Word Buzz Wednesday: regrexit, skins gambling, brunchfast

Lumberjack Breakfast

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: regretting a British exit; gambling in video games; yet another unnecessary food portmanteau.


“The aftermath of Brexit has also spawned the so-called ‘Regrexit’ phenomenon: Britons who voted for Brexit, but now regret doing so because they feel they were misinformed about the likely consequences, or did not consider them carefully enough.”

Ilya Somin, “Brexit, ‘Regrexit,’ and the impact of political ignorance,” Washington Post, June 26, 2016

Last week was all about the Brexit, Great Britain’s vote to exit the European Union, followed almost immediately by regrexit, regretting the Brexit. Not to be outdone, Texas gave a renewed call for Texit, secession from the United States, while Quartz devised possible names for exits by all EU members, from Beljump to Swedone.


“Dubbed ‘Broomgate,’ much of the fuss centers on a new kind of curling broom called the icePad, manufactured by Hardline Curling.”

Jennifer Ouellette, “Here’s the Physics Behind the ‘Broomgate’ Controversy Rocking the Sport of Curling,” Gizmodo, June 12, 2016

In lesser scandals, the curling world was swept away by Broomgate, named for the little brooms with which team members “madly sweep the ice” in front of the curling stone. Players aren’t opposed to the new icePad curling broom, but are just worried that it and “similar high-tech equipment are altering the fundamentals of the sport in troubling ways by drastically reducing the level of skill required.”

skins gambling

“The lawsuit comes two months after Bloomberg published an investigation into the rise of what’s known as skins gambling, an increasingly prominent part of professional video gaming.”

Joshua Brustein, Eben Novy-Williams, “Valve Faces Lawsuit Over Video Game Gambling,” Bloomberg, June 24, 2016

Skins are decorative virtual weapons used in gaming, and which can “be acquired in the game and sold for real money.” The introduction of skins led to skin gambling in the game CS:GO, in which “people buy skins for cash, then use the skins to place online bets on pro CS:GO matches.”


“Burger Business reports that the chain filed a U.S. trademark registration for the term ‘Brunchfast’ on May 26.”

Virginia Chamlee, “Jack in the Box Trademarks ‘Brunchfast,’” Eater, June 7, 2016

Brunchfast is, as Eater says, a “seemingly unnecessary portmanteau of the words ‘brunch’ and ‘breakfast.” It’s also been trademarked by fast food chain Jack in the Box. Since brunch is a combination of “breakfast” and “lunch” and is generally eaten between or instead of those two meals, we’re guessing that brunchfast would be a slightly later breakfast.


“It’s easy to dismiss geophagy as a disgusting habit of children, a wacky pregnancy craving, or an exotic behaviour from far-away lands, but none of these approaches really do it justice.”

Josh Gabbatiss, “The people who can’t stop eating dirt,” BBC, June 16, 2016

Geophagy is “the eating of earthy substances, such as clay or chalk, practiced among various peoples as a custom or for dietary or subsistence reasons.” While “Western medicine has traditionally regarded geophagy as pathological,” says the BBC, it’s not considered taboo in countries like Cameroon and Kenya, where a researcher found that “she could buy packets of earth in a range of flavours, including black pepper and cardamom.”

Game of Words: Our 11 Favorites from ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6


As always, here be spoilers.

It’s June so you know what that means: time for the Game of Thrones season finale. We’ve been gathering our favorite GoT words for a while now, and this year is no different. Here are 11 of our favorites.

UPDATE: We’ve added a couple of terms from the season finale.

Bay of Dragons

Daenerys: “Specific orders will be left for you regarding the welfare of Meereen and the Bay of Dragons.”
Daario: “The Bay of Dragons?”
Daenerys: “We can’t call it Slaver’s Bay anymore, can we?”

“The Winds of Winter,” June 26, 2016

In Vietnam you can find a real-life Bay of Dragons. Called Hạ Long Bay, which translates literally as Bay of the Descending Dragon, the bay is either named for the dragon-like sea creatures spotted by early explorers or, according to Vietnamese legend, dragons sent as protectors against invaders. The dragons spit out “jewels and jade,” which became the islands and islets of the Bay, linking together to form a wall.

