Pee wall: An exterior wall in a public place that has been treated with urine-repellent paint. Also called anti-pee wall and pee-proof wall.
In July, the city of San Francisco, where public urination is a rife and malodorous problem, coated nine walls with a special super-hydrophobic substance called Ultra-Ever Dry. “At a molecular level,” the San Francisco Chronicleinformedits readers, “the coating creates a surface texture with geometric shapes with peaks, or high points, that repel most water-based and some oil-based liquid. That means the painted surfaces will spray urine right back at the shoes and pants of unsuspecting relief-seekers.”
The concept was borrowed from Hamburg, Germany, where Ultra-Ever Dry was applied to walls in the St. Pauli district. The use of an informal/slang term for “urination” also appears to be an import.
“Hier nicht pinkeln! Wir pinkeln zurück”: “Don’t pee here! We pee back.” Image via Spiegel online.
According to the website of Ultratech International, makers of Ultra-Ever Dry:
Ultra-Ever Dry is a superhydrophobic (water) and oleophobic (hydrocarbons) coating that will repel most water-based and some oil-based liquids. Ultra-Ever Dry uses proprietary omniphobic technology to coat an object and create a surface chemistry and texture with patterns of geometric shapes that have “peaks” or “high points”. These high points repel water, some oils, wet concrete, and other liquids unlike any other coating.
San Francisco has also introduced “Pit Stop” stations to the city’s “most impacted neighborhoods,” according to the Department of Public Works website. The Pit Stop facilities operate on limited schedules, mostly weekday afternoons.
If you’re considering a coined name for your company or product, it’s helpful to keep in mind a general rule of English pronunciation: When a vowel precedes a single consonant that’s followed by an e, the first vowel is long. Double the consonant and the vowel becomes shortened.
Later: long a. Latter: short a. Miler: long i. Miller: short i.
Yes, yes, there are exceptions. But coined words are like hoofbeats: we expect a horse, not a zebra. We look for simplicity, not conundrums.
“The Ultimate Driving Machine” has been BMW’s tagline since 1975, when it was created by the American ad agency Ammurati & Puris; the company filed for trademark protection of the line in 1981. (In 1990, Rawlings Golf in Northridge, California, registered the identical slogan for use with golf clubs. That trademark was abandoned in 1992, possibly under pressure from Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft.) Just before the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, the carmaker took a detour with a campaign called “Joy” that was supposed, according to the company’s vice president of marketing, to “warm the brand up.” BMW loyalists were not impressed, and in 2012 “The Ultimate Driving Machine” was once again in the driver’s seat.
“The Ultimate Lighting Machines” has a shorter history. (BMW has been BMW since 1916; Holtkötter Leuchten GmbH was founded in West Germany in 1964.) Holtkoetter Lighting, Holtkötter’s Minnesota-based U.S. division, was denied trademark protection of the slogan in 1997, and abandoned its claim. It tried again in May 2013 under a new dba, St. Paul Lighting, and two months ago—on February 3, 2015—the mark wasregistered. The record is mum on whether BMW USA raised any objections during the process.
Like BMW driving machines, Holtkötter/Holtkoetter lighting machines are not for bargain hunters. The slender chrome floor lamp in the ad costs almost $1,000; a starkly dramatic chandelierwill set you back more than $2,000.
The trademark database also shows that Holtkoetter has received trademark protection for at least one other “ultimate” slogan: “The Ultimate LED.” That product, a light bulb, is not to be confused with “The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience,” a tribute band.
As usual, Oxford Dictionaries was first out of the gate, nearly a month ago, with its WOTY choices. And the winner was… vape.
As e-cigarettes (or e-cigs) have become much more common, so vapehas grown significantly in popularity. You are thirty times more likely to come across the word vape than you were two years ago, and usage has more than doubled in the past year.
Merriam-Webster’s word of the year—based on a spike in number of lookups on the dictionary’s website—is culture:
Culture is a big word at back-to-school time each year, but this year lookups extended beyond the academic calendar. The term conveys a kind of academic attention to systematic behavior and allows us to identify and isolate an idea, issue, or group: we speak of a “culture of transparency” or “consumer culture.” Culture can be either very broad (as in “celebrity culture” or “winning culture”) or very specific (as in “test-prep culture” or “marching band culture”).
