Word Buzz Wednesday: bonjour hi, ultra violet, hostile architecture

Rio Grande UV/IR test

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: the greeting police, not that ultraviolet, don’t make yourself at home.

bonjour hi

“The unofficial greeting in the bilingual Canadian city of Montreal has long been a friendly ‘Bonjour, Hi!’”

Canada province urges shopkeepers to stop saying ‘Bonjour-Hi’,” BBC, December 1, 2017

A motion was recently passed “mandating store clerks to greet customers only in French” and not with the French-English hybrid, bonjour hi, says the BBC. While not a law, the move, introduced by the “fiercely Francophile Parti Quebecois,” reaffirms “French as the primary language in the province, where use of English can be controversial.” Quebec’s premier “called the debate ‘ridiculous’.”

ultra violet

“The color of the year for 2018 is ‘ultra violet,’ according to Pantone Color Institute, a color consulting company that each year chooses a color that symbolizes design trends and cultural mood.”

Pantone’s 2018 Color of the Year Is ‘Provocative and Thoughtful’,” Time, December 7, 2017

According to Leatrice Eiseman, Pantone’s executive director, ultra violet, a kind of purple, “communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us towards the future.” Ultraviolet also refers to the “range of invisible radiation wavelengths from about 4 nanometers, on the border of the x-ray region, to about 380 nanometers, just beyond the violet in the visible spectrum.”

hostile architecture

Hostile architecture is where architectural elements and the public realm are used to control human behavior.”

Andrea Lo, “The debate: Is hostile architecture designing people out of cities?” CNN, December 7, 2017

Hostile architecture, says CNN, is “a controversial type of urban design aimed at preventing people from using public spaces in undesirable ways.” Examples include “spiked or sloped benches,” “bolts installed on shop doorsteps and windowsills,” and “water features that operate at surprising intervals on flat surfaces.”

curvature blindness illusion

“In a new article published in the journal i-Perception, researcher Kohske Takahashi presents a new optical illusion, which he calls the ‘curvature blindness illusion.’ It’s pretty trippy.”

A New Optical Illusion Was Just Discovered, And It’s Breaking Our Brains,” Digg, December 8, 2017

The curvature blindness illusion occurs when looking at a set of wavy gray and black lines against white and gray backgrounds. The curvy lines look smoother against the white background and sharper against the gray.

molly house

“A whole molly underworld found its home in London, with molly houses, the clubs and bars where these men congregated, scattered across the city like stars in the night sky.”

Natasha Frost, “How the 18th-Century Gay Bar Survived and Thrived in a Deadly Environment,” Atlas Obscura, December 8, 2017

Molly house is an old-timey term for what is essentially a gay bar. “In 18th and early-19th-century Britain,” says Atlas Obscura, “‘molly’ was a commonly used term for men who today might identify as gay, bisexual or queer.” Sometimes the term was used as a slur, and sometimes as “a more generally used noun, likely coming from mollis, the Latin for soft or effeminate.”

Word Buzz Wednesday: sontaku, kwaussie, irruption

Snowy Owl

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: words of the year from Japan and Australia, and a heck of a lot of Hedwigs.


“The committee said … that sontaku was the most-searched term on the online Japanese dictionary goo for four straight months.”

Isabella Steger, “The Japanese words that perfectly sum up how the country felt this year,” Quartz, December 1, 2017

Japan’s word of the year, according to “publisher Jiyukokuminsha and a panel that includes, among others, an academic and an actress,” is sontaku, says Quartz. The term refers to “people who perform pre-emptive acts to ingratiate themselves to their superiors,” and came up “this year with reference to a scandal relating to a nationalist-school operator that implicated [prime minister Shinzo] Abe and his wife.”

Insuta-bae — a blend of Instagram and haeru, “to shine or stand out” — came in second place, and “is used to describe the manner in which individuals and businesses alike all chase the perfect Instagram photo and ‘likes.’”


“One of its earliest citations labelled Russell Crowe a kwaussie, calling him ‘what you get when you cross a Kiwi who can’t decide whether they’re a Kiwi or an Aussie’.”

Tiger Webb, “‘Kwaussie’ named 2017 word of the year by Australian National Dictionary Centre,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), December 3, 2017

A kwaussie is someone “who is a dual citizen of Australia and New Zealand, a New Zealander living in Australia, or a person of Australian and New Zealand descent,” says ABC. The word gained “newfound prominence” due to the “dual citizenship crisis that has so far prevented six senators, one deputy prime minister, a senate president, and one MP from holding office.”

