Word Buzz Wednesday: demon, digital nudist, emotional support pig


Welcome to the latest installment of Word Buzz Wednesday, in which we bring you five buzzy words in the news. This week: a dehumanizing descriptor; throwing password caution to the wind; and when pigs (don’t) fly.


“To Wilson, who stopped and scuffled with the 18-year-old on the morning of Aug. 9, 2014, Brown was a ‘demon,’ a monster with terrible resilience and incredible strength.”

Jamelle Bouie, “Michael Brown Wasn’t a Superhuman Demon,” Slate, November 2014

A demon is “an evil supernatural being; a devil.” The word is very old, originating in the 13th century from the Greek daimōn, “divine power,” says the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Dehumanization of African Americans has a long history, says The Washington Post, “from slavery to the Constitution’s three-fifths clause to aspects of race relations today.” However, “another type of dehumanization persists as well — one in which people see blacks not as subhuman, but as more than human.”

Other meanings of demon include “a persistently tormenting person, force, or passion,” and “one who is extremely zealous, skillful, or diligent.”

digital nudist

“The digital nudists were well represented. At least one of every 10 users chose a name or a name plus a year for his password. Two of every thousand passwords were the word ‘password.’”

Ian Urbina, “The Secret Life of Passwords,” The New York Times, November 19, 2014

Digital nudists are people who adopt “intentionally insecure passwords,” says Urbina, having “given up on the whole notion of online security.” A keepsake password is one associated with personal significance, whether a “motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar.”

(H/t Nancy Friedman.)

emotional support pig

“The 29-year-old woman who was escorted off a US Airways flight after her ’emotional support’ pig started defecating on the floor and squealing uncontrollably has been identified by MailOnline.”

Sophie Jane Evans and Wills Robinson, “The woman who found out her pig CANNOT fly,” Daily Mail, November 30, 2014

An emotional support animal is “a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit” to those with psychiatric disabilities. These type of animals are usually cats and dogs but may include others.

The emotional support pig’s owner had gotten permission to take her animal onto the plane “for ’emotional support’ based on guidelines released by the Department for Transportation,” says Daily Mail. Before take-off, however, the pig “started screaming ‘three times louder than a child’ as his owner coaxed him down the aisle with her feet because he struggled to move on his own.”


“Police and Alameda County Sheriff’s officers raided a large sideshow event Wednesday on Maritime Street in Oakland. More than 100 vehicles were trapped when law enforcement blocked both ends of the street, preventing vehicles from escaping.”

Over 100 vehicles caught after sideshow in Oakland,” SFGate, November 27, 2014

A sideshow in this context refers to “an informal and illegal demonstration of automotive stunts.” Sideshows are often held in vacant lots or public intersections, and are apparently common in the San Francisco East Bay.

A sideshow also refers to “a small show offered in addition to the main attraction, as at a circus,” as well as, figuratively, “a diversion or spectacle that is incidental to a larger set of circumstances or a bigger issue of concern.”


“They found that ‘webrooming’ — the process of looking at a product online and then buying later at a store — is actually the more popular way to shop.”

Taryn Luna, “‘Webrooming’ shoppers research online, then buy in stores,” The Boston Globe, November 28, 2014

The word webrooming plays off showrooming, which is when “customers whip out their smartphones in the middle of a store, check the Internet to match an item right in front of them, then buy it online at a better price.”

The original meaning of show room is “a large room in which merchandise is displayed.” The verb showroom implies using a brick-and-mortar store as a display for merchandise only while purchasing the items for cheaper elsewhere. Webrooming is the opposite: researching online and then purchasing in a store.

[Photo via Daily Mail]