The Rime of a Romantic Poet: 10 Words Coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on this day in 1772.

A leader of the British Romantic movement, Coleridge’s most famous poems include “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” which originated the idea of an albatross as a burden or obstacle; “Kubla Khan,” which popularized Xanadu meaning a magnificent and luxurious place (and inspired a terrible Olivia Newton-John movie); and “Christabel,” which some critics call a vampire story.

Coleridge was also fond of creating new words, many of which we still use today. Here are 10 of our favorites.


“To make our Feelings, with their vital warmth, actualize our Reason.”

The Friend,” The works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: prose and verse, 1809

Corporate executives can thank poet Coleridge for verbifying the adjective actual. The psychology term self-actualization, or the realization of oneself, is from 1939, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).


“In any given perception there is a something which has been communicated to it [the mind] by an impact, or an impression ab extra.”

Biographia Literaria; Or, Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions, 1817

The earliest sense of impact is from about 1601, says the OED, with the meaning “to press closely into or in something.” In 1781, it also came to refer to the act of one body colliding into another. Coleridge’s figurative sense, “the effect or impression of one thing on another,” is from 1817.


“But the will itself by confining and intensifying the attention may arbitrarily give vividness or distinctness to any object whatsoever.”

Biographia Literaria,” Works: Prose and Verse Complete, 1817

Coleridge includes an explanation slash apology for his neologism:

I am aware that this word occurs neither in Johnson’s Dictionary, nor in any classical writer. But the word ‘to intend,’ which Newton and others before him employ in this sense, is now so completely appropriated to another meaning, that I could not use it without ambiguity.

As so he created his own word, as one should.


“What is the whole system from Philo to Plotinus, and thence to Proclus inclusively, but one fanciful process of hypostasizing logical conceptions and generic terms? In Proclus it is Logolatry run mad.”

Coleridge’s Literary Remains, Vol. 4, 1834

This word that means “a blind regard for words or verbal truthfulness” should definitely be used more often (especially during this election season). Logolatry combines the Greek logos, “word,” and latreia, “worship.”


“Of course, I am glad to be able to correct my fears as far as public Balls, Concerts, and Time-murder in Narcissism.”

Letter, 1822

Coleridge’s sense of narcissism is “excessive love or admiration of oneself,” and is based on the Greek myth of Narcissus, a beautiful young man who falls in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, only to drown in that same pool. The flower that grows in his place is named for him.

Narcissism as a psychology term — “characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem” — originated in 1905 from the German Narzissismus, which was coined in 1899 by by German psychiatrist Paul Näcke.


“Why, ’tis almost as bad as Lovell’s ‘Farmhouse,’ and that would be at least a thousand fathoms deep in the dead sea of pessimism.”

The Complete Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Poetry, Plays, Literary Essays, Autobiography and Letters, 1794

Coleridge’s use of pessimism is borrowed from the French pessimisme, which comes from the Latin pessimus, “the worst.” Pessimism is modeled on optimism, which is from 1759.


“In every religious and moral use of the word, God, taken absolutely, that is, not as a God, or the God, but as God, a relativity, a distinction in kind ab omni quod non est Deus.”

Notes on Waterland’s Vindication of Christ’s Divinity,” Complete Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1834

The physics use of relativity arose in 1858, not long after Coleridge’s. Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity was published in 1905, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, and his general theory of relativity in 1915.


“Ant tribes, with their commonwealth and confederacies, their warriors and miners, the husband-folk, that fold in their tiny flocks on the honeyed leaf, and the virgin sisters with the holy Instincts of Maternal Love, detached and in selfless purity.”

Moral and Religious Aphorisms,” The Complete Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1825

Almost 200 years older than selfless is selfish, which combines self and the Old English suffix -ish. The word selfish was apparently coined by Presbyterians.


“In order not to be miserable, you must have a Soul-mate as well as a House or a Yoke-mate.”

Letters, Conversations, and Recollections of S.T. Coleridge, 1822

Wise words, S.T. While Coleridge coined this term in an 1822 letter to an unidentified “young lady,” the use of soulmate didn’t take off until the 1980s, although it’s not clear why. Perhaps it was due to a 1980 edition of Carl Jung’s The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious which mentions man having a soul-mate “somewhere in the upper world.” Another possibility is the 1980s expansion of the New Age movement. Or maybe it was all those romcoms.

