The headline calls them “30 Most Overused Buzzwords in Digital Marketing,” but one of them, “P-commerce” (“participatory commerce” or “Pinterest commerce,” depending, I suppose, on context), is underused in my world: it was new to me. I’ve definitely seen a lot of “gamification,” though.
“I’m sorry to say that gamification (a verbing in -ify from the noun game) is not some twisted invention of Scott Adams’s,” linguist Arnold Zwicky wrote in a May 20 post on his blog. Zwicky devoted most of his post to a discussion of “garbage,” and concluded: “So the pointy-headed boss’s gamification rewards count as garbage, trash, and rubbish, maybe junk as well, and are on their way to becoming waste and refuse.”
One of the words on the “30 most overused” list, “showrooming,” was a Fritinancy word of the week in April 2012.
“The Art of the Brick,” Edward Sawaya’s new exhibit at Discovery Times Square, is “a Legoistic survey of art masterpieces,” according to a recent New York Times review that introduced me to the acronym AFOL: Adult Fan of Lego. AFOL and many other Lego terms – but not “Legoistic,” which is wonderful – are defined in the Lego Glossary. (“SNOT: Studs Not On Top. A building technique that places LEGO elements on their sides or even upside down to achieve the shape or structure the builder wants in their creation.”)
“Lego,” in case you didn’t know, is a contraction of Danish leg godt: “play well.” It’s never pluralized. Here’s the Lego Glossary entry for “Legos”:
Oh no you didn’t! Technically, the official plural form for more than one element of LEGO is “LEGO® brand building bricks”. That’s ridiculous, though, so most LEGO fans refer to one or more bricks as “LEGO”, following the grammatical convention of “fish” and “sheep.”
Insisting on all capitals, however, is just silly.
Linguist Arika Okrent, author of In the Land of Invented Languages, looks at 12 old words – kith, wend and eke among them -- that have survived by being fossilized in idioms.
After 60 years of sanctions, Coca-Cola is back in Myanmar (Burma). How to sell Coke to people who’ve never tasted it? “They had to keep it simple, and they had to find the right message. A message, it turns out, that was hidden more than a hundred years back in the Coca-Cola archives.”
HOHO: Acronym for “hop-on hop-off.” (Sometimes spelled HoHo.) Describes a type of sightseeing bus that allows passengers to disembark whenever they reach a stop that interests them, then re-board when it’s convenient. Tickets are valid for a specified period of time, typically 24 hours.
Hop-on hop-off buses are used by tour operators in many cities around the world (and even in the Grand Canyon), but the use of HOHO as a semi-official acronym appears most frequently in connection with the Indian tourist industry.
Q : Can you explain me what is “Hop On Hop Off” A : Hop-On Hop-Off tour, you have the freedom to spend time at each sightseeing. Your ticket will allows you to board any bus.
There are indications that the HOHO acronym is spreading to other parts of the world; see, for example, this query on TripAdvisor about a “HoHo bus” in New York City and this post on The Rome Toolkit, which notes that there are “no less than seven hop on, hop off tour (HOHO) sightseeing buses operating daily in Rome.” The London Toolkit also refers to “two major operators of the standard HOHO buses.”
A British visitor to New York City reported in 2012 that “the HoHo bus” delivered “excellent value for money” and was “a brilliant way to see the city and get your bearings.”
HOHO buses are typically double-decker with open tops and a lowered rear platform for easy boarding and disembarking. One of the newer HOHO buses in London is officially called the New Bus for London (NB4L) and unofficially called the Boris bus, after Boris Johnson, the city’s mayor.
This time around we kicked off with a newish underwear-ish word, cheekini. Today we travel from the orchestra to the balcony, so to speak, to see what a nice bra company like True & Co. is doing with a naughty acronym like MILF.
“Mom I’d Love to Fit” temporary tattoo, free during the promotion.
True & Co. MILF ad.
