Word Buzz Wednesday: props, rosehip neuron, pool spray


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your weekly roundup of some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: mad props to the Queen of Soul, a rosehip isn’t a rosehip isn’t a rosehip, a tweet-sized press conference.


“Regardless of whether ‘propers’ might be concealing something less than proper, the word has had a lasting impact on the lexicon, particularly when it got shortened to a single syllable: ‘props.’”

Ben Zimmer, “Aretha Franklin Finally Gets Credit for the Term She Popularized,” The Atlantic, August 27, 2018

In her 1967 hit, “Respect,” Aretha Franklin sings:

I’m about to give you all of my money / And all I’m askin’ in return, honey / Is to give me my propers when you get home.

According to The Atlantic, when New York Times “On Language” columnist William Safire asked the Queen of Soul about my propers, she said she “got it from the Detroit street,” that it “was common street slang in the 1960s,” and it meant “‘mutual respect’—what you know is right.” My propers gave way to the abbreviated props, which “exploded in popularity [in the 1990s] thanks to its widespread usage in hip-hop.” In 2007, props was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.


“It is likely cwtch is a Welsh version of couch, which itself was a medieval adoption of the French ‘coucher’, derived from Latin ‘collocāre’ – ‘to lay in its place, lay aright, lodge’.”

Rob Penhallurick, “What the Welsh-English Word ‘cwtch’ Tells Us About Dialects Everywhere,” The Independent, August 17, 2018

Cwtch, which is Welsh-English, has been voted Wales’s favorite word and means “hug” or “cuddle,” says The Independent. Moreover, cwtch can “be a noun or a verb,” refer to “a small storage place used for food or odds and ends” or a hiding place, and mean “to squat down or crouch.”

rosehip neuron

“It’s compact, bushy, and responsible for telling other neurons to shush. Beyond that, nobody is entirely sure what a newly discovered variety of brain cell called a rosehip neuron does.”

Mike McCrae, “Scientists Have Found a New Type of Brain Cell And It Looks Like It’s Unique to Humans,” Science Alert, August 28, 2018

The newly discovered rosehip neuron, with its “rather compact” and “bushy” shape, is “reminiscent of a rose with its petals removed,” says Science Alert. However, the rosehip, which is the fruit of the rose plant, actually resembles a cherry tomato.


“In addition to pepperoni and sausage, giardiniera (JAR-DIN-AIR-UH) is a standard-issue, much-beloved topping, heaped under the cheese and into the sauce.”

Kate Knibbs, “The Best Pizza Topping That You’ve Probably Never Heard About,” The Ringer, August 28, 2018

Giardiniera, which seems to translate from Italian as “gardener,” is a relish popular in the Chicago area, says The Ringer. It’s “a blend of chopped vegetables (celery, peppers, carrots, cauliflower, and sometimes olives, although they are a controversial element) pickled in vinegar.” It’s also “marinated in a blend of oils, and frequently seasoned with sport peppers for added heat.”

pool spray

“‘Any thoughts on John McCain?’ a media representative asked at what’s known as a ‘pool spray.’ No thoughts, as it turned out.”

Erik Wemple, “President Trump really doesn’t want to talk about John McCain,” The Washington Post, August 27, 2018

A pool spray, where “pool” refers to a press or media pool, is a brief meeting with a small group of news reporters or photographers. A longer meeting with a larger group would be a press conference. Pool sprays, says NPR, “are to presidential communication what Twitter is to online prose.” The earliest citation we could find in a cursory search is from 2009 in The New York Times: “At the White House today, news photographers streamed into the Oval Office for what’s known as a ‘pool spray,’ a very brief photo opportunity.”