Word Buzz Wednesday: o-fer, fontgate, omurice


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a losing streak; an extra nerdy scandal; a somewhat western Japanese dish.


“The only way that changes is if the president starts hurting the Republican brand, and judging by the Democrats’ o-fer in the four special congressional elections since Trump’s shocking victory in November, it’s going to take some dirt that sticks to bring down President Trump.”

Anthony L. Fisher, “What will happen to Donald Trump Jr. now?” The Week, July 11, 2017

O-fer or oh for means lack of success after multiple attempts. The phrase comes from sports lingo.


“Social media users have derided Sharif for this apparent misstep, coining the hashtag #fontgate.”

Sune Engel Rasmussen and Pádraig Collins, “‘Fontgate': Microsoft, Wikipedia and the scandal threatening the Pakistani PM,” The Guardian, July 13, 2017

This typography-related scandal involves Mariam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter of Pakistan’s prime minister. Sharif is under investigation regarding a “purchase of high-end London property acquired through offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands,” says The Guardian. February 2006 documents saying she was only a trustee of the company are suspected of being forged since the font, Microsoft Calibri, was only available starting in 2007.


“Chef Motokichi Yukimura has spent years perfecting ‘omurice,’ an egg omelet that, when cut, unfolds into gooey goodness — can a normal guy figure out how to make it?”

Man Attempts To Make The Most Difficult Omelet In The World,” Digg, July 2017

Omurice is an example of yoshoku, Western-influenced Japanese cuisine. (Another example is Okinawan taco rice.) Omurice is a kind of gooey omelet made with fried rice and topped with ketchup or gravy. The word is a a blend of the English omelette and rice, and is an example of gairaigo, a loan word in Japanese.

urban lumber

“Wine Glass Bar specializes in producing what’s known as ‘urban lumber’ – usable wood from city-cut trees.”

John Genovese, “The trees in your yard could have a second life,” ABC15, July 12, 2017

The Construction Specifier defines urban lumber as “wood that is obtained from trees located in cities, towns or suburbs not harvested for their timber value, but removed because of insect, disease or circumstance.” Not to be confused with urban lumberjack.

watch your six

“She’s become very good at what’s called watching your six. So if he’s facing one direction say at Walmart looking at the shelf, she’ll be behind him looking at the opposite direction.”

Priscilla Liguori, “Graduation day for VT service dogs,” WCAX, July 18, 2017

Watch your six appears to come from aviation slang, where check your six basically means “look behind you.” This is based on clock positioning, in which 12 o’clock refers to the position right in front of you and six o’clock is the opposite.

Word Buzz Wednesday: craftivism, bass face, fawn response

Yarn bomb - lamp shade

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: making quilts in protest; making weird faces during music; making like Bambi.


Craftivism in the US is largely associated with the resurgent feminist movement, but its roots trace back to colonial times.”

Anne Quito, “Trump has awakened an American ‘craftivism’ movement that’s been dormant since the 1980s AIDS quilt,” Quartz, July 5, 2017

Craftivism, a blend of craft and activism, is a form of protest from “subversive embroiderers, yarn bombers, rage knitters, and crusader calligraphers,” says Quartz.

While U.S. craftivism is largely associated with the resurgent feminist movement, it actually started in colonial times when “women revolted against British taxation on textiles by spinning their own yarn and sewing their family’s clothes,” and spies like Molly “Old Mom” Rinker smuggled “messages to George Washington’s troops through balls of yarn.”

bass face

“She also is prone to break into what’s known as ‘bass face,’ a series of gloriously contorted expressions when she’s performing.”

Melena Ryzik, “‘We really felt on fire as a band': Haim shake off the shackles of the difficult second album,” The Independent, July 11, 2017

Inverse says bass face (or guitar face or singing face) may be “rooted in our evolutionary past.” Back when music was never recorded and always live, it traditionally involved moving, in addition to seeing and hearing. In addition, people are going to be emotionally affected much more by music “than if you’re just merely listening.”

jerkinhead roof

“The home is a classic example of that type of home, with a lovely restored facade (including a mahogany-decked porch) and decorative elements like stained glass windows and what’s known as a jerkinhead roof. (Yes, really.)”

Amy Plitt, “Lovely Midwood Victorian with summer-ready front porch seeks $1.75M,” Curbed, July 10, 2017

Jerkinhead refers to the end of a roof that’s hipped, or sloped, for only part of its height, leaving a truncated gable. The Oxford English Dictionary says jerkin might come from jerking, with the idea that the slope of the roof has been jerkily interrupted.