Brotherhood Without Banners

The Hound: “They’re from the Brotherhood. They follow the Red God.”

“The Broken Man,” June 5, 2016

This season the Hound encounters the Brotherhood Without Banners, an “outlaw group” whose goal is to protect the smallfolk, or peasantry, “regardless of which King or Lord they support.” The Red God is another name for the Lord of Light or R’hllor. The BWB members the Hound runs into are renegades themselves, slaughtering a settlement of smallfolk rather than protecting them.

dosh khaleen

Ser Jorah: “When Khal Drogo died, she was supposed to come here and join the dosh khaleen, the widows of the dead khals.”

“Book of the Stranger,” May 15, 2016

Dosh khaleen translates from Dothraki as “council of crones.” These widows of slain khals, or clan chieftains, serve as seers for the Dothraki and “preside over the holy city of Vaes Dothrak.”


Daenerys: “Dracarys.”

“The Battle of the Bastards,” June 19, 2016

Dracarys is a High Valyrian word that means “dragon-fire,” and is what Daenerys says to her dragons to make them unleash their blazey breath.


Randyll Tarly: “See that sword? It’s called Heartsbane. Been in our family for 500 years. . . .It’s supposed to go to my first born son after I die. He will never wield that sword.”

“Blood of My Blood,” May 29, 2016

The word bane comes from the Old English bana, “killer, slayer, murderer; the devil,” and refers to “that which causes death, or destroys life,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Bane came to refer especially to poison, in particular poisonous plants such as wolfsbane, ratsbane, and dogbane. A later meaning is a cause of ruin or woe, as in “the bane of one’s existence.”

iron price

Euron Greyjoy: “I wasn’t born to be king. I paid the iron price, and here I stand.”

“The Door,” May 22, 2016

To pay the iron price means to have gotten something by seizure rather than buying out the other party. That shameful practice, at least among the ironborn, is known as “paying the gold price.” The iron price is a tenet of the ironborn’s traditional lifestyle, also known as the Old Way.

little birds

Cersei [of the children]: “Varys’s little birds.”
Maester: “Your little birds now, your grace.”

“Oathbreaker,” May 8, 2016

The little birds, mainly street children, are the network of spies once employed by Varys, also known as the Spider and the Master of Whisperers, and “adviser in matters of intelligence and espionage.” The name little birds might come from the idiom, a little bird told me, which itself might come from the Bible.


Varys: “Mhysa means ‘mother’ in Valyrian.”
Tyrion: “I know what mhysa means.”

“The Red Woman,” April 24, 2016

Mhysa is, more specifically, Low Valyrian. The Low Valyrian spoken in Slaver’s Bay was influenced by Old Ghiscari, an ancient language of which a few loanwords remain. Mhysa is one of them. The High Valyrian word for mother is muña. Muño ēngos means “mother tongue”; muñar means “parents”; and Muña Zaldrīzoti is “the Mother of Dragons.”


Tyrion [to the dragons]: “When I was a child, my uncle asked what gift I wanted for my nameday. I begged him for one of you.”

“Home,” May 1, 2016

A nameday in Game of Thrones land is basically the same as a birthday since Seven Kingdom-ers receive their names on the day that they’re born. A name day in Christian faith is “the feast day of the saint after whom one is named,” as well as the day one is baptized.

take the black

Sansa [to Theon]: “When you take the black, all your crimes are forgiven.”

“Home,” May 1, 2016

When someone joins the Night’s Watch, it’s said that they take the black. The members of the Night’s Watch wear only black and are also referred to as the black brothers and, disparagingly, crows.

trial by faith

“After much prayer and reflection, the Crown has decided that from this day forward, trial by combat will be forbidden throughout the Seven Kingdoms. . . .Cersei Lannister and Loras Tyrell will stand trial before seven septors as it was in the earliest days of faith.”

“No One,” June 12, 2016

Trial by faith or trial of the faith is the idea of being tried by members of the Faith Militant. This is opposed to trial by combat, in which the accused and the accuser appoint fighters to battle each other to the death. A variation of trial by combat is trial by seven, in which each side appoints a team of seven fighters.

white raven

Sansa: “Jon, a raven came from the Citadel. A white raven. Winter is here.”

