Word Buzz Wednesday: Bone Wars; Churchillian Drift; Easterlin paradox


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: a dinosaur dust-up; who said what; and money doesn’t always buy happiness.

Bone Wars

“The name Brontosaurus goes back to the so-called Bone Wars of the late 1800s, when rival fossil hunters Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope raced new dinosaur names into the scientific literature.”

Paul Rincon, “Brontosaurus dino name is revived,” BBC, April 7, 2015

The Bone Wars were also known as the Great Dinosaur Rush. Paleontologists Marsh and Cope were fiercely competitive, “resorting to bribery, theft, and destruction of bones,” as well as attacking each other in scientific publications.

Churchillian Drift

“But the subsequent misattribution is a textbook example of a widespread phenomenon in the world of quotations: Churchillian Drift.”

Erin McKean, “The Wise Words of Maya Angelou. Or Someone, Anyway,” The New York Times, April 9, 2015

Churchillian Drift, says McKean, “is the process by which any particularly apt quotation is mistakenly attributed to a more famous person in the same field.”

In the case of Maya Angelou, a quote from lesser known author Joan Walsh Anglund was attributed to Angelou and inscribed on a postage stamp honoring the world-famous poet.

Easterlin paradox

“Gilovich’s findings are the synthesis of psychological studies conducted by him and others into the Easterlin paradox, which found that money buys happiness, but only up to a point.”

Jay Cassano, “The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things,” Fast Company, March 30, 2015

The Easterlin paradox says that while high income does correlate with happiness, it’s a short-term high: in the long run, making a lot of money doesn’t make you happier. The concept is named for economist Richard Easterlin.

hot take

“The problem with the Dove post was not its subject or its slant, he suggested in a tweet Thursday evening, but that it was a ‘hot take.’”

Julia Turner, “In Defense of the Take,” Slate, April 10, 2015

The term hot take, says Turner, has become a journalistic putdown. Takes refer to “quick responses” and “often glib opinions” online writers are forced to produce about “any event that occurs” in order to drive traffic and revenue.

The hot take originates from sports media, “usually connoting a blowhard ranting about some personnel decision or play call gone wrong.” Urban Dictionary defines hot take as “simplistic moralizing rather than actual thought,” as opposed to a strong take.

wha gwan

“Before speaking to a crowd of people, the president did his best ‘Wha Gwan’, which resulted in all kinds of jump and wave from yardies everywhere.”

Shenequa Golding, “Big Tings A Gwan: Barack Obama Visits Jamaica And Does Spot On Patois Impersonation,” VIBE, April 9, 2015

Wha gwan is Jamaican patois for “What’s going on?” or “What’s up?” Yardie is slang for someone from Jamaica. The word comes from “government yards,” another name for Jamaican social housing projects.

[Photo via Flickr: “Dinosaur,” CC BY 2.0 by Kevin Dooley]

5 Cherry Blossom Terms, Translated


If you’re in the D.C. area you’re in luck: it’s “peak bloom” week for cherry blossoms.

If you don’t have the chance to enjoy the pink pulchritude in our nation’s capital or elsewhere, please enjoy the stories behind these five Japanese cherry blossom terms.


“The Japanese tradition of ‘hanami’ – or the cherry blossom viewing picnic – has survived relatively unchanged since about the eighth century.”

David Sim, “Japan: Cherry blossom viewing ‘hanami’ parties celebrate ancient tradition using selfie sticks,” International Business Times, March 30, 2015

Hanami, which translates from Japanese as “flower viewing,” is the Japanese custom of “enjoying the transient beauty of flowers,” especially cherry blossoms.

The custom started in the eighth century during the Nara Period when it was plum blossoms that got all the attention. However, by the late 700s, cherry blossoms had stolen the show.

Nowadays, hanami parties are immensely popular all over Japan, featuring live music and “lavish picnics” that include onigiri; hanami bentos, bento boxes with spring-like hues of pink, red, and orange; and hanami sake.