This year, the use of the word culture to define ideas in this way has moved from the classroom syllabus to the conversation at large, appearing in headlines and analyses across a wide swath of topics.
Runners-up include nostalgia, insidious, legacy, and feminism.
The twentieth Kanji of the Year took a total of 8,679 votes, or 5.18% of the total 167,613. The reasons for its selection are clear: on April 1 this year the government raised Japan’s consumption tax for the first time in 17 years, bringing it from 5% to 8%. Meant to bolster funding for the country’s future social security needs, this tax hike impacted Japanese wallets and brought about drastic swings in the economy as a whole, with consumers front-loading major appliance, vehicle, and home purchases ahead of April 1 and curtailing spending after the higher rate went into effect. Two straight quarters of negative growth thereafter convinced Prime Minister Abe Shinzō to put off the next planned rate hike, from 8% to 10%, until the spring of 2017.
The German word of the year is lichtgrenze, the “border of light” created by thousands of illuminated helium balloons that were released November 9 to mark the fall of the Berlin Wall. Other words on the German list were less celebratory: “It was a year of terror, strikes, and football frenzy.”
Geoff Nunberg, the linguist-in-residence on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” picked God view as his word of the year:
It’s the term that the car service company Uber uses for a map view that shows the locations of all the Uber cars in an area and silhouettes of the people who ordered them. The media seized on the term this fall when it came out that the company had been entertaining itself and its guests by pairing that view with its customer data so it could display the movements of journalists and VIP customers as they made their way around New York.
Nunberg continued: “What we’re talking about here, of course, is the sense that the world is getting more and more creepy. …Creepy is a more elusive notion than scary. Scary things are the ones that set our imagination to racing with dire scenarios of cyberstalkers, identity thieves or government surveillance — whereas with creepy things, our imagination doesn't really know where to start.”
Also in radioland, Ben Schott presented the most ridiculous words of the year, from the ridiculous active nutrition (“sports nutrition for people who don’t exercise”) to the appalling catastrophic longevity (“insurance-speak for people living too long”). Schott writes the Jargonator column for Inc. magazine; he spoke with NPR’s “The Takeaway.” (Link includes full audio and partial transcript.)
Here’s a reminder that there are as many Englishes as there are words of the year: the Australian National Dictionary Centre selected shirtfrontas its word of the year for 2014. It’s a verb, it comes from the vocabulary of Australian Rules football, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott used it in a threat to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin:
The term was little known outside of its sporting context, although the figurative use has been around since at least the 1980s. Abbott’s threat to shirtfront Putin, and the word itself, was widely discussed and satirised in the Australian and international media.
The ANDC’s shortlist includes man-bun, Ned Kelly beard, and coward punch.
When I was a kid we called them “thongs” or “zoris.”
What exactly can you expect when you commission a $5 logo from Fiverr? To find out, Sacha Greif invented a company (“SkyStats”) and tested the waters. Among his conclusions: “Fiverr apparently sees nothing wrong with designers appropriating other people’s work. And not only do they tolerate it, they even directly profit from it since they feature these fake work samples prominently.”
Cherevin may be the evil aggressors of economic warfare, but I’d love to have them as a client. They could teach me about propping up housing markets, and I might be able to offer them a nugget or two about reducing security breaches through better interaction design. Plus, I bet it’s fun to get a project brief with the objective of ‘instilling fear and obedience.’
UPDATE: This morning (June 18), the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, an independent tribunal of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, recommended that the federal registrations for “Redskins” trademarks be cancelled. Read the TTAB fact sheet.
Power Vocab Tweet was invented by the creator of Everyword, which recently completed its mission to tweet every word in the English language.From the blog:
On the surface, Power Vocab Tweet is a parody of “word-of-the-day”blogs and Twitteraccounts. My real inspiration, though, comes from the novel Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin. In that book, a group of underground linguists invent a language (Láadan) that “encodes” in its lexicon concepts that aren’t otherwise assigned to words in human languages. …
The definitions are generated via Markov chain from the definition database in WordNet. The words themselves are generated from a simple “portmanteau” algorithm; each word is a combination of two “real” English words of the appropriate part of speech. (The forms of the words and text used to generate the associated definition aren’t related.)
