Word Buzz Wednesday: chemesthetic; Glances™; warrior gene

Viking warriors ready for the fight

Welcome to our latest installment of Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up five buzzworthy words. This week: red hot chile peppers; smartwatches in the night, exchanging glances; them’s fightin’ genes.


“Capsaicin, unlike other compounds found in food, is a chemesthetic (a chemical that activates receptors associated with pain and touch) so it produces a burning sensation, rather than a taste or smell.”

Leslie Stephens, “All About Chiles,” Food52, February 25, 2015

Chemesthetics don’t just result in pain but also, for example, the cooling feeling of minty mouthwash and the stinging of carbonated drinks.


“Jackie Chan might still be popular in China, but nowadays the pro-Beijing actor is as well-known as fodder for jokes as he is for his gritty martial arts and slapstick humor on screen. His latest contribution to the country’s mass culture and entertainment: ‘duang.’”

Didi Tang, “‘Duang!’ Chinese poke fun at Jackie Chan with nonsense word,” AP, March 5, 2015

The Chinese word duang, says AP, means something like “ta-da!” or else “special effects.” In a 2004 shampoo commercial, Chan claimed no ‘duang’ was used “to make his hair look blacker, shinier and softer,” which authorities later deemed false advertising.

Duang is an example of onomatopoeia.


“Apple has not yet trademarked the term, but you will hear a lot about ‘glances’ and ‘glanceable content’ in the coming days as Applespeak begins its migration into the vernacular.”

Stephen Hutcheon, “Apple Watch launch 2015: Attention deficit is coming on an industrial scale,” The Sydney Morning Herald, March 11, 2015

Apple defines a glance as a “a browsable collection of timely and contextually relevant moments from the wearer’s favorite apps,” says The Sydney Morning Herald. In other words, a glance is glancing at your watch to check the weather or a stock price.

There will be two types of glances, the Long Look, which you can scroll, and the Short Look, which you can’t.

The word glance comes from the Old French glacier, “to slip, make slippery.”

Munchausen by proxy by Internet

“Some argue that Spears was exhibiting an even newer form of Munchausen than had previously been identified: ‘Munchausen by proxy by Internet.’”

Amanda Hess, “Sick of the Internet,” Slate, March 9, 2015

Münchausen syndrome is a psychiatric disorder in which the afflicted pretend to be ill to gain attention and sympathy. In Münchausen syndrome by proxy a parent or other adult caregiver exaggerates or induces illness in a child to gain attention.

In 2000 psychiatrist Marc Feldman coined Munchausen by Internet, a form of Munchausen syndrome in which people post about feigned illnesses online. Now, in light of a woman who’s accused of slowly poisoning her child with salt and documenting his “illness” on Twitter, some are suggesting yet another variation: Munchausen by proxy by Internet.

The disorder and its variations are named after Baron Münchhausen, a fictional character in German literature loosely based on real-life baron, Hieronymus Karl Friedrich, Freiherr von Münchhausen, who had a habit of telling tall tales.

warrior gene

“About 30% of men have this so-called warrior gene, but whether the gene is triggered or not depends crucially on what happens to you in childhood.”

Are murderers born or made?” BBC News, March 9, 2015

The warrior gene refers to the absence or a variant of a gene that produces the enzyme, MAOA, “which regulates the levels of neurotransmitters involved in impulse control,” says BBC News.

Those without this gene or with the “low-activity” variant are predisposed to violence, according to a 1993 study of a Dutch family. In the family, all the men had a history of violence and were also all missing this gene.

However, just because you’re missing this gene doesn’t mean you’re necessarily violent. A University of California professor who discovered “a surprisingly large number of murderers in his family tree,” had himself genetically tested and found “he had an awful lot of genes that have been linked to violent psychopathic behaviour,” although he himself hasn’t displayed such tendencies.

He chalks it up to his happy childhood and suggests that “a genetic tendency violence” plus an abusive childhood is the deadly combination.

