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

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.

September Food Word Origins: macadamia nut, Monte Cristo sandwich, cherries jubilee

Cherries Jubilee
Cooking up some cherries jubilee.

It’s the end of the month so you know what that means: a roundup of the most interesting origins of foods celebrated in September. Last month we kicked things off with s’mores, sponge-cake, and chop suey. This time we have five more delicious food words and where they (might) come from.

macadamia nut

“Perhaps the best of these [recent introductions to Hawaii] is the Macadamia Nut, sometimes called the Queensland Nut from its native habitat.”

Mary Dillingham Frear, Our Familiar Island Trees, 1929

The delicious macadamia nut (celebrated each September 4) was named after Scottish chemist and politician, John Macadam. At 28 he set sail from Glasgow to Australia, where he became friends with botanist Ferdinand von Mueller. Mueller was taxed with naming flora “discovered” by European settlers, and chose to name the nut-bearing tree after Macadam.

John Macadam shouldn’t be confused with John Loudon McAdam, the Scottish engineer who invented macadam, or Charles Macintosh, the Scottish chemist who created a method to make garments waterproof, such as his namesake, the mackintosh raincoat.

hot dog

“The ‘hot dog’ was quickly inserted in a gash in a roll, a dash of mustard also splashed on to the ‘dog’ with a piece of flat whittled stick, and the order was fulfilled.”

Paterson Daily Press, December 31, 1892

A hundred and third plus years ago, you’d be lauding sausages served hot every National Hot Dog Day on September 10. That’s what the term hot dog originally referred to (with the popular, yet hopefully untrue, belief that sausage contained dog), says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It was also used as a mass noun. From a September 14, 1884 issue of the Evansville Daily Courier: “Even the innocent ‘wienerworst’ man will be barred from dispensing hot dog on the street corner.”

hot cross bun

“Good Friday comes this Month, the old woman runs With one or two a Penny hot cross Bunns.”

Poor Robin’s Almanack, 1733

Every September 11 honors the hot cross bun, which is  sweet and “marked on top with a cross of frosting, traditionally eaten during Lent.” The 1733 citation above is the earliest recorded, says the OED, and while “hot” is still always included in the name, it’s now usually served cold.

linguini

“When peas are used, rarely is the sauce poured over the linguine or fettuccelle.”

Garibaldi M. Lapolla, Good Food from Italy, 1954

Every September 15, you can fete this long, flat pasta, the name of which comes from the Italian lingua, meaning “tongue.” The earliest recorded usage in English of linguine is 1920, according to the OED. From a U.S. Patent Office publication: “Macaronic Foods, Including Bombolati, Linguini, Foratini, [etc.].” Italian immigrants had been coming to the U.S. since the 1890s, and while immigration tapered off around 1920, says the Library of Congress, by then more than four million Italians had settled in the U.S.

Monte Cristo sandwich

“The Monte Cristo sandwich has always served as a sort of Rosetta Stone in my explorations of this planet.”

Thadius Van Landingham III, “Count the Monte Cristos,” The Stranger, May 11, 2006

Like the eponymous count of Alexandre Dumas’s 19th-century novel, the origins of the Monte Cristo sandwich are shrouded in mystery. According to the Food Timeline, the battered and fried ham and cheese sandwich celebrated every September 17 is probably a variation of the croque monsieur, the term of which first appeared in English in 1915, says the OED. As for the Monte Cristo, Food Timeline says it was most likely “first served in southern California” and was “very popular in the 1950s-1970s.” However, what it has to do with a rich and enigmatic nobleman, your guess is as good as ours.

cherries jubilee

“Thursday, it was Beef Wellington and Cherries Jubilee, and enough Sevruga Caviar to make the QE2 one of the Russian’s largest single customers.”

Rebecca Leung, “Farewell to the Queen,” CBS News, January 23, 2004

Lauded every September 24, this decadent dessert is made up of cherries in a flaming brandy sauce served over vanilla ice cream. It was supposedly created for Queen Victoria’s jubilee celebration, says Food Timeline. However, what isn’t clear is if it was for her golden jubilee in 1887, celebrating the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne, or her diamond jubilee in 1897, the 60th anniversary.

A jubilee can refer to a specially celebrated anniversary, a season of celebration, or rejoicing itself. The Online Etymology Dictionary says the word comes from the Old French jubileu, “jubilee; anniversary; rejoicing,” which ultimately comes from the Hebrew yobhel, meaning “jubilee” but formerly “a trumpet, ram’s horn,” or literally “ram.” The site goes on to say the original jubilee was a year of emancipation of Hebrew “slaves and restoration of lands, to be celebrated every 50th year,” and “was proclaimed by the sounding of a ram’s horn on the Day of Atonement.”

[Image: “Cherries Jubilee” by something.from.nancy, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Word Buzz Wednesday: cheese tea, Kushner loophole, pickleball

Pickleball-7
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

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.”

wadi

“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.”

pickleball

“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.