Other Japanese nature-viewing words include momojigari, the “hunting” of autumn leaves, and tsukimi, moon viewing.

hana yori dango

“The phrase ‘hana yori dango’ literally means ‘dumplings over flowers’ and is usually used in a teasing way to refer to someone who prefers food (something of substance) over something beautiful or romantic.”

Kay, “Capybara enjoying a meal at Ueno Zoo treats us to the herbivore’s version of ‘Hana Yori Dango,” RocketNews24, April 1, 2014

Hana yori dango, or “dumplings over flowers,” is a saying that has its origins in hanami, says Japan Talk, and means that “people are often more interested in the food and drink at hanami parties than the flowers themselves.”

Hana Yori Dango is also the name of a popular manga series, Boys Over Flowers, where dango, which means sweet rice dumplings, is a pun for “boys,” according to NPR.


“We thus see that the cherry blossom, called sakura by the Japanese, represents the ‘spirit of Japan.’”

C.A. Howes, “Some Stamp Designs,” American Journal of Philately, 1905

Sakura refers to the either the cherry blossom or the cherry tree in Japanese. The sakura zensen, or cherry blossom front, is the “advance of cherry blossoms across Japan.”

Another common cherry blossom saying is, “Dead bodies are buried under the sakura!” This seemingly creepy pronouncement is the first line of “Under the Cherry Trees,” a 1928 short story by Japanese writer, Motojiro Kajii. The quote refers to, not literal corpses under cherry trees, but a “sense of disbelief at the beauty of sakura blossoms and suggests that history somehow adds to this beauty.”


“Not inappropriate for, as I have said, the plum blossoms appear very early and the Japanese go umemi, or plum blossom viewing, with sprigs of the flower stuck in their fur caps.”

Edith Wilds, “Great Art in Little Ceremonies of Japan,” The Art World and Arts & World Decoration, Volume 9, May 1918

Umemi is the viewing plum blossoms, rather than cherry (ume is the Japanese word for “plum”), and usually occurs in the late winter or early spring, “just before the more famous ‘sakura’ cherry blossoms,” says Japan Info Swap.

Umeshu is a Japanese liqueur made from plums steeped in sugar and sake.


“So great is the attraction of cherry blossoms seen by the light of the pale moon, that they have even been given the special name of Yozakura or night cherry flowers.”

Florence Du Cane, The Flowers and Gardens of Japan, 1908

Yozakura translates from Japanese as “night sakura.” Yozakura Quartet is a Japanese manga about four teenagers who live in a town called Sakurashin, which “is protected by a barrier created by the spiritual sakura known as The Seven Pillars.”

[Photo via Flickr: “Sakura,” CC BY 2.0 by Yoshikazu Takada]

Word Buzz Wednesday: cord-never, kayfabe, sneakerhead

Nike Sneaker pileup

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: cutting the literal and figurative cords; a Pig Latin-y carny term; and addiction to footwear.

Chicago Sunroof

“The way Jimmy sees it, that Chicago Sunroof was the start of all of his problems.”

Kevin P. Sullivan, “‘Marco,’” Entertainment Weekly, April 6, 2015

The term Chicago Sunroof, which means pooping through the sunroof of a car, seems to have originated in the show, Better Call Saul. The practice might be an alteration of the earlier Chicago stoop, the act of defecating on someone’s stoop and pouring honey all over the result.


Cord-nevers, you’re in luck. . . .When the hit shows return in the next few days, they will be available for streaming online with no cable or satellite subscription.”

Anick Jesdanun, “Cord-Nevers in Luck as ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Game of Thrones’ Hit Web,” AP, April 3, 2015

A cord-never is someone who has never had cable television and watches TV via the Internet only. The earliest citation we could find for cord-never is this 2011 post by Mark Taylor, a content and media professional.