[Photo via Flickr: “Viking warriors ready for the fight,” CC BY 2.0 by Hans Splinter]

12 Wonderful Words from TED


It’s TED time again!

You might know the germ of Wordnik started with Erin McKean’s 2007 TED talk, “The joy of lexicography.” In it, Erin discusses a new kind of dictionary, one not bound by paper but as big as technology allows — big enough to hold all the words.

And not just “real” words because, as Erin says, if you love a word (even made-up ones, and really, if you think about it, all words are made up) it becomes real.

In Erin’s talk are lots of nifty terms, such as clickiness, serendipity, polysemy (“the greedy habit some words have of taking more than one meaning for themselves”), and of course her favorite, erinaceous.

But not only lexicographers’ talks are full of great words. We’ve rounded up 12 of our favorites from TED, some dictionaried, some un-dictionaried, all loved and all real.


“And some people fall smack in the middle of the introvert/extrovert spectrum, and we call these people ambiverts. And I often think that they have the best of all worlds.”

Susan Cain, “The power of introverts,” TED, March 2012

An ambivert is someone with both introvert and an extrovert characteristics.

The word ambivert comes from ambiversion, which was coined by sociologist Kimball Young in 1927. The prefix ambi- means “on both sides,” and also gives us words like ambiguous, ambivalent, and ambidextrous. The ideas of introversion and extroversion in psychology were introduced by C.G. Jung in 1918.

In her TED talk, Susan Cain makes the clarification between introversion and shyness, saying that “shyness is about fear of social judgment,” while introversion is more about how one responds to stimulation. While extroverts “crave large amounts of stimulation,” introverts crave “quieter, more low-key environments.”


“These rules, which Gordon discovered last year, are similar to protocols that control traffic on the Internet—the Anternet, as she calls it.”

Ed Yong, “How The ‘Anternet’ Succeeds by Showing Restraint,” National Geographic, May 15, 2013

Anternet, a blend of ant and internet, is a word coined by Deborah Gordon, a biologist at Stanford University. It describes the way “ants modulate foraging,” which is “remarkably similar to the algorithm the internet uses to control the flow of data.”


“But the best feeling is this biophilia that E.O. Wilson talks about, where humans have this sense of awe and wonder in front of untamed nature, of raw nature.”

Enric Sala, “Glimpses of a pristine ocean,” TED, May 2010

Biophilia meaning “the love of nature and all living things” was first used by biologist E. O. Wilson in 1979, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). An earlier meaning, “the biological drive towards self-preservation; love of life,” is from 1892.

For more love words, check out this list.


“And today, as a cruciverbalist — 23 [Scrabble] points — and an illusion designer, I create that chaos. I test your ability to solve.”

David Kwong, “Two nerdy obsessions meet — and it’s magic,” TED, July 2014

A cruciverbalist is a constructor of crossword puzzles as well as a crossword enthusiast. The Online Etymology Dictionary says the constructor meaning is from 1990 while the enthusiast meaning is from 1971, says the OED.

The word comes from the Latin crux, “cross,” and verbum, “word.”

Lazarus effect

“Now, funnily enough, this is also Joseph after six months on antiretroviral treatment. Not for nothing do we call it the Lazarus Effect.”

Elizabeth Pisani, “Sex, drugs, and HIV — let’s get rational,” TED, April 2010

The Lazarus effect in this context refers to “the dramatic beneficial changes that antiretroviral drugs…can bring to HIV/AIDS patients.” Lazarus of course refers to, in the New Testament, the brother of Mary and Martha who was brought back to life by Jesus.

linguistic exogamy

“They have a curious language and marriage rule which is called ‘linguistic exogamy:’ you must marry someone who speaks a different language.”

Wade Davis, “Dreams from endangered cultures,” TED, January 2007

Exogamy refers to “the custom of marrying outside the tribe, family, clan, or other social unit,” perhaps to avoid inbreeding and congenital diseases, while endogamy is, you guessed it, marrying within a tribe or group.

