Posts tagged ‘Neologism’

February 25, 2016


disconnected by Joe Morse

Swatting is the act of deceiving an emergency service into dispatching a police response based on the false report of an ongoing critical incident. The term derives from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), a heavily armored police unit. Swatting has been associated with online harassment campaigns, and episodes range from the deployment of bomb squads and evacuations of schools and businesses, to a single fabricated police report meant to discredit an individual as a prank or personal vendetta.

The action of swatting – linked to the action of ‘doxxing’ (obtaining the address and details of an individual) – has been described as terrorism due to its potential to cause disruption, waste the time of emergency services, divert attention from real emergencies and possibly cause injuries and psychological harm to persons targeted. The act of making false reports to emergency services is punishable by prison sentences in the US and is a crime in many other countries.

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February 10, 2016


bean cuisine by Meredith Blumenstock

Aquafaba [ah-kwuh-fah-buh], or chickpea brine, is the liquid from canned chickpeas, used as an egg substitute because of its function as an emulsifier, leavening agent, and foaming agent. Vegan baker Goose Wohlt coined the term aquafaba (‘bean liquid’) to describe the substance, which French chef Joël Roessel discovered could be used as substitute for egg whites in recipes. Aquafaba has been used to create meringues, macarons, nougat, and other products that normally require the use of eggs, making them suitable for people with egg allergies, vegans, and lacto-vegetarians.

There is currently no scientific consensus on the chemical properties of aquafaba and why it mimics egg whites so effectively. Seed proteins, including albumins and globulins, as well as soluble fibers, sugars, and glycosides have been proposed as contributing to the similarity. Roessel purports that the most likely agent that causes the liquid to foam are saponins, plant molecules containing a combination of hydrophobic (fat-soluble) and a hydrophilic (water-soluble) components.

February 2, 2016


st john

Catvertising is the use of cats in advertising. The tongue-in-cheek portmanteau was coined in the late 1990s, and enjoyed a spike in popularity beginning 2011 as a result of a parody of commercialization of cat viral videos by the advertising agency st. john in Toronto.

The video was part of a series of spoofs beginning with ‘Pink Ponies: A Case Study,’ then ‘Catvertising,’ and finally ‘Buyral’ (a blend of ‘buy’ and ‘viral’). A University of Arizona marketing team competes under the name ‘Catvertising.’

January 27, 2016


Daniel Levitin

The term infomania is used to describe a sometimes debilitating feeling of ‘information overload,’ caused by the combination of a backlog of information to process (usually in e-mail), and continuous interruptions from technologies like phones and instant messaging. It is also understood as distraction caused by the urge to constantly check on incoming information, which causes the person to neglect other, often more important things—duties, family, etc. (For instance, a typical symptom of infomania is that of checking email frequently during vacation.)

The term was coined by Elizabeth M. Ferrarini, the author of ‘Confessions of an Infomaniac ‘(1984) and ‘Infomania: The Guide to Essential Electronic Services’ (1985). Confessions was an early book about life online. In 2005, British psychologist Glenn Wilson conducted an experimental study which documented the detrimental effects of information overload on problem solving ability. This was described in a press release accompanying a self-report survey of the extent of misuse of modern technology sponsored by Hewlett-Packard (However, in 2010, Wilson published a clarifying note about the study in which he documented its limited size and stated the results were ‘widely misrepresented in the media.’)

December 15, 2015


Capn Crunch


Phreaking is a slang term coined to describe the activity of hobbyists who study, experiment with, or explore, telecommunication systems, such as equipment and systems connected to public telephone networks. ‘Phreak,’ ‘phreaker,’ or ‘phone phreak’ are names used for and by individuals who participate in phreaking. The term first referred to groups who had reverse engineered the system of tones used to route long-distance calls. By re-creating these tones, phreaks could switch calls from the phone handset, allowing free calls to be made around the world.

Electronic tone generators known as ‘blue boxes’ became a staple of the phreaker community, including future Apple Inc. cofounders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The blue box era came to an end with the ever increasing use of computerized phone systems, which sent dialling information on a separate, inaccessible channel. By the 1980s, much of the system in the US and Western Europe had been converted. Phreaking has since become closely linked with computer hacking.

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September 30, 2015


Steam Man of the Prairies

Edisonade is a modern term, coined in 1993 by John Clute in his and Peter Nicholls’ ‘The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction,’ for fictional stories about a brilliant young inventor and his inventions. This subgenre started in the Victorian and Edwardian eras and had its apex of popularity during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and was common in ‘scientific romance,’ an archaic term for the genre of fiction now known as ‘science fiction.’

The term ‘Edisonade’ originated in the 1850s to describe both fiction and elements of scientific writing, but has since come to refer to the science fiction of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, primarily that of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Arthur Conan Doyle. In recent years, the term has come to be applied to science fiction written in a deliberately anachronistic style, as a homage to or pastiche of the original scientific romances.

