Word Buzz Wednesday: nationalist, cannibal morph, sprezzatura

What are you looking at?
Too cool for school.

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, the scary edition! In our latest roundup of interesting words: a not-so-simple definition, your newest amphibious band name, a “chalant” nonchalance.


“During a rally Monday night in Texas, President Donald Trump used a word he had never before uttered publicly to describe himself: nationalist.”

Doug Criss, “The definition of a nationalist,” CNN, October 23, 2018

While the definitions of nationalist and nationalism at face value may not seem controversial, there’s no denying their incendiary implications. The original definition of a nationalist, says CNN, is an advocate of nationalism, which refers to “the devotion and loyalty to one’s own country.” However, by the first half of the 20th century, it became “associated with the nationalism movements in Europe that helped lead to World War I and World War II,” and is now “often associated with the far-right, racist ideologies of white nationalists.”

But not everyone sees the term that way. A former senior adviser to Brexit leader Nigel Farage told CNN that nationalism “is a philosophy based around either the nation state, what we know colloquially as ‘countries,’ or around another identity factor, which could be religion, ethnicity, geography or even interests,” and that President Trump is “no doubt using the word to outline his belief in a nation of people unified by beliefs, interests and a common history.”

birthright citizenship

“President Donald Trump is trying to follow through on one of his campaign promises by ending birthright citizenship, a 150-year-old law established in the Constitution that grants U.S. citizenship to anybody born on U.S. soil.”

Alan Gomez, “US birthright citizenship explained: What is it, how many people benefit,” USA Today, October 30, 2018

During his presidential campaign, President Trump pitched the idea of abolishing birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants, says The New York Times, and is now bringing it up again “days before midterm congressional elections.”

So what exactly is birthright citizenship? It’s the “principle that anybody born on U.S. soil becomes a U.S. citizen,” says USA Today. It “was added to the Constitution in 1868 in the first sentence of the 14th Amendment, which reads: ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside,’” and was created “to grant citizenship to freed slaves after the Civil War.” Since then it “has become a bedrock of U.S. immigration law that has allowed anybody born in the U.S. to become citizens.”

As for President Trump’s claim that the U.S. is the only country in the world to grant birthright citizenship, it’s untrue: at least 30 other countries grant it, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. Finally, for the record, the president can’t undo an amendment with an executive order. Says House Speaker Paul Ryan: “It would involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process.”

carnivore morph

“These tadpoles become what’s known as a carnivore morph, ‘a much bigger tadpole’ with ‘much bigger mouthparts,’ says Greg Pauly, curator of herpetology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.”

Liz Langley, “Neither cute nor cuddly: These animal babies are wee monsters,” National Geographic, October 26, 2018

Your newest band name is here. Some tadpoles of the spadefoot toad begin as omnivores, says National Geographic. That is, an animal that eats both plants and meat. However, once it gets a taste of flesh, it becomes a carnivore morph, avoiding plants and sticking to “fairy shrimp, its toad cousins, and sometimes its own species.”


“It’s called moulage, the art applying mock injuries through makeup, and staff uses the technique year-round.”

Carilion staff practice frightful wounds ahead of Halloween,” WDBJ, October 30, 2018

The original meaning of moulage is “a mold, as of a footprint, made for use in a criminal investigation,” as well as the “making of such a mold or cast, as with plaster of Paris.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the term comes from the French moulage, the act of molding something.


“The trained observer sees sprezzatura as a sign that the individual has put in the work. The individual has attained such a level of mastery that he is able to conceal his movements and make difficult things look easy.”

Louis Chew, “The Key to the Effortless Cool Known as “‘Sprezzatura”’ Is Hard Work,” Quartzy, October 30, 2018

Sprezzatura, a kind of studied carelessness or nonchalance, seems to have been coined by 16th-century Italian courtier Baldassare Castiglione in his writing, The Book of the Courtier. The term first appeared in English in the 1950s, says the OED, and referred specifically to art: “The quality that the Italian critics called sprezzatura.”

