You know it as a shorter, simpler way to say “rhinoceros.” But in the 17th and 18th centuries rhino was slang for “money,” and the related adjective rhinocerical was slang for “wealthy.” And no one is sure why.
These are not the rhinos you’re looking for. (But they sure are cool in Black Panther.)
Rhinoceros, from Greek roots meaning “nose-horned,” entered English around 1300; it referred to the herbivorous odd-toed ungulate, two species of which are found in Africa and three in Southern Asia. Rhino- also appears in combination forms such as rhinoplasty (plastic surgery of the nose; first appearance in print: 1828); rhinolaryngitis (1891); and rhinovirus (1961). As the shortened form of the animal name, the word first appeared in print in 1870. But nearly two centuries earlier it was popularly used in England to mean “cash,” and by 1697 the idiom “ready rhino” (or “ready rino”) was in circulation.
On February 22 – the birthday of America’s first president, George Washington – @RealDonaldTrump rose early and poked out a farrago of tweets – seven in all – proffering his theories about guns, schools, and a “GREAT DETERRENT” (his capitalization) to massacres like the one that occurred on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Davis High School in Parkland, Florida. Scattered within those tweets like so much buckshot were three occurrences of the word sicko.
....immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A “gun free” school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!
....If a potential “sicko shooter” knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there...problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!
In the digital world, ownership – or ownage, is it’s often called – is an intangible quality. The tech-jargon sense of to own originated among hackers in the 1990s, who used it to mean “taking control of someone else’s computer”; it was picked up by gamers, for whom it means “to defeat.” (The variant pwn, which originated as a misspelling in the game WarCraft, is sometimes substituted for humorous effect.) To self-own, then, is to confidently blunder into a self-defeating backfire, usually because you’ve unwittingly revealed something embarrassing or incriminating about yourself.
Collins Dictionary, based in London and Glasgow, got a head start on the WOTY competition in early November, selectingfake news over runners-up such as unicorn, echo chamber, and gig economy. (Related: My November 2016 post on fake.)
The word may be unfamiliar to you – it was to me, until a few weeks ago – but you undoubtedly know a jabroni or two. We all do. He – it’s always a he – isn’t mean enough to be called a jerk. He’s annoying, but not as obnoxious as a douchebag. He’s not as contemptible as an asshole, an epithet Geoffrey Nunberg defines, in his 2012 book The Ascent of the A-Word, as having at its heart “a culpable obtuseness—about one’s own importance, about the needs of others and the way one is perceived by them.” *
To call someone a jabroni, by contrast, is to mock rather than to condemn. The very sound of jabroni – a coined word with an Italianate flair – evokes ridiculousness and loserdom. Unlike jerk, asshole, and douchebag, the word doesn’t originate in obscenity; it comes instead from the colorful, carnival-influenced world of professional wrestling.
Wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, credited with popularizing “jabroni.”
This week, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA) will consider approving a new permit program for private transit vehicles, or PTVs. These vehicles – currently, Chariotis the only one operating in the city – use shuttle vans and a smartphone app; they are “open to the public, charge individual fares and operate on fixed routes,” according to the SFMTA website.
Bureaucrats may call them PTVs, but these vehicles are better known by an old slang term: jitney. And I was surprised to learn that both the word jitney and jitney transportation have deep roots, and routes, in California.
A “super jitney bus” in San Francisco, 1970s. Photo via SFMTA.com.
In early 2016, when Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign was looking for a way to connect with supporters and recruit volunteers, it turned to Hustle, a mass texting platform that had been created barely 18 months earlier. Sanders eventually lost the Democratic nomination, but San Francisco-based Hustle hustles on, shifting its efforts toward the anti-Trump resistance. Hustle’s goals may be more overtly political than those of other technology startups, but the company’s name perfectly encapsulates an entire industry’s ethos: move fast, be aggressive, shake things up.
Hustle is far from a new word or concept; it’s been in the English lexicon for nearly 350 years. It comes from Dutch husselen, which means “to shake,” but it quickly developed additional senses in English, including “to crowd or push roughly,” “to obtain by fraud or deception,” “to steal,” “to beg,” and – by the 1920s – “to swindle.” (The noun form followed the same semantic route.) As early as 1825, a “hustler” was a thief; a century later, it could refer to a prostitute. Writing in the 1890s about his travels through “Our Great West,” Julian Ralph observed that “The key-note and countersign of life in these cities [of the U.S. West] is the word ‘hustle.’ We have caught it in the East. but we use it humorously, just as we once used the Southern word ‘skedaddle,’ but out West the word hustle is not only a serious term, it is the most serious in the language.”
No? Here; I’ll help: Wypipo is white people with a dash of baby-talk and a lot of eyeroll. It’s used almost exclusively by people of color, almost always as a term of condescension, disparagement, or outright hostility. Its origins, like those of many slang terms, are murky, but there’s a better than zero probability that it was born on social media, where eye dialect thrives. (I first encountered it on Twitter.) As a written word, it’s pretty recent: Urban Dictionary has only two entries, the earliest of which is dated January 29, 2016: “Twitterslang or dialect that with read aloud sounds like ‘white people’ which is its actual meaning.” The example sentence in that entry is: “Girl wypipo are crazy, they let their dogslick their mouths.”