In his TED talk, anthropologist Wade Davis is referring to the Barasana in the Northwest Amazon.

nuptial gift

“While they’re mating, the male is busy giving the female not just his sperm but also a nutrient-filled package called a nuptial gift.”

Sara Lewis, “The love and lies of fireflies,” TED, July 2014

The nuptial gift is passed to the female firefly from the male during what’s called courtship feeding. In her talk, Sara Lewis says that “what makes this gift so valuable is that it’s packed with protein that the female will use to provision her eggs,” and that female fireflies “use male flash signals to try to predict which males have the biggest gifts to offer.”

Other creatures that engage in nuptial gift-giving are certain arachnids, certain crickets, and the great grey shrike a raptor-like bird, for which the proffered present is killed prey.


“Nobody understands this better than semi-anonymous French ‘photograffeur’ JR, whose epic global art project, Inside Out, has seen over 160,000 people take part in more than 108 countries.”

Amy Dawson, “French guerilla ‘photograffeur’ JR is changing perceptions with his art, one project at a time,” Metro, October 16, 2013

Semi-anonymous street artist JR refers to himself as a photograffeur, part-photographer, part-graffiti artist, because instead of spray paint, he tags buildings and other public spaces with photos. The word photograffeur is a blend of photo and graffeur, French for “graffiti artist.”

JR took home the 2011 TED prize, which awarded him $100,000 to “change the world,” which he’s doing one giant wheatpaste photograph at a time.


Praxeology is the study of human choice, action and decision making.”

Rory Sutherland, “Perspective is everything,” TED, May 2012

The idea of praxeology as a part of economic theory was developed by Austrian philosopher and economist, Ludwig Von Mises. In his talk, Rory Sutherland says that Von Mises believed that economics was just a subset of psychology and referred to economics as “the study of human praxeology under conditions of scarcity.”

Praxeology contains the Greek praxis, “practice, action, doing.” Other praxis words include echopraxia, the involuntary repetition of others, and parapraxis, more commonly known as the Freudian slip.


“This sudden loss of the ability to recognize faces actually happens to people. It’s called prosopagnosia, and it results from damage to a particular part of the brain.”

Nancy Kanwisher, “A neural portrait of the human mind,” TED, October 2014

Prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness, is usually acquired, as Nancy Kanwisher describes, as a result of brain damage, but it can also be congenital, manifesting in up to 2.5% of the population.

The term is from about 1950, and comes from the Greek prosopon, “face,” and agnosia, “ignorance.”


“If you ever aren’t sure if you attended the very best party or bought the very best computer, just settle for ‘good enough.’ People who do this are called ‘satisficers,’ and they’re consistently happier, he’s found, than are ‘maximizers,’ people who feel that they must choose the very best possible option.”

Olga Khazan, “The Power of ‘Good Enough,’” The Atlantic, March 10, 2015

The idea of satisficing originally came from psychologist Herbert Simon in the early 1950s. The word is a blend of satisfy and suffice, and is about being satisfied with good enough, as psychologist (and TED talker) Barry Schwartz puts it, instead of always being concerned with having “the best.”

synthetic happiness

“I want to suggest to you that synthetic happiness is every bit as real and enduring as the kind of happiness you stumble upon when you get exactly what you were aiming for.”

Dan Gilbert, “The surprising science of happiness,” TED, September 2006

Psychologist Dan Gilbert describes natural happiness as the feeling we have “when we get what we wanted,” while synthetic happiness is “what we make when we don’t get what we wanted.”

In other words, synthetic happiness is happiness we’ve chosen to have, despite — and in some cases, even because of — a seemingly negative outcome.

