Word Buzz Wednesday: snap election, Diaosi, hundslappadrifa

Vík í Mýrdal

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a snap decision, election style; losers winning in China; saving the Icelandic language in the digital age.

snap election

“Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain is calling for a snap election on June 8, breaking a promise not to seek a vote before 2020.”

Russell Goldman, “Key Points About a Snap Election in Britain,” The New York Times, April 18, 2017

Before 2011, says The New York Times, prime ministers in Great Britain could call an election whenever they liked. Then a law was passed scheduling a general election every five years but with two exceptions: if Parliament members “lose confidence in the government, or if two-thirds of the members agree, a ‘snap’ election can be held.”


“Online, types give way and Diaosi is an identification made by those who earn comfortably middle-class salaries, have mortgages and university degrees, to others who work long hours in factories for little pay, having almost no disposable income.”

Graham Candy, “Winning and Losing in Modern China,” Peeps Magazine

The Chinese term Diaosi, which translates as “loser,” originated in 2012, and was originally used to insult others online, says Peeps Magazine. However, a year later, it was estimated that over 500 million Chinese self-identified as such.

While various sources define Diaosi in various ways, they agree on three features: the majority are men born in the 1980s, play online games, and don’t see themselves as Gao Fu Shuai, those who are “tall, rich, and handsome.”


“Ertugrul flips through the book and points to hemdem. ‘Do you have any word in English that means close friend?’”

Alexandra Locke, “The Turkish Shop Reviving Forgotten Words,” OZY, April 21, 2017

Hemdem means more than “a close friend,” says OZY. It means “sharing the same air,” a friend so close “that you’re sharing the same air in your past.”


“As we announce this landmark musical, I keep thinking about the Japanese term gaman, a word that means enduring the unbearable with dignity and strength.”

Jessica Gelt, “The George Takei musical ‘Allegiance’ is coming to L.A.,” The Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2017

Another untranslatable that comes from an Asian language is han, a Korean term that “denotes a collective feeling of oppression and isolation in the face of overwhelming odds,” and “aspects of lament and unavenged injustice.”


“The people of Iceland, a rugged North Atlantic island settled by Norsemen about 1,100 years ago, have a unique dialect of Old Norse that has adapted to life at the edge of the Arctic. Hundslappadrifa, for example, means ‘heavy snowfall with large flakes occurring in calm wind.’”

Egill Bjarnason,“ Icelandic language at risk; robots, computers can’t grasp it,” The Associated Press, April 22, 2017

The Associated Press says Icelandic “ranks among the weakest and least-supported language in terms of digital technology – along with Irish Gaelic, Latvian, Maltese and Lithuanian.” One billion Icelandic krona, or $8.8 million, “is needed for seed funding for an open-access database to help tech developers adapt Icelandic as a language option.”

Word Buzz Wednesday: reaccommodate, pingo, maximalism

model interior

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a possible euphemism of the year; a cute name for a dangerous phenomenon; more is more.


“There is something to be said for the fact that the context in which reaccommodate was used was air travel, a realm plagued by stilted euphemisms from the lavatory to the full, upright and locked middle seat.”

Katy Steinmetz, “United Airlines ‘Reaccommodated’ a Passenger. Is That the Euphemism of the Year?” TIME, April 11, 2017

Reaccommodate in this context refers to the forcible removal of passenger David Dao from an overbooked United Airlines flight. Past euphemisms of the year from the American Dialect Society include locker-room banter for “lewd, vulgar talk”; EIT, or “enhanced interrogation technique,” itself a euphemism for torture; and least untruthful, “involving the smallest necessary lie.”


“Despite the huge power of the MOAB, it is a smart bomb with wings and grid fins for guidance, and usually explodes mere feet from the ground.”

Anna Cummins, “5 things to know about the MOAB,” CNN, April 24, 2017

MOAB refers to GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, as well as, more commonly, the “mother of all bombs,” and was recently dropped by U.S. forces on Afghanistan. This thermobaric bomb (it generates both heat and pressure) is not the largest of its kind. Russia claims to have developed one four times larger than the MOAB, says CNN, aptly called FOAB, the father of all bombs.