Word Buzz Wednesday: terminal buzz, zunda, death comet

Zunda mochi
Zunda still in bean form.

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your weekly roundup of some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: your new band name (oh wait, too late), an interesting Japanese dessert, and a spacey misnomer.

terminal buzz

“It drives what’s called a terminal buzz: the rapid increase in the high-pitched calls a bat makes as it hones in on its prey.”

Lacy Schley, “Figuring Out How Bats and Dolphins Developed Echolocation,” Discover, September 28, 2018

Terminal buzz (which is also a band name natch) refers to the final sequence of calls a bat makes before “it goes for a kill,” says New Scientist. The calls are rapid-fire due to the “superfast muscles” in the bat’s larynx, and are used in echolocation: the sounds echo, which tells the bat “how far away objects are and what they are.”

shoulder season

“Also big this month are deals on European Vacations, as this is what’s known as ‘shoulder season.’”

What’s the Deal: Best and worst items to buy in October,” ABC Action News, October 1, 2018

Shoulder season refers to the period between peak- and off-season travel. According to travel guru Rick Steves, shoulder season occurs “April through mid-June, and September through October,” and “combines the advantages of both peak- and off-season travel, including decent weather, fewer crowds, and “a local tourist industry still ready to please and entertain.”

Where the term comes from isn’t clear. Perhaps it’s from the idea of the shoulder being between the head (or “peak”) and the rest of the body. If you have any information, let us know in the comments!

dark core

“Psychologists studying the roots of nefarious behavior have identified a group of personality traits linked to one another through what they dub a common ‘dark core.’”

Ben Renner, “Psychologists Identify So-Called ‘Dark Core’ Of Personality,” Study Finds, October 1, 2018

A recent study conducted by Danish and German psychologists discovered the dark core or common link between nine personality traits: psychopathy, sadism, egoism, narcissism, Machiavellianism, spitefulness, psychological entitlement, self-interest, and moral disengagement. The researchers say these behaviors are exhibited when someone puts their “needs and goals above those of their peers, to the point that hurting others can bring about feelings of pleasure.” Called the D-factor, this dark core can be tested and is similar to the idea of the G-factor, a measure of general intelligence.


Zunda is most popular in the city of Sendai, located in the northern part of the main Japanese island of Honshu.”

Zunda,” Gastro Obscura, September 27, 2018

Zunda is a kind of soybean paste “made by boiling baby soybeans until they become very soft,” says Gastro Obscura, and “seasoned with sugar and salt.” It’s often featured in Japanese sweets like mochi, roll cakes, and taiyaki, a fish-shaped cake.

death comet

“The asteroid looks a lot like a human skull in certain lighting, so much so that it has also been dubbed the ‘death comet.’”

Joshua Espinoza, “Skull-Shaped Asteroid, Known as ‘Death Comet,’ Will Fly Near Earth After Halloween,” Complex, September 28, 2018

The nefarious-sounding death comet is actually an asteroid (officially, asteroid 2015 TB145). What’s the difference? According to Cool Cosmos from CalTech, “asteroids are made up of metals and rocky material, while comets are made up of ice, dust and rocky material.” Another nickname for the death comet is the Great Pumpkin, dubbed by NASA after Linus’s unseen visitor when the heavenly body passed earth back in 2015 on Halloween night.

Word Buzz Wednesday: cheese tea, Kushner loophole, pickleball

Pickleball, anyone?

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your weekly roundup of some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a cheesy tea, the sleaziest of loopholes, a fun-sounding game with a funny-sounding name.

cheese tea

“As any cheese tea purveyor will tell you, cheese tea tastes better than it sounds.”

