the U.S. originally as a puritan alternative to cock (n.) after it had acquired the secondary sense ‘penis.’”

Chanticleer

Another name for a rooster, chanticleer is a 14th-century term that started as proper name and comes from animal fables. Other such animal names include bruin for bear, grimalkin for cat, and Reynard for fox. Chanticleer comes from the French chanter, “to sing.”

Cockatrice

A cockatrice is mythic serpent that hatches from a cock’s egg, has “the power to kill by its glance,” and has characteristics of both a snake and a rooster. However, the word doesn’t come from the Old English cocc but the Latin calcāre, “to track.”

Cock-a-doodle-doo

This onomatopoetic word for a rooster cry is attested to 1573, says the OED. Other languages have their own versions. In French it’s cocorico; in German, kikeriki; and in Russian, kikareku. Check out this post for a list of cock-a-doodle-doos from around the world.

Cock-and-bull story

This useful phrase referring to “an absurd or highly improbable tale passed off as being true” might be allusion to Aesop’s fables, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, and their “incredible talking animals.”

Want more fowl words? Check out this list. Happy Year of the Rooster!

Word Buzz Wednesday: kompromat, tori-tetsu, smound

bacon

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: compromising material, Japanese trainspotting, food that sounds delicious.

kompromat

“‘The Kremlin does not have ‘kompromat’ on Trump.’ That was how Russia rejected claims that it has compromising personal and financial information about US President-elect Donald Trump.”

Bryony Jones and Eliza Mackintosh, “What is Kompromat?” CNN, January 12, 2017

Kompromat translates from Russian as “compromising material.” The practice of gathering kompromat, says CNN, “is a well-known tactic in Russia.” To understand it, says Igor Sutyagin, senior research fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute, “you must first understand Russia’s political culture,” and that it’s  “standard for Russian politicians to gather kompromat on all members of their inner circle,” and even “a matter of survival.”

heckler’s veto

“Snyder, with the First Amendment Coalition, said that what happened at UC Davis on Friday may have been what’s called ‘the heckler’s veto.’”

Sammy Caiola, Hudson Sangree, Christopher Cadelago, “UC Davis embroiled in another free-speech controversy,” The Sacramento Bee, January 14, 2017

Heckler’s veto refers to “a controversial legal position taken by law enforcement officers based on an alleged right to restrict freedom of speech where such expression may create disorder or provoke violence.”

In this case, according to The Sacramento Bee, speeches by Milo Yiannopoulos, editor of the right-wing Breitbart News, and Martin Shkreli, best known for “raising the price of the lifesaving drug Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent,” were canceled due to the perceived danger from the 150 protesters who had gathered, although “no weapons of any kind were confiscated.”

wet foot, dry foot

“‘Wet foot, dry foot’ allowed only those Cubans who made it to U.S. soil to stay. Those caught at sea were to be turned away.”

Adrian Florido, “End Of ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot’ Means Cubans Can Join Ranks Of Undocumented,” NPR, January 15, 2017

In 1995, President Bill Clinton put in place the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, a revision of “a more liberal immigration policy,” says ABC, which allowed “Cubans caught at sea trying to make their way to the United States … into the country” and “to become legal residents after a year.” This was because the U.S. didn’t want to “send people back to the communist island then run by Fidel Castro, and the Cuban government also generally refused to accept repatriated citizens.” The “wet foot, dry foot” policy only allowed those who actually made it to dry land to stay while those caught on water were turned away.

tori-tetsu

“Then there are tori-tetsu like Muneki Watanabe and Katsuhiko Orido, 43 and 49, respectively, who spend many of their weekends taking photos of various trains.”

Anna Fifield, “Japan’s trains are in a league of their own. Japan’s subculture of train fanatics is no different,” The Washington Post, January 6, 2017

Tori-tetsu are train hobbyists and translates from Japanese as “take train.” In addition to tori-tetsu, says The Washington Post, are nori-tetsu, those who enjoy traveling on trains; oto-tetsu, those who record train sounds; eki-tetsu, those into studying about stations; and our favorite, ekiben-tetsu, “aficionados of the exquisite bento lunchboxes sold at stations.”

smound

“What you hear can change the way your cells process odors. The noise in your environment or in your mouth can impact the scents you perceive. Some members of the media dubbed this connection ‘smound.’”

Molly Birnbaum, “Taste with Your Ears,” Cook’s Science, December 19, 2016

Smound is a blend of “smell” and “sound.” Daniel Wesson, a professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University, tells Cook’s Science that when “you’re eating food, you’re not just tasting.” You’re smelling, “feeling the texture,” and hearing the food, and that it all comes together “to give you the unique perception you know as that food.”

Word Buzz Wednesday: nduja, democracy sausage, Ge You slouch

egg breakfast tacos with nduja, avocado, jalapeño salsa

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a delicious sausage paste; a sausage word of the year; slouching into January.

raggare

“Going to a raggare meet feels like stepping out of a time machine. Attendees sporting slicked-back hair and leather jackets roll up in vintage hot rods, ready to spend the day drinking beer from the can and listening to Elvis Presley.”

Michele Debczak, “The Swedish Subculture Keeping 1950s America Alive,” Mental Floss, December 19, 2016

Grease meets ABBA in raggare, a Scandinavian subculture that originated in the 1950s as a form of rebellion, says Mental Floss, and has persisted ever since. The word raggare comes from the Swedish raga, “to pick up girls.”

nduja

“When chef Francesco Mazzei put nduja on the menu in London back in 2006, he had to add a note explaining what it was: a spicy, spreadable sausage from his native Calabria in southern Italy.”

Richard Vines, “What Is Nduja and Why Is It Suddenly on Every Menu?” Bloomberg, December 13, 2016

Nduja, in addition to sounding delicious, is pronounced in-DOOJ-ah, says Bloomberg. The sausage spread originated in the Vibo Valentia province and is made with pork fat, herbs and spices, and “spicy Calabrian peppers, which give nduja chili heat and a distinctive red color.”

white gold

“Mining companies have for years been extracting billions of dollars of lithium from the Atacama region in Chile, and now firms are flocking to the neighboring Atacama lands in Argentina to hunt for the mineral known as ‘white gold.’”

Todd C. Frankel, Peter Whoriskey, “Tossed Aside in the ‘White Gold’ Rush,” The Washington Post, December 19, 2016

White gold is another name for lithium, a metal that’s “essential for the lithium-ion batteries that power smartphones, laptops and electric vehicles,” says The Washington Post. The ubiquity of these products “has prompted a land rush” in the ancestral lands of the indigenous Atacamas people of Chile.

democracy sausage

“The all-important democracy sausage is a staple at polling booths across the nation on election day.”

Alkira Reinfrank, “Democracy sausage snags Word of the Year as smashed avo, shoey lose out,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), December 14, 2016

Australia’s selection for 2016 word of the year, democracy sausage, first came into circulation in 2012, says ABC, “but rose to prominence during this year’s federal election.” One candidate noted his sausage sandwich (otherwise known as a sausage sanga and a snag) was “the taste of democracy,” then promptly ate said sandwich incorrectly.

Ge You slouch

“Chinese netizens coined the phrase ‘The Ge You slouch’ to describe a state of idleness which they called ‘living without hope.’”

Zheping Huang, Echo Huang, “The memes that took over China’s internet in 2016 speak to the country’s power and fragility,” Quartz, December 21, 2016

The Ge You slouch, which pretty much sums up January for us, is named for veteran actor Ge You, says Quartz, who once guest starred on a 1990s sitcom as a slouchy, freeloading scam artist.