Word Buzz Wednesday: gaokao nanny; Ophiohamus georgemartini; rope-a-dope

muhammad ali

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: buddies to help you study (but not cook or clean); a starfish that’ll kill everyone you love; a defense technique from the Greatest.

gaokao nanny

“Professional Gaokao nannies are highly educated students or recent graduates that move in with students to study with them in the run up to the exam.”

Yvette Tan, “Gaokao season: China embarks on dreaded national exams,” BBC, June 7, 2016

The gaokao is a grueling two-day exam, says CNN, taken by many high schoolers in the People’s Republic of China to gain entrance into the country’s most prestigious universities. According to the BBC, failing the gaokao “almost guarantees a lifetime of low-ranking employment, and family disappointment,” hence the hiring of gaokao nannies. However, while gaokao nannies are highly educated, they might be “weak in terms of cooking and cleaning.”

now-or-never bottleneck

“The now-or-never bottleneck has powerful implications for language acquisition, because learning how to process language can only take place ‘in the moment’.”

Linda B. Glaser, “‘Now-or-never bottleneck’ explains language acquisition,” ScienceDaily, June 10, 2016

In a new paper, researchers assert that a phenomenon they’re dubbing the now-or-never bottleneck has a profound effect on language processing, acquisition, and evolution. To overcome “fundamental limitations on sensory and cognitive memory,” the researchers propose “the brain’s language processing system overcomes this bottleneck by processing linguistic input immediately, before it is obliterated by later input and lost forever.”

Ophiohamus georgemartini

“A brittle star, found deep in the South Pacific, has been officially dubbed Ophiohamus georgemartini because of its likeness to the thorny crown found on the cover of book two in the Game of Thrones series, A Clash of Kings.”

Sarah Keartes, “Meet the Game of Thrones Brittle Star: Ophiohamus Georgemartini,” Nerdist, May 31, 2016

Other literary nature names include the Nabokovia, a butterfly named for Vladimir Nabokov; the Livyatan melville, an extinct sperm whale named for Herman Melville; and the Megachile chomskyi, a bee named for Noam Chomsky.

poverty simulation

“The Singapore Island Country Club, for instance, was recently criticized when it planned a poverty simulation for its club members; it costs $21,000 a year to belong to the club.”

Erik Sherman, “Misery Tourists: How the Wealthy Learn What It’s Like to Be Poor,” Fortune, June 1, 2016

Poverty simulation workshops are designed, as Fortune says, for “the privileged try to understand at least a bit of what the poor and refugees face.” Some poverty simulations have been long held without controversy. For instance, the World Economic Forum annual meeting “has held a refugee simulation for the last eight years.”

However, other workshops have been criticized for taking place at luxurious spots like the Ritz Carlton and for helping to make participants into what might be called “misery tourists, collecting experiences and assuaging discomfort by having now done their part.”


“Look at that. There’s Apollo [Creed] using my rope-a-dope defense.”

Roger Ebert, “Watching Rocky II with Muhammad Ali,” RogerEbert.com, July 31, 1979

Rope-a-dope refers to a boxing strategy, often attributed to Muhammad Ali, in which one puts oneself in what looks like a losing position — backed up like a “dope on the ropes” — only to take one’s opponent off-guard and ultimately win.