Word Buzz Wednesday: impression management; omspreading; vaccine delayer

Lump'o Rider on The Middle Seat

It’s time for one of our favorite things — new words! Some are newly coined (also known as neologisms); some are just new to us. All are buzzworthy.

This week: managing your impressions; the zen of subway-spreading; and adding to the vaccine debate.


“The  phenomenon, which geneticists call ‘anticipation,’ is common in other genetic disorders.”

Aimee Swartz, “Insomnia That Kills,” The Atlantic, February 5, 2015

In genetics, anticipation is the “the widely held belief,” says The Atlantic, “that in a family with genetic prion disease, each successive generation will fall ill about seven to 14 years earlier than the last.” Eric Minikel, a software engineer turned geneticist, recently disproved this theory through a computational method he developed.

The genetic meaning of anticipation seems to have originated around the 1750s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

impression management

“Other people complain as a means of crafting or reinforcing their identities; they use their complaints, in other words, to manipulate how others may see them, a phenomenon psychologists call ‘impression management.’”

Barbara Neal Varma, “Complaining, for Your Health,” The Atlantic, February 8, 2015

Impression management is a psychological term referring to “a goal-directed conscious or subconscious process” to try to influence others’ perceptions.

The Atlantic says that complaining could have a positive effect on impression management. For instance, someone who complains that a “restaurant’s wine selection is under par” lets “others know that the complainer has high standards” (and isn’t just a wine-r).


“Reader Dave B. sent us the Omspreading photo yesterday, noting, ‘this manspreading a-hole was meditating on a packed 4 train.’”

Ben Yakas, “Omspreading: The Most Zen Way To Take Up Space On The Subway,” Gothamist, February 6, 2015

There’s really no limit to the types of inappropriate –spreading on public transportation. In addition to manspreading, there’s now omspreading, a meditative take on taking up too much space on the subway.

Gothamist also offers bagspreading, giving your bags or other belongings their own seat, perhaps in a passive-aggressive attempt to dissuade others from sitting beside you.

spontaneous order

“According to Stossel, Americans would be better off with less government and more ‘spontaneous order,’ a term coined by economist Friedrich Hayek which states that order will naturally emerge from chaos.”

David Edwards, “Fox host: FEMA is unnecessary because Walmart will ‘spontaneously’ save us all in a disaster,” Raw Story, February 8, 2015

While Friedrich Hayek and others in the Austrian School of Economics refined the concept of spontaneous order, Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zhou seemed to be the first to hit upon the idea, arguing against the “authoritarianism” of Confucianism and claiming that “good order results spontaneously when things are let alone.”

Damon Linker at The Week has argued against spontaneous order, saying that the U.S. conducted “two experiments in ‘spontaneous order’ in recent years by overthrowing governments in Iraq and Libya,” which brought not order but “anarchy and civil war, mass death and human suffering.” Linker goes on to say that “the libertarian prophets of ‘spontaneous order’ get things exactly backward, sometimes with catastrophic real-world consequences.”

The Economist, however, points out that while “Hayek is commonly lumped in with libertarians” and spontaneous order “is an idea libertarians tend to promote,” spontaneous order “is not a libertarian idea.” Hayek devised the idea of a spontaneous order, The Economist says, “not to argue against the necessity of government, but to argue against mercantilism and the micromanagement of the economy.”

vaccine delayer

“Not only has the [MMR] vaccine received an undue amount of bad press because of the debunked autism link, but as San Francisco vaccine delayer Paul explained, no other vaccine contains three live and weakened viruses.”

Julia Belluz, “The vaccine delayers,” Vox, February 6, 2015

There are the anti-vaxxers, those against vaccinations; vaccine hawks, those aggressively pro-vaccine; and vaccine delayers, who, according to Vox, “generally agree that vaccination is a public-health benefit and “hate ‘anti-vaxxers,’ but are “hesitant and skeptical about some areas of vaccine science.”

[Photo via Flickr: “Lump’o Rider on The Middle Seat,” CC BY 2.0 by Mo Riza]