[Photo via Flickr: CC BY 2.0 by Neil Hunt]

‘Community’ Soup: 12 Best Words So Far


Community is back next week (at least via Yahoo Screen)! And while we’ll miss Yvette Nicole Brown as Shirley, we’re glad school is back in session for the rest of the Greendale gang — so glad we’re rounding up our favorite class Community-isms from Word Soups past.

accusational opposition disorder

Britta: “For our midterm, we actually get to diagnose a fellow student with something.”
Annie: “Don’t you do way too much of that already?”
Britta: “Accusational opposition disorder.”

“Contemporary Impressionists,” March 22, 2012

Accusational opposition disorder is a pseudo-psychology term for disagreeing with someone in an accusatory tone.


Jeff: “Somebody tell Britta what an analogy is.”

Britta: “I know what it is! It’s like a thought. . .with another thought’s hat on.”

“Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts,” March 15, 2012

The traditional definition of analogy is “similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar,” and “a comparison based on such similarity.” So “a thought with another thought’s hat on” is actually pretty close.


Jeff: “You probably just Britta’d the test results.”
Britta: “Wait, are people using my name to mean ‘make a small mistake’?”
Jeff: “Yes.”

“Horror,” October 27, 2011

An eponym is “a word or name derived from the name of a person.” Another example is bowdlerize, “to expurgate in editing by expunging words or passages considered offensive or indelicate,” named for Thomas Bowdler, “who published an expurgated edition of Shakespeare in 1818.”

For even more eponyms, check out this list.


Dr. Kedan: “Changnesia is a fascinating and extremely rare disease on the forefront in psychological landscape.”

“Advanced Documentary Filmmaking,” March 14, 2013

Changnesia is “the complete loss of memory caused by sudden trauma that was, itself, also forgotten.” It’s named for, and perhaps only affects, one Benjamin Chang, Greendale’s erstwhile Spanish teacher.

Also known as “Kevin’s Disease” (Kevin being Chang’s amnesic name slash pseudonym), Changnesia is a blend of Chang and the Greek amnēsiā, “forgetfulness.”

It was also our selection for most ridiculous portmanteau-eponym of 2013.


Cop: “Love is not admissible evidence! I’m working on a cop opera.”
Everyone: “Copera!”
Pierce: “Policial!”

“First Chang Dynasty,” May 17, 2012

Copera is a blend of cop and opera. Cop originated in 1704 as a northern British dialectecal meaning “to seize, to catch,” and may have ultimately come from the Latin capere, “to take.” Opera comes from the Italian word for “work.” Policial is a blend of police and musical.

Cop Rock was a musical police TV drama that aired in 1990 for a staggering 11 episodes.


Cop: “Of course. The head of security of Greendale Community College has kidnapped the real dean and replaced him with a deanelganger.”
Jeff: “Well, when you say it that way, it sounds ridiculous.”
Troy: “The word we used was doppeldeaner.”

“First Chang Dynasty,” May 17, 2012

Deanelganger is a blend of dean and doppelganger, a double or apparition of a living person. Doppelganger translates from the German as “double-goer.” Sometimes doubleganger.

A deanelchanger, a blend of dean, doppelganger, and Chang, is a bell that Chang rings to summon the fake dean. Changer may be a play on clang, “a loud, sharp, resonant, and metallic sound,” and clanger, a British English word meaning “a blunder.”


Jeff [practicing foosball]: “I just thought the next time those deutschbags try to show off, I could catch them by surprise.”

“Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism,” December 1, 2011

Deutschbag — a blend of deutsch, German for the word German, and douchebag — is a douchebag from Germany.


Troy: “We dewhimsified ourselves.”

“Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts,” March 15, 2012

To dewhimsify means to make less whimsical, “having odd fancies or peculiar notions.”

Whimsical probably comes from whim-wham, “fanciful object.”

Ferris Buellerian

Narrator: “Winger’s critics suggest he merely improvised hot-button patriotic dogma in a Ferris Buellerian attempt to delay school work.”

“Pillows and Blankets,” April 5, 2012

Ferris Buellerian refers to the titular character in the film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, who plays hooky and encourages his reluctant best friend to follow suit.