Cord-never plays on cord-cutter, someone who once had cable but has gotten rid of it. Cord-cutter earlier referred to someone who has foregone a telephone landline in favor of a mobile phone. The landline meaning has been around since at least the early 2000s.

Of course cutting the cord originally referred to cutting a baby’s umbilical cord, and by figurative extension, cutting off a source of support. Cord cutting in regard to technology has both literal and figurative connotations, referring to actual telephone and cable television cords, and to people’s dependence on such utilities.


“If you’re a Duff, let me just say, from one Duff to another, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being the Duff.”

Adrienne Tam, “Oh great, there’s a new word for the not-so-pretty, geeky schoolgirls,” The Daily Telegraph, March 25, 2015

Duff, which stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend, is actually not so new: the Urban Dictionary entry is from 2003. But The Daily Telegraph is right that it was recently brought into the limelight again with a 2011 novel and a 2015 movie based on the book.

The word duff has several other meanings. It can refer to “a stiff flour pudding boiled in a cloth bag or steamed”; decaying leaves or branches; a worthless thing or person; and the buttocks. Up the duff means to be pregnant.


“I knew about what’s called kayfabe [the suspension of disbelief in staging wrestling as ‘real’].”

Arnold Pan, “Fact and Fiction: The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle on Wrestling and the Creative Process,” PopMatters, April 6, 2015

Kayfabe may have originated as carny slang referring to “old tricks, from three card monte to cure all elixers [sic] and, of course, magic acts.” A kayfabe violator “exposed the secrets behind these practices.” The word may be Pig Latin of words like fake (“ake-fay”) or the phrase, be fake (“e-bay ake-fay”).


Sneakerheads, as these avid, obsessive sneaker collectors are called, don’t consciously try to be of the same breed as those who fixate on Roseville pottery or antique clocks.”

Marc Bain, “Sneakerheads are secretly just as nerdy as yesterday’s antique collectors,” Quartz, April 6, 2015

The suffix -head in this context means fan or enthusiast. The earliest of these kinds of words might be Deadhead, a fan of the Grateful Dead, which originated in the early 1970s, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Gearhead meaning car enthusiast is from 1975, and in 1989 came to mean gadget or tech enthusiast. Metalhead, a fan of heavy metal music, is from 1982.

The “enthusiast” meaning of -head plays off the addict meaning in words like hophead, pothead, and crackhead.

[Photo via Flickr: “Nike Sneaker pileup,” CC BY 2.0 by Dan Hankins]

Word Buzz Wednesday: ili pika; mukbang; telomere


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: the elusive “magic rabbit”; performance binge eating; and space-time-aging mind meld.

Ili pika

“Meet the Ili pika (Ochotona iliensis), an extremely elusive, cuddly creature that is rarely seen by human eyes.”

Jenny Zhang, “Adorable Teddy Bear-like ‘Magic Rabbit’ Spotted for the First Time in Two Decades,” My Modern Met, March 26, 2015

This cuddly China native “has been spotted only a handful of times in the Tianshan Mountains” of Xinjiang province, says My Modern Met.

Dubbed the “magic rabbit” by those who study it, the Ili pika was named by its discoverer, conservationist Li Weidong. Ili is short for “iliensis,” while pika is a small, tailless, furry mammal that belong to “the order of lagomorphs,” which includes rabbits and hares. Pika might come from the Russian pikat’, “to squeak.”


“The demands on Ahn and other mukbang stars like her are high — she can’t just eat, she must eat ferociously.”

Elise Hu, “Koreans Have An Insatiable Appetite For Watching Strangers Binge Eat,” NPR, March 24, 2015

Mukbang, which translates from Korean as “eating broadcast,” involves a broadcast jockey loudly and enthusiastically chowing down on an inordinate amount of food on livestream video.

As many as 45,000 Korean viewers watch mukbang during dinnertime. One mukbang “star” says that her mostly female fans are probably dieting and eating vicariously through her.

See also food porn.