Infobesity, a widespread problem, can be managed by balancing your diet. Try just reading an article without checking text messages or listening to music.”

Ephrat Livni, “If information overload is stressing you out, go on a silence diet,” Quartz, July 9, 2017

This portmanteau of information and obesity refers to information overload or overconsumption.

fawn response

“The fawn response refers to the inclination to cooperate or submit oneself to one’s threat or captor.”

Katie Heaney, “When Stress Makes You Fall Asleep,” New York Magazine, July 11, 2017

Some believe the classic “fight or flight” response to stress is oversimplified, says New York Magazine. Other “Fs” include the fawn response; freezing like a deer in headlights; flooding, or being flooded with emotions; and fatigue.

Word Buzz Wednesday: shisa kanko, monkey dumpling, Canadian Dainty

Snow Monkeys

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: the art of pointing; an adorable monkey term; tomayto, tomahto, let’s call the whole thing Canadian English.

shisa kanko

“The pointing itself originates from Asia. As detailed in an Atlas Obscura story, the technique is called shisa kanko.”

Conduct Yourself,” Topic, June 2017

If you’ve ever ridden a New York subway, you might have noticed the conductor pointing. What they’re pointing at is a zebraboard, says Topic, “a black-and-white sign that aligns perfectly” with their “window after the train has pulled all the way into the station.” By pointing at the zebraboard, they make sure the “station platform is lined up alongside the full length of the train” before they open the doors, or else “it’s likely that some passengers would exit directly onto the tracks.”

Shisa kanko, which translates from Japanese as pointing and calling, is a more elaborate set of conductor gestures and calls. See some shisa kanko in action.


“A Mississippi psychiatrist in the 19th century proposed that slaves who attempted escape suffered from ‘drapetomania.’”

Joseph Frankel, “Psychics Who Hear Voices Could Be Onto Something,” The Atlantic, June 27, 2017

Drapetomania, the overwhelming urge to run away, is a pseudo-disease devised by physician Samuel A. Cartwright. The term comes from the Greek words drapetes, meaning “escapees” or “runaways,” and mania, “madness.”


“Though McModerns are commonly found in the places where modernism itself thrives—indoor-outdoor climates like the West Coast and the Southwest, and near liberal cities on the East Coast—they are also beginning to pop up in burgeoning tech hotbeds south of the Mason-Dixon, such as central North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia.”

Kate Wagner, “The rise of the McModern,” Curbed, June 30, 2017

The term McModern plays off McMansion, a large and imposing house regarded as ostentatious and lacking architecture integrity. The earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1990: “The move-up homes trumpeted by builders are ‘McMansions—a very pale version of the American dream,’ he said.”

monkey dumpling

“When temperatures drop, macaques often huddle together to pool their body heat, forming what’s known as a saru dango, or ‘monkey dumpling.’”

Alan Taylor, “Winners of the BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition,” The Atlantic, June 29, 2017

The term saru dango is Japanese in origin, where saru means monkey and dango refers to a sweet dumpling made of sticky rice and often eaten three or more on a stick.

Canadian Dainty

“The Canadian Dainty accent is similar to the Mid-Atlantic accent, native to Old Hollywood, which melded American English with British pronunciation.”

Lakshine Sathiyanathan, “Some Canadians used to speak with a quasi-British accent called Canadian Dainty,” CBC News, July 1, 2017

Canadian Dainty, a term coined by linguist Jack Chambers, is a “quasi-British accent,” says CBC, that’s “now mostly extinct.” In the 19th century, “British etiquette and speech were perceived as superior,” and so during the Victorian era, “children were taught to  swap native Canadian pronunciation for the British counterpart.” Tomahto for tomayto, for example, and shed-yool for schedule.

Word Buzz Wednesday: vote-a-rama, totalism, mistress dispeller


A poster for the movie, “Mistress Dispeller”

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: how to vote a lot, how a cult works, how to lose a mistress.


“Senate budget rules call for what’s known as a ‘vote-a-rama’ where members of either party offer amendments in a single session.”

Russell Berman, “What’s in the Senate Republican Health-Care Bill,” The Atlantic, June 22, 2017

A vote-a-rama, says The Atlantic, is when “the Senate holds flurries of votes on budget resolutions.” Debate on these bills is limited to 20 hours, and “the resolutions can’t be filibustered, so the only way to draw the process out is to offer amendments,” which, after the debate, “come in rapid fire,” sometimes in the dozens. If the no-debating rule is waived, each side is allowed a whopping 30 seconds to do so.

