My recent explorations of sicko and rhino led me to wonder about other words that end in -o and how they arrived in English. Those words are the subject of my latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, “The Story of -o.” Full access is restricted to subscribers for three months; here’s a taste:
The third season of “unREAL,” the Lifetime drama that’s set behind the scenes at a fictitious dating show called “Everlasting,” premiered last week. The previous two seasons were satires of the long-running not-unreal “reality” show “The Bachelor,” with a single “suitor” choosing from among a bevy of competing women. This season serves up a female protagonist – or, as the characters refer to her, a “suitress.” Played by Caitlin FitzGerald, who also portrayed Libby Masters in “Masters of Sex,” suitress Serena is presented as a Silicon Valley tech billionaire, “the female Elon Musk.”
Caitlin FitzGerald, left, as Serena, unhappily wearing a revealing gown chosen by cast regulars Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer.
But what sort of female, or feminine, is suitress?
The last linkfest of 2017! Let’s exorcise this miserable year with some amusing and edumacational links. And have yourselves a merry little Festivus.
Drew Magary is back with the 2017 edition of his Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma catalog: “More than any reindeer parable or silly children’s rhyme, it is THIS catalog and its splendidly useless items wherein you and I can discover the TRUE meaning of Christmas, which is that it delays the pain and horrors of this shit world at least until after New Year’s.”
“You listen to me, Williams-Sonoma: There will NEVER be a fondueassaince. Ever.”
The reference is, of course, to the former hedge-fund manager (andformer supporter of liberal causes like gun control) Anthony Scaramucci, who last week was appointed White House communications director despite, or because of, having no experience with media or communications other than having granted interviews to reporters. He’s known familiarly, if not always approvingly, as “the Mooch.” “Reince” is White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, formerly the chair of the Republican National Committee.
Anthony Scaramucci, July 21, 2017: “I love the president and I’m very, very loyal to the president.” In 2015 he called Trump a “hack” and a “bully.” Via Business Insider.
Popinjay is a wonderful old word and a memorable descriptor for the slick, effusive Scaramucci. For the last 500 years or so it’s meant “a vain, conceited, shallow, talkative person,” although its original definition was neutral and zoological.
I first encountered overstand only recently, while I was catching up on the most recent season of “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” on Netflix. When I heard the word twice in that episode, I wondered whether it was a Kimmyism like “What the fudge?” or “Troll the respawn.” But no: overstand turns out to be a different sort of invention altogether. In fact, it’s a couple different inventions.
Tituss Burgess as Titus Andromedon in “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Season 3, Episode 6.
The fidget spinner – a handheld, two- or three-pronged gadget with a ball bearing in its center that makes the prongs go around very fast – is this year’s toy fad, popular with school-age kids and sometimes touted as a stress reliever for people of all ages. Versions are available for as little as $1, or you can spring for this $24.95 Triune Spinner, which is said to have “a high-speed Si3N4 Hybrid Ceramic Bearing that provides fast smooth easy fidgeting and long spin times that will impress your friends.”
America, we have lately been told – mostly but not exclusively by conservatives – has a “smug liberal” problem. The problem is characterized by “a condescending, defensive sneer toward any person or movement outside of its consensus, dressed up as a monopoly on reason,” wrote Emmett Rensin in Vox last month. It’s evident in the attitudes of late-night comedians, wrote David French last week in the National Review; its features include “the generous use of selective clips from Fox News, copious amounts of mockery, and a quick Wikipedia- and Google-search level of factual understanding.”
“I see that the word ‘duffer’ is defined as ‘a person inexperienced at something, especially at playing golf,’” illustrator Barry Blitt told Françoise Mouly, the art editor at The New Yorker, about his cover for the magazine’s April 10 issue. “That’s the word that comes to mind as I watch President Trump plowing one drive after another through the glass windows of American politics.”
That’s where the image came from. But where does duffer come from?