Word Buzz Wednesday: altcoin, deflategate, tsundoku


Have a hankering for some buzzworthy words? You’re in luck: it’s Word Buzz Wednesday! This week: funny money; a football scandal; and reading — or not reading — piles of books.


“That’s led to a glut of hundreds, if not thousands, of so-called altcoins. Who can keep track of them all?”

Your complete A-Z guide to cryptocurrencies,” The Kernel, January 11, 2015

An altcoin is an alternative to Bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency, or digital currency that is encrypted. Cryptocurrency is an alternative currency, or any currency used instead of that of the dominant system.

Because Bitcoin is open source — that is, its source code is open to the public — this means, as The Kernel says, that “anyone can tinker with it, slap a new own name on top, and create their own version.” This has resulted in an influx of altcoins.


“For Tom Brady, the Deflate-Gate accusations are ‘ridiculous.’”

Josh Sanchez, “Tom Brady calls the Deflate-Gate accusations ridiculous,” Fansided, January 19, 2015

Deflategate refers to recent accusations against the New England Patriots — sometimes referred to as the Cheatriots due to a 2007 cheating scandal — of letting “air out of some footballs to increase their grip on the ball in the wet weather.”

The suffix gate indicates a scandal or controversy, and comes from the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s.


“Dukes had been hit by a flashbang, a $50 device used by the police to disorient suspects, often during drug raids.”

Julia Angwin and Abbie Nehring, “Hotter Than Lava,” The Atlantic, January 12, 2015

A flashbang is “a hand grenade that produces a very bright flash and a loud explosion, but no shrapnel and minimal explosive force, to disorient the target.”

According to The Atlantic, the device was first designed “nearly 40 years ago to help military special forces rescue hostages.” It’s supposed to have “minimal explosive force,” but because its flash powder “burns hotter than lava,” when they explode in direct contact, “they can cause severe injury or death.”

Flashbangs have become more aggressively used under “today’s militarized police forces,” and while “police argue that flashbangs save lives because they stun criminals who might otherwise shoot,” they have also “severed hands and fingers, induced heart attacks, burned down homes, and killed pets.”

See also whizbang.

genetic sexual attraction

“In the late ’80s, the founder of a support group for adopted children who had recently reconnected with their biological relatives coined the term ‘Genetic Sexual Attraction’ (GSA) to describe the intense romantic and sexual feelings that she observed occurring in many of these reunions.”

Alexa Tsoulis-Reay, “What It’s Like to Date Your Dad,” New York Magazine, January 15, 2015

Genetic sexual atraction, or GSA, could be thought of as ultimate assortative mating, or pairing up with others more like ourselves. GSA is thought to occur when genetic relatives meet as adults, “typically as a consequence of adoption.” While it’s an apparently rare consequence, because adoptive reunions have become more common in recent years, GSA might affect more people.

Reverse sexual imprinting occurs between those who are “raised together in early childhood” and become desensitized to sexual attraction. Also known as the Westermarck effect, it’s thought to have “evolved to prevent inbreeding.”

See also Gyllencest.


“In the literature of a language that even has a word for piles of unread books that accumulate on shelves and bedside tables — tsundoku — it can be hard to know where to start.”

Nick Van Osdol, “The Lit List: Writing from Japan,” The Huffington Post, January 12, 2015

Tsundoku translates from Japanese as the “buying of books and not reading them; letting books pile up unread on shelves or floors or nightstands.” The word breaks down as tsumu, “to pile up,” and doku, “to read,” and is also a pun of tsundeoku, “to leave piled up.”

[Photo via Flickr: “Untitled,” CC BY 2.0 by jvoves]