It’s for Mother’s Day, you see. Truly! AdFreak called the campaign “odd” and advised True & Co. to “apologize, act contrite and enjoy the attention.” Instead, True & Co.’s blog went on the offensive about the offensive term:
MILF – the term brings to mind pervy frat boys but who says they should own an acronym? MILF (Moms I’d Love to Fit) is about the best people in the world taking 5 minutes out of their busy day to treat themselves to a proper bra fitting and get a new bra. … We meant the pun and we meant it in good fun. We think there’s nothing objectifying about a woman owning her sexuality. We’d be proud to be considered a MILF (Mom I’d Love to Fit).
San Francisco-based True & Co. was born in 2011 after Michelle Lam, a former principal at Bain Capital Ventures who became frustrated after trying on “20 different bras, one after the other, in what seemed to be a random trial-and-error sequence,” according to a profile in Fortune. Lam and a partner developed a quiz to help women shop for bras from home. The company was originally called Bra & Co. but launched in May 2012 as True & Co.*
This is not the first time an advertiser has attempted to “reclaim” MILF. Back in 2007, Spirit Airlines advertised a “Many Islands, Low Fares” sale with fares as low as $9 for flights between Fort Lauderdale and the Bahamas. When asked whether he’d known about MILF’s offensive connotation, Spirit’s director of communications claimed to be shocked, shocked. “The most obscene thing we’ve noticed,” [he] said, “is what other carriers have charged to fly the Caribbean before Spirit’s $9 fares.”
* Before the MILF kerfuffle, True & Co.’s major claim to newsworthiness had been a lawsuit filed by True Fit, maker of personalized-fit technology used by Macy’s and Nordstrom, which asserted that “True & Co.” infringed on its mark. True Fit also sought to prevent any use of “true” in connection with personalized-fit technology. In March of this year, the U.S. District Court denied the motion.
It’s funny how you can go for months without seeing “squirrel” in print, and then, bam, two sightings within three days.
The first squirrel is a red herring. It appears in Joseph Epstein’s Wall Street Journalreview of Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist, a biography by Harriet Hyman Alonso of the man who wrote the lyrics to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “April in Paris,” and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” Harburg was born Isidore Hochberg in New York City in 1896; he changed his name to Edgar Y. Harburg in 1934 but was generally known as E.Y. Harburg or Yip Harburg.
Why “Yip”? In his review, Epstein says the nickname “came from the Yiddish word for squirrel, yipsl, which his parents called him when he was a child.” But the Yiddish word for squirrel is actually the Slavic-derived veverke; no Yiddish dictionary contains yipsl. According to Alonso, who devotes the first chapter of her book to the origin of “Yip,” Harburg related the yipsl-squirrel story to the oral historian Studs Terkel. Alonso passes it along without further comment, as does Epstein.
It’s entirely possible, though, that Harburg was pulling Terkel’s leg – or being squirrelly (“cunningly unforthcoming or reticent”). Because while yipsl has no meaning in Yiddish, the acronym YPSL is both meaningful and relevant: it stands for Young People’s Socialist League, which was founded in 1907 as the student arm of the American Socialist Party and whose members were known as – yep – “Yipsels.” In a 2004 column for The Jewish Daily Forward, the pseudonymous language columnist Philologos wrote that “Harburg was a political radical who was blacklisted in Hollywood in the 1940s, and it is possible that he was nicknamed ‘Yipsel,’ subsequently shortened to ‘Yip,’ because of his YPSL-like views even if he never was a YPSL member.” Other distinguished Yipsels or sympathizers included the political scientist Daniel Bell, the literary and social critic Irving Howe, the writer Saul Bellow, and the journalist (and eventual neoconservative) Irving Kristol.
The second squirrel is a semi-secret one.
Secret Squirrel Cold Brew Coffee is a bottled coffee concentrate; one 16-ounce bottle makes six to seven eight-ounce drinks. The company is based in Studio City (Los Angeles County), but according to the clumsily written FAQ the name has a different geographic origin:
Growing up in Washington DC area a secret squirrel was something like knowing a shortcut around traffic, or knowing the hideaway parking spot, or knowing the unknown electrical outlet in the coffee shop. It only seemed fitting for this centuries old method for brewing coffee that few people know about.
(That awkward dangler at the beginning of the paragraph is one good argument for editors. Another is knowing how to hyphenate compound adjectives. Elsewhere on the website, a proofreader would have caught “anyway” for “any way,” sentences that end without periods, and introductory clauses without commas. But I digress.)