“Don’t be fooled by its cute name—pingos can do some serious damage.”

Cara Giaimo, “Siberia Has Installed Its First ‘Exploding Pingo Detector,’” Atlas Obscura, April 11, 2017

Pingos are “common in Arctic permafrost,” says Atlas Obscura, and look like small hills (the term comes from an Inuit word meaning “small hill”). However, underneath they’re “full of ice, water, and, increasingly, methane gas, which bubbles up from underground vents.” They can “even explode,” resulting huge craters.


“Appealing to impulses, as maximalism does, could also be interpreted as a consumerist strategy to get more people to buy more design.”

Diana Budds, “Minimalism Is Dead. Hello Maximalism,” FastCo Design, April 14, 2017

Maximalism is a reaction against minimalism (think “less is a bore”). Signs of maximalism might include a multitude of colors, objects, and patterns, and a lack of white space.

shaku maku

“The riddle at the heart of shaku maku seems to sum up the contradictions of the modern Iraqi experience.”

Rob Kunzig, “The Iraqi Version of ‘What’s Up?’ Is an Existential Riddle,” Atlas Obscura, April 14, 2017

Shaku maku is a greeting used in Iraq but also more than a greeting. Roughly translated, says Atlas Obscura, it means, “What is everything and nothing?” One Iraqi expatriate says the phrase “might show the confused and curious Iraqi personality,” and “that we care about everything that happened with the other, but also it shows we don’t know anything specific.”

Word Buzz Wednesday: nuclear option, Dutch Harbor pigeons, mizu

Photo via The California Sunday Magazine

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: going nuclear, a dignified scavenger, a kind of blue.

nuclear option

“In deploying this so-called nuclear option, lawmakers are fundamentally altering the way the Senate handles one of its most significant duties, further limiting the minority’s power in a chamber that was designed to be a slower and more deliberative body than the House.”

Matt Flegenheimer, “Senate Republicans Deploy ‘Nuclear Option’ to Clear Path for Gorsuch,” The New York Times, April 6, 2017

The nuclear option refers to “a parliamentary procedure that allows the U.S. Senate to override a rule or precedent by a simple majority of 51 votes, instead of by a supermajority of 60 votes.” The term is apparently an analogy to the extreme option of nuclear weapons in warfare.

Dutch Harbor pigeons

“People in town call them Dutch Harbor pigeons. The rest of us call them bald eagles.”

Laurel Braitman, “Dirty Birds: What it’s like to live with a national symbol,” The California Sunday Magazine, March 30, 2017

While to many, the bald eagle is a symbol of courage, freedom, and dignity, to the 4,700 permanent residents of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, says The California Sunday Magazine, they’re rats with wings. The estimated 500 to 800 scavengers swarm at boats looking for scraps of bait, hang out at the dump, and dive bomb unsuspecting Coast Guard members and teenage boys with pizza.

Fermi paradox

“[The Fermi paradox is] an ‘interesting, fascinating paradox,’ Greg Laughlin, the Yale astronomer and astrophysicist, told us in his Ingenious interview. ‘There’s no good answer to why we don’t see manifestations of intelligence throughout the universe.’”

Brian Gallagher, “What Donald Trump Teaches Us About the Fermi Paradox,” Nautilus, March 31, 2017

The Fermi paradox is supposedly named for physicist Enrico Fermi and says that:

we should see intelligent aliens here if they exist anywhere, because they would inevitably colonize the Galaxy by star travel—and since we don’t see any obvious signs of aliens here, searching for their signals is pointless.

However, Scientific American (SA) says Fermi never made such a claim. Rather, the idea came from astronomer Michael Hart who said that if smart aliens “existed anywhere, they would be here,” and since they aren’t, “humans are probably the only intelligent life in our galaxy.” SA also says the Fermi paradox isn’t a paradox at all because:

there is no logical contradiction between the statement ‘E.T. might exist elsewhere’ and the statement “E.T. is not here” because nobody knows that travel between the stars is possible in the first place.