The term seems to have been coined by Keith Hennessey, former Assistant to the U.S. President for Economic Policy and Director of the U.S. National Economic Council. The suffix -orama, meaning “that which is seen, a sight,” is a back-formation of the words like panorama and diorama. The United States Senate has documented vote-a-ramas going back to 1977.


Totalism works because ordinary people – at least those without prior knowledge of the controlling methods of totalism – are subject to the coercive manipulations that leaders employ.”

Alexandra Stein, “How totalism works,” Aeon, June 20, 2017

A totalist structure, says Aeon, is made up of five features. One, the “leader is both charismatic and authoritarian.” Two, the leader rules over a structure that’s “isolating, steeply hierarchical and closed.” The third feature is a “historical totality that has no beginning, middle or end” and an exclusive belief system “controlled entirely by the leader.” Fourth, the leader must “tap fear,” and fifth is the creation of deployable followers “who override their own survival needs and autonomy in the service of the group.”


“Amish culture values deference to others and uffgevva – giving up to the group.”

Donald B. Kraybill, “Slow Time Is God’s Time,” Vestoj, June 2017

In his book, The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World, Kraybill describes uffgevva as “surrendering selfish interests and desires,” which involves “yielding one’s personal will to God’s will,” and submitting to the authority and wisdom of the community.

drip dickey

“To avoid spilling even one drop, you order a year’s supply of what’s known as drip dickeys, which are special collars placed around the neck of wine bottles.”

Al Vuona, “Symptoms and signs of a true wine geek,” Telegram, June 22, 2017

Drip dickey is a brand of wine collar, an accessory that goes around the bottle’s neck to prevent dripping and staining. A dickey — also spelled dicky — can refer to a detachable shirt front or a shirt collar. The origin isn’t clear except that the word might be a diminutive of the name Dick.

mistress dispeller

“Yu, a gentle-looking man in his early forties, with the placid demeanor of a yoga instructor, works as a mistress dispeller, a job that barely existed a decade ago but is becoming common in major Chinese cities.”

Jiayang Fan, “China’s Mistress Dispellers,” The New Yorker, June 26, 2017

Mistress dispellers, says The New York Times, “specialize in ending affairs between married men and their extramarital lovers.” Hired by “a scorned wife” for upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, their services include coaching “women on how to save their marriages” and subtly infiltrating “the mistress’s life, winning her friendship and trust in an attempt to break up the affair.”

In Chinese, a mistress is known as a xiao san, says The New Yorker, or “little third,” which can mean “everything from a partner in a casual affair to a long-term ‘kept woman.’” Besides faking a friendship, other mistress-dispelling methods include payoffs, public shaming, a sudden job transfer, and seduction by a male mistress dispeller.

Word Buzz Wednesday: capsule wardrobe, spoofing, rush-grumble

Toby and Clarrisa (2)

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: ante-dating a fashion term, an unfunny parody, goat love.

capsule wardrobe

“In 1985, Donna Karan launched a collection centered on what she called her seven easy pieces. It offered working women a stylish, flattering capsule wardrobe that could be simply mixed and matched for a variety of looks—and a solution to the perennial problem of what to wear to the office.”

Marc Bain, “Why it’s so hard for women to figure out what to wear to work in 2017,” Quartz, June 11, 2017

While Business Insider says London boutique owner Susie Faux coined the term capsule wardrobe in the 1970s, there are several earlier citations. The earliest we found is from 1947, but it’s a partial citation and difficult to confirm. The earliest confirmed citation we found is from a book first published in 1956, What Shall I Wear?: The What, Where, When, and how Much of Fashion by Claire McCardell.


“You could call it a new blend of telemarketing call, and it’s becoming harder for us to filter, thanks to what’s known as ‘spoofing.’”

Meredith Anderson, “Cracking down on unwanted calls,” WRDW-TV, June 15, 2017

Spoofing, says WRDW-TV, refers to “when telemarketers use sneaky software to create a fake caller ID from a local number so you think you are getting a real call from a local number.” Spoofing can also involve fake email addresses and URLs, says Investopedia.

The word spoof meaning hoax or deception originated around 1889 from spouf, a game invented by British comedian Arthur Roberts. Spoof came to mean to parody or satirize around 1914.