I have no idea whether the D.C. story is true – anyone care to confirm? I do know, however, that “Secret Squirrel” was the title character of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon that aired for a few seasons in the mid-1960s and was briefly revived in the 1990s. The character was a spy; whether it got its name from the Washington shortcut or vice versa, I cannot say.
Finally, a few squirrel tidbits:
The Latin word for squirrel, sciurus, translates to “shadow tail.”
In many Germanic languages the word for “squirrel” translates to “oak kitten.” (It’s Eichhörnchen in German.)
The Spanish word for “squirrel,” ardilla, translates to “like a flame.” (From arder, to burn.)
See “squirrel” translated into almost 300 languages, including Klingon, here.
And here’s my favorite cinematic squirrel sighting, or near-sighting:
Politics and economics made 2012 a target-rich environment for us word-of-the-year trackers. Republican presidential-primary candidate Rick Santorum alone gave us blah, guillotine, snob, and non-faith. (Santorum’s surname has achieved its own scandalous notoriety.) From the Mitt Romney campaign we picked up tithing, retroactively, wazzock, Romneyshambles, and binders. Vice President Joe Biden made malarkey memorable, President Obama spoke sharply of bayonets, and the Republican convention spawned Eastwooding, from actor Clint Eastwood’s surreal dialogue with an empty chair.
But enough runners-up. My list of 14 WOTY nominees follows the jump. I limited my list to U.S. usages, and I adhered to the American Dialect Society’s criteria for selection, which stipulate that nominees be:
demonstrably new or newly popular in 2012
widely and/or prominently used in 2012
indicative or reflective of the popular discourse
In addition, a nominated word can’t be “a peeve or complaint about overuse or misuse.”
Prepper: A person who is actively preparing for large-scale emergencies such as natural disasters and the breakdown of the social and political order. A more moderate and positive-sounding synonym for “survivalist.”
The number of preppers is unknown, but a poll done for National Geographic Channel in September indicated that 28% of Americans knew one. Preppers meet-up networks are proliferating on social networks. Doomsday Preppers is the network's most-watched series[.]
An article in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, “How to Survive Societal Collapse in Suburbia,” focused on the mainstreaming of the survivalist movement. The article includes a photograph of Ron Douglas, his wife, and their six children, surrounded by a year’s worth of disaster-preparedness supplies. The reporter, Keith O’Brien, accompanied Ron Douglas to a Starbucks near Denver:
Many so-called survivalists would take pride in keeping far away from places that sell espresso drinks. But Douglas, a 38-year-old entrepreneur and founder of one of the largest preparedness expos in the country, isn’t your typical prepper.
The modern-day prepper movement has its origins in the Cold War, when American families were encouraged to stock personal fallout shelters for an expected nuclear attack. The movement, which has waxed and waned over the years, got a big boost in the late 1990s amid (groundless) fears about a Y2K computer bug. The preparedness industry is thriving again, reports Keith O’Brien, spurred by the 9/11 attacks, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and even the Mayan calendar. A subspecies of preppers believes that the presidency of Barack Obama (almost always referred to as Barack Hussein Obama or BHO) is a sign of the apocalypse.
The prepper movement has its own jargon, which is heavy on acronyms. One of the most popular terms is TEOTWAWKI, which stands for “the end of the world as we know it” and is pronounced tee-ought-wah-kee. (A Y2K glossary, still online, defines it as “shorthand for a predicted calamity involving the breakdown of society, whether due to Y2K or any other perceived threat.” The term was borrowed from the title of the 1987 song by R.E.M.)
The very extensive glossary on SurvivalBlog (“The daily web blog for prepared individuals living in uncertain times”) includes this basic prepper vocabulary:
BOB: Bug-Out Bag (a survival kit for leaving in a hurry)
G.O.O.D. kit: Get Out of Dodge Kit, synonymous with BOB.
Earlier this month, the company changed its name to OMGFAST, incorporating the slang abbreviation for “oh my god” that is often used in text messages. On July 3, Cablevision subsidiary Rainbow MVDDS Company filed a trademark application for the brand “OMGFAST,” which the company said would be used to provide “Internet access via wireless broadband,” according to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. RMVDDS listed the address of Cablevision’s corporate headquarters in Bethpage, N.Y., in the filing.
