Word Buzz Wednesday: bombogenesis, the Starbucks effect, supertweet

Starbucks at home

Happy February! We kick off the shortest month of the year with our latest favorite buzzworthy words. This week: weather that’s the bomb; the side effect of Frappuccinos; and sometimes a tweet is just a tweet.


“While millions of Americans gear up for likely historic snowfall this week, they should also prepare for a blizzard of the latest meteorological buzzword: bombogenesis.”

Alexander Smith, “‘Bombogenesis’: Northeast Blizzard Will Be Fueled Dramatic Pressure Drop,” NBC News, January 26, 2015

Bombogenesis is, as NBC News says, the equivalent of a “meteorological bomb.” A meteorological bomb is when “a storm’s area of lowest pressure experiences a rapid drop of more than 24 millibars in 24 hours.” This makes a storm go from “routine” to “intense” very quickly.

Bombogenesis is also referred to as explosive cyclogenesis, a weather bomb, or, simply, a bomb. Bombo- comes from the Greek bombos, “deep and hollow sound,” while genesis comes from the Greek genesis, “origin, source, beginning, nativity, generation, production, creation.”

Bok globule

“CG4, also known as God’s Hand, is a cometary globule — a Bok globule on which one side has been blown outwards into a long tail, resembling a comet.”

Michelle Starr, “Mysterious nebula revealed in new image: ‘Mouth of the Beast,’” CNET, January 28, 2015

Bok globules are, according to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), “small interstellar clouds of very cold gas and dust that are so thick they are nearly totally opaque to visible light.”

A cloud of interstellar dust or gas is also known as a nebula, which comes from the Latin word meaning “mist, vapor, fog, smoke, exhalation.” The Latin nebula also gives us nebulous.

Bok globules were named for astronomer Bart Bok, who first observed the nebulae in the 1940s. The CfA says Bok globules “were originally discovered as black splotches in front of dense fields of stars,” and were dubbed “holes in the heaven” because they “appeared like holes in the stellar background.”


“Granted, the V-Steam is not something Paltrow made up out of thin, steam-filled air — it’s actually a centuries-old practice in Korea called chai-yok, and its practitioners believe it can reduce stress, regulate menstrual cycles and get rid of hemorrhoids.”

Mackenzie Dawson, “Gwyneth steaming her vagina is the best thing she’s done in years,” New York Post, January 30, 2015

According to the New York Post, chai-yok, also known as a V-steam, involves sitting on a “mini-throne” and allowing a “combination of infrared and mugwort” to steam clean, well, your V. It’s not just a “steam douche,” Paltrow assures us, but “an energetic release” that “balances female hormone levels.”

Several publications, including the Post, TIME, and Fast Company, call chai-yok a “centuries-old Korean practice.” However, at least some doubt this veracity, suggesting it might be a “Los Angeles Korean” invention instead.

Chai-yok seems to translate from Korean as “tea bath.”

Starbucks effect

“Starbucks has become a major indicator in determining the market value of a neighborhood, so, yes, your high-priced lattes do affect the real estate market. They call it the Starbucks Effect.”

Joanna Fantozzi, “Yes, Starbucks Does Impact the Real Estate Market, and Here’s Why,” The Daily Meal, January 29, 2015

The Starbucks effect suggests that “more Starbucks locations in a neighborhood lead to higher-priced homes.” Zillow, a real-estate start-up, determined this by comparing a database of Starbucks locations with their own data, and found that homes near Starbucks locations appreciated at a much faster rate than those not Frappuccino-proximate.

Back in 2000, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) had a different definition for the Starbucks effect. HBR described it as the increased “cachet” of a product — for instance, Starbucks making coffee seem “fancier” and therefore more desirable — resulting in higher prices and profits for the entire product category.

This meaning of Starbucks effect might be a play on the earlier Southwest effect, which refers to “the considerable boost in air travel that invariably resulted from Southwest’s entry into new markets,” due to Southwest’s lower costs and improved service.

Other “effects” include the butterfly effect, the domino effect, the ripple effect, and many more.


“[The subtweet is] a private whisper shrouded in ‘I didn’t say anything’ innocence. But the supertweet is direct in its apophasis, like the politician’s insult.”

Ian Bogost, “Introducing the Supertweet,” The Atlantic, January 28, 2015

While a subtweet is a tweet that refers to someone in a negative way without actually naming them, a supertweet is a negative tweet that overtly names the target (we think that’s all a supertweet is although The Atlantic seems to say it’s more, but what that “more” is, we’re not positive).

Subtweet, a blend of subliminal and tweet, seems to have originated in 2010 or earlier.

[Photo via Flickr: “Starbucks at home,” CC BY 2.0 by Jerine Lay]