Word Buzz Wednesday: hellastorm, nut rage, Strange Fruit


Buzz, buzz, it’s that time again! Our picks for most buzzworthy words of the week. The latest: what to call a big rainstorm in NorCal; how not to react to macadamias; and what not to name your PR firm.


“And with Capitol Hill again scrambling to find a way to fund the government before leaving town for the rest of the year, the cromnibus is the country’s best hope of avoiding a shutdown.”

Andrew Rafferty and Luke Russert, “Washington Speak: What Is the ‘Cromnibus’?” NBC News, December 9, 2014

The cromnibus is, as NBC News puts it, “the love child of a ‘continuing resolution’ (CR) and ‘omnibus’ spending bill,” D.C. terms for “measures Congress has approved to keep the government funded” and avoid a government shutdown.

A continuing resolution is an appropriations bill that sets aside money for “specific federal government departments, agencies, and programs.” An omnibus spending bill — where omnibus translates from Latin as “for all” — packages many smaller appropriations bills into “one larger single bill that could be passed with only one vote in each house.”

This recent legislation was nicknamed cromnibus, says NPR, because “it combines the traditional sweeping scope of an omnibus spending bill with a continuing resolution,” in this case for the Department of Homeland Security, which “would only be funded through February, in a move that seeks to limit President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration.”

Also, don’t miss Fritinancy’s write-up on this Washington-esque word of the week.


“Even though it’s still raining, the worst of #hellastorm is over. While many Bay Area residents lost power or the will to work yesterday, we didn’t lose the ability to find humorous aspects of the storm.”

Ann-Marie Alcantara, “The Most Bay Area Images from #Hellastorm,” The Bold Italic, December 12, 2014

Hellastorm refers to severe rainstorms that hit much of northern California late last week. Hella is a slang intensifier meaning “a lot” and seems to have originated in the Bay Area in the 1970s although the Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest citation is from 1987 in the Toronto Star: “The horse went hella whoopin’ down the trail, trailing 50 feet or more of the best Berkley Trilene Monofilament line.”

Last week’s hellastorm was a result of the Pineapple Express, the “jetstream and accompanying strong, moist airflow from the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands” — home of the pineapple industry —  to the U.S. west coast. It’s also a marijuana strain and “stoner action comedy.”

Also last week Scotland suffered a weatherbomb, a storm which originated in the Arctic “where it had rapidly developed in strength in a process known as explosive cyclogenesis.” Lightning struck areas of Scotland 5,000 times (also known as hella lightning although that’s not the technical term).

nut rage

“‘Nut rage,’ as it was soon dubbed, seemed a truly remarkable tale of arrogance and entitlement, the story of one first-class passenger with powerful connections inconveniencing more than 200 others over a bag of nuts.”

Adam Taylor, “Why ‘nut rage’ is such a big deal in South Korea,” The Washington Post, December 12, 2014

Nut rage refers to an incident in which former Korean Air vice-president Heather Cho berated an airline employee for serving macadamia nuts “incorrectly” and forcing “the taxiing plane to return to the gate so that the chief flight attendant could be kicked off.” He was also apparently forced to kneel “to apologize for the transgression.” Cho has since resigned and apologized.

Other types of rages — or bursts of anger often out of proportion with the “transgression” — include road rage, air rage, and roid rage.

Strange Fruit

“That seems to be the lesson of ‘Strange Fruit Public Relations,’ an Austin, Texas-based PR firm that has committed to rebranding after being informed—or reminded—that it takes its name from a famous 1930s song about African-American lynchings.”

Zach Schonfeld, “Twitter to ‘Strange Fruit PR’: Maybe Don’t Name Your PR Firm After a Song About Lynchings,” Newsweek, December 9, 2014

Billie Holiday first recorded the song Strange Fruit in 1939. Written as a poem by teacher Abel Meeropol, it “protested American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans.” The “strange fruit” of the song refers to the hanging bodies of lynched African Americans.

Strange Fruit PR — which recently changed its name to Perennial Public Relations — was aware of the name’s troubling historical associations, says The Root, but thought the 1939 song would not “be top of mind in the public consciousness.”

white marriage

“Sarah’s decision to enter into what is known in Iran as ‘white marriage’ would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.”

Can Iran ‘control’ its cohabiting couples?BBC News, December 9, 2014

A white marriage in Iran refers to a couple living together before marrying. As BBC News says, “in a country where strict Islamic laws mean shaking hands with the opposite sex is illegal, cohabitation is a crime that risks severe punishment.”

White marriage — not to be confused with mariage blanc or a white wedding — is so-called “because of its association with the western world.”

[Photo: “Angry Squirrels,” CC BY 2.0 by Asta Adamonyte]