Coleridge might have coined the term in light of his own unhappy marriage. When the woman he actually loved became engaged, he married another and spent much of the marriage away from his probably equally unhappy wife.

suspension of disbelief

“A semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.”

Biographia Literaria; Or, Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions, 1817

The term suspension of disbelief refers to an audience’s “voluntary withholding of scepticism,” says the OED, “with regard to incredible characters and events.” In other words, sure there’s no such thing as zombies, but Walking Dead fans are willing to suspend their disbelief to have their pants scared off them.

Word Buzz Wednesday: hypnopaedia, phubbing, pubco

cell phone zombies-1215

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: sleeping while learning; snubbing while phoning; pubbing while corporate.


“The work, published in Ecology and Evolution, suggests that this tropical warbler had undergone speciation in reverse, or despeciation.”

Janet Fant, “Malagasy Songbird Is Rare Instance Of Evolution Working ‘Backwards,’” IFL Science, October 8, 2015

Despeciation is the “rare instance where multiple species [have] merged back into one,” and occurs “under certain circumstances, such as human alteration of habitat.” It’s thought that the ancestors of the tetraka, a songbird from Madagascar, “became separate species when the climate was drier, and then came back together when the forests linked up again.”

More common than despeciation is speciation, the “evolutionary formation of new biological species, usually by the division of a single species into two or more genetically distinct ones.”

Dyson sphere

“The idea of a Dyson sphere began as a thought experiment, based on the idea that technological civilisations gradually look to harness more energy.”

Andrew Griffin, “‘Giant alien megastructure found in space': What is a Dyson sphere, and what else could we have found?” The Independent, October 15, 2015

A Dyson sphere is “a huge shell structure that would sit entirely round a star, collecting all of the energy that comes out of it,” and is named for Freeman Dyson, “a theoretical physicist who popularised the idea but has said that he wished it didn’t have his name.”

Scientists have recently spotted what some say might be “alien megastructures” around a star, but which might merely be a huge cloud of space dust.


“Scientific consensus soon concluded that the sleeping brain was incapable of absorbing outside information, and hypnopaedia was consigned to the realm of quackery.”

Kenneth Miller, “Night school,” Aeon, October 2, 2015

Hypnopaedia is learning or teaching while sleeping. The idea has gone back “at least to biblical times,” says Aeon, but the term seems to have been coined by Aldous Huxley in his 1932 novel, Brave New World: “The principle of sleep-teaching, or hypnopædia, had been discovered.” The word combines the Greek hypnos, “sleep,” and paideia, “education, child-rearing.”

Aeon also says that hypnopaedia was all the rage about 100 years ago, “ending only after neuroscientists determined it was physiologically impossible.” But now research has suggested that hypnopaedia may have some validity after all.


“The team developed the ‘Partner Phubbing Scale,’ which they believe is significant for demonstrating that phubbing is ‘conceptually and empirically different’ from attitude toward cellphones, partner’s phone use, phone conflict and phone addiction.”

Katrina Pascual, “What Is ‘Phubbing’? Here’s How This Cellphone Habit Can Ruin Your Relationship,” Tech Times, October 3, 2015

Phubbing is the act of ignoring someone in favor of perusing one’s mobile device — in other words, snubbing by phone. The term was coined in 2012 by an ad agency with the purpose of marketing the Macquarie Dictionary of Australia.

Phubbing has resurfaced recently due to a study from the Hankamer School of Business of Baylor University, which found that phubbing may damage romantic relationships and increase depression.


“Though British pubcos tend to assume names suggestive of either boozy bonhomie (Punch Taverns, Faucet Inns) or basic vigour and drive (Enterprise Inns, Admiral Taverns) they are as a rule cheerless, lumbering concerns.”

Tom Lamont, “The death and life of the great British pub,” The Guardian, October 13, 2015

Pubcos are large pub-owning companies that came into dominance in the 1990s. The term plays off telco, a large telephone company, which originated in the late 1970s.

How to Celebrate Dictionary Day


American English didn’t always have its own dictionary. At first the reference books were imported from England, says the Daniel Boone Regional Library, and when the first dictionary that included “new words, peculiar to the United States” was published in 1800, linguists panned it, considering American English “barbarous.”

