Our Most Popular Posts of 2015


It’s been another wordy year for Wordnik. We continued our Adopt a Word program, made our Kickstarter goal (thanks again everybody!), and talked about all things word-nerdy on this blog.

We looked into the language of snow, surfing, taste, cotton candy, and even lavatories. We were surprised by some of the words coined by the likes of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Walter Scott, and George Bernard Shaw. We continued our television addiction with write-ups on the lexicon of Community, VEEP, and the final season of Mad Men.

Today we’re ringing in 2016 by celebrating our 10 most popular posts of the year.

  1. Herman Melville: A Whale of a Lexicon

Cetology, plum-puddinger, slobgollion — not surprising from the author of Moby Dick. But cholo and nightlife? We never would have thought. Plus snivelization, “civilization considered derisively as a cause of anxiety or plaintiveness,” should definitely be used more often.

  1. Congratulations! It’s a Word!

Want to adopt a word but not sure what word to pick? This round up of early adopters will inspire you.

  1. For Whom the Words Toll: 10 Terms Coined by Ernest Hemingway

From byline to shit-faced to Yugo, these are some of our favorite words coined by the one-time journalist, bullfighting aficionado, and marrier of many spouses.

  1. The Best of Jon Stewart Words

2015 was the year we said goodbye to Jon Stewart — at least from The Daily Show. To honor his 17-year stint as the most trusted man in America, we got all nerdy-glazy and presented 12 of our all-time favorite Daily Show words.

  1. Game of Words: Our 14 Favorite Words from ‘Game of Thrones,’ Season 5

Speaking of the awesomeness of Peter Dinklage, our sixth most popular post was a gaggle of Game of Throne terms. The new season is supposed to start in April so you still have a few months to catch up.

  1. Like billy-o! Our Favorite Words of Downton Abbey, Season 5

Our favorite source of meaningful glances, acerbic quips, and an anachronism or two.

  1. 12 Wonderful Words from TED

Wordnik all started with Erin McKean’s 2007 TED talk so it seemed only fitting we talk about some wonderful TED words, including ambivert, photograffeur, and biophilia.

  1. 10 Fantastic Fog Words

With our headquarters in San Francisco Bay Area, we certainly know lots of ways to say fog.

  1. The Language of Convenience Stores

Bodega, milk store, dépanneur — how do you refer that little shop on the corner?

  1. 5 Cherry Blossom Terms, Translated

Winter has barely started but we’re already looking forward to sakura season again. For now we’ll make do with these cherry blossom terms, and our most popular post of the year.

Best of Word Buzz Wednesday 2015


One of the cutest words of the year.

As you know, every Wednesday we round up the most interesting words of the week, and what an interesting year in words it’s been — from new words with tried and true suffixes (deflategate, datasexual, and mobilegeddon); to new-to-us words (deadnaming and allochtoon); to new names for old familiars (Daesh, Denali), to no lack of blends, food or otherwise.

Here we take a look at the best of this year’s buzziest words.

The Cutest

TIE: ili pika, adorabilis, smol

There was no way we choose just one of these totes adorbs words. The ili pika, also known as the “magic rabbit,” is a rarely spotted rabbit species native to China. The adorabilis is a teeny-tiny pink octopus that dwells the deep sea. Finally, smol is Internet-speak for small and cute, which sums up this whole category.

Best Tribute


This term from at least 2008 regained popularity in March when Leonard Nimoy sadly passed away. In honor of the actor, some Canadians turned the portrait of Sir Wilfrid Laurier on five dollar bills into Nimoy’s most famous character.

Best Untranslatable


In English we don’t have a word for this lovely Japanese term that refers to the “buying of books and not reading them; letting books pile up unread on shelves or floors or nightstands.”

The Best Weird Stuff Comes from Asia Award

TIE: mukbang, ikeman, rui-katsu

Another tie! Korean for “eating broadcast,” mukbang are videos of people eating immense amounts of food. Ikeman is Japanese colloquial for a “hot guy” — or a hot gorilla as the case may be. In fact, Shabani the hot gorilla is such an ikeman, he’s getting his own DVD. Another Japanese import, rui-katsu refers to communal crying events.

The Best Papist Neologism


Pope Francis, during his historic trip to the U.S., was so overwhelmed by his visit to New York, he had to invent a word to describe it: stralimitata, which translates from Italian as something like “beyond all limits.”

Meme We Never Want to Hear About Again

Purkinje effect

That damned Dress. The Purkinje effect is why some of us see it as white and gold and others as blue and black. Basically, in low light our eyes shift toward the blue end of the spectrum. Now let’s never speak of the Dress again.