“The Winds of Winter,” June 26, 2016

While black ravens deliver messages, the white raven is sent from the Citadel specifically to announce the changing of the seasons, which, as every Game of Thrones fan knows, can last for years.

So what does it mean that winter is finally here? Comicbook.com breaks it down: previous to winter was the longest summer ever, “which many believed was an ominous portent of things to come,” such as an especially harsh winter, and with that the Night King and his White Walker army, and, as Melisandre warns, the Great War still to come.

Hail to the ‘Veep': Our 10 Favorite Words of Season 5

VEEP Season 5

Another crazy and hilarious season of Veep is coming to a close, and as per tradition, we’ve kept our ears open for the most interesting Veep-isms. Here are 10 of our favorites. (Warning: some spoilers and awesomely strong language ahead.)

UPDATED: We added an addition term from the season finale.


Selina [to Bob]: “See? Crappenstance calling.”

“The Eagle,” May 8, 2016

A happenstance is something that’s happened by chance or coincidence. Crappenstance, a blend of crap and happenstance, refers to something crappy that’s happened.

death bump

Selina: “Just out of curiosity, if I were to [mimes pulling a plug], would [the increase in approval ratings] end?”
Kent: “There is a possibility of a shorter-lived by numerically greater outpouring. If you will, a death bump.”

“Mother,” May 15, 2016

A death bump refers to a bump in approval ratings from the perception that a politician is grieving.

full-metal Nixon

Amy: “She’s becoming seriously unhinged. She has gone full-metal Nixon.”

“C**tgate,” May 29, 2016

The term full-metal Nixon seems to have been created by Michael Raysses in Daily Kos regarding Condoleeza Rice’s response to a child’s question about “the methods used by the Bush administration to get information from detainees”:

Going full-metal-Nixon in her response, Ms. Rice asserted that if an act was ordered by the President, it was per force not illegal.

The full-metal part of the term likely comes from full-metal jacket, a bullet encased in a copper alloy, and full-metal’s figurative meaning of going full force, perhaps to a manic degree. The Nixon part is based on a quote from the former president in an interview with journalist David Frost: “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

Jimmy Carter

Selina: “Hey, I’m going to be president. So I can go take a shit in the Rose Garden if I want to.”
Ben: “We used to call that a Jimmy Carter.”

“Nev-AD-a,” May 1, 2016

The term Rose Garden strategy or campaign refers to when an incumbent president stays in the White House — perhaps in the Rose Garden, which borders the Oval Office and West Wing — rather than hits the campaign road, using “pressing White House business” as an excuse.

According to linguist Barry Popkik, the term was popularized in 1976 “when President Gerald Ford spent time in the White House to look presidential, rather than to appear on the campaign trail.” Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, then a relatively unknown from Georgia. Carter used the same strategy during his 1980 campaign, losing to Ronald Reagan.

The Red Room

Selina: “Here’s an interesting fact. Would you believe that it was called the Red Room before it was actually painted red?”

“Inauguration,” June 26, 2016

According to the WhiteHouse.gov, the Red Room was named for the red fabrics that “were used for the draperies, upholsteries and floor covering in the 1840s.” It met with controversy in 1876 with the “secret swearing-in of President Rutherford B. Hayes right after his hotly contested defeat of Samuel J. Tilden.”

sham ham

Catherine: “We just thought maybe we could have, like, a sham ham for Christmas.”
Selina: “What is that, sweetie? Is that like tofurkey?”
Marjorie: “No, ma’am, tofurky is cooked. This is a raw log made of mushrooms and soaked walnuts.”

“Camp David,” June 12, 2016

Other catchy meat substitute names include Fakin’ Bacon, wheatballs, and Phoney Baloney’s.


Marjorie: “We’re clear. Bring in Sparrow.”