Yet one American named Noah Webster was determined “to produce American standards of good usage,” and in 1806, he published his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. The next edition, An American Dictionary of the English Language, took a little while to complete: 26 years to be exact.

To honor what’s considered the first major American English dictionary and the man behind it, lexicographers and word lovers celebrate Dictionary Day every October 16, which also happens to be Webster’s birthday.

There are myriad word-nerdy ways to kick up your linguistic heels. As our founder Erin McKean jokingly suggests, you can place your dictionary stand (everyone has one, right?) “by the hearthstone,” hoping that Noah himself magically comes down the chimney and leaves you “a shiny new dictionary” (the Assistance League of Los Gatos-Saratoga in California did just that for underprivileged kids, only without the hearthstones).

You can also make like Mr. Verb and fete a favorite tome such as the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE). If food and words pique your appetite, you can follow suit with Feast and Phrase who will be “exploring food in the world of words” and making delicious “gastrolexical discoveries.”

Like Hugo of Helsinki you might take the day to update your “New to me” word list, or like teacher Michelle Jewett go out of your way to partake in education. For Michaela Lee, Dictionary Day will be all fun and games, and for Brian Krisch a day of doodling. Meanwhile, Non Talbot Wels is going to be, as always, “standing up to censorious twits.” Rock on.

Also consider a Dictionary Day-Halloween mash up like lexicographer Toma Tasovac who apparently will be “dressing up as Samuel Johnson and randomly accosting senior citizens for looking up naughty words” (pictures, Toma, or it didn’t happen), although we’re sure the Strong Language blog would be there to defend those raunchy retirees.

(Ir)regardless, you’ll want to heed Baltimore Sun editor John McIntyre and learn a thing or two about the differences between different dictionaries (in other words, there’s no such thing as THE DICTIONARY), what dictionary compilers actually do (they’re “not bouncers but custodians”), and while you’re at it, take your favorite lexicographer out to lunch (please, though, no alphabet soup).

If you’re a total Noah Webster-fan person, you can visit his birthplace and childhood home in West Hartford, Connecticut, where, by the way, the original copy of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary with notations by Webster is currently on display (cue lexiphilic heads exploding everywhere).

But, as Erin suggests, Dictionary Day isn’t necessarily about celebrating the physical book itself but the words inside, regardless of the container. So you might want to revel in your favorite word by tweeting it over at HaggardHawks Words all month! (Why not consider giving it a home for a whole year?)

How will you be celebrating Dictionary Day?

Word Buzz Wednesday: becomer, fuerdai, shoaling

Cyclists waiting at Traffic lights

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: a fake generation; a rich one; and how not to be like a fish on a bicycle.


“The New York Times reported that the Disney-owned cable channel will undergo a radical rebrand in January, with a new name (Freeform) and a new target audience (‘becomers,’ or the generation below their former target, millennials).”

Vinnie Mancuso, “Oh, Golly! ABC Family to Rebrand as ‘Freeform,’ Will Stop ‘Chasing Millennials,’” Observer, October 6, 2015

The term becomers was coined by ABC Family execs to refer to “youths and young adults in the 12-34 age range,” which as the Observer points out, “is basically still millennials” (emphasis theirs). Millennials are generally defined as people born between 1980 and 1995. ABC Family, now Freeform, does note that becomers are not so much a generation “as a life stage.”


“As a dowser, she uses tools as simple as a stick to determine where to place a well.”

Lois Parshley, “Climate of doubt,” Aeon, October 5, 2015

A dowser is someone who uses a divining rod to try and find underground water or minerals. The origin of the word dowse, which also means to plunge into water, is unknown. The Online Etymology Dictionary says it’s from the 1690s and is a “south England dialect word, of uncertain origin.”


“As portrayed in the local press, fuerdai are to China what Paris Hilton was to the U.S. a decade ago, only less tasteful.”

Christopher Beam, “Children of the Yuan Percent: Everyone Hates China’s Rich Kids,” Bloomberg, September 30, 2015

Fuerdai translates from Chinese as “second-generation rich,” and are viewed as pampered and spoiled, in stark contrast with the first generation of Chinese entrepreneurs, who grew up during the Cultural Revolution. “[Fuerdai] know only how to show off their wealth,” claims an article from a Chinese government body, “but don’t know how to create wealth.”