Esther Tseng, “Cheese Tea Could Be the New Bubble Tea — If Americans Get Over the Name,” Eater, September 21, 2018

Like many tasty treats, cheese tea originated in Taiwan. According to Eater, around 2010 night market vendors started combining “powdered cheese and salt with whipping cream and milk to form a foamy, tangy layer on the top of a cup of cold tea.” Because sure why not? The cold tea is “usually green or black tea, with or without milk,” and “is sweet, like boba, but has a savory finish.”


Faience is a French ceramic technique that originated in Lyon during the 16th century.”

Madeleine Luckel, “12 of the Best Design Exhibitions to See This Fall,” Vogue, September 18, 2018

Faience is a kind of earthenware “decorated with colorful opaque glazes.” Named for Faenza, Italy, the term originally referred to the earthenware made in that city, says Incollect, before coming to mean a similar product in France.

Kushner loophole

“The bill aims to crack down on what’s known as the ‘Kushner loophole’ — landlords falsely stating in construction permit applications that a building does not contain occupied rent-regulated units.”

Jess Rohan, “Law Would Close ‘Kushner Loophole’ After Developer Is Fined For Fudging Building Applications,” Bedford and Bowery, September 24, 2018

The Kushner loophole is named for POTUS son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose “family real estate company filed dozens of false documents with the city claiming it had no rent-regulated tenants in many of its buildings,” says AP. This “allowed it to avoid strict oversight of construction that critics say was used to drive out low-paying tenants.” The bill introduced by councilman Ritchie Torres “would require the city’s buildings department to check with tax records to validate such claims,” and if any false submission were discovered, “the landlord’s entire portfolio of buildings would be subject to an audit.”


“Most importantly, ScanMars successfully detected what’s known as a wadi, or dry, seasonal riverbed during the testing in Oman.”

Evan Gough, “Astronauts Could Use the ScanMars Device to Search for Water on Mars,” Universe Today, September 24, 2018

A wadi is a “valley, gully, or streambed in northern Africa and southwest Asia that remains dry except during the rainy season.” The word is Arabic in origin and ultimately comes from wada, meaning “it flowed.”


“Throughout North America the sport of pickleball is becoming increasingly popular, and no one knows this better than the Penticton Pickleball Club.”

Jordyn Thomson, “Interest in pickleball growing in Penticton,” Keremeos Review, September 2, 2018

Pickleball might be the most popular sport you’ve never heard of. An amalgam of tennis, badminton, and ping pong, it was invented by a Washington state congressmen and a couple of his friends one summer in the early to mid 1960s. In recent years pickleball has seen a resurgence, even played by the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates. As for the name, while some sources say it was named after the congressman’s dog, this is incorrect. The game came first — perhaps named for the pickle boat, a nickname for “the last boat to finish a race” — then the dog named Pickles.

Word Buzz Wednesday: Waffle House Index, Scunthorpe problem, poshtel

Waffle House

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your weekly roundup of some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a surprisingly reliable indicator, some unreliable profanity filters, a non-scary hostel.

Waffle House Index

“The Federal Emergency Management Agency even monitors a ‘Waffle House Index,’ a color-coded indicator of what restaurants are open, closed or offering a limited menu, to gauge how well an area will recover from a hurricane, tornado or other hazard.”

Ashley May, “How the Waffle House Index will help FEMA determine just how bad Hurricane Florence gets,” USA Today, September 16, 2018

The Waffle House Index was invented in 2004 by Craig Fugate, a former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says The Economist. The index is so called because Waffle House, a breakfast chain in the South, is known for its reliability. It stays “open every hour of every day” and is quick to reopen even after “extreme weather, like floods, tornadoes and hurricanes,” making “them a remarkably reliable if informal barometer for weather damage.”

Scunthorpe problem

“The internet-related woes of people with dirty-sounding last names are officially known as the Scunthorpe problem.”

