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Author Archives: Word Spy

Data Divination

Data DivinationYou’ve probably heard of big data, but do you know about all the other datas? To wit:

  • cold data
  • cubed data
  • dark data
  • dirty data
  • fast data
  • hot data
  • live data
  • long data
  • medium data
  • responsible data
  • small data
  • target-rich data
  • thick data
  • transient data
  • slow data

I talk about these and other flavors of data in my latest column for IEEE Spectrum. Check out the column online here.

Words That Turn Twenty in December, 2016

In honour of Word Spy’s 20th birthday earlier this year, throughout 2016 I’m highlighting words that are celebrating their own 20th birthdays.

Here’s a list of words that were coined (or have an earliest citation) in December, 1996:

black fax
n. A black piece of paper faxed to a company as a prank or as retaliation for distributing junk faxes.
Earliest citation date: December 7, 1996

Bubbonics
n. The speech patterns of the United States south.
Earliest citation date: December 26, 1996

hyper-parenting
n. A child-rearing style in which parents are intensely involved in managing, scheduling, and enriching all aspects of their children’s lives.
Earliest citation date: December 24, 1996

invisible Web
n. The collection of searchable websites whose content exists within databases and so cannot be indexed by search engines.
Earliest citation date: December 12, 1996

mallternative
n. Alternative rock music that is bland enough to be piped into a mall, restaurant, or other public location.
Earliest citation date: December 3, 1996

neuromyth
n. A popular but false belief about the brain.
Earliest citation date: December 21, 1996

news fasting
n. The deliberate avoidance of all forms of news media, particularly to relieve stress and relax the mind.
Earliest citation date: December 6, 1996

peeping-Tom TV
n. Reality television shows, particularly shows that focus on the personal lives of ordinary people.
Earliest citation date: December 19, 1996

personal shoplifter
n. A thief hired by an individual to shoplift goods.
Earliest citation date: December 6, 1996

skulling
pp. Defacing a poster or billboard to make a head resemble a skull.
Earliest citation date: December 9, 1996

table writing
n. The creation of scripts, jokes, and stories by a committee of writers.
Earliest citation date: December 9, 1996

theocon
n. A conservative who believes that religion should play a major role in forming and implementing public policy.
Earliest citation date: December 12, 1996

toxic knowledge
n. Knowledge of a potential genetic predisposition for a particular disease, esp.
Earliest citation date: December 30, 1996

upskirt
n. A video, usually taken inside a crowded location such as a shopping mall, that is shot up a woman’s skirt.
Earliest citation date: December 6, 1996

webisode
n. An episode of a web-based show or movie.
Earliest citation date: December 23, 1996

Behold the Cloud of Clouds: The Intercloud

Behold the Cloud of Clouds: The IntercloudCloud computing is notoriously hard to define, but that hasn’t stopped most of the developed (and a sizeable chunk of the developing) world from embracing cloud tools for storing, sharing, streaming, and synchronizing data. Cloud engineers and programmers have been hard at work coming up with new cloud technologies and systems, and they’ve given them names such as fog computing and human cloud, to name just two that I’ve featured here on Word Spy. There are many others — dew computing, cloudlet, ad-hoc cloud, follow-me cloud — and I highlight them in my latest column for IEEE Spectrum.

Check out the column online here.

Words That Turn Twenty in November, 2016

In honour of Word Spy’s 20th birthday earlier this year, throughout 2016 I’m highlighting words that are celebrating their own 20th birthdays.

Here’s a list of words that were coined (or have an earliest citation) in November, 1996:

application service provider
n. A company that hosts or rents software and delivers the programs via the Internet.
Earliest citation date: November 11, 1996

cloud computing
n. Data storage, applications, processing, and other computing services delivered remotely via the Internet or similar network.
Earliest citation date: November 14, 1996

glazing
pp. Sleeping with your eyes open.
Earliest citation date: November 12, 1996

house money effect
n. The premise that people are more willing to take risks with money they obtained easily or unexpectedly.
Earliest citation date: November 21, 1996

notebook dump
n. An article or book that is dense with facts but light on story, as though the writer simply copied everything that was in their notebook.
Earliest citation date: November 3, 1996

obesogenic
adj. Of or relating to a factor that causes or tends to cause obesity.
Earliest citation date: November 17, 1996

posterize
v. To embarrass an opponent or rival.
Earliest citation date: November 22, 1996