Some fuerdai are trying to rebrand their image, says Bloomberg, having dropped fu, “wealthy,”and calling themselves chuangerdai, “second-generation entrepreneurs,” or simply erdai, “second generation.”


Shoaling is the byproduct of the increasing popularity of cycling, an ostensible net positive that longtime riders nevertheless seem to secretly resent.”

Lauren Evans, “What Is Shoaling And Should Cyclists Stop Doing It?” Gothamist, October 6, 2015

Shoaling is the act of swerving around other cyclists at a red light “to get to the head of the pack,” says Gothamist, rather than waiting behind them, with the idea that one is faster than the other cyclists and will need to pass them eventually anyway.

This cycling term is based on shoal meaning a school of fish, says NPR. The word shoal might come from the Old English scolu, “band, troop, crowd of fish,” or the Middle Dutch schole, “multitude, flock.”


“Katrina had a gentrifying effect on a lot of the city. First came the YURPS, or Young Urban Rebuilding Professionals.”

Sean Cole, “Lower 9 + 10,” This American Life, August 28, 2015

YURP plays off yuppie, “young urban professional,” which originated in the early 1980s, and beat out in popularity similar terms such as yumpie, “young upward-mobile professional,” and yap, “young aspiring professional.”

And now a Word of the Day from our sponsor


Our Kickstarter campaign is winding down, and you might have heard: we met our goal! (Thank you once again to our wonderful backers.)

We still have a few days left and have added a stretch goal to develop a “show the word love” page, a place where we can highlight your most-loved words. One of the ways you can help us meet that goal is by sponsoring Words of the Day for a whole week.

How we pick WOTDs

Selecting Wordnik’s words of the day — or WOTDs, in word nerd vernacular — is definitely one of the most fun parts of keeping our online dictionary going. You might have noticed that the words we pick tend to be more unusual. This is because we’re a sucker for words that make us go, “Hmmm!” whether it’s onomatopoeia like ree-raw, a giggle-inducer like buttocker, or an old favorite like petrichor.

Sometimes we also select words for holidays, like fancy-sick for Valentine’s Day or mare’s-nest for April Fool’s Day. Off-beat fetes are no exception. For example, for Bat Appreciation Day we featured flittermouse, and for I Forgot Day, lethe, the river of oblivion. We also like honoring birthdays such as Shirley Temple’s with buck-and-wing; Steve Jobs’s with biffin, a kind of apple; and H.P. Lovecraft’s with, what else, Cthulhu.

Why sponsor?

Why should you think about sponsoring a week’s worth of Words of the Day? It’s a great way for you to promote your product, service, or very own Kickstarter while at the same time showing your love of words and supporting a good cause.

What do I get?

With the $500 sponsorship, you’ll have the opportunity to pick a week’s worth of words that reflect your personality, voice, brand, or cause. You’ll also get:

  • Your name and link on our Word of the Day page.
  • A banner featuring your promotional message (of 300 words or less) and a link of your choosing on our Word of the Day email that goes out Monday through Friday to  over 7,000 subscribers.
  • A twice-a-day tweet to our 19,300+ followers and a posting on our Facebook page to our over 8,000+ fans.

When can I do it?

The first two backers will be able to sponsor in December while the rest will be available in 2016.

How do I do it?

Just visit our Kickstarter page!

Thanks but no thanks.

A week’s worth of Words of the Day not for you? There are still lots of ways you can become backer, whether it’s selecting a random word for exactly one clam, getting a limited edition Wordnik T-shirt for $30, or opting for cool wordy poster for $75. Happy sponsoring!

Why That Word: Adopters reveal why they chose their words


First of all, thank you thank you thank you! Because of you, our wonderful backers, we’ve met our Kickstarter goal — and ahead of schedule!

A big reason we met our goal was because of our wonderful word adopters. We’ve seen such a variety of terms taken into loving homes that we became curious as to why people chose the words they did. For instance, our fearless founder, Erin McKean, adopted erinaceous “because it seemed mean to call something [her] favorite word and then NOT adopt it.” So we asked! And the reasons folks gave were as varied as the words themselves.

Some words aligned with adopters’ personal philosophies. Susan Gallant adopted ataraxia because the word “perfectly expresses the relaxation response during meditation — that wonderful feeling of serenity and perfect calm.”

