This week we'll look back at a few of the interesting words that have been presented or used on our discussion board over the last few years. Those of you who haven't seen our board are encouraged to take a look and participate.
digital shoplifting – in a store, using a cameraphone to copy selected pages (e.g., a recipe) from a book or magazine
– Quentin Sommerville, BBC, June 30, 2003
We've all seen images like these. What do you call them?
captcha – a computer-generated test to distinguish human users from automated programs ("bots')
[Acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart]
A captcha is typically used to allow humans to use a program but to prevent automated "spamming" of it. The notion is that the human can pass the test but the bot cannot.
– David Kesmodel, Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2006
bot – a software program that imitates the behavior of a human
Captcha works by creating a pattern more subtle than a computer can recognize, but one which a human can grasp. This raises a closely related topic on patterns.
We recognize letters, no matter what the FONT. What is the property of "B"-ness that distinguises from an "A", no matter how it is disguised?
In a similar vein, two number sequences, (1,5,4,3) and (4,11,8,6), are similar in being "left leaning peaks."
How do we describe such a slippery concept as "B"-ness, or "left-peakedness?"
whomperjawed – askew; not fitting properly; also flabbergasted
We illustrate each sense, and direct you to the further discussion on our board.
– Suzann Ledbetter, A Lady Never Trifles with Thieves
Suddenly, you find yourself whomperjawed, outraged, stupefied with disbelief.
– Molly Ivins, Who Let the Dogs In? Incredible Political Animals I Have Known
I've never really heard whomperjawed before, but it must be related to a word I use often, that being whopperdoodled.
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
heiligenschein – [German for "holy light] a white halo of diffuse brightness surrounding the shadow of an object, often a person's head
glory – colored diffraction rings around the point opposite the sun (anti-solar point); i.e. where the shadow of the observer's head is
Heiligenschien, which is just now coming into English (23,000 google hits), does not yet appear in any major english dictionary, not even in OED. Despite that, we noted that it appeared late in the Scripps spelling bee last month, and tripped up one of the favored contestants. One wonders what criteria the bee uses to select words not yet in the regular dictionaries.
Two words from the same thread on our board:
POSSLQ or Posslq – Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters
[a census designation; pronounced PAH-sull-kew]
hypergamy – the tendency for women to marry "up"
If you would be my Posslq,
You'd live for me and I for you
If you would be my Posslq.
We'd live forever, you and me,
In blessed posslq-ity!
– Charles Osgood
Thus does son preference among elites lead to hypergamy, the custom by which women marry men of higher status.
– Sarah Hrdy, Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species
swive – a synonym for the f-word. The latter first appears around 1500, and 'swive' (related to 'swivel') is the term previously used. The verb to quim may refer only to the female's role in the activity.
Here you'll find our 2-page discussion of each of these terms. There honestly is a good deal of discussion amid the giggling.
He swived thee; I saw it with mine eyen.
I have thries [thrice] in this shorte night
Swived the miller's daughter bolt-upright,
–Chaucer, Canturbury Tales, Reeve's and Merchant's Tales
If it were a Latin noun, would quorum be the possessive form? So what would be a quorum for a seminar?
This week's theme gives me a chance to introduce words unlikely to appear in one of our more typical weekly themes. Swive was one such. Here are two more, extremely obscure, to close this week.