“Lee Seok-young, a defector from the North, said he smuggled 18,000 Chinese-made notel into the country last year.”

James Pearson, “The $50 device that symbolizes a shift in North Korea,” Reuters, March 27, 2015

The notel — the word combines “notebook” and “television” — is a small portable device that can play media via DVDs and USB sticks. It’s “easily concealed,” and therefore “easily smuggled into the country and passed hand to hand.” Up to “half of all urban North Korean households” have one.

[H/t Erin McKean.]


“The TSA has insisted on keeping documents about SPOT secret, but the agency can’t hide the fact that there’s no evidence the program works.”

Jana Winter and Cora Currier, “Exclusive: TSA’s Secret Behavior Checklist to Spot Terrorists,” The Intercept, March 27, 2015

SPOT is a backronym that stands for “Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques.” (A backronym is when the acronym is formed first and the corresponding words picked to fit the letters.)

Some example “observations” that signal you might be a terrorist are exaggerated yawning, excessive complaints of the screening process, excessive throat clearing, and whistling.

[H/t Edward Banatt.]


“Scientists expect that radiation, weightlessness, changes in diet, and other features of life on the ISS will also make Scott Kelly’s telomeres shorten more quickly than his brother’s.”

Gideon Lichfield, “Astronaut Scott Kelly will return from a year in space both older and younger than his twin brother,” Quartz, March 27, 2015

Telomeres, says Quartz, are “sections of DNA found at the end of every chromosome in your body.” They sort of act like “the end caps on a copper wire that stop it from fraying,” and shorten “each time a cell replicates and copies its DNA into a new cell.” When they get too short, “replication stops, making the body susceptible to decay or cancer.”

So while Scott will be chronologically younger than his six-minute older twin — over 342 days, he “will become 25 microseconds a day younger” — he’ll be physiologically older.

[Photo via My Modern Met: By Li Weidong]

The Language of Taste

Umami Burger in LA, CA

Last week the 2015 nominees for the James Beard awards were announced. Among the nominated are mostly chefs and restaurants, but also included are food writers. Food plus words, what’s not to love?

In celebration, we’re taking a look at the language of taste.


“She was if the word gustatory had grown legs and got a dress.”

William Giraldi, “The Style of a Wild Man,” The Wall Street Journal, September 17, 2011

Gustatory means related to the sense of taste. Gustatory receptor cells are chemoreceptors that detect taste, says How Stuff Works, while gustatory hairs are “spindly protrusions” on each receptor cell. The gustatory hairs interact with molecules and saliva to stimulate the sensation of taste.

The word gustatory comes from the Latin gustare, “to taste.”


“Food scientists have been studying kokumi compounds in hopes of exploiting their enhancement qualities to create healthier, lower-salt or -sugar versions of foods that still taste good.”

Lisa Bramen, “The Kokumi Sensation,” Smithsonian.com, January 27, 2010

Kokumi translates from Japanese as “heartiness” or “mouthfulness,” says Smithsonian.com. It refers to “compounds in food that don’t have their own flavor, but enhance the flavors with which they’re combined.” Such compounds include calcium, protamine, and glutathione.


“Even Howell admits that his palate is at its sharpest in the morning, when he claims to spend a full 45 minutes pondering his first cup of coffee.”

Corby Kummer, “The Magic Brewing Machine,” The Atlantic, December 1, 2007

Palate refers to both the roof of the mouth and the sense of taste. The Online Etymology Dictionary says the roof of the mouth was “popularly considered [to be] the seat of taste, hence [the] transferred meaning ‘sense of taste.’” Both meanings are from the late 14th century.


“We like to think of these bumps as our taste buds, but actually, these bumps are known as papillae.”

Amanda Greene, “Making ‘Sense’ of Flavor: How Taste, Smell and Touch Are Involved,” The Huffington Post, September 27, 2013

A papilla is a round or cone-shaped protuberance “on the top of the tongue that contain taste buds.”