Singer: “I’ve got a pocketful of Hawthornes.”

“Advanced Gay,” November 3, 2011

Hawthorne refers to the character, Pierce Hawthorne, who owns Hawthorne Wipes, a company that manufactures cleaning and disinfecting towelettes. It also refers to the wipes themselves.

A brand name that has become genericized is a metonym. Other trademarks that are often seen in semi-generic use are kleenex for tissues, xerox for photocopy, and saran wrap for plastic wrap.


Britta [to Jeff]: “Without anxiety to keep your vanity in check, you are vulnerable to a syndrome called hypernarcissosis.”

“Contemporary Impressionists,” March 22, 2012

Hypernarcissosis, another pseudo-psychology term, is excessive narcissism or love and admiration for oneself. It contains the Greek hyper, “over, above, beyond, exceedingly, to excess,” and narcissism, which comes from Narkissos, the “name of a beautiful youth in mythology. . .who fell in love with his own reflection in a spring and was turned to the flower narcissus.”

reverse bully-ism

Jeff: “Oh please, not liking glee club doesn’t make us bullies, and implying that is reverse bully-ism!”

“Regional Holiday Music,” December 8, 2011

Reverse bully-ism, like reverse discrimination, places the normally dominant group, in this case the bullies, in the position of the victim (the bullied).

[Image via Collider]

Word Buzz Wednesday: Big Pizza, flying donkeys, Spocking

Star Trek: Spock

It’s time once again for our weekly buzzworthy word roundup! The latest: an extra large pie; leapfrogging donkeys; and paying homage to Spock.

Big Pizza

Big Pizza spent about $1.5 million in the last two election cycles, which is really no surprise. What might surprise you is that pizza is so partisan: 88 percent of that money went to Republicans.”

Matt Novak, “If pizza were a politician it’d be a Republican,” Factually, March 3, 2015

Big Pizza refers to the pizza industry, which includes restaurant chains, such as Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and Papa John’s, and the companies behind frozen pizzas. The American Pizza Community is “the lobbying group of the pizza industry.”

Of the over $685,000 Pizza Hut spent in the last two elections, almost 99 percent went to Republicans. In the meantime, Papa John’s gave 87 percent to the GOP.

While Domino’s has the reputation of being ultra-conservative — the company’s founder, Tom Monaghan, is staunchly pro-life, although the company has never supported anti-abortion groups — it gave 20 percent of its lobbying dollars to Democrats. Little Caesars gave 27 percent to the blue party, but that’s out of only $2,775 spent over the last two elections.

Big Pizza is a riff on terms like big tobacco and big pharma, which themselves are variations on big business, referring to large, commercial operations.

digital dualism

“The perception that online relationships are somehow less real than their physical counterparts exemplifies what Nathan Jurgenson, a New York-based sociologist and researcher for the messaging platform Snapchat, calls ‘digital dualism.’”

Kyle Chayka, “Let’s Really Be Friends,” New Republic, March 2, 2015

Digital dualism is the idea that “on and offline are largely separate and distinct realities,” and that digital content is “part of a ‘virtual’ world separate from a ‘real’ world found in physical space.”

The term was coined in 2011 by Nathan Jurgenson, who argues against digital dualism. There’s is just one reality, he says, and “digital is part of it, not any less real or true,” and that “what you do online and what you do face-to-face are completely interwoven.”

flying donkey

“But it’s not just technology that needs to improve to make flying donkeys a reality in Africa. Governments and safety authorities need to put in place regulatory frameworks to accommodate this new form of transport.”

Tom Jackson and Matthew Wall, “Can ‘flying donkey’ drones plug Africa’s transport gap?,” BBC News, March 1, 2015

Flying donkey is the nickname for the cargo drone, an unmanned aerial aircraft used primarily for transporting cargo. (Real donkeys are used as pack animals in many underdeveloped countries.) Some think the flying donkeys will enable Africa “to leapfrog traditional infrastructure development and grow faster economically.”