“The dignified but somewhat aloof word ‘junbungaku’ is an expression apparently peculiar to Japan. It refers to a type of literature pursued purely for its artistic quality.”

Kanta Ishida and Yomiuri Shimbun, “Glimpse into world of a precocious literary genius,” The Japan News, April 10, 2017

Junbungaku is basically the Japanese equivalent of belles-lettres, “literature regarded for its aesthetic value rather than its didactic or informative content.”


“English speakers have ‘light blue,’ sure. But ‘mizu’ is its own color, not merely a shade of another.”

Stacey Leasca, “There Is No Word In The English Language For This Gorgeous Color,” GOOD, March 31, 2017

What English speakers might call “baby blue” is called mizu in Japanese. Mizu translates as “water” and is “as different from ‘blue’ as ‘green’ is from ‘blue,’” says GOOD, and is “similar to how people in the United States use ‘magenta,’ rather than ‘purplish-red.’”

Word Buzz Wednesday: asperitas, rooftoppers, uppgivenhetssyndrom

Undulatus asperatus

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a chaotic cloud formation, skyscraper-scaling photographers, an unusual ― and devastating ― syndrome.


“Nearly 10 years after they floated the idea, the society’s efforts paid off: the WMO has added the asperitas to the updated International Cloud Atlas.”

Lila MacLellan, “Amateur cloud-spotters lobbied to add this beautiful new cloud to the International Cloud Atlas,” Quartz, March 25, 2017

The asperitas (Latin for “roughness”) is a “weird turbulent wave cloud” first noted by amateur cloud enthusiasts in 2006, says Quartz. It looked like, says Gavin Pretor-Pinney, president of the Cloud Appreciation Society, “you were beneath the surface of the sea on a really choppy, rough day when the sea surface is being churned about,” similar to the undulatus cloud formation but “more intense, more chaotic.”

Other cloud names that sound like Harry Potter spells include the flumen, “a kind of sidekick to a larger cloud”; the cataractagenitus, which gathers over a large waterfall; silvagenitus, “fed by trees in periods of high humidity”; flammagenitus, made by fire; homogenitus, human-made, such as condensation clouds created “by human activity”; and volutus, a roll cloud.


“That text accompanies the above Instagram post from user cocoanext—one of a ballsy group of Shanghai-based ‘rooftopper’ photographers.”

Diane Hope, “Shanghai’s Daring ‘Rooftoppers’ Are Taking Urban Exploration to New Heights,” Atlas Obscura, March 24, 2017

Rooftoppers are photographers who go to knee-knocking heights to get amazing shots. The term roof topping may have first been used in the “2005 urban exploration manual Access All Areas,” referring to “accessing rooftops and other high vantage points of metropolises around the world,” and which gained popularity  “around 2011 with the ascent of social media platforms, particularly Instagram.”

Schumer box

“In the past decade, there’s been a lot of different legislation and standardization with credit cards to make them more transparent. One of those is what’s called a Schumer box.”

Nathan Hamilton, “These 3 Words May Change How You Use Credit Cards,” The Motley Fool, March 24, 2017

The Schumer box is a “table that appears in credit card agreements showing basic information about the card’s rates and fees.” The box is named for New York Senator Charles Schumer who, as a congressman, was involved in the 1988 Truth in Lending Act, which created the Schumer box.


“Centuries ago in France, peasants would bake what’s called a miche — a 20-kilo, circular loaf of naturally leavened bread that was both cheap and long lasting.”

Elena Kadvany, “Knead to bake,” Palo Alto Online, March 23, 2017

The French miche ultimately comes from the Latin micca, “small loaf,” says the Oxford English Dictionary. Mitch is the obsolete English form of miche also referring to a small loaf of bread.


“Georgi was given a diagnosis of uppgivenhetssyndrom, or resignation syndrome, an illness that is said to exist only in Sweden, and only among refugees.”