Edmund Heaphy, “Innocent people with dirty-sounding last names face the ‘Scunthorpe problem,’” Quartz, August 29, 2018

The Scunthorpe problem, says Quartz, occurs when websites with “overzealous filters and poorly written code … flag innocent phrases that either happen to contain obscene words within them, or are legitimate use cases of such words.” The name comes from a town in England, which around 1996 was censored by AOL because it contains a certain substring of letters.

masu gomi

“The actions can turn political pretty quickly — masu gomi was basically ‘fake news’ before U.S. President Donald Trump even opened his Twitter account — but it also tends to be deployed by both sides of the spectrum.”

Patrick St. Michel, “Japanese media face hostility in disaster coverage on social media,” Japan Times, September 15, 2018

Masu gomi is a Japanese slang term for “trash,” says Japan Times, and is often used to refer to the Japanese media when it behaves “badly,” whether by using videos or images from social media as part of their news stories or swooping in with cameras following natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons — behavior which might seem perfectly normal for media in other countries.


“‘Transhumanism’ is a relatively new word for the very old belief that humans can transcend the limitations of our mortal bodies, perhaps even mortality itself.”

Michael Hardy, “Meet the Transhumanists Turning Themselves into Cyborgs,” WIRED, September 17, 2018

Transhumanism is the belief that “the use of science and technology, especially neurotechnology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology” can “overcome human limitations and improve the human condition.” WIRED says that in “its modern form,” transhumanism “encompasses a wide variety of techno-utopian ideas ranging from life extension to body hacking to virtual reality and artificial intelligence.”


“The U.S. is the last holdout against the poshtel wave, where the upscaling of low-cost accommodation lags far behind Europe, Australia, or Latin America, mostly thanks to the embedded motel culture.”

Mark Ellwood, “How Hostels Become Poshtels: The Remaking of a Backpacker’s Hangout,” Conde Nast Traveler, September 12, 2018

A poshtel is basically a high-end hostel, says Conde Nast Traveler. It’s nicer than a “bare-bones” dorm “where every item that isn’t bolted down or padlocked away feels as if it could vanish overnight” but more inexpensive than a traditional hotel. Poshtels are often inhabited by flashbackers, “backpackers with higher disposable income and flashier electronics than backpackers.” The word poshtel is a blend of “posh” and “hostel.”

Word Buzz Wednesday: lodestar, shadow banning, sitzfleisch

M101 - Pinwheel-Galaxie

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your weekly roundup of some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a (possible) telltale word, banning (but not really), one good thing about sitting on your keister.


“In the editorial, the writer, who claims to be ‘part of the resistance’ inside the administration, refers to the late Senator John McCain as a ‘lodestar for restoring honour to public life and our national dialogue’.”

Does ‘lodestar’ guide us to anti-Trump op-ed author?” BBC, September 6, 2018

Some have speculated that the writer behind the anonymous New York Times op-ed criticizing Trump is none other than “Vice-President Mike Pence, because he has used the word [lodestar] – otherwise rarely heard – with some regularity,” says BBC. A lodestar is a star, especially Polaris, used as a point of reference. It’s also a guiding principle, interest, or ambition.

shadow ban

“The storm over ‘shadow banning’ of Republicans on Twitter broke out in July after Vice News reported that some politicians didn’t show up in a drop-down menu of automatically suggested searches, even when typing in the politicians’ names.”

Twitter CEO says ‘shadow ban’ not impartial,” PBS, September 5, 2018

According to Lifehacker, a shadow ban “is a form of ban that isn’t immediately obvious to the user.” In other words, “the user is allowed to keep posting, but their posts don’t show up to anyone but themselves.” Twitter claims not to engage in shadow banning although some accounts might disappear from search results and followers suggestions if “they’re linked to abuse and spam.”

trash panda

According to Business Insider, in early 2014, Redditor /u/CarlPeligro made a comment on a photo of a raccoon: ‘Raccoons = trash pandas.’ That description stuck.”