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April 27, 2015




Satyagraha [suht-yuh-gruh-huh] is a term coined by Mahatma Gandhi to describe his particular philosophy and practice within the broader overall category generally known as nonviolent resistance or civil resistance. It loosely translates as ‘insistence on truth’ (Sanskrit: ‘satya’ ‘truth’; ‘agraha’ ‘polite insistence,’ or ‘holding firmly to’) or ‘truth force.’

He deployed satyagraha in the Indian independence movement and also during his earlier struggles in South Africa for Indian rights. Satyagraha theory influenced Nelson Mandela’s struggle in South Africa under apartheid, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaigns during the Civil Rights Movement in the US, and many other social justice and similar movements. Someone who practices satyagraha is a ‘satyagrahi.’

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February 17, 2015


true names

Cyberspace is ‘the notional environment in which communication over computer networks occurs.’ The word became popular in the 1990s when the uses of the internet, networking, and digital communication were all growing dramatically. The parent term is ‘cybernetics,’ derived from an Ancient Greek word meaning ‘steersman,’ ‘governor,’ ‘pilot,’ or ‘rudder’ (coined by American mathematician Norbert Wiener for his pioneering work in electronic communication and control science).

According to programmer Chip Morningstar and game developer F. Randall Farmer, cyberspace is defined more by the social interactions involved rather than its technical implementation. In their view, the computational medium in cyberspace is an augmentation of the communication channel between real people; the core characteristic of cyberspace is that it offers an environment that consists of many participants with the ability to affect and influence each other. They derive this concept from the observation that people seek richness, complexity, and depth within a virtual world.

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December 11, 2014



George de Mestral

Biomimicry [bahy-oh-mim-ik-ree] is the imitation of biological systems in human technology. Living organisms have evolved well-adapted structures and materials over geological time through natural selection. Nature has solved engineering problems such as self-healing, environmental exposure tolerance, hydrophobicity (waterproofing), self-assembly, and harnessing solar energy.

One of the early examples of biomimicry was the study of birds to enable human flight. Although never successful in creating a ‘flying machine,’ Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) was a keen observer of the anatomy and flight of birds, and made numerous notes and sketches on his observations as well as designs of rudimentary ornithopters based on bats. The Wright Brothers, who succeeded in flying the first heavier-than-air aircraft in 1903, derived inspiration from observations of pigeons in flight. Their airfoil was based on a design by German ‘Glider King’ Otto Lilienthal who published ‘Birdflight as the Basis of Aviation.’ Velcro, another famous example, was inspired by the tiny hooks found on the surface of burs.

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November 6, 2014



In American suburban communities, McMansion is a pejorative for a type of large, new luxury house which is judged to be oversized for the parcel or incongruous and out-of-place for its neighborhood. Alternatively, a McMansion can be a large, new house in a subdivision of similarly large houses, which all seem mass-produced and lacking in distinguishing characteristics, as well as appearing at odds with the traditional local architecture.

The neologism seems to have been coined sometime in the early 1980s. It first appeared in print the ‘Los Angeles Times’ in 1990. Related terms include ‘Persian palace,’ ‘garage Mahal,’ ‘starter castle,’ and ‘Hummer house.’ Marketing parlance often uses the term ‘tract mansion’ or ‘executive home.’ An example of a McWord, ‘McMansion’ associates the generic quality of these luxury homes with that of mass-produced fast food by evoking the McDonald’s restaurant chain.

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October 25, 2014


the lives of others

LOVEINT is the practice of intelligence service employees making use of their extensive monitoring capabilities to spy on their love interest or spouse. The term was coined in resemblance to intelligence terminology such as SIGINT (signals intelligence) or HUMINT (human intelligence). The term originated at the NSA, where at least one incident is reported every year. They are the lion’s share of unauthorized accesses reported by the NSA. Most incidents are self-reported, for example during a polygraph test.

The NSA sanctions include administrative action, up to termination of employment. In five of the cases, the NSA employee resigned, preempting any administrative action. In two other cases, they retired. The worst administrative sanction handed out was a ‘a reduction in pay for two months, a reduction in grade, and access to classified information being revoked.’ One case was forwarded to the Department of Justice, which however declined to prosecute.

October 22, 2014


kony 2012

ice bucket challenge

Slacktivism (‘slacker activism’) is a sometimes pejorative term that describes ‘feel-good’ measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from having contributed. The underlying assumption being promoted by the term is that these low cost efforts substitute for more substantive actions rather than supplementing them, although this assumption has not been borne out by research.

Proponents argue that slacktivism plays a significant role in repressive and authoritarian regimes. Journalist Courtney C. Radsch argues that low level engagement was an important form of activism for Arab youth during the Arab Spring because it was an outlet for free speech and sparked mainstream media coverage. She contends that when a hashtag becomes ‘a trending topic [it] helps generate media attention, even as it helps organize information. The power of social media to help shape the international news agenda is one of the ways in which they subvert state authority and power.’

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