Another example of leapfrogging is the use of mobile phones in developing countries, bypassing the development of landlines.


“The biggest distinction between them: gargalesis is the kind of tickle you can’t do to yourself, but you can certainly give yourself knismesis.”

Megan Thielking, “Why are we ticklish? Here’s what we know about our silliest defense mechanism,” Vox, March 6, 2015

Vox says there are two types of tickling: knismesis, a light sensation, and gargalesis, the (tortuous) kind done by another person. The distinction was made back in 1987.

There are few theories behind ticklishness. One is that it’s a form of social bonding, although some hate being tickled. Another is that “we’ve evolved to be ticklish as a way to protect vulnerable spots” — like your belly and the soft pads of your feet — “from attack.”

As for laughing, it “could be your body’s way of signaling your submission to the person touching you in an effort to stave off further tickles.”

The word gargalesis might come from the prefix garg-, “imitative of throat sounds,” perhaps referring to laughter, and -esis, meaning “pertaining to.” If anyone has a more definitive etymology, please let us know!


“Perhaps one of our favorites so far is happening in Canada, where Trekkies are ‘Spocking Fives’ by putting images of Nimoy on the country’s $5 bill.”

Anthony Domanico, “Canadians ‘Spocking’ their currency in tribute to Leonard Nimoy,” CNET, March 2, 2015

Spocking refers to some Canadians, in honor of Leonard Nimoy, taking a pen to their $5 bills and transforming the portrait of Sir Wilfrid Laurier into Nimoy’s most famous character.

Spocking fives (their Facebook page, by the way, includes a fair attempt at De Niro’ing a 100) has been going on since at least 2008.

[Photo via Flickr: “Star Trek: Spock,” CC BY 2.0 by JD Hancock]

Word Buzz Wednesday: micro-punctuation, Purkinje effect, whale fall

Humpback Whales

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. In this batch: revealing punctuation, the color of that damned dress, and a whale that’s not a fail.

black site

“It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.”

Spencer Ackerman, “The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site,’” The Guardian, February 24, 2015

The black sites run by the CIA are essentially secret prisons, “generally outside of U.S. territory and legal jurisdiction,” and “used by the U.S. government in its War on Terror.” In 2006, George W. Bush acknowledged the existence of black sites.

The “domestic” black site referred to in The Guardian article is an “off-the-books interrogation compound” run by the Chicago police department. Americans brought inside the “nondescript warehouse” are rendered unfindable by family or attorneys.


“But it’s also as if a kind of micro-punctuation has emerged: tiny marks in the smallest of spaces that suddenly tell us more about the person on the other end than the words themselves (or, at least, we think they do).”

Jessica Bennett, “When Your Punctuation Says It All (!),” The New York Times, February 27, 2015

Micro-punctuation refers to punctuation used in tiny digital spaces, such as text messages, tweets, etc., rendered even more meaningful and revealing because of the limited amount of space. For instance, a text ending with a period instead of an exclamation point might prompt the reply: “U mad bro?”

Micro-punctuation might be influenced by microexpression, a fleeting and involuntary facial expression that’s supposed to expose true thoughts and emotions. Some argue that certain microexpressions reveal when someone is lying.

Purkinje effect

“At first the dress debacle seemed like it would never be explained, but something called the Purkinje effect may help shed some light on what’s driving the difference of opinion over what color the dress is.”

Connor Sheets, “What color is this dress? The ‘Purkinje effect’ may explain white & gold vs. black & blue debate,” AL.com, February 26, 2015

The Purkinje effect basically says that in low light our eyes shift toward the blue end of the spectrum. In other words, in some light levels, the dress in question looks blue and black, and in others it looks white and gold.

The Purkinje effect is named for Czech anatomist and physiologist Jan Evangelista Purkyně.

Slurpee surf

“After months of deep freeze, Massachusetts photographer Jonathan Nimerfroh captured the chilling beauty when the ocean waves turned to slush. Nimerfroh calls the shot a ‘Slurpee surf.’”

