Word Buzz Wednesday: bama, bunnygate, neurothriller

Baby Bunny

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: reappropriating an insult; a cute-sounding scandal; a new kind of horror movie.


“Five days ago, Beyoncé stepped outside of the expected pop-idol box and introduced ‘Formation’ a song rooted in her family’s mingling of Alabama and Louisiana heritage to create her, a self-described ‘Texas bama.’”

Mikki Kendall, “Hot Sauce in Her Bag,” Eater, February 10, 2016

Bama is a Washington, D.C. slang term for “someone of a more countryfied (from a place, like say, Alabama) flavor,” says The Washington Post. It could be used in a derogatory sense, or “might be qualified as a term of endearment or as just a general term for a person.”


“The continuing fallout of Bunnygate is a sobering demonstration of just why so many professors, even those with tenure, keep their heads down and traps shut.”

Rebecca Schuman, “Tenure Protects Nothing,” Slate, February 11, 2016

Bunnygate is the latest in –gate suffixed scandals, this one involving Simon Newman, the president of Mount St. Mary’s University, who was “caught encouraging his faculty to identify struggling freshmen and coerce them to drop out before they harmed the institution’s bottom line,” according to Slate. He likened such a practice to “drowning and shooting ‘cuddly bunnies.’”

Faculty members who spoke out against Newman were unceremoniously removed from their positions, including one professor who was tenured.


LIGO had its detractors from the very start because it was going to be expensive and might detect nothing at all.”

Joel Achenbach, “A brief history of gravity, gravitational waves and LIGO,” The Washington Post, February 11, 2016

LIGO stands for “Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory” and recently “detected gravitational waves from the violent merging of two black holes roughly a billion light-years away.” The existence of gravitational waves — “ripples in the spacetime fabric” — was a prediction of Einstein’s equations, which scientists have been trying to find for decades.


“We are taken on a neuronal rollercoaster that will eventually give us the story. Hence it might be possible to speak of contemporary suspense cinema as a cinema of ‘neurothrillers’.”

Patricia Pisters, “Neurothriller,” Aeon, February 8, 2016

Aeon proposes that some modern-day horror films have evolved into a new type: the neurothriller, which creates a “spiral of fear” through “sound, image, and sophisticated computer technology,” rather than classic narrative, and taps into “the circuitry of the ancient emotional brain.” Another term might be psychological thriller, although neurothriller is certainly cooler-sounding.


“Hot gas in the chlorinator gets piped out and condensed into a new compound called titanium tetrachloride, or ‘tickle,’ as engineers call it.”

Del Quentin Wilber, “How a corporate spy swiped plans for DuPont’s billion-dollar color formula,” Bloomberg Business, February 4, 2016

The nickname tickle comes from its resemblance to the molecular formula of titanium tetrachloride, TiCl4.