“The Eagle,” May 8, 2016

We can’t help but wonder if President Meyer’s Secret Service code name is a reference to the High Sparrow in Game of Thrones, another controversial ans powerful figure. Check out 11 more great code names from the Secret Service.

a tie is like kissing your sister

Gary: “My bowling coach used to say a tie was like kissing your sister.”
Selina: “Well this feels like my sister took a shit on my chest.”

“Kissing Your Sister,” June 19, 2016

The phrase, “A tie is like kissing your sister,” originated in the early 1950s and is attributed to Navy football coach Eddie Erdelatz.


Ben: “Qataris likes to assert themselves. They’re wet-fingered.”
Selina: “They’re into ass play?”
Ben: “They have a gift for sensing prevailing political winds.”

“Mother,” May 15, 2016

The term wet-fingered politics — with the idea of holding up one’s damp finger to feel for the direction of the wind — means voting according to public opinion or “political breezes,” as a 1991 article in Deseret News puts it.

The earliest citation we could find for wet-fingered politics is from a 1972 article in The Morning News of Wilmington, Delaware. “I’m against wet-finger politics,” said Olof Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden at the time. “Testing public opinion before you do anything.”

whip the vote

Selina [to Catherine]: “I have to be here, sweetie pie, because I’ve got to call all of these congress people. Whip the vote….Mommy’s gotta whip. Whip it good. What is that?”
Gary: “Devo.”

“Thanksgiving,” May 22, 2016

Whip the vote might be a play on the game Whip the Vote. Created by Ryan Lambourn, the game “tasks players with negotiating Congressional votes as a Democratic whip.”


Ben: “Zitzilla just stomped all over Wall Street.”

“Morning After,” April 24, 2016

Zitzilla, a blend of zit and Godzilla, refers to a monster pimple Selina tries (unsuccessfully) to hide.

Wordnik News: TIME, PyCon, BBC


Summer is upon us and lots has been happening at Wordnik! Here are some highlights.


Last month Katy Steinmetz wrote in TIME magazine about redefining the modern dictionary, and spoke with several modern lexicographers and dictionary innovators, including Wordnik’s own Erin McKean. Erin talked to about Katy about how Wordnik “aims to be more responsive than traditional dictionaries but more authoritative than crowdsourced sites,” and about Wordnik’s Kickstarter initiative.

summer.ai + Wordnik at PyCon 2016

Recently Manuel Ebert, founding partner of machine learning agency summer.ai, spoke at PyCon 2016 about working with Wordnik to add a million missing words to the dictionary. Check out his presentation.

The future of language

Leo Johnson, a reporter from FutureProofing, a BBC radio and podcast series, spoke with Erin about language and new technology. They discussed Wordnik’s mission, Twitterbots, infixes (“Absodamnlutely!”), and AI’s effect on language. AI will do interesting things to language, Erin said, creating metaphors, neologisms, and images humans wouldn’t have created but will recognize as “gorgeous.”

Speaking of Twitterbots…

At Medium, Erin wrote about how to create a simple, free, text-driven Twitterbot with AWS Lambda & Node.js.

Button, button, who’s got the button?

For a limited time, when you adopt a word, you’ll get a cute Semicolon Appreciation Society button along with wordy stickers and other cool schwag.


Last but never least, a couple of reminders.

Word gamers email. The inaugural issue of Logodaedaly, Wordnik’s word gamers email newsletter, went out last month. It featured an interview with Akiva Leffert, the creator of the word game Whirred; the antiquarian word game of the month (adjectives, anyone?); and the game-related list of the month. Interested in signing up? Go for it!

Wordnik T-shirts. Don’t forget, nifty Wordnik T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies are available in men’s, women’s, and children’s sizes. Word nerd yourself and all your loved ones.

Word Buzz Wednesday: gaokao nanny; Ophiohamus georgemartini; rope-a-dope

muhammad ali

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: buddies to help you study (but not cook or clean); a starfish that’ll kill everyone you love; a defense technique from the Greatest.

gaokao nanny

“Professional Gaokao nannies are highly educated students or recent graduates that move in with students to study with them in the run up to the exam.”