Chuck Hickey, “Photographer captures ‘Slurpee surf’ from Massachusetts shoreline,” CW2, February 27, 2015

Slurpee surf is a nickname a Massachusetts photographer Jonathan Nimerfroh gave slushy waves he saw hitting the Nantucket shoreline. (If waves crash on a shore and they’re half-frozen, do they make a sound? No.)

While the Slurpee is the 7-Eleven brand name of a frozen fruit-flavored drink, a slushy or slushie is the generic name.

whale fall

“A whale fall is the dead body of a single, giant organism. In the darkest depths, it too hosts a thriving ecosystem.”

Deb Chachra, “Zombie Bone-Eating, Harem-Keeping Worms,” Primer Stories, February 2015

A whale fall (not to be confused with the fail whale) is “a whale carcass that has fallen to the seafloor,” and at depths of over 6,000 feet, can “create complex localized ecosystems that supply sustenance to deep-sea organisms for decades.”

Some deep-sea creatures sustained by whale falls are hagfish, which burrow “face-first into dead flesh”; sleeper sharks; and annelid worms.

[Photo via Flickr, “Humpback Whales,” CC BY 2.0 by Christopher Michel]

Adopt-a-Word Un-Birthday Sale

Happy birthday!

We say it’s our birthday! Well, sort of.

You may remember back in February 2012 when Wordnik turned one. But wait a minute, you might be thinking, hasn’t Wordnik been around longer than that? It has.

We were incorporated on Leap Day 2008, which means that technically we have a birthday only once every four years. But! technicalities, schmechnicalities, we’re celebrating this weekend anyway with an Adopt-a-Word “un-birthday” sale.

In October, we announced Wordnik’s new not-for-profit status. As part of that effort, and to help keep Wordnik ad-free, we’re offering an Adopt a Word program, in which you can “own” a word for a whole year.

For this weekend only, we’re running an un-birthday sale: adopt a word for just $29 ($29 for February 29, get it?). That’s almost half off the original price, but please note this is for a limited time only: from today, Friday, February 27 through Sunday, March 1 at midnight PST.

As for those “early adopters” who paid full price, you have our thanks and gratitude. You’ll also be getting a special “artist” certificate and indication of your special Early Adopter status on your word page(s). Membership has its privileges. :)

Since our initial roundup of adopted words, even more words have found loving homes. Bot-master and Wordnik friend Darius Kazemi very appropriately adopted bot. Blogger Felix Jung bought blog; copywriter Katie Sweeney acquired copywriter; and namer Anthony Shore snagged name.

On the grammarly front, Jan “Throw Grammar from the Train” Freeman picked up idiolect. Susan Rooks, aka the Grammar Goddess, got Grammar and Grammarian. Meanwhile, Grammar YUNiversity will be taking very good care of grammar (lower case) this year.

Some adopters got all literary, like Dr. Mardy Grothe who opted for metaphor; poem_exe who picked poem; and Edward Banatt who, after much deliberation, selected the Joycean monomyth.

Then there were the words we just liked, such as WOTY runner-up bae, a word before all else for Huy Hong. We’re not sure which we love more, fritinancy the word or Fritinancy the person. We loved being reminded of the wonderful word compersion, “the feeling of joy associated with seeing a loved one love another; contrasted with jealousy,” when adopter Winnie Lim tweeted it on, very fittingly, Valentine’s Day.

Have we inspired you to adopt your own word? We hope so! Remember, our un-birthday $29 sale runs through this Sunday. Get your words while they’re hot!

Word Buzz Wednesday: da sao chu; hole punch cloud; jigaboo


It’s Wednesday, and that means two things: the week is halfway over and it’s time for Word Buzz Wednesday! This week: Spring Festival cleaning; a freaky cloud-formation; and a fauxpology about a racist word.

da sao chu

“One of the biggest Lunar New Year traditions in China — besides the red envelopes and parades — is the house-cleaning ritual, known as da sao chu.”