Leada Gore, “What is a Trash Panda? Slang word for raccoon gives Alabama baseball team its name,” AL.com, September 6, 2018

The term trash panda is at least half right. Raccoons will eat almost anything, says Living with Wildlife, and those that live near humans will often “eat garbage and pet food.” But despite their similar eyemask-like markings, giant pandas and raccoons are not closely related.

lawnmower parents

“Although the term lawnmower parenting — describing moms and dads who will do just about anything to ensure their kids don’t have to deal with any type of struggle — isn’t new, a teacher’s viral essay on the subject has brought the parenting style into the spotlight.”

Alessia Santoro, “8 Signs That You’re Definitely a Lawnmower Parent,” Popsugar, September 7, 2018

Move over helicopter parents, lawnmower moms and dads are here. In an anonymous essay published at We Are Teachers, lawnmower parents are described as going “to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle, or failure,” and “instead of preparing children for challenges, they mow obstacles down so kids won’t experience them in the first place.”


“To impress a boss in the workplace, however, there is a single quality that’s similarly best expressed auf Deutsch: something called sitzfleisch.”

Emily Schultheis, “Sitzfleisch: The German concept to get more work done,” BBC, September 4, 2018

Sitzfleisch translates from German as “sitting meat” or “sitting flesh” – in other words, says BBC, “a term for one’s behind or bottom.” The term refers to having “the ability to sit still for the long periods of time required to be truly productive,” as well as “the stamina to work through a difficult situation and see a project through to the end.”

Word Buzz Wednesday: logo soup, sando, posca


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your weekly roundup of some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a sometime-unappetizing soup, a delicious-sounding sandwich, an interesting ancient health drink.


“A new word has been coined to describe this apparently unstoppable process: parquetematización – the act of becoming a theme park.”

Stephen Burgen, “How tourism is killing Barcelona – a photo essay,” The Guardian, August 30, 2018

According to The Guardian, Barcelona, Spain has become so overrun with tourists, it might as well be Disneyland. Hence, the Spanish neologism, parquetematización. A similar term is Disneyfication. From The New York Times: “It truly is the Disneyfication of Times Square.”

logo soup

“But in addition to being somewhat effective, the logo soup can be wildly deceptive.”

Anne Quito, “Decoding ‘logo soup,’ the way design firms appear more impressive,” Quartz, August 29, 2018

Logo soup, says Quartz, refers to “the grid of logos” that often appears “under the heading ‘clients’ or ‘partner’” on companies’ websites, offering “an at-a-glance summary” of their experience. Designers often use logo soup as a “shortcut” and “speedy way” to show they’re accomplished “without having to show any work or explain what [they] did.” An expert warns this  is “why it’s so crucial to probe about the actual project behind the logo.”


“She seems so relaxed these days. Her new job has given her much more arbejdsglæde.”

More Danish words the world should start using,” The Local dk, August 31, 2018

Arbejdsglæde is made up of the Danish words for “work” and “happiness,” says The Local dk, and is “used to describe the feeling of contentment derived from one’s job satisfaction.”


Sandos are inverted sandwiches, in a way, because the point is to savour the filling and get almost no flavour from the bread.”

Lucy Holden, “So long, sourdough: why sliced white bread is the latest restaurant trend (yes, really),” The Telegraph, September 4, 2018

In England is a new sensation called the sando, “named after the Japanese and Australian slang for ‘sandwich,’” says The Telegraph. It’s “made with ‘terrible’ white bread and served without crusts.” The most popular version is the katsu sando, which has “a breadcrumbed then fried filling” such as pork, chicken, or fish.


“Enter posca. This blend of vinegar and water—though sometimes salt, herbs, and other stuff—holds a special place in beverage history thanks to its role as the Gatorade of the Roman army.”

Gwyn Guilford, “My Favorite Beverage Is a 2,000-Year-Old Energy Drink from Ancient Rome,” Quartzy, September 2, 2018

Quartzy says that this ancient Roman version of switchel may have been Greek in origin and that the name might come from “the Greek word epoxos, which means ‘very sharp.’” However, the Oxford English Dictionary, begs to differ, saying posca comes from the Latin pōsca, a mixture of vinegar and water. This Latin word means literally “drink” and gives rise to potare, which gives us words like “potion” and “poison.