Kwaussie is a blend of the nicknames for someone from New Zealand and Australia, Kiwi and Aussie, respectively. While the latter is shortening of Australia, the former seems to come from the name of the flightless bird native to New Zealand. Kiwi the bird comes from the Maori kiwi and might be imitative in origin.

third wave coffee

“What it means is that more people are drinking coffee that comes at a higher price premium and could help buoy what’s known as third wave coffee.”

Simran Sethi, “A Surprising New Trend in Coffee,” Forbes, December 1, 2017

Third wave coffee refers to the “understand[ing] that an espresso isn’t just made by a barista,” but that “the producer and roaster also receive credit,” says Forbes. Moreover, the coffee “is distinct from the commodity market, celebrated for unique flavors, specific origins and the absence of defects.”

The earliest meaning of the term third wave, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), is “the last and most forceful of three successive arguments or propositions,” while the definition, “a period of major economic, social, and cultural change,” is from 1980.

midnight zone

“The dark and chilly depths of the ocean’s so-called ‘midnight zone’ thousands of feet below the surface are home to numerous species of bizarre-looking and fearsome fish.”

Mindy Weisberger, “Now, That’s Deep! Mariana Trench Fish Lives 5 Miles Down,” LiveScience, November 30, 2017

The midnight zone might also be referred to as the bathyal zone.


“An irruption results not so much because food is scarce, but rather from an abundance of lemmings, their main prey, in the Arctic the prior summer.”

Alexander Gonzalez, “‘Irruption’ of Snowy Owls Brings Birds Far South This Winter,” WNYC, December 1, 2017

An irruption is a sudden increase in the population of a particular animal. A snowy owl irruption is expected in “parts of the Northeast, including New Jersey and New York, over the next several weeks,” says WNYC.

Word Buzz Wednesday: full understand, haikyoist, purposeful delay

Google Street View - Hashima Island

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a prison lingua franca, an urban ruins explorer, not procrastination.

full understand

A: yes, one man is come for alibaba my ausweis. I am speak him finish. after he is finish. understand?
B:  full understand.

Matt Broomfield, “‘Full understand': The new language of the Lesvos refugee camp,” NewStatesman, November 20, 2017

Full understand is an example of “the lingua franca of Moria prison camp and its environs,” says NewStatesman, “spoken between asylum-seekers from formerly-colonised states as disparate as Iraq, Uganda, Pakistan and Burma.” A lingua franca is “a medium of communication between peoples of different languages.”


“Shane Thoms is what’s known as a ‘haikyoist.’”

Chris Weller, “Photos of abandoned Japanese ruins reveal an eerie, post-apocalyptic world,” AOL, November 24, 2017

A haikyoist is an urban explorer and comes from the Japanese “haikyo,” says AOL, “which literally means ‘ruins’ but can also mean urban exploration.”

Viking weave

“Using copper wire, she creates what’s called a ‘Viking weave.’”

Ben Calwell, “Edgewood Summit sponsoring annual Santa’s Workshop,” Kanawha Metro, November 24, 2017

A Viking weave involves a “long piece of wire” woven “around a dowel rod,” according to Kanawha Metro. It seems to be so called because of the use of a lucet, a tool believed to date back to Medieval and Viking times.

purposeful delay

“Pychyl would similarly argue that a purposeful delay is not procrastination.”

Lila MacLellan, “The concept of productive procrastination is a myth,” Quartz, November 28, 2017

Unlike procrastination, which is unwanted, not deliberate, and doesn’t always have positive outcomes, purposeful delay is deliberate and has positive outcomes, says Quartz. It’s “commonly required when a person needs to … think about an issue or creative work before getting down to the act of writing or producing something.”


“Levi decided to invent one, and thus, ‘levidrome’ (pronounced ‘leh-vee-drome’) was born.”

What is a ‘levidrome?’ Merriam-Webster recognizes new word in honor of little boy,” Fox 4, November 27, 2017

While a palindrome is a word that’s spelled the same backward and forward, a levidrome — named for its 3-year old inventor, Levi Budd — is a word that forms a new word when spelled backward. A synonym for levidrome is semordnilap, which is “palindrome” spelled backward and was first used around 1961.

Word Buzz Wednesday: kleptopredation, Paradise Papers, gardening leave

Look! I have bigger teeth than you.

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: the turducken of sea hunting, another leak, forced gardening.