Yvette Tan, “Gaokao season: China embarks on dreaded national exams,” BBC, June 7, 2016

The gaokao is a grueling two-day exam, says CNN, taken by many high schoolers in the People’s Republic of China to gain entrance into the country’s most prestigious universities. According to the BBC, failing the gaokao “almost guarantees a lifetime of low-ranking employment, and family disappointment,” hence the hiring of gaokao nannies. However, while gaokao nannies are highly educated, they might be “weak in terms of cooking and cleaning.”

now-or-never bottleneck

“The now-or-never bottleneck has powerful implications for language acquisition, because learning how to process language can only take place ‘in the moment’.”

Linda B. Glaser, “‘Now-or-never bottleneck’ explains language acquisition,” ScienceDaily, June 10, 2016

In a new paper, researchers assert that a phenomenon they’re dubbing the now-or-never bottleneck has a profound effect on language processing, acquisition, and evolution. To overcome “fundamental limitations on sensory and cognitive memory,” the researchers propose “the brain’s language processing system overcomes this bottleneck by processing linguistic input immediately, before it is obliterated by later input and lost forever.”

Ophiohamus georgemartini

“A brittle star, found deep in the South Pacific, has been officially dubbed Ophiohamus georgemartini because of its likeness to the thorny crown found on the cover of book two in the Game of Thrones series, A Clash of Kings.”

Sarah Keartes, “Meet the Game of Thrones Brittle Star: Ophiohamus Georgemartini,” Nerdist, May 31, 2016

Other literary nature names include the Nabokovia, a butterfly named for Vladimir Nabokov; the Livyatan melville, an extinct sperm whale named for Herman Melville; and the Megachile chomskyi, a bee named for Noam Chomsky.

poverty simulation

“The Singapore Island Country Club, for instance, was recently criticized when it planned a poverty simulation for its club members; it costs $21,000 a year to belong to the club.”

Erik Sherman, “Misery Tourists: How the Wealthy Learn What It’s Like to Be Poor,” Fortune, June 1, 2016

Poverty simulation workshops are designed, as Fortune says, for “the privileged try to understand at least a bit of what the poor and refugees face.” Some poverty simulations have been long held without controversy. For instance, the World Economic Forum annual meeting “has held a refugee simulation for the last eight years.”

However, other workshops have been criticized for taking place at luxurious spots like the Ritz Carlton and for helping to make participants into what might be called “misery tourists, collecting experiences and assuaging discomfort by having now done their part.”


“Look at that. There’s Apollo [Creed] using my rope-a-dope defense.”

Roger Ebert, “Watching Rocky II with Muhammad Ali,” RogerEbert.com, July 31, 1979

Rope-a-dope refers to a boxing strategy, often attributed to Muhammad Ali, in which one puts oneself in what looks like a losing position — backed up like a “dope on the ropes” — only to take one’s opponent off-guard and ultimately win.

Word Buzz Wednesday: bicycle face, dark factory, ghost gun

Sjoerd Lammers street photography

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: the perils of a bike riding; robots saving on light bulbs; guns without a trace.

bicycle face

“Of all the physical woes attributed to the bicycle as it became popular in the 1890s, the one that most strained credulity was the ‘bicycle face.’”

Margaret Guroff, “Bicycle Face,” The Atlantic, June 2016

The pseudo-syndrome bicycle face was “characterized by wide, wild eyes” and “a grim set to the mouth,” all due to “the stress of incessant balancing,” according to Margaret Guroff in her book, The Mechanical Horse: How the Bicycle Reshaped American Life. The disorder allegedly went as far as to render “children unrecognizable to their own mothers.”

dark factory

“The ultimate goal is what’s known as ‘the dark factory’ – one in which you don’t even need to turn on the lights, because there aren’t any humans to require them.”

Robert Colvile, “Is a robot about to take your job?” The Telegraph, June 6, 2016

A dark factory is a factory that’s almost entirely automated and hence, needs no light for human laborers to work by.

entourage effect

“In the process of what’s called the ‘entourage effect,’ during which different cannabinoids work together to enhance each other’s individual functioning, the cacao- and cannabis-derived cannabinoids cooperatively provide relief.”