The Shaking Our Heads Award

Churchillian Drift

It’s wonderful that Maya Angelou was honored with her very own postage stamp. Not so wonderful? Attributing the poet with a quote she didn’t say, otherwise known as Churchillian Drift.

Runners-up: jigaboo and chai-yok

We don’t know what makes less sense: describing Lady Gaga’s music as jigaboo, or using a term long known to be a racial slur against African Americans.

Meanwhile in GOOP land, actress-cum-lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow raved about the “ancient Korean practice” of chai-yok, which involves steaming one’s, well, nether regions. However, the practice isn’t ancient and is barely Korean. At most it’s Los Angeles Korean. But whatever chais your yok.

The Borg and Stepford Award

TIE: amabot and wife bonus

An August New York Times piece shed light on the grueling work life that some Amazon employees experience: “If you’re a good Amazonian, you become an Amabot.” In other words, you become one with the system.

In May we learned (also from the Times) about the practice of wife bonuses, financial incentives some New York stay at home moms receive depending on how well they complete certain tasks, such as managing the household budget and getting their children into prestigious schools.

The Most Scandlous

TIE: deflategate and piggate

One is about the old pig skin and the other is about a disturbing act on a pig.

The year kicked off with deflategate, accusations against the New England Patriots for letting “air out of some footballs to increase their grip on the ball in the wet weather.”

In September, another scandal emerged with claims that as a student British Prime Minister David Cameron put “a private part of his anatomy” in the mouth of a pig carcass. Now we know where the Black Mirror writers got their idea.

The Best Flawless Pronunciation of a Ridiculously Long Town Name


‘Nuff said.

What words defined 2015 for you? Let us know in the comments!

Word Buzz Wednesday: bean to bar; digital dementia; schlonged

sweets 03

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: authentic chocolate; screen time senility; and the Donald gets disgusting.

bean to bar

“The best-known craft chocolate bar makers in the country—celebrity beardo Brooklyn chocolate sellers the Mast Brothers—admitted in the New York Times today they’d been remelting industrial chocolate from other vendors and reselling them as ‘bean to bar’ chocolate.”

Matthew Korfhage, “Portland Chocolatier Says Mast Brothers Bars Have Always Been Terrible and Everybody Knew,” Willamette Week, December 21, 2015

Willamette Week describes bean to bar chocolate as “the cacao equivalent of single-source coffee roasts.” As Slate describes it, the process starts with raw cacao beans and involves “painstakingly roasting, grinding, and tempering them into chocolate bars in small batches.”

The term is reminiscent of another foodie phrase, nose to tail, referring to eating every part of an animal, from snout to stub.

digital dementia

“Forgotten something? The problem may not be age but your smartphone or other similar device. And brain health experts have even coined a name for the condition: digital dementia.”

Jeanette Wang, “Web-mad Hongkongers have digital dementia — and we’re losing our memories,” South China Morning Post, November 2, 2015

The term digital dementia was apparently coined in South Korea by doctors who witnessed “young patients with memory and cognitive problems, conditions more commonly linked to brain injuries” — problems, presumably, linked to excessive screen time.

German neuroscientist Martin Spitzer, author of Digital Dementia: What We and Our Children Are Doing to Our Minds, says that using a computer is the equivalent of “outsourcing your mental activity.” While this might be fine in moderation for adults, children also need time for unstructured play.


“Unless you have some knowledge of medieval Islamic theology you probably have no idea what irja means.”

Mustafa Akyol, “A Medieval Antidote to ISIS,” The New York Times, December 21, 2015

You’re right, Mr. Akyol! But luckily you’re here to tell us. Irja translates literally as “postponing,” and was a “theological principle put forward by some Muslim scholars” in the first century of Islam, as the result of a major civil war being fought during that time.

The proponents of irja — known as murjia, or “postponers” — asserted that the “burning question of who is a true Muslim should be ‘postponed’ until the afterlife.” In other words, true faith was something that could only be judged by God and not other humans. In the end, however, the murjia didn’t have enough influence in the Muslim world.


“The ready to radicalize population is overwhelmingly young and male. Usmani calls them ‘Jillennials’ — jihadis who are Millennials.”

Heather Long, “Who’s joining ISIS? It might surprise you,” CNN, December 15, 2015

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term millennial, which refers to those born between about 1980 and 1995, originated around 1991, while jihadi, one who advocates jihad, or a holy war against “infidels,” entered English around 1920.


“In a long campaign that’s far from over, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comment. . .that Hillary Clinton…’got schlonged’ in her 2008 primary run might be considered just another insult.”

