Word Buzz Wednesday: fika, graveyard orbit, jungle primary

Fika hos mormor Valborgshelgen 2011

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a true coffee break; where spacecraft go to die; welcome to the jungle primary.


“In Sweden, where workers are among the least stressed worldwide, the secret to happiness is a four letter word: fika.”

Anne Quito, “This four-letter word is the Swedish key to happiness at work,” Quartz, March 14, 2016

According to The Kitchn, fika is a Swedish custom, “a kind of social coffee break where people gather to have a cup of coffee or tea and a few nibbles,” and can be used as both a noun and a verb.

Quartz says the word comes from kaffe, which is Swedish for “coffee,” and “unlike the American-style caffeine jolt,” when you fika you leave work behind. Fika is also the (fitting) name for a Swedish coffee chain in New York.

garbage person

“‘Garbage person,’ like ‘bloodsucker’ or ‘Neanderthal,’ is the type of descriptor that pretty much defines itself.”

Cara Giaimo, “The Linguistic Appeal Of ‘Garbage Person,’ The Internet’s Favorite Insult,” Atlas Obscura, March 16, 2016

Not to be confused with a garbage man, a garbage person is, as Atlas Obscura says, “someone terrible beyond belief, but in an everyday sort of way.”

Some examples of garbage people include “someone who ends their texts with a period” and someone “who refuses to chase down runaway napkins when they blow off their table.” May we also add someone who puts their bag on the seat next to them on a crowded subway.

graveyard orbit

Graveyard orbits are losing popularity because a lot of orbital debris experts argue that they simply exacerbate the ever-increasing problem of space junk and do nothing to help remediation efforts.”

Neel V. Patel, “Russia Sends Another Rocket to the Spacecraft Cemetery,” Inverse, March 21, 2016

A graveyard orbit, also known as a junk orbit, is where “spacecraft are moved at the end of their operational life to make sure they don’t collide with spacecraft we currently need.”

jungle primary

“California’s gubernatorial race is what’s called a ‘jungle primary’ – only the top two vote-getters make it to the playoffs.”

Beth Cone Kramer, “The Run for Calif Governor: Villaraigosa’s Name Still in Play,” City Watch, March 21, 2016

A jungle primary is a primary election in which all candidates run at once, regardless of political party. As a result, it’s possible that two candidates from the same party would run against each other in the next round. The jungle primary is also known as nonpartisan blanket primary and the top two primary. Louisiana has used such a system since 1977.

We couldn’t find an exact origin of the phrase although Elections A to Z suggests it’s due to its “wide open, few-holds-barred structure.”


“What if children under four-years-old experience and use metacognition but are just bad at realizing it and letting anyone know?”

Cathleen O’Grady, “Babies know when they don’t know something,” Ars Technica, March 13, 2016

Metacognition is essentially thinking about thinking. Besides humans, metacognition is also found in chimpanzees and orangutans.