Best of Word Soup 2012: TV Word Love

bob's television dream

bob's television dream, by Robert Couse-Baker

Welcome to the first annual Wordnik Word Soup Awards!

All year we’ve been collecting interesting, hilarious, ridiculous, and sometimes NSFW words from TV, and now it’s time to award the best of the best.

Best Use of a Grammar Term on the Comedy Channel

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, anaphor

“You didn’t build that,” proclaimed President Obama during a campaign speech this July, but that wasn’t all he said. Unfortunately, as Stewart stated, by saying “you didn’t build that,” Obama created confusion by “using the demonstrative singular pronoun, ‘that’ instead of the plural anaphor, ‘those,’ which of course would be referring to the antecedent, ‘roads and bridges’,” all of which promptly gave Stewart a grammar wedgie.

Best Use of a Controversial Word on a Comedy

30 Rock, transvaginal

Some states have tried to make transvaginal ultrasounds required for women having abortions. “You’re being so transvaginal right now,” Liz told Jack regarding his invasiveness about her decision to adopt or remain childless.

Best Made-Up German Word

Perfektenschlage, The Office

Fans of The Office know that Dwight Schrute is of German ancestry, and according to Dunder Mifflin’s top salesman, Perfektenschlage is “when everything in a man’s life comes together perfectly.” The second meaning is “perfect pork anus.”

Runner-up: Bildenkinder, for landlords, the feeling that building residents are like biological children.

Best Use of a French Swear Word

Mad Men, calice

Megan uttered this Québécois French swear word when her surprise birthday party for Don was spoiled. According to Slate, calice “has its origins in Roman Catholic ritual—it’s the communion chalice.”

Best Eponym

Ferris Buellerian, Community

This was a tough decision. There was 30 Rock’s normal-Al, the opposite of Weird Al, and their equally hilarious reverse-Urkel, to de-nerdify a black nerd. In the end we went with Community’s Ferris Buellerian – “Winger’s critics suggest he merely improvised hot-button patriotic dogma in a Ferris Buellerian attempt to delay school work” – a unique usage of the hooky-playing character.

Best Name for a Made-Up Rebel Movement

Sanguinista, True Blood

We found Sanguinista to be a clever and appropriate name for a faction of rebel vampires. The word is a blend of sanguine, “bloodthirsty; bloody,” and Sandinista of the Sandinista National Liberation Front.

Runner-up: Lauffeuer, Grimm. Lauffeuer translates from the German as “wildfire.”

Best Made-Up Psychological Disorder

accusational opposition disorder, Community

Leave it to psych major Britta to come up a pseudo-psych term for disagreeing or arguing with someone. The runner-up is also from Community: hypernarcissosis, excessive narcissism or love and admiration for oneself, which apparently plagues the vain Jeff Winger.

Most Ridiculous Portmanteau

unwindulax, 30 Rock

“We’re just camping out and unwindulaxing,” says one of Jenna’s fans. In October, we noted that the word is a blend of unwind and relax, but where does that ‘u’ come from? Who knows and who cares? Just unwindulax and enjoy the word.

Best Use of Portmanteaus – TIE

The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

The Stewart and Colbert “puninator” was hard at work this year what with generating a proliferation of puns, portmeanteaus, and blends.

There was sanitipsy, a blend of sanitizer and tipsy, based on a report that teens drink hand sanitizer to get drunk; assassitunity, using the assassination of Osama bin Laden as a PR opportunity; gaffestronomist, those who measure political gaffes “using the exact science of gaffestronomy,” according to Stewart; and many more.

Best Show for Eggcorns

Raising Hope

An eggcorn is a malapropism that makes sense to the speaker, and Virginia of Raising Hope is the Queen of the Eggcorn. “I was immediately inquizzical of this mystery,” she has said. What’s the doctor who examines ladyparts? A vaginacologist of course. And that thing that repeats itself by one’s own doing? “A self-refilling prophecy,” says Virginia.

Most Educational Show About Current Events That Wasn’t The Daily Show or The Colbert Report

The Newsroom

Sure, The Newsroom was maddening in a lot of ways (all that yelling, for instance), but we did learn a thing or two. We learned that EKIA stands for “Enemy Killed in Action,” and that RINO isn’t an ungulate but a “Republican in Name Only.” We learned about the Glass-Steagall Act and the story behind the greater fool. Now if only Aaron Sorkin would learn to stop calling women girls.