Five Jazzy Words from F. Scott Fitzgerald

442px-F_Scott_Fitzgerald_1921

F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the quintessential authors of the Jazz Age, was born on this day in 1896. While best known for his novels (This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby, Tender Is the Night, and The Last Tycoon, unfinished and published posthumously), his tumultuous marriage to fellow writer Zelda, and being one-time BFFs with Ernest Hemingway, he also coined or popularized several terms that have entered the lexicon. Today we dive into our five favorites.

daiquiri

“Here’s the old jitney waiter. If you ask me, I want a double Daiquiri.”

This Side of Paradise, 1920

While this cocktail of rum, lime or lemon juice, and sugar is believed to have been invented in 1896 by a U.S. mining engineer in Cuba — according to the Online Etymology Dictionary — Fitzgerald’s use in his first novel is the earliest recorded in English. The word daiquiri comes from Cuban village of the same name.

deb

“Both Tom and Amory had outgrown the passion for dancing with mid-Western or New Jersey debbies at the Club de Vingt.”

This Side of Paradise, 1920

Deb or debbie is a shortening of debutante, “a young woman making a formal debut into society.” The word debutante debuted in English in the early 1800s, and at first also referred to a female performer making her first appearance in public, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

petting

“On the Triangle trip Amory had come into constant contact with the great current American phenomenon, the ‘petting party.’”

This Side of Paradise, 1920

Petting led to heavy petting 40 years later, according to the OED: “What is called ‘heavy petting’ in which frank exploration of each other’s bodies is permitted.”

wicked

“You two order; Phoebe and I are going to shake a wicked calf.”

This Side of Paradise, 1920

Ron Weasley can thank Fitzgerald for the ironically positive usage of wicked meaning wonderful, splendid, or remarkable. However, it was used in a jocular way to mean mischievous or sly since starting in the 17th century. From Shakespeare’s As You Like It: “That same wicked Bastard of Venus,..that blinde rascally boy.” As for how wicked became a New-England-centric intensifier (wicked smart, for example), check out this post from Merriam-Webster.

T-shirt

“So early in September Amory, provided with ‘six suits summer underwear, six suits winter underwear, one sweater or T shirt, one jersey, one overcoat, winter, etc.,’ set out for New England, land of schools.”

This Side of Paradise, 1920

While Fitzgerald’s is the first known mention of the word T-shirt (thought to be named for its shape), the simple yet iconic garment existed long before, says The New York Times.

Jazzed for more? Check out our posts on the language of the 1920s beyond the “bee’s knees”  as well as 10 terms coined by Ernest Hemingway.

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

“‘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.”

poshtel

“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.”

James Fenimore Cooper: An A No. 1 Word Coiner

471px-James_Fenimore_Cooper_by_Brady

James Fenimore Cooper, born on this day in 1789, is considered America’s first major novelist. While he’s perhaps best known for books such as the Leatherstocking Tales, The Last of the Mohicans, and The Deerslayer, the New York native was also a coiner of words, several of which we still use today. Here we take a look at six.

A No. 1

“I set all the Effinghams down as tip-tops, or, A No. 1, as Mr Leach calls his ship.”

Homeward Bound, 1838

A No. 1, meaning first-class or outstanding, is an alteration of A1, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The term A1 originally referred a wooden ship being “first-class in respect of both hull and fittings,” especially “as classified in Lloyd’s Register,” a maritime classification society. The figurative meaning of A1 was first used by Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers: “‘He must be a first-rater,’ said Sam. ‘A, 1,’ replied Mr. Roker.”

aplenty

“A sailor’s blessing on you—fair winds and a plenty.”

Water Witch, 1830

This word meaning in plentiful supply or abundant is still used aplenty since Cooper coined it. From a recent article in The Huffington Post: “Jeremy can find work aplenty in today’s job market and good wages, too.”

hoi polloi

“If there are to be knights and nobles and academicians, they must be of the number; not that such distinctions are necessary to them, but that they are necessary to the distinctions; after which the oi polloi are enrolled as they can find interest.”

Recollections of Europe, 1837

Of course Cooper didn’t invent this ancient Greek phrase meaning “the herd,” but his was the earliest use in English transliteration. The earliest to use the Greek characters for hoi polloi in English was John Dryden in 1668: “If by the people you understand the multitude, the οἱ πολλοὶ.”

homebody

“Marry him I don’t think I will—unless he becomes steadier and more of a homebody.”

Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground, 1821

Stay-at-homers everywhere can thank Cooper for this cozy word.

muscle man

“I suppose these muscle men will not have much use for any but the oyster-knives, as I am informed they eat with their fingers.”

Homeward Bound, 1838

While Cooper’s meaning of muscle man is, well, a muscular man (especially a wrestler or bodybuilder), around 1929 the term gained the meaning of someone “who uses violence or threats to intimidate people, [especially] on behalf of another,” says the OED.

old chap

“‘Come, old chap,’ said Billy, good-naturedly, ‘don’t be crabbed, but hear what a man has got to say.’”

Pioneers, 1823

While Cooper is American, this familiar term of address is chiefly British, says the OED. The word chap meaning lad or fellow once meant “customer” and comes from the now obsolete chapman, a peddler or merchant.

Want more author-coined words? Check out our posts on terms invented by Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Cooper’s frenemy, Mark Twain.

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.

lodestar

“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.”

sitzfleisch

“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.”