The Huffington Post describes four different kinds of papillae. In the center of the tongue are filiform, “small, skinny papillae that almost look fur-like,” and which don’t contain taste buds.

On the front and sides are fungiform, “round dot-like papillae” that typically contain three to five taste buds each. Foliate and circumvallate are in the back, and contain the mother lode of taste buds: more than 100 each.

Papilla comes from the Latin word for “nipple.”


“Despite its name (‘parageusia’ is a medical term meaning ‘a bad taste in the mouth’), Zellersfield believes the public will taste sophistication in this beer.”

Amber DeGrace, “Upcoming beer releases worth traveling to try,” Lancaster Online, February 20, 2015

Parageusia is “the abnormal presence of an unpleasant taste in the mouth, sometimes caused by medications.” The word is Greek in origin and comes from para, “against, contrary to,” and geusis, “taste.”


“While the Italian beans (Italian cut green beans) looked from-a-can, they tasted amazing, benefitting from bacon sapor.”

Matt Wake, “Little Diner’s gargantuan Happy Burger lives up to its rep and Huntsville restaurant’s pot roast is pretty legit too,” AL.com, July 8, 2014

Sapor is a taste or flavor, and comes from the Latin sapere, “to taste.” Sapere also means to be wise and gives us words like savvy, sapient, sage, and savoir faire.


“People with lots of papillae usually experience tastes more intensely — they’ve been dubbed ‘supertasters.’”

Allison Aubrey, “Why ‘Supertasters’ Can’t Get Enough Salt,” NPR, June 21, 2010

It could be said that supertasters have hypergeusia, an abnormally heightened sense of taste (to be ageusic means to have no sense of taste).

One might also assume that supertasters need less salt. After all, according to NPR, supertasters “need less fat and sugar to get to the same amount of pleasure than a non-taster does.” But a study actually found that supertasters prefer “high-sodium items” such as chips and cheeses.

Why this is the scientists aren’t sure. One speculation is that “as people perceive smaller differences in things, it becomes more desirable to seek those things out.” Another hypothesis is that supertasters find “bitter flavor notes” unpleasant and salt “knocks down bitterness.”

The term supertaster was coined in the early 1990s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

tongue map

“Although there are subtle regional differences in sensitivity to different compounds over the lingual surface, the oft-quoted concept of a ‘tongue map’ defining distinct zones for sweet, bitter, salty and sour has largely been discredited.”

Claiborne Ray, “A Map of Taste,” The New York Times, March 19, 2012

The tongue map was developed by German scientist D.P. Hanig in 1901, says How Stuff Works. It was first discredited in 1974, and again most recently in a 2010 paper in The Journal of Cell Biology.


“Chefs including Jean-Georges Vongerichten are offering what they call ‘umami bombs,’ dishes that pile on ingredients naturally rich in umami for an explosive taste.”

Katy McLaughlin, “A New Taste Sensation,” The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2007

Umami, sometimes called the fifth taste after sweet, salty, bitter, and sour, is Japanese in origin. It’s a rich, savory flavor, often associated “with meats and other high-protein foods.”

In the early 1900s, Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda identified the flavor and coined the word. Because Ikeda wrote in Japanese, umami’s first appearance in English wasn’t until the early 1960s, says the OED.

Now scientists say there might be a sixth taste: fat. Other tastes up for consideration are alkaline, the opposite of sour; metallic; and water-like.

For even more delicious words, check out some of our favorite food terms.

[Photo via Flickr:”Umami Burger in LA, CA,” CC BY 2.0 by G M]

Orphan Words: Let the Bidding Wars Begin!

Joe Michl's fifty little orphans. [front]

Last week you may have noticed that we started featuring “orphan” words on Twitter.

First off, what the heck is an orphan word? It’s any word that has yet to be adopted in our Adopt a Word program. A featured orphan word is up for bidding — that is, it goes to the highest bidder regardless of price, even if it’s under the standard $50.