Best Made-Up Sex Slang

30 Rock

This is the semi-NSFW part. While a nooner for some means sex at lunchtime, for Liz Lemon it means “having pancakes for lunch.” Normalling is a fetish for kinky Jenna and Paul: behaving like a “normal” couple. A sexual walkabout is like a walkabout only while, um, “doing every depraved thing [one] can think of with as many people as [one] can,” according to Jenna.

Bang brothers are men who have slept with the same woman (see also Eskimo brothers). Pokemoning means having a wide variety of lovers, as in the video game in which one must collect “all of the available Pokémon species.” A synonym is Great Escaping. Finally, a sex-idiot is is an intellectually challenged yet attractive person used for the sole purpose of having sex.

What are some of your choices for noteworthy words from TV?

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by Robert Couse-Baker]

Word Soup Wednesday: Dixiecrat, Etch a Sketch, zinger

Welcome to Word Soup Wednesday, in which we bring you some strange, obscure, unbelievable (and sometimes NSFW) words from talk shows, sitcoms, dramas, and just about anything else on TV.

This week’s roundup includes two anachronisms.

beat the Dutch

Andrew: “Now don’t that beat the Dutch.”

“The Hudson River School,” Copper, September 20, 2012

To beat the Dutch means “to surpass everything,” or “say [or do] something incredible.” The idiom originated around 1775, says the OED.

The origin is unclear but, according to this publication from 1887, the phrase may come from the idea of “a fancied superiority of the English settlers in wit and quickness,” and is “in fact, a good-natured way of making fun of the descendants of the Dutch colonists,” though one may question the “good-naturedness” of such a phrase.


Ron: “If you need to boot again, trash can’s on your right.”

“Soda Tax,” Parks and Recreation, September 27, 2012

Boot is slang for “vomit.” Boot and rally means “to vomit (‘boot’) due to over-consumption of alcohol, and then continue partying (‘rally’).” This phrase seems to have originated in the late 1980s as campus slang.

critical mass

Lisa [regarding a black hole]: “If one more thing gets in there, it could reach critical mass!”

“Treehouse of Horror XXIII,” The Simpsons, October 7, 2012

Critical mass in this context refers to “the amount of matter needed to generate sufficient gravitational force to halt the current expansion of the universe,” and is attested to 1940. Critical Mass is also a cycling event.


Leslie: “Councilman Milton was first elected as a city councilor in 1948 as a member of the Dixiecrat party. Their platform? De-integrate baseball.”

“How a Bill Becomes a Law,” Parks and Recreation, October 4, 2012

A Dixiecrat is “a member of a dissenting group of Democrats in the South who formed the States’ Rights Party in 1948.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Dixiecrats seceded “because they opposed [the Democratic party’s] policy of extending civil rights.”

The word is a blend of Dixie, “a region of the southern and eastern United States, usually comprising the states that joined the Confederacy during the Civil War,” and Democrat.

dog’s bollocks

Owen: “Aren’t you the dog’s bollocks?”
Roland: “Is that a good thing?”

“Blue Bell Boy,” Boardwalk Empire, October 7, 2012

Anachronism alert! While bollocks meaning “nonsense” originated in 1919, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, the first recorded use of dog’s bollocks, meaning “the very best,” wasn’t until the mid to late 1980s. Dog’s bollocks referring to, in typography, “a colon followed by a dash” (said to resemble the male sexual organs) is attested to 1949, according to the OED.

Dog’s bollocks meaning “the best” is a play on similar terms from the 1920s, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, such as the bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas, and the cat’s meow.


Jake: “He drygulched me.”
Al Capone: “He hit you when you wasn’t looking?”

“Blue Bell Boy,” Boardwalk Empire, October 7, 2012

Another anachronism! Drygulch, which means “to murder; to attack, assault, especially in an ambush,” didn’t come about until 1930, according to The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang, almost 10 years after this episode takes place.