Madison Margolin, “Whoopi Goldberg Explains Her Pot-for-PMS Products, Whoopi & Maya,” LA Weekly, June 7, 2016

The term entourage effect was apparently coined by Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam in the late 1990s and describes how the various compounds in the cannabis plant “work better together than in isolation.”

familiar letter

“At the time, there had lately emerged a form of written communication known as the ‘familiar letter,’ which was characterized by informal, from-the-heart prose, rather than displays of intellect, reason, and wit.”

Ella Morton, “Letter-Writing Manuals Were the Self-Help Books of the 18th Century,” Atlas Obscura, June 2, 2016

The practice of writing familiar letters emerged in the 18th century, says Atlas Obscura, and along with it manuals on how best to write such letters.

ghost gun

“To do that, his company, Defense Distributed, offers the sale of two very controversial – and legal – items: the firing mechanism and aluminum spine of what’s called a Ghost Gun, a build-it-at-home way to make your own firearm (without serial numbers), and Ghost Gunners, a milling tool that allows any DIY-er to build lower receivers at home.”

Adam Popescu, “Cody Wilson: the man who wants Americans to print their own 3D guns,” The Guardian, June 6, 2016

Because ghost guns are “homemade,” they’re without serial numbers and are therefore untraceable, which often makes them “completely unknown to law enforcement, unless one turns up at a crime scene,” says The Trace. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) call such weapons unfinished receivers.

In 2013, says WIRED, a mass shooting in Santa Monica was attributed to a ghost gun. In 2015, “California state senator Kevin Deleon introduced a bill to ban ghost guns,” which Governor Jerry Brown vetoed.

Word Buzz Wednesday: fyrirtækjagripdeildir, graver, Karman line

Jim Morrison's Grave

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a very long Icelandic word; grave-hopping for fun; to infinity and beyond.


“And there was no word for ‘corporate raid’. As that caused so much of our trouble I invented one and it has been accepted into the language: fyrirtækjagripdeildir.”

Brian Oliver, “‘No McDonald’s, no motorway, no army': Iceland’s evolution recalled,” The Guardian, May 28, 2016

Fyrirtækjagripdeildir translates from Icelandic as “corporate looting.” Check out more delightful Icelandic words and phrases.


“In the shorthand parlance of men and women who collect graveyard experiences, Thornley is what’s known as a ‘graver.’”

Johnette Howard, “Stew Thornley’s macabre adventure: Visiting every dead baseball Hall of Famer’s grave,” ESPN, May 26, 2016

Gravers are people who visit cemeteries for fun, whether to see the final resting places of celebrities, fill in genealogical blanks in one’s own family, or to see the headstones. ESPN profiles a man who for over two decades has been visiting “the graves of every Baseball Hall of Famer.” Gravers might also be called  tombstone tourists or taphophiles.


“They’re known as pizzlies or grolars, and they’re a fusion of the Arctic white bear and their brown cousins.”

Adam Popescu, “Love in the time of climate change: Grizzlies and polar bears are now mating,” The Washington Post, May 23, 2016

A grolar is a cross between a grizzly and a polar bear, a blend, says The Washington Post, “that’s been turning up more and more in parts of Alaska and Western Canada.” While the two species don’t normally inhabit the same environments, they’ve been meeting and mating as the Arctic warms, the sea ice shrinks, and the tundra expands.

Karman line

“Passengers will be passing what’s known as the Karman line — an imaginary boundary 62 miles above the Earth that signals the beginning of what the industry officially refers to as ‘space’ — but they won’t be going into orbit.”

Sean O’Kane, “Blue Origin will intentionally crash its spaceship during the next test flight,” The Verge, May 26, 2016

The Karman line was named for Hungarian-born American research engineer Theodore von Kármán, “best known for his pioneering work in the use of mathematics and the basic sciences in aeronautics and astronautics.”

longevity myth

“You also get what’s called the longevity myth, which is where people’s imaginations exceed reality.”

Allie Conti, “We Spoke with the Scientist Studying How to Live As Long As Possible,” Vice, May 21, 2016

According to Vice, longevity myths might occur with individuals who, one, don’t have a record of their birth and two, are over 80 as  “after the age of 80, people begin to inflate their age,” while “before 80, people understate their age.”