When you first enter the water and begin your swim, your body reacts by constricting the peripheral blood vessels in your arms and legs. This helps prevent heat loss by consolidating your body heat into your core. And as long as you continue with your physical activity, you will easily preserve a stable temperature.
However, once you end your swim and exit the water, your body sends your blood back to the skin to “warm up.” Because your skin is very cold at this point, your blood actually gets colder and is then recirculated back to your core. In essence, your core body temperature actually decreases during this rewarming period in a phenomenon known as the “afterdrop.”
Afterdrop is part of the specialized lingo of physicians and emergency workers, and it’s also familiar to cold-water swimmers like me and other members of San Francisco’s Dolphin and South End clubs, where we swim year round, without wetsuits, in San Francisco Bay. Water temperature in our part of the bay ranges between 50°F/10°C (January) and 66°F/19°C (September, if ever). To prevent afterdrop, swimmers and boaters are advised to go horizontal; warm up gradually, preferably in a sauna or swaddled in blankets; and avoid drinking alcoholic beverages. (Some hypothermia resources recommend continued exercise. The truth, according to a physician I consulted, is “No one knows.”)
Dolphin Club member Dr. Thomas J. Nuckton, a specialist in pulmonary and critical care medicine, conducted a study of 11 Dolphin Club members who had swum from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco’s Aquatic Park on New Year’s Day in 1998. (It’s an annual tradition.) His findings, published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine in 2000, included the observation that 10 of the 11 swimmers had experienced core afterdrop of at least 1.8°F. Nuckton also tells the story of 16 Danish fishermen who were rescued after spending an hour in open water; although they were able to climb aboard the rescue vessel, all of them later died of hypothermia.
The OED’s earliest citation for afterdrop (spelled after-drop in the dictionary) is a 1945 British report: “Rewarming must be rapid to cushion the ‘after-drop’ in temperature, which continues to fall for 10 to 15 minutes after the subject is removed from the cold water.” (That is, rewarming must commence quickly; it’s now considered risky to rewarm a patient too rapidly.)
The English word has a grim history, according to the OED: “Originally after German Nachsinken (1942 in a typescript document reporting the results of experiments on live subjects at the Dachau concentration camp, later used as part of the Nuremberg trials).”
Pannenberg’s conception of retroactive continuity ultimately means that history flows fundamentally from the future into the past, that the future is not basically a product of the past.
The term was popularized in the 1980s by the comic-book and science-fiction communities; Damian Cugley has claimed credit for shortening it to “retcon” in a 1988 Usenet discussion of the comic book Saga of the Swamp Thing. It has since been applied to many kinds of serial fiction, including television shows such as “The Simpsons,” “in which the timeline of the family's history must be continually shifted forward to explain them not getting any older” (Wikipedia).
In the last decade or so, “retcon” has been appearing in political journalism as well, substituting for the previously popular “revisionism” and its derivatives.
My husband on Obama's unconvincing attempt to retcon "If you like your insurance, you can keep it. Period." http://t.co/qQJRkv4x92
The link goes to an article by Peter Sunderman in Reason:
If you’re a fan of comic books or other types of serial fiction, you’re probably familiar with the concept of the “retcon”—a made-up word that stands for “retroactive continuity.” …
I wonder if President Obama is a comic book fan. Because with the updated version of his oft-repeated promise that individuals who like their health plans can keep them, he’s essentially retconned himself.
As the number of twists and misdirections in a story becomes higher, it becomes more difficult to tell whether an event actually is a retcon (which implies that the writers changed their minds), or a misdirection (which implies that the writers intended the “retconned” version all along, and had been deliberately misleading the audience before). In some cases, it is impossible to tell, short of reading the author's mind (even then, it might not helped, as it's entirely possible for an author to be on the fence about what they're planning to do).
We binge-watched revenge porn while leaning in and snacking on cronuts. We took a break from being selfie-absorbed (not to mention shelfie-, welfie-, and lelfie-) to cheer Batkid and jeer Glassholes. We ducked out of Thanksgivukkah dinner to vape our e-cigarettes. We worried about drones that spied on our metadata. Wow. Such doge!
It was the silliest of years, it was the most serious of years. And our favorite words expressed all the mood swings.