Rachel Aviv, “The Trauma of Facing Deportation,” The New Yorker, April 3, 2017

Those suffering from uppgivenhetssyndrom, says The New Yorker, “have no underlying physical or neurological disease, but they seem to have lost the will to live.” De apatiska, or the apathetic, is another name for them. A typical patient is “totally passive, immobile, lacks tonus, withdrawn, mute, unable to eat and drink, incontinent and not reacting to physical stimuli or pain.”

Resignation syndrome may be related to the concept of a “sense of coherence,” as coined by Israeli sociologist Aaron Antonovsky, who says that mental well-being “depends on one’s belief that life is orderly, comprehensible, structured, and predictable.” The most effective treatment for uppgivenhetssyndrom, says the Swedish Board of Health and Welfare, is a permanent residency permit for the patient and their family.

Word Buzz Wednesday: da kine, brick rustling, Kalsarikännit


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: an all-purpose word from Hawaii; stealing beauty; a Scandinavian untranslatable.

da kine

“Hawaii’s ‘da kine’ is not only an all-purpose noun, capable of standing in for objects, events, and people: it’s also a verb, an adjective, an adverb, and a symbol of Hawaiian people and the unique way they speak.”

Dan Nosowitz, “‘Da Kine,’ Hawaii’s Fantastically Flexible All-Purpose Noun,” Atlas Obscura, March 2, 2017

Da kine, says Atlas Obscura, comes from Hawaiian Pidgin, which, despite its name, is not a pidgin language but a creole, which, unlike pidgin, is spoken as a first or native language.

The phrase da kine comes from the English “the kind,” as in “kind of” or “type of.” It’s often used to mean something like “whatchamacallit” but with the added understanding that the listener knows you well enough to know what you mean.

It may also have negative connotations. For example, “She’s so da kine,” could mean, in the right context, “She’s mean” or “She talks too much.” It can also act as a stand-in for something the speaker doesn’t want to say: “Don’t get sloppy with me, before I da kine you.”

big night

“When weather is warm and wet, as it has been recently and is in the forecasts for next week, hundreds to thousands of the animals migrate at once, in what’s called a ‘big night.’”

Joanna Klein, “Spring Amphibians, on the Move, Could Use Some Crossing Guards,” The New York Times, March 3, 2017

More than 300 volunteers in Hudson Valley are helping amphibians on their big night. According to New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, the volunteers will document where migrations cross roads; identify and count the migrating salamanders, frogs, and toads (which could be as many as 8,500); and help them safely cross roads.


Kalettes overtook broccolini in 2016 to become the Frankenfood enemy of every child who won’t eat greens.”

Callan Boys, “A field dictionary for dining out in 2017,” Good Food, March 9, 2017

Kalettes are a cross between kale and Brussel sprouts. This portmanteau of a vegetable is also known as BrusselKale, Lollipop Kale, and Flower Sprout.

brick rustling

“Alas, today, criminals indulging in what’s known as ‘brick rustling’ steal and sell bricks freed by demolitions.”

Harry Levins, “Book collects ‘hidden’ history of downtown St. Louis,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 10, 2017

In 1821, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a third of the houses in St. Louis were made of brick. By 1875, that number had risen to 90 percent, presumably due to an ordinance that was passed after an 1849 fire devastated much of the city. According to The New York Times, the ordinance required “all new buildings to be made of noncombustible material.” Namely: brick.

In recent years, fires have been deliberately set to vacant buildings in the city, with brick thieves “often to blame, deliberately torching buildings to quicken their harvest of St. Louis brick, prized by developers throughout the South for its distinctive character.”


“A Finnish term for drinking by yourself at home in your underwear with no intention of going out: truly, the definition of YOLO.”

Morwenna Ferrier, “Fancy a beer outside? There’s a Scandi word for that – and so much else,” The Guardian, March 10, 2017

Other useful “Scandi” or Scandinavian words include the Finnish sisu, strength, determination, guts; the Norwegian drittsekk, a jerk or dirtbag; and curla, a Swedish term for “making life unrealistically easy for your children.”

[Image via Just Beer]

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.”

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 (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 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, 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.