Justin Wm. Moyer, “Donald Trump’s ‘schlonged’: A linguistic investigation,” The Washington Post, December 22, 2015

Schlong, a slang term for penis, may also refer contemptuously to a person. The word is Yiddish in origin and and translates literally as “snake.”

Linguist Steven Pinker told The Washington Post that “given Trump’s history of vulgarity and misogyny, it’s entirely possible that he had created a sexist term for ‘defeat,”’ and that as far as Pinker knew, “there is no such slang verb [as get schlonged] in Yiddish.” However, it may simply be a mistake, what with Trump’s track record of “sloppy language.” WaPo also points out that Trump used “get schlonged” at least once before, also in reference to a female political candidate.

Meanwhile, Clinton is “too disgusting” for having to use the ladies’ room.

Word Buzz Wednesday: DUSTWUN, geocryologist, popcorn lung

meandering in the Arctic

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: a military acronym; real-life Doctor Freeze; and a rare disease.


DUSTWUN, a name taken from the clunky abbreviation for the term ‘duty status whereabouts unknown’, starts with Koenig describing the video of Bergdahl’s return.”

Lanre Bakare, “Serial recap – season two episode one: DUSTWUN,The Guardian, December 10, 2015

Podheads everywhere can rejoice: Serial is back. This season takes a look at the case of Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier captured in Afghanistan in 2009 and released in 2014 in exchange for five Guantánamo Bay prisoners. Bergdahl is also facing a court-martial on desertion charges.

The first episode of this season’s Serial is called DUSTWUN, an acronym that is basically the army’s version of “man overboard.” The term also evokes the image of the dust of the Afghan desert, as well as perhaps the idea of Bergdahl disappearing one day like dust in the wind (sorry Kansas haters).


“When I spoke with him at VICE’s Toronto office in October, the permafrost scientist—also known as a geocryologist, currently stationed at Moscow State University—told me that he’s feeling just fine.”

Jordan Pearson, “Meet the Scientist Who Injected Himself with 3.5 Million-Year-Old Bacteria,” Motherboard, December 9, 2015

Permafrost is “permanently frozen subsoil, occurring throughout the Polar Regions and locally in perennially frigid areas.” Geocryology is the study of those frozen subsoils and what may be found there, such as ancient bacteria. Anatoli Brouchkov, the geocryologist of the article, has injected himself with such a type of bacteria in order to study its effects on human longevity.

popcorn lung

“This week, new research from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that the flavorings in some types of e-cigarettes contain chemicals that have been linked to a rare disease called ‘popcorn lung.’”

Julia Belluz, “Some e-cigarettes contain chemicals that cause ‘popcorn lung,’” Vox, December 9, 2015

Popcorn lung is so-called because it was first witnessed in people who worked in factories that made microwave popcorn. Symptoms included wheezing and shortness of breath, says Vox, which doctors found was due to “permanent lung damage” caused by diacetyl, “the chemical that adds that buttery flavor and smell to popcorn.” Now research is suggesting that some e-cigarette flavorings are causing the same damage.


“The researchers found that the power of this ‘slacktivism’ lies in the large number of users who engaged with the causes online.”

Kate Groetzinger, “Slacktivism is having a powerful real-world impact, new research shows,” Quartz, December 10, 2015

Slacktivism, a blend of slacker and activism, is a kind of 21st-century armchair activism very much tied to the Internet, says Quartz. A recent study showed that using social media tools like Twitter to carry out messages of protests such as Arab Spring and #BlackLivesMatter is integral to turning those protests into movements and prolonging their lifespans.

The term slacker might seem quintessential 1990s, but it originated in 1898 with basically the same meaning, someone who shirks responsibility. The word gained popularity during World War I when it came to mean a military draft dodger.


“In typical Softboy fashion, [Zayn Malik is] generous — he bought his parent’s house for them, and he funds his cousin’s private school education. He prefers to call his fans ‘passionate’ as opposed to crazy.”

Fariha Roisin, “Soft Power,” Medium, December 8, 2015

The Softboy, a term coined by writer Alan Hanson, is in opposition to the Fuckboy, who’s all and only about — well you know. The Softboy is “Nice yet Complicated,” “sensitive yet amusingly crass,” artistic, aware, and “still a dick.”

Rosin asserts that the Softboy image of ex-One Directioner Zayn Malik is powerful because “Muslim men aren’t ever seen as Softboys.”

10 Splendid Words About Snow


You might have heard the Scots have over 400 words for snow (while it’s a myth that the Inuit have 100). We have just 10 splendid snow words here, but we love them all the same and hope you do too.