Renton
n. A very short haircut.
Earliest citation date: November 4, 1996

retail anthropology
n. The principles and practices of anthropology applied to retail spaces and operations.
Earliest citation date: November 4, 1996

skinny street
n. A street built narrower than usual to enhance traffic safety and encourage pedestrianism.
Earliest citation date: November 1, 1996

squirt the bird
v. To send a signal to a satellite.
Earliest citation date: November 14, 1996

tribal marketing
n. A marketing strategy that attempts to create social groups or communities that are centered around a product or service.
Earliest citation date: November 21, 1996

unconcession
n. A statement that retracts a concession.
Earliest citation date: November 6, 1996

The Internet of Things Is Full of Motes, Domotics, and BANs

The cyberattacks that brought big chunks of the Internet to its knees last Friday were mostly created through the hijacking of insecure cameras and other devices that are part of the Internet of Things (IoT). Coincidentally, my most recent column for IEEE Spectrum looks at the new words and phrases that are part of the IoT revolution.

Check out the column online here.

Words That Turn Twenty in October, 2016

In honour of Word Spy’s 20th birthday earlier this year, throughout 2016 I’m highlighting words that are celebrating their own 20th birthdays.

Here’s a list of words that were coined (or have an earliest citation) in October, 1996:

Beowulf cluster
n. An inexpensive supercomputer-like system created from a collection of two or more desktop PCs connected by a high-speed network.
Earliest citation date: October 15, 1996

calm technology
n. Technology that remains in the background until needed and thus enables a person to interact with it in a calm, engaged manner.
Earliest citation date: October 5, 1996

deskfast
n. Breakfast eaten at a desk.
Earliest citation date: October 10, 1996

fleshmeet
n. A meeting in person, especially one composed of people who usually or only converse online.
Earliest citation date: October 17, 1996

foliologist
n. A person who is an expert on where and when tree leaves change color during the fall.
Earliest citation date: October 6, 1996

geeksploitation
n. To induce young computer programmers to work long hours by taking advantage of their enthusiasm and high energy levels.
Earliest citation date: October 11, 1996

generation lap
n. The tendency for young people to be increasingly more adept at technology than their parents or elders.
Earliest citation date: October 14, 1996

microbrowser
n. A small-footprint web browser that can be used with next-generation telephones and other small devices.
Earliest citation date: October 7, 1996

multipath movie
n. An interactive CD- or Internet-based movie that enables viewers to choose from several different plot lines.
Earliest citation date: October 28, 1996

phishing
pp. Creating a replica of an existing web page to fool a user into submitting personal, financial, or password data.
Earliest citation date: October 1, 1971

Talibanisation
n. The rise of extremist, fundamentalist groups within an Islamic society.
Earliest citation date: October 11, 1996

trading coach
n. A person who advises stock traders on the strategy and psychology of investing.
Earliest citation date: October 25, 1996

transumer
n. A big-spending traveler; a person who travels to shop.
Earliest citation date: October 1, 1996

vehicularly housed
adj. Describes a homeless person who lives in a car.
Earliest citation date: October 12, 1996

waitress mom
n. A woman who is married, has children, works in a low-income job, and has little formal education.
Earliest citation date: October 20, 1996

Zen mail
n. An incoming email message without any body text or attachments.
Earliest citation date: October 1, 1996

Words That Turn Twenty in September, 2016

In honour of Word Spy’s 20th birthday earlier this year, throughout 2016 I’m highlighting words that are celebrating their own 20th birthdays.

Here’s a list of words that were coined (or have an earliest citation) in September, 1996:

car cloning
pp. Copying a car’s license plate and vehicle identification number and applying them to a stolen car.
Earliest citation date: September 26, 1996

cornea gumbo
n. A web page, ad, or other graphic piece that is an overdesigned, jumbled, soup of colors, fonts, and images.
Earliest citation date: September 1, 1996

cyberchondriac
n. A person who imagines they have a particular disease because their symptoms match those listed on an Internet health site.
Earliest citation date: September 12, 1996

financial parenting
n. Financial services and education offered to the children of wealthy parents.
Earliest citation date: September 1, 1996

laughter club
n. A group of people who meet regularly to laugh, often for therapeutic reasons.
Earliest citation date: September 28, 1996