“The term ‘kleptopredation’ was introduced to the world by marine biologists from the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Portsmouth in the UK, writing in the journal Biology Letters on Nov. 1.”

Ephrat Livni, “Kleptopredation is a new scientific term for super-sizing a meal at sea,” Quartz, November 2, 2017

Kleptopredation, says Quartz, is “when a predator eats prey that has just hunted and has a full belly—such that the predator ends up eating its prey’s prey as well.” The practice combines kleptoparasitism, food theft, and direct predation. The word comes from the Greek kleptes, “thief, a cheater,” and the Latin praedari, “to rob, to plunder.”

Paradise Papers

“The leak, called the Paradise Papers, was revealed when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and its dozens of collaborating news outlets on Sunday published investigations related to them.”

Jackie Wattles and Jill Disis, “What you need to know about the Paradise Papers,” CNN Money, November 6, 2017

The Paradise Papers refer to “13.4 million leaked files from offshore service providers and company registries obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.” According to CNN Money, they “purport to show financial ties between Russia and a member of President Trump’s cabinet” and “how state-run Russian companies funded large investments in Twitter and Facebook.” In addition, the papers name the “world’s biggest businesses, heads of state and global figures in politics, entertainment and sport who have sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens,” says The Guardian.

The “paradise” of the name might refer to Bermuda, the location of Appleby, the law firm the leak focuses on. The Panama Papers were another leak which centered on Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama.


“Her father was a fisherman, and her family fed itself by crofting—age-old, small-plot, subsistence farming.”

Michael Kruse, “The Mystery of Mary Trump,” Politico Magazine, November/December 2017

The word croft is Old English in origin, and corresponds with the Dutch kroft, krocht, meaning “prominent rocky height, high and dry land, field on the downs,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

lunch shaming

“He says he also likes provisions that expand opioid education in schools and end what’s called ‘lunch shaming’ by requiring schools to provide a meal to a student who requests one.”

Wolf to Let Schools Bill Become Law, Despite Reservations,” U.S. News & World Report, November 3, 2017

Lunch shaming is the practice by some U.S. school districts of punishing students “because a parent or guardian has fallen behind on paying their child’s school meal bill.” Students are often publicly singled out and forced to wear wristbands, are assigned chores, and even have their meals taken away “from them after it has been served.”

gardening leave

“Because you’re good at what you do they put you on what’s called ‘gardening leave’ instead of making you work your notice.”

Nils Leonard, “How to take gardening leave,” GQ, November 4, 2017

According to the OED, gardening leave is a British term that refers to “suspension from work on full pay during a notice period, typically to prevent an employee from influencing the organization or acting to benefit a competitor before leaving.” The dictionary’s earliest citation is from 1981: “There are too many senior officers on permanent ‘gardening leave’.”

Why gardening? It’s not clear although some guess it’s because the employee “can’t come in to work and they can’t work for anyone else,” and all “they can do is work in or sit in their garden.”

Check out this post from Fritinancy for more on the term.

The language of gossip

Duck Gossip

When we heard about Ear Hustle, we thought it was a great idea for a podcast, but also a great term for gossip. That got us wondering about all the different ways we talk about idle talk, whether in different parts of the U.S., England, and other English-speaking countries. Take a listen at the language of gossip.

The etymology of a gossip

The word gossip didn’t always refer to a rumormonger. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the word originated around 1014 to mean a godmother or godfather, and came from the Old English godsibb, which had the same meaning.

By the late 14th century, the word also meant a familiar acquaintance, friend, or chum, and in 1600 referred to “a woman’s female friends invited to be present at a birth.” From Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Sometime lurke I in a gossippes bole, In very likenesse of a rosted crabbe.”

Around the same time or slightly earlier, gossip gained the familiar meaning of someone “of light and trifling character” who “delights in idle talk” while the term came to refer to idle talk itself around 1811.

Regional nicknames for blabbermouths

Another gossipy old word is long tongue. This 16th-century term can refer to talkativeness itself, says the OED, or a talkative someone who’s prone to “revealing secrets.” The earliest citation in the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is from 1899 with scattered usage throughout the United States, including Virginia, central Pennsylvania, Utah, Indiana, New York, Texas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and South Carolina.

In Utah you might also hear blathergab while blab-fest, “a gathering of people for talking or gossip,” might be blabbed in Connecticut and Indiana, and blabber-fest in New Jersey. In California, Mississippi, and Ohio, someone who goes poking into other people’s business might be called a nosy Rosy while a meeting of gossipers would be Nosy Rosies.