“The sun was sliding toward the horizon, throwing beautiful but alarming alpenglow on the mountains and valleys below.”

Michael Y. Ybarra, “Summit Meetings,” The Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2011

One of our favorite unusual nature words, alpenglow refers to that “rosy glow that suffuses snow-covered mountain peaks at dawn or dusk on a clear day.”

The word is borrowed from German, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), and has been in use in English since at least the 1860s. Alpen of course comes from the name of a certain mountain range.


“Before they could get to this a deep bed of old snow — ‘firn’ Melchior called it — a great sheet, like some large white field, had to be passed.”

George Manville Fenn, The Crystal Hunters: A Boy’s Adventures in the Higher Alps, 1891

Firn, also known as “old snow,” is granular snow “that has passed through one summer melt season but is not yet glacial ice.” The word translates from German as “of last year,” and ultimately comes from the Old High German firni, “old.”


Graupel…is precipitation that forms when supercooled droplets of water are collected and freeze on a falling snowflake.”

QMI Agency, “Graupel, not hail, falls on southern Ontario,” Ifpress, October 5, 2014

Another snow word of German origin, graupel is a diminutive of Graupe, German for “hulled grain.” Graupe is probably of Slavic origin and is related to the Russian krupa, “groats.” What the heck are groats? Crushed grain, especially oats.


“In the far distance rose several jokuls or glaciers, seeming to look proudly down upon the mountains, as though they asked, ‘Why would ye draw men’s eyes upon you, where we glisten in our silver sheen?’”

Ida Pfeiffer, Visit to Iceland and the Scandinavian North, 1853

Jokul is an Icelandic word that refers to a mountain always covered in snow and ice. The OED says the word comes from the Icelandic jökull, “icicle.” The English icicle is related.


“It was a very grey day; a most opaque sky, ‘onding on snaw,’ canopied all; thence flakes fell at intervals, which settled on the hard path and on the hoary lea without melting.”

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, 1869

The Scots gifted us with onding, a heavy and continuous rain or snow. Onding also refers to breathing or smelling as well as a figurative onslaught or noisy outburst.


“A ‘poudre’ day, with its steely air and fatal frost, was an ill thing in the world; but these entangling blasts, these wild curtains of snow, were desolating even unto death.”

Gilbert Parker, Pierre and His People, 1892

The powdery poudre refers to dust, gunpowder, and also powdery snow. The OED says the word is Canadian but now rare, and originally came from the French Canadian poudre, “powder.”

A poudre day is a “day on which fine, powdery snow falls,” or “a bitterly cold day.” Poudré, another rare term, refers to someone who wears their hair or wig powdered.


“This, however, is not always practicable; should the storm, or, as it is called here, ‘purga,’ overtake him in the ravine of a mountain, such an immense quantity of snow becomes heaped upon him, that he has no power to extricate himself from his tomb.”

Otto von Kotzebue, A New Voyage Round the World, 1830

A purga refers to a violent blizzard of fine snow that might occur in “the eastern Asiatic tundra, northern and eastern Russia, and Siberia,” says the OED. While Russian in origin (obviously), the word purga might come from the Finnish purku, “snowstorm.”


“John is all for sleeping in the quinzhee, but having seen how thin Regent’s sleeping bags are, I exert what is left of my parental authority and take up our host’s suggestion that we use a nearby tent which he has equipped with a log-burning stove.”

Adrian Mourby, “Are you the right stuff for the white stuff?” The Independent, January 23, 2010

In addition to being an amazing Scrabble word, a quinzhee is a shelter made from a hollowed out pile of snow. The word comes from Slavey, which is part of the Athabaskan family of languages and spoken by the Slavey First Nations people in Canada. Quinzhee is a corruption of the Slavey kóézhii, “in the shelter.”


“As the sledge strikes each sastruga, it skids northwards along it to the discomfort of the wheelers and the disgust of the leader.”

Sir Douglas Mawson, The Home of the Blizzard: Being the Story of the Australaisan Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914

A sastruga is “a long wavelike ridge of snow, formed by the wind and found on the polar plains.” The word comes from the Russian dialectal zastruga, where za means “beyond” and struga means (creepily) a “deep place into which one may fall.”


“Back then, grooming happened sometimes, on some trails, and on a flat-light day, an uncovered sitzmark, particularly an old one, could slam a guy into the ground in a heartbeat if hit just right.”

Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore,” The Aspen Times, December 5, 2009

Sitzmark is a skiing term that refers to a depression made in snow by someone who has fallen on their sitz-parts. Sitzmark is German in origin. Another sitz- word is sitz bath, a chair-like bathtub in which one bathes in a seated position.