The great word compersion, “the feeling of joy associated with seeing a loved one love another; contrasted with jealousy,” was chosen by Winnie Lim because the word “serves as a constant reminder of the person [she is] and [wants] to be.”

Adrienne McPhaul selected resistant instead of making a New Year’s resolution. “It is a word I felt like described the root of many obstacles in my life,” Adrienne told us, “and I wanted to own it and explore it.” Speaking of exploring, Algot Runeman opted for this adventurous word because, as he said, “What could be better use of one’s time?” We agree.

A couple scooped up words they had coined, such as lovematism, the “passionate magnetic bond of lovers connecting the body, heart, mind, and soul,” by Sherrie Rose, and impert for Bill Solberg, who created the term to “describe a person who makes valuable contributions in a field of knowledge despite lacking formal training or professional connections in that field.” Moreover, “the impert’s contributions typically diverge from conventional styles, thinking, or theories.”

A few folks elected for terms that represented their online brands or identities. Felix Jung wanted blog since he’s been running his own blog with nearly daily updates (admirable!) since June 2002. Karen Conlin honored her awesomely named blog, GRAMMARGEDDON!, by going with armageddon.

Sarah Allen, who goes by the Twitter handle @ultrasaurus, snagged, natch, ultrasaurus, which, in case you were wondering, is a really big dinosaur. Meanwhile, Merchbar optimized SEO by adopting band merch.

Some adoptions reflected adopters’ professions or interests. Trademark was taken by Alexandra Roberts, a “professor who teaches trademark law and researches and writes about trademark issues.” Rachel Houghton, a photographer, snapped up photographer, while Rob Root, a member of the National Numeracy Network and a reviewer for the journal Numeracy, nabbed, not surprisingly, numeracy.

Metaphor is Dr. Mardy Grothe’s “all-time favorite figure of speech,” while John Kelly fed his word origins obsession with etymology. Lenore Edman hooked up robotics since she sells robotic kits, builds art robots, and is a mentor for a high school robotics team. “I liked the idea of adopting the entire field of robotics,” Lenore told us.

Some honored an important person in their lives. Richard Wills decided on dodecaphonic to recognize Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg “and his two most prominent students Alban Berg and Anton Webern.” Seventeen was selected by Rosie Perera, who told us she was “inspired to love the number 17 by [recently retired] Professor David Kelly who ran the Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics.”

John Dove lassoed unicorn in honor of his father, Dr. W. Franklin Dove, who in the 1930s created “a unicorn bull to see if the psychology of that animal would be significantly different and of value to herdsmen.” Dr. Dove “offered the hypothesis that the single horned animal would be a natural leader of the herd,” and “pointed out that the Dinka tribe in Southern Sudan have traditionally manipulated the horns of selected members of their herds in order to create such unicorns.” He also “suggested that this might have been an origin of the myths regarding unicorns.” Fascinating!

Some words were chosen out of sheer fun. Lightwood Games partied with party because it made them smile (and also because of their game, Word Party). Kelli Krieger jumped at jocular, “a happy word to ward off the darkness in the world.”

Nick Seaman opted for archipelago just because “it’s a fun word,” while Filip Salomonsson got recombobulated since he has “always seen [recombobulate] as a great example of how there is a lot of playfulness in how language works and how words are formed.” Non Wels plucked poppycock because it exemplifies the absurdity and wonder of both life and words. “It also reminds me of something my grandparents would say,” he said. “Which just makes me happy.”

Joan Hall likes the “mouthfeel” of bobbasheely (and also had fun discovering its etymology for DARE), while Karen Mulholland enjoys the “onomatopoeic nastiness” of besmirch. But, she told us, “This judgmental little word won my heart in the usual way – by making me laugh,” reminding her of a tweet that said, “Whenever someone responds to a statement by saying ‘Word,’ I want to yell some random word like ‘BESMIRCH!’” (Karen also assures us that her word “gets excellent care and regular exercise.”)

Then there are the “because I’m 12” words. John picked butts (ahem) because he “was amused by the idea of using [his] very adult paycheck to ‘buy’ the most childish word in the dictionary,” and Rachel White got boners because, as she revealed, “boners are hilarious.”