The origin of the word is uncertain. It may come from the idea of the ambusher hiding in a dry gulch or ravine and jumping out a passerby, or perhaps from the idea of being taken by surprise by a flash flood caused by heavy rain filling a dry ravine.


Larry Wilmore: “Racism works best in person. Distrust but verified.”
Jon Stewart: “Like a cop pulling you over for a DWB.”
Larry: “I’m sorry, what’s that, Jon?”
Jon: “A DWB, you know. . .Driving While Black.”

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, October 2, 2012

DWB, or driving while black, “refers to the racial profiling of black drivers.” The phrase is a play on DWI, “driving while intoxicated,” and originated in 1990 in a New York Times article, says the OED.

Etch A Sketch

News commentator: “Mitt Romney presented us with the ultimate Etch A Sketch behavior last night.”

The Colbert Report, October 4, 2012

An Etch A Sketch is a drawing toy which one merely shakes to erase. Mitt Romney’s behavior is described as Etch a Sketch due to his tendency to express opinions that are contradictory to his opinions in the past.

Romney was first likened to the toy by his own senior campaign adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom: “[Romney’s campaign is] like Etch A Sketch. You can shake it up and we start all over again.”


Nun: “Monthly time.”
Margaret: “You are at odds with menstruation?”
Dr. Mason: “It’s good Latin.”
Nun: “A regrettable neologism.”

“Blue Bell Boy,” Boardwalk Empire, October 7, 2012

Menstruation was actually not a neologism during the time of this episode, the early 1920s, but originated in the 1680s. Regarding another “problematical” word, pregnant, the sister had this suggestion: “Gravid has a noble ring.” Gravid comes from the Latin gravis, “heavy.”

pip and a half

George’s boss: “I gotta say, you’re a pip and a half.”

“Bone for Tuna,” Boardwalk Empire, September 30, 2012

You’re a pip is a British idiom that means, depending on the context, You’re a sweetheart, a pain in the neck, or a real character, according to a commenter on this Word Detective post on pip. A pip and a half is, presumably, even more so of a character.

If anyone has any additional information on this expression, please let us know.


Nick: “It’s interesting finding a Blutbad leading a flock of – ”
Pastor: “Seelenguten, Detective.”

“The Good Shepherd,” Grimm, September 28, 2012

Seelengut, a sheep-like creature that can take on human form, translates from the German as “good soul.” A blutbad is a werewolf type creature and translates from the German as “blood bath.”

straw poll

Leslie: “Let’s take a quick straw poll. Hold up green if you agree and red if you disagree.”

“Soda Tax,” Parks and Recreation, September 27, 2012

A straw poll is a casual or ad hoc survey. The phrase originated originated around 1932, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, as did straw ballot. Older is straw vote, which came about in 1866 and, according to William Safire et al, “may allude to a straw (thin plant stalk) held up to see in what direction the wind blows, in this case, the wind of group opinion.”

white horse

Maw Maw: “By the way, if you’re going with the white horse, I think I can get that for you. We’re talking about heroin, right?”

“Not Indecent, But Not Quite Decent Enough Proposal,” Raising Hope, October 2, 2012

White horse, or horse, is slang for heroin or cocaine. Horse referring to heroin originated around 1950. The word heroin originated in 1898 from the German Heroin, a trademark “registered by Friedrich Bayer & Co. for their morphine substitute.”


News announcer: “Mr. Romney’s team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August.”
Jon Stewart: “You’ve equipped him with zingers. And you know I find the best zingers are the ones you practice for two months.”

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, October 1, 2012

A zinger is “a witty, often caustic remark.” The word originated around 1970 and was earlier “baseball slang for ‘fastball’ (by 1957).”

That’s it for this week! If you have any additional information on these words, especially the anachronisms, please let us know. And remember, if you see any Word Soup-worthy words, tweet it on Twitter with the hashtag #wordsoup. Your word and Twitter handle might appear right here!

Word Soup Wednesday: moochacracy, mad as a hatter, take it on the arches

Welcome to Word Soup Wednesday! While the television show The Soup brings you “the strange, obscure and totally unbelievable moments in pop culture, celebrity news and reality TV,” Word Soup brings you those strange, obscure, unbelievable (and sometimes NSFW) words from talk shows, sitcoms, dramas, and just about anything else on TV.