In Irish English a nosy parker might be called a pant. Short for pantomime, says the OED, it also refers to a prank or caper, in addition to talk or rumors, or the gossiper himself. Caribbean English has macomere, which has a similar etymology as gossip. Coming from French — ma commere translates as “my child’s godmother” — it first referred to the godmother of one’s child or the mother of one’s godchild, and later came to be “a term of affectionate respect for any female friend.” It also has the derogatory meaning of an old woman or gossip as well as an effeminate man.

How we talk about idle talk

Dirt. Buzz. Chatter. Those are all ways you might refer to gossip. But if you’re in California, Georgia, Nebraska, or Texas, you might say hash or pig hash, according to DARE.

Street yarn is an early American English expression for gossip or idle talk. DARE says it’s usually used in the phrase spin street yarn, meaning to gossip, while a street-yarn spinner is someone who gossips. DARE’s earliest citation is from 1782 in the Papers of Robert Morris: “It would be out of my Power to neglect my Business having nothing to divert me from it unless to spin Street Yarn.” The term has recorded usage in Ohio, parts of New York, Kentucky, Connecticut, parts of Vermont, and New England in general.

The Scots are not to be left out of the scuttlebutt conversation (scuttlebutt, by the way, originally referred to the drinking fountain on a ship, around which sailors would gather to chew the rumor-filled fat). The Scots clish-clash is imitative in origin as is clish-ma-claver. In Jamaican English, labrish works as a noun, verb, or adjective. The word might come from blab, says the OED, or the echoic laba, to chatter, or laba-laba, talkative.

In Trinidad and Tabago and hear some old talk? You’re hearing it through the grapevine. The OED says it might be short for “old people talk.” Meanwhile over in South African, hearsay or to engage in hearsay might be referred to as skinder. The word might come from Afrikaans skinder, which has the same meaning, says the OED. That might come from the Dutch schender, “person who corrupts, injures, or damages another person or thing.”

Can we talk?

There are many ways to describe actually engaging in gossip. You might carry a bone, says DARE, at least in Chicago and parts of Indiana and Massachusetts. This might be related with the sayings bone of contention, the subject of a dispute (coming from the idea of two dogs fighting over a bone) and have a bone to pick, meaning to have a complaint or grievance with someone.

In Virginia you might drink one’s milk from a saucer, with the idea of being “catty.” In the South Midland states, you might pack news or tales. In the Ozarks and parts of Tennessee, you could tat, while in the South and South Midland states you might tote.

How do you talk about gossip?

Word Buzz Wednesday: Pittsburgh potty, akiya, devil’s venom


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a mysterious toilet, abandoned homes, dangerous rocket fuel.

Pittsburgh potty

“We’re talking about the so-called Pittsburgh potty, a mysterious amenity found in the basements of some older houses.”

Rheana Murray, “What the heck is a ‘Pittsburgh potty’ and why is it in your basement?” TODAY, October 26, 2017

In addition to being in the basement, says TODAY, the Pittsburgh potty has “no walls for privacy, no sinks for hand-washing.” It’s “just a toilet, out in the open.”

There are a couple of different theories behind its origin. One has to do with “Pittsburgh’s history in the steel industry,” and says that “steel workers could come home from work, clean themselves off, change clothes and use the Pittsburgh potty before going upstairs to have dinner with the family,” rather than “tracking dust and dirt throughout the house.”

Another says the toilets, “usually found in pre-World War II houses, were actually there to prevent sewage backups in the nice part of the home.”

frustrated magnet

“Just like the three toddlers constantly grabbing the two toys from one another’s fingers, the electrons constantly force one another to flip their spin direction. This is what’s called a ‘frustrated magnet’.”

Cathal O’Connell, “Spin doctors summon coppers in quantum computing caper,” Cosmos, October 27, 2017

Using the idea of frustrated magnetism, says Cosmos, “physicists recently discovered a new state of matter” called “quantum spin liquid.” The other known states of matter are solids, liquids, gases, plasma, and Bose-Einstein condensates.


“Our parents always implicated if we didn’t say our prayers at night the ‘Kooshma’ would come and get us.”

Kendria LaFleur, “Medical explanation for Cajun Folklore known as ‘Kooshma‘,” KATC, October 30, 2017

According to Cajun folklore, the Kooshma is a devil-like creature that visits sleepers, rendering them paralyzed. However, the cause may actually be sleep paralysis, says KATC. The work Kooshma might come from the French cauchemar, “nightmare.”


