Word Buzz Wednesday: vote-a-rama, totalism, mistress dispeller


A poster for the movie, “Mistress Dispeller”

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for the most interesting words of the week. The latest: how to vote a lot, how a cult works, how to lose a mistress.


“Senate budget rules call for what’s known as a ‘vote-a-rama’ where members of either party offer amendments in a single session.”

Russell Berman, “What’s in the Senate Republican Health-Care Bill,” The Atlantic, June 22, 2017

A vote-a-rama, says The Atlantic, is when “the Senate holds flurries of votes on budget resolutions.” Debate on these bills is limited to 20 hours, and “the resolutions can’t be filibustered, so the only way to draw the process out is to offer amendments,” which, after the debate, “come in rapid fire,” sometimes in the dozens. If the no-debating rule is waived, each side is allowed a whopping 30 seconds to do so.

The term seems to have been coined by Keith Hennessey, former Assistant to the U.S. President for Economic Policy and Director of the U.S. National Economic Council. The suffix –orama, meaning “that which is seen, a sight,” is a back-formation of the words like panorama and diorama. The United States Senate has documented vote-a-ramas going back to 1977.


Totalism works because ordinary people – at least those without prior knowledge of the controlling methods of totalism – are subject to the coercive manipulations that leaders employ.”

Alexandra Stein, “How totalism works,” Aeon, June 20, 2017

A totalist structure, says Aeon, is made up of five features. One, the “leader is both charismatic and authoritarian.” Two, the leader rules over a structure that’s “isolating, steeply hierarchical and closed.” The third feature is a “historical totality that has no beginning, middle or end” and an exclusive belief system “controlled entirely by the leader.” Fourth, the leader must “tap fear,” and fifth is the creation of deployable followers “who override their own survival needs and autonomy in the service of the group.”


“Amish culture values deference to others and uffgevva – giving up to the group.”

Donald B. Kraybill, “Slow Time Is God’s Time,” Vestoj, June 2017

In his book, The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World, Kraybill describes uffgevva as “surrendering selfish interests and desires,” which involves “yielding one’s personal will to God’s will,” and submitting to the authority and wisdom of the community.

drip dickey

“To avoid spilling even one drop, you order a year’s supply of what’s known as drip dickeys, which are special collars placed around the neck of wine bottles.”

Al Vuona, “Symptoms and signs of a true wine geek,” Telegram, June 22, 2017

Drip dickey is a brand of wine collar, an accessory that goes around the bottle’s neck to prevent dripping and staining. A dickey — also spelled dicky — can refer to a detachable shirt front or a shirt collar. The origin isn’t clear except that the word might be a diminutive of the name Dick.

mistress dispeller

“Yu, a gentle-looking man in his early forties, with the placid demeanor of a yoga instructor, works as a mistress dispeller, a job that barely existed a decade ago but is becoming common in major Chinese cities.”

Jiayang Fan, “China’s Mistress Dispellers,” The New Yorker, June 26, 2017

Mistress dispellers, says The New York Times, “specialize in ending affairs between married men and their extramarital lovers.” Hired by “a scorned wife” for upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, their services include coaching “women on how to save their marriages” and subtly infiltrating “the mistress’s life, winning her friendship and trust in an attempt to break up the affair.”

In Chinese, a mistress is known as a xiao san, says The New Yorker, or “little third,” which can mean “everything from a partner in a casual affair to a long-term ‘kept woman.’” Besides faking a friendship, other mistress-dispelling methods include payoffs, public shaming, a sudden job transfer, and seduction by a male mistress dispeller.