Corcoran: “My leg’s been bugging me.”

“La Tempete,” Copper, September 16, 2012

Anachronism alert! While Copper takes place in 1864, bug meaning “to annoy, pester” originated in 1949, says the Online Etymology Dictionary. For more Copper anachronisms see Prochronisms.

bully pulpit

Nucky [to Margaret]: “My name is on that hospital, and it’s not to provide you with a bully pulpit.”

“Resolution,” Boardwalk Empire, September 16, 2012

A bully pulpit is “an advantageous position, as for making one’s views known or rallying support,” and was coined by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1904. (This episode takes place in the 1920s.) More words coined by U.S. presidents.


Eli [showing his son a model airplane]: “Happy two birthdays ago.”
Will: “Pretty keen.”

“Spaghetti & Coffee,” Boardwalk Empire, September 23, 2012

Keen in this context means “great; splendid; fine,” and originated in the early 1900s.

mad as a hatter

Cullen [to Lily]: “Sober as a judge, mad as a hatter.”

“Purged Away With Blood,” Hell on Wheels, September 16, 2012

Mad as a hatter means “demented or crazy,” and originated around 1829, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, “supposedly from erratic behavior caused by prolonged exposure to poison mercuric nitrate, used in making felt hats.”

Mad as March hare is attested from the 1520s, via the “notion of breeding season.” Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with its Mad Hatter hare was published in 1865, the same year this episode takes place.


Jon Stewart: “Or the incredible tax breaks the government gives the investor class, whose money is taxed at a capital gains rate of 15% as opposed to ordinary having-a-job income which can be taxed up to 35%. Boy I wish we had a poster boy for that element of moochacracy. Oh right.” [Cuts to picture of Mitt Romney]

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, September 19, 2012

Moochacracy is a blend of mooch, “to get or try to get something free of charge; sponge,” and cracy, “rule or government by.” Mooch probably comes from the Old French muchier, “to hide, skulk,” while –cracy comes from the Greek kratos, “strength.” Stewart continues:

In 2010, Governor Romney had an adjusted gross income of $21.6 million yet paid only $3 million in federal income tax, or 13.9%. Without the preferential investor tax code, Romney would have paid $7.56 million – a government subsidy of $4.56 million, or. . . .enough food stamps to feed Mr. Romney through the year 4870.


Diane Sawyer: “The Romney camp is said to be engineering a reboot.”

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, September 18, 2012

Reboot means “to turn (a computer or operating system) off and then on again; restart,” and originated in 1971, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The noun form originated in 1980.


Stephen Colbert: “[Obama] dropped the R-bomb! Redistribution, which is just fancy talk for ‘a black guy is coming for your stuff’! Here’s his vision for America, folks. You pay taxes into a single federal agency that pools it and redistributes it across the country to build roads and bridges, sometimes in states you don’t live in!”

The Colbert Report, September 19, 2012

Redistribution is “an economic theory or policy that advocates reducing inequalities in the distribution of wealth,” and originated around 1825, says the OED.


Eva: “You look steamy, Kevin. Can’t wait to pull those clothes off you later.”

“La Tempete,” Copper, September 16, 2012

Another anachronism. Steamy meaning “erotic” didn’t come about until 1952, almost 90 years after this episode takes place. Again, for more Copper anachronisms see Prochronisms.

take it on the arches

Woman [to Nelson]: “Take it on the arches!”

“Resolution,” Boardwalk Empire, September 16, 2012

Take it on the arches is “encouragement for one to move along and walk away via one’s foot arches.”

welfare queen

Jon Stewart: “That says nothing about the real parasites, welfare queens. Public assistance is clearly a path to dependency. I would like to see evidence otherwise.”
Video of Mitt Romney’s mother speaking of Romney’s father: “He was a refugee from Mexico. He was on relief-welfare for the first years of his life.”

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, September 18, 2012

Welfare queen is “a pejorative phrase used. . .to describe people who are accused of collecting excessive welfare payments through fraud or manipulation.” The term seems to have first appeared in a 1976 speech by then presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan.

That’s it for this week! Remember, if you see any Word Soup-worthy words, let us know on Twitter with the hashtag #wordsoup. Your word and Twitter handle might appear right here!