[Image via Quartzy:Metropolitan Museum of Art/The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1949]

Word Buzz Wednesday: props, rosehip neuron, pool spray


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your weekly roundup of some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: mad props to the Queen of Soul, a rosehip isn’t a rosehip isn’t a rosehip, a tweet-sized press conference.


“Regardless of whether ‘propers’ might be concealing something less than proper, the word has had a lasting impact on the lexicon, particularly when it got shortened to a single syllable: ‘props.’”

Ben Zimmer, “Aretha Franklin Finally Gets Credit for the Term She Popularized,” The Atlantic, August 27, 2018

In her 1967 hit, “Respect,” Aretha Franklin sings:

I’m about to give you all of my money / And all I’m askin’ in return, honey / Is to give me my propers when you get home.

According to The Atlantic, when New York Times “On Language” columnist William Safire asked the Queen of Soul about my propers, she said she “got it from the Detroit street,” that it “was common street slang in the 1960s,” and it meant “‘mutual respect’—what you know is right.” My propers gave way to the abbreviated props, which “exploded in popularity [in the 1990s] thanks to its widespread usage in hip-hop.” In 2007, props was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.


“It is likely cwtch is a Welsh version of couch, which itself was a medieval adoption of the French ‘coucher’, derived from Latin ‘collocāre’ – ‘to lay in its place, lay aright, lodge’.”

Rob Penhallurick, “What the Welsh-English Word ‘cwtch’ Tells Us About Dialects Everywhere,” The Independent, August 17, 2018

Cwtch, which is Welsh-English, has been voted Wales’s favorite word and means “hug” or “cuddle,” says The Independent. Moreover, cwtch can “be a noun or a verb,” refer to “a small storage place used for food or odds and ends” or a hiding place, and mean “to squat down or crouch.”

rosehip neuron

“It’s compact, bushy, and responsible for telling other neurons to shush. Beyond that, nobody is entirely sure what a newly discovered variety of brain cell called a rosehip neuron does.”

Mike McCrae, “Scientists Have Found a New Type of Brain Cell And It Looks Like It’s Unique to Humans,” Science Alert, August 28, 2018

The newly discovered rosehip neuron, with its “rather compact” and “bushy” shape, is “reminiscent of a rose with its petals removed,” says Science Alert. However, the rosehip, which is the fruit of the rose plant, actually resembles a cherry tomato.


“In addition to pepperoni and sausage, giardiniera (JAR-DIN-AIR-UH) is a standard-issue, much-beloved topping, heaped under the cheese and into the sauce.”

Kate Knibbs, “The Best Pizza Topping That You’ve Probably Never Heard About,” The Ringer, August 28, 2018

Giardiniera, which seems to translate from Italian as “gardener,” is a relish popular in the Chicago area, says The Ringer. It’s “a blend of chopped vegetables (celery, peppers, carrots, cauliflower, and sometimes olives, although they are a controversial element) pickled in vinegar.” It’s also “marinated in a blend of oils, and frequently seasoned with sport peppers for added heat.”

pool spray

“‘Any thoughts on John McCain?’ a media representative asked at what’s known as a ‘pool spray.’ No thoughts, as it turned out.”

Erik Wemple, “President Trump really doesn’t want to talk about John McCain,” The Washington Post, August 27, 2018

A pool spray, where “pool” refers to a press or media pool, is a brief meeting with a small group of news reporters or photographers. A longer meeting with a larger group would be a press conference. Pool sprays, says NPR, “are to presidential communication what Twitter is to online prose.” The earliest citation we could find in a cursory search is from 2009 in The New York Times: “At the White House today, news photographers streamed into the Oval Office for what’s known as a ‘pool spray,’ a very brief photo opportunity.”