Word Buzz Wednesday: defeat device, kaiten-zushi, stralimitata

Tokyo-Kaiten sushi, Japan (2010)

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we round up our favorite buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: a cheating apparatus, brewery-inspired sushi, and papal exuberance.

Burning Mouth Syndrome

“The symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome are pretty much summed up by the name. The cause is still a mystery. So is the fact that the syndrome stops whenever you fall asleep.”

Esther Inglis-Arkell, “Burning Mouth Syndrome Is Real, But We Don’t Know Why,” io9, September 28, 2015

Burning Mouth Syndrome, not to be confused with Burning Man Syndrome (which, by the way, does not involve getting naked and making art in the desert), is a condition in which “your nerves turn against you,” says io9, “insisting that something painful is happening to you, even when nothing’s wrong.” As a result, sufferers feel a burning pain in the lips, tongue, and gums — sometimes for years — and only get a respite during sleep. Some patients also experience a metallic taste and a “crawling sensation” in the mouth (eek!).

Burning Mouth Syndrome is often treated with antidepressants and antianxiety medication with the aim of reducing nerve activity.

defeat device

The company admitted that it had programmed 11 million of its diesel cars…to cheat on their emissions tests, using something called a ‘defeat device.’”

Kevin Roose, “The Volkswagen ‘Dieselgate’ scandal is a new low in corporate malfeasance,” Fusion, September 23, 2015

Last week it was piggate, this week it’s the much more serious Dieselgate. In this latest scandal, Volkswagen used a defeat device to reprogram their diesel vehicles’ software to allow them to pass nitrogen oxide emissions tests by temporarily switching them into “low-emission mode.” After the tests, says Fusion, the cars went back to “pumping out up to 40 times as many pollutants as the law allowed, while appearing to stay under the legal limit.”

Why? Cost, fuel efficiency, and driving performance, says Green Car Reports. Diesels are apparently cheaper to build than gas hybrid-electric vehicles. Moreover, hybrids and electric cars are sometimes thought to be “slow, unpleasant to drive, and strange-looking.”

The term defeat device originated in the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1963 Clean Air Act.


“Introduced in the late 1950s, ‘kaiten-zushi’ restaurants feature a revolving belt with small plates of sushi. Diners can grab whatever passes them and looks appetizing; the bill is tallied by the number of stacked, empty plates (often color-coded to represent different prices).”

Dan Frommer, “A Japanese sushi chain is getting rid of its conveyer belts,” Quartz, September 27, 2015

Kaiten translates from Japanese as revolving or rotating, and zushi means, well, sushi. The kaiten-zushi system was developed by Yoshiaki Shiraishi, a former sushi chef who was inspired by “beer bottles on conveyor belts at a brewery.”


“The source of the odor was the chickens that men wearing aprons and shower caps were slaughtering by the dozen under bare bulbs on a makeshift stage taking up 50 feet of sidewalk for the ritual offering of kapparot.”

Nathan Tempey, “Activists & Hasidic Jews Face Off At Ritual Chicken Slaughter,” Gothamist, September 22, 2015

Kapparot, also spelled kaparot, is a custom practiced by some Jews before Yom Kippur. In the custom, says the Jewish Virtual Library, “the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to a fowl,” which is “held above the person’s head and swung in a circle three times” as the person recites a prayer. The hen or rooster is then handed off “to have its throat slit as a reminder that death could be nigh and he should repent,” says Gothamist.

In New York recently, animal activists clashed with Hasidic Jews over the ritual.


“He struggled for a moment to find the right word to capture his stop in New York. According to the Associated Press, he just ended up inventing a new one: stralimitata.”

Jaime Fuller, “Pope Francis Forced to Invent New Word to Describe His Trip to New York,” New York Magazine, September 28, 2015

Stralimitata translates from Italian as something like “beyond all limits.” The New York Times chose to eschew this papal neologism and provide their own far less exuberant translation, “a bit exuberant.”