Finally, we wanted to give an appreciative shout-out to a few of our “forever” adopters: design guru John Maeda who took in design; Craigslist founder Craig Newmark who claimed nerd; editor Jan Freeman who embraced idiolect; and Roger McNamee who tamed wombat. And we’re looking forward to revealing the words Duck Duck Go and MailChimp choose once our campaign is over!

Want to adopt a word but can’t decide on which? We’ll include helpful suggestions for all our Kickstarter backers!

Word Buzz Wednesday: defeat device, kaiten-zushi, stralimitata

Tokyo-Kaiten sushi, Japan (2010)

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: a cheating apparatus, brewery-inspired sushi, and papal exuberance.

Burning Mouth Syndrome

“The symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome are pretty much summed up by the name. The cause is still a mystery. So is the fact that the syndrome stops whenever you fall asleep.”

Esther Inglis-Arkell, “Burning Mouth Syndrome Is Real, But We Don’t Know Why,” io9, September 28, 2015

Burning Mouth Syndrome, not to be confused with Burning Man Syndrome (which, by the way, does not involve getting naked and making art in the desert), is a condition in which “your nerves turn against you,” says io9, “insisting that something painful is happening to you, even when nothing’s wrong.” As a result, sufferers feel a burning pain in the lips, tongue, and gums — sometimes for years — and only get a respite during sleep. Some patients also experience a metallic taste and a “crawling sensation” in the mouth (eek!).

Burning Mouth Syndrome is often treated with antidepressants and antianxiety medication with the aim of reducing nerve activity.

defeat device

The company admitted that it had programmed 11 million of its diesel cars…to cheat on their emissions tests, using something called a ‘defeat device.’”

Kevin Roose, “The Volkswagen ‘Dieselgate’ scandal is a new low in corporate malfeasance,” Fusion, September 23, 2015

Last week it was piggate, this week it’s the much more serious Dieselgate. In this latest scandal, Volkswagen used a defeat device to reprogram their diesel vehicles’ software to allow them to pass nitrogen oxide emissions tests by temporarily switching them into “low-emission mode.” After the tests, says Fusion, the cars went back to “pumping out up to 40 times as many pollutants as the law allowed, while appearing to stay under the legal limit.”

Why? Cost, fuel efficiency, and driving performance, says Green Car Reports. Diesels are apparently cheaper to build than gas hybrid-electric vehicles. Moreover, hybrids and electric cars are sometimes thought to be “slow, unpleasant to drive, and strange-looking.”

The term defeat device originated in the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1963 Clean Air Act.


“Introduced in the late 1950s, ‘kaiten-zushi’ restaurants feature a revolving belt with small plates of sushi. Diners can grab whatever passes them and looks appetizing; the bill is tallied by the number of stacked, empty plates (often color-coded to represent different prices).”

Dan Frommer, “A Japanese sushi chain is getting rid of its conveyer belts,” Quartz, September 27, 2015

Kaiten translates from Japanese as revolving or rotating, and zushi means, well, sushi. The kaiten-zushi system was developed by Yoshiaki Shiraishi, a former sushi chef who was inspired by “beer bottles on conveyor belts at a brewery.”


“The source of the odor was the chickens that men wearing aprons and shower caps were slaughtering by the dozen under bare bulbs on a makeshift stage taking up 50 feet of sidewalk for the ritual offering of kapparot.”

Nathan Tempey, “Activists & Hasidic Jews Face Off At Ritual Chicken Slaughter,” Gothamist, September 22, 2015

Kapparot, also spelled kaparot, is a custom practiced by some Jews before Yom Kippur. In the custom, says the Jewish Virtual Library, “the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to a fowl,” which is “held above the person’s head and swung in a circle three times” as the person recites a prayer. The hen or rooster is then handed off “to have its throat slit as a reminder that death could be nigh and he should repent,” says Gothamist.

In New York recently, animal activists clashed with Hasidic Jews over the ritual.


“He struggled for a moment to find the right word to capture his stop in New York. According to the Associated Press, he just ended up inventing a new one: stralimitata.”

Jaime Fuller, “Pope Francis Forced to Invent New Word to Describe His Trip to New York,” New York Magazine, September 28, 2015

Stralimitata translates from Italian as something like “beyond all limits.” The New York Times chose to eschew this papal neologism and provide their own far less exuberant translation, “a bit exuberant.”