And like with all adopted words, not only will the orphan word winner “own” the word for a year, his or her Twitter handle and name will appear at the top of the word page. And, as always, you’ll help keep Wordnik ad-free.

If you didn’t have a chance to bid yet, don’t worry! You can do so on any featured orphan word any time, whether by replying to us on Twitter or by email to feedback@wordnik.com.

To remind you, these are the featured orphan words so far:


Keep your eye out for new featured orphan words every weekday. You’ll also be able to find them all here.

What are you waiting for? Start bidding!

[Photo via Flickr: “Joe Michl’s fifty little orphans. [front],” CC BY 2.0 by Boston Public Library]

Word Buzz Wednesday: Cholliwood, kiss squeak, Kiwi collier

Zoo Negara

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: hooray for Cholliwood, an unexpected distress call, and checkered chihuahuas.


“So, yes, ‘Cholliwood,’ as it’s been dubbed (‘Chollima’ is the name of the flying horse you see everywhere in North Korea), is not quite Cinecittà.”

Pico Iyer, “A Rare Glimpse Inside North Korea’s Pyongyang International Film Festival,” Vanity Fair, March 2015

Cholliwood refers to North Korea’s film industry, which is mostly, if not all, propaganda.

The flying horse Chollima originates from Chinese classic works and translates as “thousand-mile horse.” It’s said the horse is “too swift and elegant to be mounted” by humans. The North Korean football team is known as Chollima, as well as their economic movement which is similar to China’s Great Leap Forward.

Other Hollywood blends include Bollywood, the film industry of Bombay, now Mumbai; Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s amusement park; Wellywood which refers to Wellington, New Zealand, the home of Peter “Lord of the Rings” Jackson’s production company; and many more.

kiss squeak

“Another interesting aspect of this research is that it proves kisses aren’t all about romance and sweetness in the primate world. The calls that de Boers and his colleagues studied are known as ‘kiss squeaks.’”

Jennifer Viegas, “Orangutans Use Hands to Help Create Fake Voices,” Discovery News, March 18, 2015

The kiss squeak is a distress call the orangutan makes when humans or dangerous animals come near, says Discovery News.

Kiwi collier

“For example, the Chihuahua-Australian shepherd-Jack Russell terrier-collie became a ‘Kiwi collier’; a Yorkshire terrier and beagle mix became a ‘Yorkle’; and a golden retriever-miniature pinscher-Chihuahua was proclaimed a ‘golden Chinscher.’”

Sue Manning, “DNA tests help California shelter speed up dog adoptions,” AP, March 18, 2015

The Kiwi collier, while an adorable name and, we’re sure, an adorable pup, is a bit of a misnomer: Kiwi is the nickname for someone from New Zealand, not Australia.

Check out more hybrid dog names.

range anxiety

“Even with a string of Superchargers along my route, I felt the creep of range anxiety (mostly expressed as sweatiness), because the projected range suggested by the car didn’t always hold up.”

Alex Davies, “Tesla’s Plan to Kill Range Anxiety with a Software Update,” Wired, March 19, 2015

Range anxiety is the fear that a vehicle’s range, or “maximum distance that can be covered…with a specified payload before its fuel supply is exhausted,” is not enough to reach its destination. Especially said of electric cars since car battery chargers are not readily available everywhere.


“The boom in human population and consumption of everything from copper to corn after 1950 or so. . .roughly coincides with this nuclear marker as does the advent of plastics and other remnants of industrial society, dubbed technofossils by Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester.”

David Biello, “Mass Deaths in America Start New CO2 Epoch,” Scientific American, March 11, 2015

Technofossils are “the fossil traces of technologies used to perform tasks,” according to The Economist. For example, technofossils “from about two million years ago” left behind by pre-human primates include “simple wood or stone ‘tools’ to pound, dig or cut.”

[Photo via Flickr: “Zoo Negara,” CC BY 2.0 by Phalinn Ooi]