Word Buzz Wednesday: bakugai, deadnaming, pishing

Icy Chickadee

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: an explosive Japanese buzzword; another kind of name calling; and a different kind of bird call.


“Growing up in Belgium, they had internalized the label: once an allochtoon, always an allochtoon.”

Chika Unigwe, “The Near-Impossibility of Assimilation in Belgium,” The New York Times, November 25, 2015

The term allochtoon translates from Flemish as “originating from another country.” Those who aren’t considered traditionally Belgian — in other words, non-whites — are referred to as such, even if they were born in the country.


“The Japanese aren’t alone in experiencing bakugai, even if they’re unique in calling it that. Along with Japan, Europe is a major destination for Chinese shoppers.”

Steve Mollman, “Japan’s buzzword of the year means ‘an explosive shopping spree by the Chinese,’” Quartz, December 1, 2015

Bakugai translates from Japanese as “buying explosion,” and refers specifically to the “explosive shopping sprees carried about by Chinese tourists,” says Quartz. This is due in part to the rapidly expanding Chinese middle class.

Other 2015 Japanese buzzwords include Goromaru pose, a rugby’s star pre-kick signature stance, and doron, the Japanification of “drone.”


“Calling someone by their rejected birth name is termed ‘deadnaming’.”

Avinash Chak, “Beyond ‘he’ and ‘she': The rise of non-binary pronouns,” BBC, December 7, 2015

Considered disrespectful, deadnaming refers specifically to transgendered people who have changed their names. Even after revealing her true name, some media outlets continued to call Caitlyn Jenner by her “dead name,” Bruce.

hybrid swarm

“Most biologists believed that hybridization in nature primarily resulted from human interference, when people remove a barrier between two closely related species, leading to a ‘hybrid swarm’ that obliterates the distinctiveness of one or both types of animal.”

Ben Crair, “What’s a Species, Anyway?” New Republic, December 6, 2015

The human interference in this case was the shooting of red wolves by ranchers, says New Republic, which lead to vastly depleted numbers in the population. The more wily coyotes survived and “encountered the last surviving red wolves, whose numbers were so depleted that they took the coyotes as their mates,” resulting in hybridized creatures that “bore little resemblance” to their fearsome parental predators.


“The difference between pishing and birdcalling might seem slight, until you hear them in action.”

Andy Wright, “How to Be a Bird Pick-Up Artist,” Atlas Obscura, December 1, 2015

Pishing, unlike bird-calling which involves imitating specific birds, is a more general “scolding call,” says Atlas Obscura. The sound is rapid and high-pitched, like “a mix between a sprinkler going off and a tire leaking.” The word is imitative.

Pish is also used to express disdain, and has been in use since at least the late 16th century, says the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Wordnik 2015 Word Nerd Gift Guide

Is there a logophile on your holiday gift list? Give the best wordy presents ever with our 2015 Word Nerd Gift Guide.


Everyone loves a Chomsky Party, and even colorless green tea tastes better out of a Chomsky Party mug.

chomskymugIf your loved linguist didn’t choose the wug life, but the wug life chose them, let them show it with wug shirts. You can also help them have less stress in their life with a schwa t-shirt! Or you might want to liven up their vocabulary (terminology, lexicon, or phraseology) with a shirt featuring everyone’s favorite wordy dinosaur, the Thesaurus. thesaurus_1272x920shirt_guys_02


For lovers of American English, you can’t go wrong with a subscription to the online version of the Dictionary of American Regional Englishand it’s 50% off through January 3rd!

Another gift that keeps giving all year long is a subscription to long-form popular linguistics writing mag SchwaFire: recent articles have covered ASL translation, Yiddish, and “accent tag” videos.


This year was a great one for language books. Some highlights included:

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, by Mary Norris

A copy editor who has put in more than three decades at The New Yorker, Norris explains some of the most common problems with spelling, punctuation, and usage, drawing on examples not just from classic literature such as Charles Dickens and Emily Dickinson, but from the likes of The Honeymooners and The Simpsons as well.

From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generations, by Allan Metcalf

The latest from one of our favorite Chronicle of Higher Education writers and the author of OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word. From bobbysoxing Silents to whatever Gen X’ers, From Skedaddle explores the words that encapsulate and characterize whole generations.

The Art of Language Invention, by David J. Peterson

The creator of Dothraki? A history of constructed languages? ‘Nuff said.

Bullshit: A Lexicon, by Mark Peters

Also known as @wordlust, Peters has long been one of our favorite word nerds. His latest book delves into all the different ways of saying balderdash, hooey, and bunk.


And of course, our favorite gift: giving a favorite word at Wordnik!