Mongolian hordes
n. A large number of workers hired to help complete a big or complex project, particularly one that is running behind schedule.
Earliest citation date: September 1, 1996

paparazzification
n. The act or process of trivializing or dumbing down.
Earliest citation date: September 30, 1996

smartwatch
n. A wristwatch that can run apps, access the internet, and contains one or more sensors.
Earliest citation date: September 1, 1996

stalker site
n. A website devoted to a celebrity, the content of which clearly indicates that the fan who created the site is obsessed with their subject.
Earliest citation date: September 1, 1996

statement socks
n. A pair of socks chosen to make an impression, to stand out, or to express something about oneself.
Earliest citation date: September 15, 1996

Fending Off the Tyranny of Tools

Over at IEEE Spectrum, I look at how we’ve gone from being master tool-users to users who have been mastered by their tools. Goodbye embodied cognition, hello death by smartphone; so long thinking hand, welcome automation complacency. The devices are winning and the results are skill fade, information underload, and not burnout but boreout.

For these and many other terms relating to the tyranny of our tools, check out the column online here.

Words That Turn Twenty in August, 2016

In honour of Word Spy’s 20th birthday earlier this year, throughout 2016 I’m highlighting words that are celebrating their own 20th birthdays.

Here’s a list of words that were coined (or have an earliest citation) in August, 1996:

brandwidth
n. The amount of brand recognition enjoyed by a product or service.
Earliest citation date: August 1, 1996

charticle
n. A news article that consists of a chart or similar graphic with a small amount of explanatory text.
Earliest citation date: August 26, 1996

fauxhawk
n. A hairstyle in which a strip of hair across the top of the head is longer and higher than the hair on the remainder of the head.
Earliest citation date: August 7, 1996

Floridization
n. Having a rapidly increasing percentage of senior citizens in the population of a specific geographical area.
Earliest citation date: August 18, 1996

grandboomer
n. A grandparent who is a member of the baby boom generation.
Earliest citation date: August 7, 1996

hand salsa
n. The grimy substance that accumulates on a mouse or a similar input device after extended use.
Earliest citation date: August 1, 1996

hospitalist
n. A doctor who practices medicine only in a hospital.
Earliest citation date: August 15, 1996

office spouse
n. A co-worker with whom one has a very close but nonromantic relationship.
Earliest citation date: August 1, 1996

orphan lot
n. In a subdivision, a plot of land marked as a housing lot, but considered unbuildable because of size, terrain, or environmental constraints.
Earliest citation date: August 14, 1996

patriot hacker
n. A hacker who attempts to infiltrate or disable the computer systems of people or organizations that are perceived to be hostile to the hacker’s country.
Earliest citation date: August 21, 1996

smartglasses
n. A pair of eyeglasses that includes many of the features of a personal computer, including Internet access, apps, a display, a camera, sensors, and antennae for technologies such as Wi-Fi and GPS.
Earliest citation date: August 2, 1996

sport utility bike
n. A bicycle that has been extended so that it can carry an extra passenger or extra cargo.
Earliest citation date: August 23, 1996

spotlight effect
n. The tendency to believe that other people are paying closer attention to one’s appearance and behavior than they really are.
Earliest citation date: August 12, 1996

Words That Turn Twenty in July, 2016

In honour of Word Spy’s 20th birthday earlier this year, throughout 2016 I’m highlighting words that are celebrating their own 20th birthdays.

Here’s a list of words that were coined (or have an earliest citation) in July, 1996:

black-hole
v. To cause to disappear; to prevent someone or something from communicating or being communicated.
Earliest citation date: July 29, 1996

geotagging
pp. Embedding the current geographical location within digital media, particularly photos and videos.
Earliest citation date: July 29, 1996

glop art
n. An underground art movement that involves sticking chewing gum strategically on poster faces.
Earliest citation date: July 3, 1996

link rot
n. The gradual obsolescence of the links on a web page as the sites they point to become unavailable.
Earliest citation date: July 1, 1996

oppo guy
n. A political operative who specializes in digging up dirt on opponents.
Earliest citation date: July 15, 1996

re-anchor
v. To add or replace a major retailer, particlarly an anchor store, in a shopping mall or neighborhood.
Earliest citation date: July 10, 1996

sticky
adj. Having content or features that encourage online visitors to linger at a website.
Earliest citation date: July 27, 1996

swiped out
adj. Relating to a credit card or bank card with a magnetic strip that no longer works.
Earliest citation date: July 1, 1996

walking school bus
n. A group of children who walk to school together under the supervision of one or more adults.
Earliest citation date: July 1, 1996