Word Buzz Wednesday: Biles, qubit, trumpery


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: an athletic eponym, an excellent WWF word, a telling name.


“In the second tumbling pass of her floor exercise routine, she does what’s called a ‘Biles,’ two back flips followed by a half twist, all with a straight body position and landing blind.”

Jessica Marmor Shaw, “How Simone Biles has become the most dominant gymnast of all time,” MarketWatch, July 30, 2016

Simone Biles first performed the signature move that’s named after her at the 2013 World Gymnastics Championships. Check it out in action.

More sports moves named after athletes include the axel, salchow, and lutz in figure skating, named for, respectively, Axel Paulsen, Ulrich Salchow, and Alois Lutz; the Fosbury flop in the high jump named for Dick Fosbury; and the Mendoza line in baseball named for Mario Mendoza.

Curie point

“The Curie point is why when a stream of molten iron is poured directly next to a magnet with tremendous amounts of pull, the iron falls in a straight line instead of being pulled towards the magnet.”

Jake Swearingen, “Why Molten Iron Just Isn’t Attracted to Rare Earth Magnets,” Popular Mechanics, July 27, 2016

The Curie point of Curie temperature is the point at which “a ferromagnetic substance loses its ferromagnetism and becomes paramagnetic.” Substances that are ferromagnetic include “iron, nickel, or cobalt and various alloys” and are “easily magnetized.” Paramagnetic substances “have an induced magnetic field [that] is parallel and proportional to the intensity of the magnetizing field but is much weaker than in ferromagnetic materials.”

The Curie point is named for physicist Pierre Curie (and husband of Marie).


“‘Whatever our disagreements may be, we must put them aside for the good of our country,’ Bloomberg said, calling Clinton ‘the candidate who can defeat a dangerous demagogue.’”

Michael Bloomberg appeals to Clinton skeptics in Trump takedown,” The Week, July 27, 2016

You might have heard the term demagogue a lot lately, but what exactly does it mean? A demagogue is a leader who gains power by appealing to the “emotions and prejudices of the populace.” The word has been in use since the mid-17th century and comes from the Greek demagogos, “popular leader” or “leader of the mob.”


“But a quantum computer obeys the seemingly magical principles of quantum mechanics, the physics of things like atoms and photons. It stores data in what’s called a ‘qubit.’”

Cade Metz, “Quantum Computers Don’t Make Sense. But This One Makes Music,” WIRED, July 30, 2016

Qubit, in addition to being an excellent Scrabble or Words With Friends word, is a unit of measurement, specifically a quantum bit. The term originated in the mid-1990s. The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest citation is from 1994 in Nature: “Quantum physical bits are also called ‘qubits’, so we are trying to find the minimum number of qubits per quantum symbol.”


“Anti-Trumpers propelled lookups for trumpery, delighting in the word’s definition of ‘something fallaciously splendid.’”

Katy Steinmetz, “Donald Trump’s Comments Make Dictionary Lookups for ‘Treason’ Spike,” TIME, July 27, 2016

The word trumpery refers to “showy but worthless finery,” as well as nonsense, rubbish, trickery, and fraud. Trumpery comes from the Middle English trompery, “deceit.”

(H/t James Currie.)