“At the University of Hawaii at Manoa, they have what’s called a cyber-canoe — no, it’s not a virtual boat. It uses ultra-high resolution screens that are seamless light emitting diode displays — LED screens.”

Karin Heineman, “3-D Wall of Virtual Reality,” Inside Science, June 16, 2017

CANOE of cyber-CANOE stands for “cyber-enabled collaboration, analysis, navigation, and observation environment,” and is “a hybrid reality visualization environment allowing you to look at large-scale data in resolutions that we couldn’t achieve previously.”

Pinoy pood

“They come stuffed in red Chinese takeout bags with ‘Chinese food’ crossed out and rewritten as ‘Pinoy pood’ — joking slang for ‘Filipino food.’”

Ligaya Mishan, “In Tama’s No-Frills Space, the Filipino Food Is Anything But,” The New York Times, June 15, 2017

Pinoy is an informal way of saying “Filipino” and seems to come from -pino of Filipino and the suffix -y. As for where pood comes from, we’re really not sure. If we had to wager a guess, perhaps the p- of pagkain, the Tagalog word for “food,” and the -ood of “food.” While we may not know were pood comes from, we do know we like this parody.


“This is what’s called the ‘rush-grumble.’ The noises sound like blubbering, mewing, snuffling, clucking, almost like a dog squeaky toy that’s seen better days.”

Andrew Amelinckx, “Goat Sex: Everything You Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask,” Modern Farmer, June 16, 2017

The rush-grumble is an all-in-one caprine mating call and dance. Modern Farmer says the buck runs next to the female, “nuzzling her side and rear with his tongue out and his front legs and ears jutting forward, all while hooting and hollering like a country boy at a monster truck rally.” And they say goat-romance is dead.

[Photo: “Toby and Clarissa (2)” by The Case Farm, CC BY 2.0]

Word Buzz Wednesday: hung parliament, les Rosbifs, devil’s dandruff

O the Roast Beef of Old England ('The Gate of Calais') by William Hogarth
“O the Roast Beef of Old England (‘The Gate of Calais’)” by William Hogarth

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: an undecided government, a gastronomical insult, a drug is a drug is a drug is a drug.

hung parliament

“In the case of a hung parliament, the leader of the party with the most seats is given the opportunity to try to form a government.”

Rajeev Syal and Alan Travis, “What is a hung parliament and what happens now?” The Guardian, June 9, 2017

In the United Kingdom, says The Guardian, to gain a majority and the right to form the next government, a party must win 326 of 650 seats in the House of Commons. The Conservatives, the party of current Prime Minister Theresa May, won “only 318 seats, eight short of that magic number 326, which delivers an overall majority and the keys to Downing Street.” The result? A hung parliament.

The term hung parliament comes from hung jury, a jury unable to reach a verdict. That phrase originated around 1838 while hung parliament is from the early 1970s.

les Rosbifs

“The historical French slang for the British, les Rosbifs, references our love of a good roast. I’m glad that they never got around to calling us Yorkshire puddings.”

Richard Vines, “Where to Get the Best Roast Beef,” Bloomberg, June 12, 2017

According to the BBC, the moniker Rosbifs became associated with the English “as far as the French were concerned in the 18th Century, simply because it was a very popular way of cooking,” and was the title of a popular patriotic song, “The Roast Beef of England.”

ear hustle

“‘Ear Hustle’ — the phrase is slang for eavesdropping — is a collaboration between Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, both prisoners at San Quentin, and Nigel Poor, a Bay Area visual artist who teaches photography classes at the prison.”

Beth Schwartzapfel, “Meet the Creators of the New Podcast From Inside San Quentin Prison,” The Marshall Project, June 12, 2017

According to Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, the term ear hustle originated in the 1990s as prison slang. By extension, an ear hustler is someone who gossips or eavesdrops. According to Street Talk: Da Official Guide to Hip-Hop & Urban Slanguage, ear hustling refers specifically to overhearing false information and is also known as burglarizing a conversation.

coffin cubicle

“These small, wooden boxes of 15 sq ft, are known as ‘coffin cubicles.’”

Benny Lam, “Boxed in: life inside the ‘coffin cubicles’ of Hong Kong – in pictures,” The Guardian, June 7, 2017

Coffin cubicles refer to impossibly small subdivided apartments in Hong Kong, big enough for one narrow bed and sealed all around with wooden planks. An 400 square foot apartment  “can be subdivided to accommodate nearly 20 double-decker sealed bed spaces,” says The Guardian.

devil’s dandruff

“Though, personally, my favorite DEA-published slang term for cocaine would have to be ‘devil’s dandruff.’”