“Many of Japan’s 8 million ghost homes—or akiya—are often left empty indefinitely.”

Isabella Steger, “Abandoned land in Japan will be the size of Austria by 2040,” Quartz, October 26, 2017

The cause of the increased number of akiya, says Quartz, is Japan’s “dwindling population.” After the homeowner dies, “it’s difficult to track down the heir to the property to proceed with any action like tearing down the building,” and even “where homes have identifiable heirs, they are often unable to sell because there’s a lack of interested buyers” since “many of these houses are in rural areas or suburbs” which is “unattractive to young buyers.” Moreover, Japanese people are “reluctant to buy second-hand homes.” While 90% of houses sold in the US and the UK have been lived in before, only 15% in Japan have.

devil’s venom

“North Korea may already be producing its own supplies of a rare, potent rocket fuel known as ‘devil’s venom’ to power its long range missiles.”

Nicola Smith, “North Korea may be producing rare rocket fuel also known as ‘devil’s venom’,” The Telegraph, October 26, 2017

Apparently coined by Soviet rocket scientists, devil’s venom refers to a “liquid rocket fuel composed of a dangerous combination of nitric acid and hydrazine.”

Word Buzz Wednesday: ikigai, Mahlzeit, Amazon effect


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: your purpose in life, a lunchtime greeting, an ironic effect of Amazon.


“Finding your ikigai can also be as easy as just stopping yourself throughout the day and ask yourself: Why are you doing this?”

Lyndsey Matthews, “Is Ikigai the New Hygge?” CountryLiving, October 19, 2017

The Japanese ikigai is translated literally as “life” (iki) and “value or worth” (gai), says CountryLiving. The concept is about finding your purpose in life, your reason for being, or the “the thing that gets you out of bed each morning.” The Venn diagram of ikigai is made of four elements: what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.


“But while a newcomer may struggle to use it at the appropriate time, they can quickly pick up why Mahlzeit is such a pervasive word in the German workplace.”

Joseph Pearson, “What the German language reveals about attitudes to work,” BBC, October 23, 2017

Mahlzeit, literally “meal time” in German, seems to be a kind of greeting that’s used around lunchtime. It’s short for Gesegnete Mahlzeit, “blessed meal.” A common Chinese greeting that’s similar is “Have you eaten yet?” which might have originated during times of hardship and is a way to show one is concerned for the well-being of the other.


“A Spanish word – ‘conllevado’ – sums up the divide here.”

Spain Catalan crisis: Reaction to Puigdemont from Madrid and Barcelona,” BBC, October 10, 2017

Conllevado means “to exist with a problem,” and in this context refers to the two sides of the Catalan independence movement, “those who seek to prevent it, and those in between seeking to be heard.”


“I know about the cataplexy, how it feels to have emotions short a neurological circuit in the brainstem and cause a muscular collapse.”

Henry Nicholls, “Why We Still Don’t Understand Sleep, And Why It Matters,” Digg, October 24, 2017

Cataplexy refers to “a sudden loss of muscle tone and strength, usually caused by an extreme emotional stimulus.” It often accompanies narcolepsy, “a disorder characterized by sudden and uncontrollable, though often brief, attacks of deep sleep.”

The word cataplexy comes from the German Kataplexie, which was coined by English-born German physiologist, William Thierry Preyer in 1878, says the Online Etymology Dictionary. Kataplexie comes from the Greek kataplēxis, “fixation (of the eyes).”

Meanwhile, narcolepsy comes from the French narcolepsie, coined in 1880 by French physician Jean-Baptiste-Édouard Gélineau. Narcolepsie comes from the Latinized form of the Greek narke, “numbness, stupor,” plus lepsis, “an attack, seizure.”

Amazon effect

“It’s a scene repeating itself in dying suburban malls around the country, a sweeping economic disruption known as the Amazon effect.”

Mark Arsenault and Janelle Nanos, “In Enfield, Conn., a bid for Amazon tinged with irony,” Boston Globe, October 21, 2017

The Amazon effect refers to the “ongoing evolution and disruption of the retail market, both online and in physical outlets, resulting from increased e-commerce.” The town of Enfield, Connecticut has felt this directly with the closings of Macy’s, Sears, and J.C. Penney in their mall, but in an ironic move, is entering said mall in the race for Amazon’s second headquarters.