Venus Wong, “15 Traditional Cleaning Tricks You Never Knew,” Refinery29, February 19, 2015

Da sao chu (大扫除) translates from Chinese as “big clean-up.” Da sao, where da has the first tone, translates as “big sweep,” perhaps a pun of da sao (打扫), where da has the third tone. In this case da sao means simply “to sweep.” Using homophones to make puns and wordplay is common in Chinese.

As for da sao chu, like many Lunar New Year traditions, it’s about luck — in this case, as Refinery29 says, “sweeping out the bad luck and welcoming the future with open arms.”

Doves Type

“Green has spent years researching the Doves Press type—he even redrew it, after thousands of hours of painstaking research work, and published his revival in 2013 as a digital typeface called the Doves Type that anyone can buy.”

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, “The Gorgeous Typeface That Drove Men Mad and Sparked a 100-Year Mystery,” Gizmodo, February 16, 2015

Doves Type, or the Doves Typeface, was developed by Doves Press, a London private press established in the late 19th century by artist and bookbinder T. J. Cobden-Sanderson. The press was named for a nearby pub, The Dove.

Cobden-Sanderson, says Gizmodo, was “a driving force in the Arts & Crafts movement in England,” and “championed traditional craftsmanship against the rising tides of industrialization.” Because he was afraid his typeface “would be sold to a mechanized printing press after his death by his business partner,” he ended up throwing the metal type into the River Thames.

However, this past November, at the behest of designer Robert Green, a group of ex-military divers somehow found the tiny bits of metal, resurrecting the previously lost type.

hole punch cloud

“The clouds made it seem like something supernatural was going on, but in reality was just a combination of a few events that lead to what many refer to as a ‘fallstreak’ or ‘hole punch cloud’.”

Scott Sutherland, “We explain: Strange cloud formation over southern British Columbia,” The Weather Network, February 23, 2015

A hole punch cloud is also known as a fallstreak hole, “a large circular or elliptical gap that can appear in cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds.”

The Weather Network says such a phenomenon is known as a fallstreak hole because “the water in that region of the cloud is falling to earth, producing those pronounced streaks it does, and leaving behind a hole in the cloud,” and it occurs when “tiny ice crystals” are introduced into the cloud layer and these crystals are suddenly “ ‘mobbed’ as the water droplets rush in to freeze and help form larger ice crystals,” which forms the streaks and “sucks up a lot of the surrounding droplets, tearing a hole in the cloud.”

For more cloud words, check out this great list.


“It’s believable that Cleveland’s Fox 8 news anchor Kristi Capel didn’t know that ‘jigaboo’ was an old racial slur against African Americans. . . .What’s less clear is why, when she wanted to describe Lady Gaga’s music on live television, she decided to use a word she didn’t understand.”

Jenée Desmond-Harris, “News anchor who said ‘jigaboo’ on air proves you really shouldn’t use words you don’t know,” Vox, February 23, 2015

Jigaboo has been used as a racial slur referring to a black person since 1909, says the Online Etymology Dictionary. The word might be a combination of jig, a lively dance, and bugaboo, a source of fear or anxiety. Vox says jigaboo was often linked to minstrel shows, which featured white actors in blackface.

By the early 1920s, the word jig had also become an offensive term for an African American, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), perhaps as a shortening of jigaboo or referring to the dance.

For the record, Capel fauxpologized for using jigaboo.


“Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation.”

Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic, March 2015

Jizya is, according to the Washington Times, “the money, or tribute, ‘that conquered non-Muslims historically had to pay to their Islamic overlords ‘with willing submission and while feeling themselves subdued’ to safeguard their existence.” The term jizya is derived from the Arabic word for “reward.”

Baghdadi, or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is the caliph of the Islamic State.

[Photo via Flickr, “Atlantis?” CC BY 2.0 by Tom Bech]