(Hat tip: MJF.)
Exhibit B: The controversial diet book Six Weeks to OMG, was published in the US earlier this month. The author is Venice A. Fulton—the nom d’OMG of Paul Khanna—who, according to the blurb, is “a nutrition expert and personal trainer” who designed the regimen for “his A-list clients.” Fulton/Khanna originally self-published Six Weeks in the UK.
Bus-shelter ad, New York City. Tweeted by Grand Central Publishing, the book’s US publisher.
An excerpt from the hilarious review by John Crace in the Guardian (UK):
Let’s go. But before we do, I should just mention the A and B words. And now I have mentioned anorexia and bulimia, let’s forget about them. Because the first thing you are going to do is skip breakfast, do an hour of exercise – just thinking will probably be exhausting enough for some of you – and drink five double espressos. Can’t you just feel all that fat being purged? Nice feeling! Now I want you to have an ice-cold bath. Stay in as long as you can manage. Those doing the Quake [the most challenging version of the diet] should aim for two hours. That way your legs will get frostbite and have to be amputated. OMG. No more cellulite dimples for you, babykins!
Exhibit C: Venice/Paul had better watch out: “Celebrity doctor” Marc Lawrence, in Southern California, is promising OMG Fat Loss in four minutes.
Exhibit D: A sign in one of the front windows of Euromix, an international food shop in my Oakland neighborhood. I wrote about Euromix in 2008.
I think they mean “toothsome,” but I still want to turn it into an imperative: “Eat our beans and toot home!”
I can’t resist sharing a photo of the sign on the other side of the door:
MOOC: An acronym for “massive open online course,” an educational offering in which students and instructors are distributed (i.e., not in the same geographic location), enrollment is unrestricted (“open”), and course materials are dispersed across the Web.
MOOCs (rhymes with “flukes”) are seen by advocates as tools for democratizing education:
While the vast potential of free online courses has excited theoretical interest for decades, in the past few months hundreds of thousands of motivated students around the world who lack access to elite universities have been embracing them as a path toward sophisticated skills and high-paying jobs, without paying tuition or collecting a college degree. And in what some see as a threat to traditional institutions, several of these courses now come with an informal credential (though that, in most cases, will not be free). – “Instruction for Masses Knocks Down Campus Walls,” by Tamar Lewin, New York Times, March 4, 2012.
The oldest player in the MOOC world is Khan Academy, founded in 2006 by Salman Khan, a graduate of MIT and Harvard. Khan Academy currently offers more than 3,200 free videos on a wide range of subjects in the sciences and humanities. Newer rivals include Udacity (“You learn by solving challenging problems and pursuing udacious projects”; founded in 2011 as an outgrowth of free computer-science classes at Stanford); edX (a joint venture between MIT and Harvard that will offer its first classes in Fall 2012); Udemy, a platform for taking and creating courses (both free and paid), launched in 2010 by two Turkish developers who moved to Silicon Valley; and Coursera (founded in 2011 by two Stanford computer-science professors; most classes are free). Last week, Coursera announced a major expansion in which a dozen major research universities—including Caltech, Duke, and UC San Francisco—will participate.
Related: MOOSe, a massive open online seminar. “Next year,” wrote the Times’s Lewin in her March 4 article, “Richard DeMillo, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities, hopes to put together a MOOSe, or massive open online seminar, through a network of universities that will offer credit.”
The “massive” in MOOC and MOOSe may be influenced by the “massive” in MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) and MMOG (massively multiplayer online game). Those acronyms first appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, respectively.
So I’m browsing the accessories section at the Nordstrom Rack in San Francisco and I see a display of handbags with a “DKNY” sign on top. Naturally, I expect the merchandise in the display to be from Donna Karan New York.
Surprise! Those bags in the foreground? They all had this tag:
The difference between DKNY and KDNY isn’t just the order of the initials. DKNY handbags are leather; KDNY’s are “pleather” (technically PU, short for polyurethane). A DKNY bag retails for $300 to $400; a KDNY bag costs about $100.