Kate Ryan, “The DEA Has The Best Slang Terms For All The Drugs,” GOOD, June 12, 2017

Other Drug Enforcement Administration slang terms for narcotics include west coast turnarounds for amphetamines, famous dimes for crack, Beyonce for heroin, Hawaiian sunshine for LSD, and Alice B. Toklas for marijuana.

Word Buzz Wednesday: marocain, banana bag, bioblitz

L'exposition Kimono au Musée Guimet (MNAAG, Paris)

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a winning word, a hangover non-cure, an intense study of nature.


“Ananya Vinay from Fresno correctly spelled the word marocain – a type of dress fabric – to defeat Rohan Rajeev, 14, from Oklahoma.”

Ananya Vinay, 12, wins US spelling bee with ‘marocain’,” BBC, June 2, 2017

Marocain is a dress crepe “similar to Canton crepe.” What’s Canton crepe? It’s a soft silk or rayon fabric “with a finely crinkled texture, similar to but heavier than crêpe de Chine.” What’s crêpe de Chine?  A thin, usually silk fabric “used to make dresses or blouses.”

The word marocain comes from the French word for “Moroccan,” according to the BBC.

banana bag

“This year, you can go into a fully qualified medical tent and buy yourself what’s known as a banana bag – the ultimate hangover cure in IV form – and have your feet rubbed while you ingest it.”

Elisa Bray, “Secret Garden Party: Why a pioneering festival wants to change the format,” The Independent, June 6, 2017

A banana bag named for its yellow contents is an IV bag commonly given to “patients at risk for alcohol withdrawal symptoms or those who present to the emergency department (ED) acutely intoxicated,” says Academic Life in Emergency Medicine.

One of the rationales behind this is “the administration of fluids is conventionally believed to help speed up sobriety.” However, studies have shown “there’s no evidence that IV fluids expedite sobriety in patients with acute alcohol intoxication.” Presumably, this means banana bags won’t be much help with curing or preventing hangovers either.

Barnes dance

“The District Department of Transportation says the intersection of 14th and Irving Streets Northwest will soon be the site of what’s called a ‘Barnes dance’ crossing.”

John Domen, “Northwest DC intersection getting a ‘Barnes dance’ makeover,” WTOP, June 4, 2017

The Barnes dance, also called a scramble or pedestrian scramble, “is an intersection where car traffic halts for a bit so pedestrians can cross in all directions — including diagonally,” says CityLab. It’s named for traffic engineer Henry Barnes. While he didn’t invent the crossing, he did popularize it during his time as street commissioner in Denver.

The “dance” part of the phrase is said to come from a reporter who said the crossings “made the people so happy they’re dancing in the streets.” It’s also obviously a play on barn dance, a social event with music and dancing, often taking place in a barn.


“The event on Saturday was what’s known as a ‘design charrette.’ Organizers say they plan to hold more in the future, and to invite people from the neighborhoods near the Innerbelt.”

Kabir Bhatia, “Planners Try to Figure Out What Comes Next After a Highway Becomes Open Space,” WKSU, June 5, 2017

A charrette is “a period of intense work, especially group work, undertaken to meet a deadline.” It seems to have originally referred to architectural students but now may apply to any type of work. The word comes from a design term, en charrette, French for “on the cart,” used to describe the frantic period before a deadline and originating from a time when drawings were transported by cart.


“Howard and other naturalists surveyed Rock Run on Saturday as part of what’s called a ‘bioblitz’ to find rare, threatened and endangered native species to make a case to the state that the upper watershed of Shawnee State Forest should be saved from logging.”

Megan Henry, “Naturalists hold ‘bioblitz’ to save section of Shawnee State Forest from logging,” The Columbus Dispatch, June 4, 2017

A bioblitz, also BioBlitz, is an “intense period of biological recording within a specific area,” usually over 24 hours and involving both “experts and amateurs taking an inventory of all the living organisms within an area.”

A blitz can refer to “heavy aerial bombardment”; “an intense campaign”; and in football, a “sudden charge upon the quarterback by one or more of the linebackers or defensive backs when the ball is snapped.” The word first appeared in English in 1940, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, as a shortening of blitzkrieg, a German word meaning “rapid attack” and translating literally as “lightning war.”