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With Art-Official Flavoring!

  • Aesthete: [ES-theet] n Someone who claims to be particularly sensitive to beauty and who thinks as a result that he or she is superior to others (for example, Oscar Wilde).
  • Venissage: [ver-nih-SAZ] n French word for “varnishing,” aka the day before an exhibition opened, when artists added the finishing touches to their work already hanging on the wall. Nowadays it’s simply the chic word for a private viewing.

Fresh Out of The Coven

  • belladonna: [bel-uh-DON-uh] n Derived from the Italian for “beautiful woman,” belladonna was a favorite among witches, the forerunners of our modern chemists and physicians. In their attempts to make various poisons and potions, they discovered the physiological properties of many plants and herbs. An extract placed in the eye dilates the pupil and supposedly increases sex appeal. Similar compounds are used today by ophthalmologists when they examine the eyes. When belladonna is rubbed on the skin, its active ingredient, atropine, is absorbed and can give rise to hallucinations. That’s why belladonna was incorporated into “witches’ ointment,” which was applied to the skin during coven meetings. Knowing that, it isn’t hard to believe that witches really did fly (at least in chemical fashion).

With Just A Pinch Of Technology

  • ambimousterous [AM-bee-MOUS-ter-ihs]; adj Proficient using a mouse with both the left and right hand.
  • Aunt Tillie [ANT TIL-lee]: n The quintessential naïve user that must be taken into account when designing software. To pass the Aunt Tillie test means the software is idiotproof.
  • Batman factor [BAT-man FAK-tur]: n A measure of electronic geekness that looks at the size and number of items attached to one’s belt. For instance, having a Palm Pilot, a cell phone, and a walkie-talkie would grant you a very high Batman factor.
  • Bogosity [bo-GOS-ih-tee]: n The degree to which something is bogus.
  • Chickenboner [CHIK-en BO-nur]: n A spammer generally thought to be a redneck in a darkened trailer with a litter of KFC chicken bones surrounding the workstation.
  • Dancing frog [DAN-sing FROG]: n A computer bug that will not manifest itself when someone else is watching over your shoulder. (Remember the Warner Brothers frog that sang and danced for only one person?)
  • geekasm [GEE-KAS-em]: n Best understood by reading this quote by MIT professor Alex Slocum: “When they build a machine, if they do the calculations right, the machine works and you get this intense . . . uhh . . . just like a geekasm, from knowing that what you created in your mind and on the computer is actually doing what you told it to do.”
  • kilogoogle [KIH-lo-GOO-gui]: n Unit of measurement to indicate the number of hits made on a term by a Google search.
  • Teledildonics [TEL-uh-dil-DON-iks]: n Virtual Reality Sex.
  • Zipperhead [ZIP-ur-HED]: n Someone with a closed mind.

With Multisyllable Words

Literary studies have some of the most jawbreaking technical language you can find. What’s funny is how these hard words (anacephalaeosis) sometimes have simple meanings (“recap”).

  • Hendiadys: [hen-DIE-uh-diss] n You know how you say good and mad when you mean very mad, or nice and soft when you mean, er, nicely soft? You’ve expressed an idea in two words connected by and when you could’ve used just two words (a word and its modifier) to do it. So, what’s a really crazed Greek word we could use for that? Oh, we know: hendiadys.
  • Homoioteleuton: [ho-mee-oh-te-LOOT-on] n Again, a big, hard word for a pretty simple thing. This refers to the trick of using several adjacent words with the same ending: “He sneezed mightily, showered cheerfully, ate hungrily, dressed carelessly, and drove crazily.”
  • Now for the one that everyone learns, the word that makes you know you’ve really learned something about literature.
  • Onomatopoeia: [oh-no-mah-to-po-EE-ah] n The naming of something by imitating a sound associated with that thing, such as when we write hiss when we want to name a, er, a hiss. Or a sonic boom. People get apoplectic over another use, which many swear isn’t really onomatopoeia, but who cares? That’s the use of words that sound like the thing they stand for, such as moan, dribble, bounce, and so forth.

Four Singer Types From The World of Opera

  • castrato [kuh-STRAH-toe]: n A male singer, castrated in the early years of his life, in order to prevent his oice from changing. In centuries past a castrato’s voice was prized for its combination of male strength and female beauty. The most famous castrato of all time was Farinelli, who became extremely rich off his rare talent.
  • Heldentenor [HEL-den-teh-NOR]: n The tenor (high-voiced male singer) in a dramatic opera who has a huge voice – big enough to trumpet over a large orchestra, knocking the audience back into their seats. A heldentenor (literally, “heroic tenor”) can be found most often in operas by Wagner.
  • Mezzo [MET-soh] soprano: n Literally, “half soprano.” This is a woman whose voice – and pay – is significantly lower than a (high-voiced) soprano’s.
  • Prima donna [PREE-muh DON-na]: n A soprano, literally the “first lady.” This is the woman who plays the heroine in an opera. Throughout history, this first lady has often been demanding to the point of ridiculousness. As a result, the expression “prima donna” if often used to refer to people who think the world revolves around them. Also known as “diva” (literally, “goddess”).

Physics Lingo That Went Mainstream

  • Critical mass [KRIT-ih-kul MASS]: n In a nuclear bomb or in a nuclear reactor, the critical mass is the minimum amount of material needed to make the bomb blow up or the reactor created significant energy.
  • Quantum leap [KWO-tem LEEP]: n Changes in an atom cannot take place continuously, but only through jumps. In popular use, the quantum leap now refers to a jump, a big change in concept (or ability). There is an irony in this use. In physics, the quantum leap is the minimum possible change.
  • Resonate with [REZ-uh-nayt WITH]: v When your vibes match those of someone else. If a musical note has the same frequency as a tuning fork, then hitting one will make the other vibrate.
  • Be on the same wavelength [SAIM WAIV-lenth]: v A version of “resonate with.” Tune your radio to the right wavelength (or right frequency) and you’ll receive everything that is broadcast.
  • Free fall [FREE FAHL]: n Not always an uncontrolled plummet to death.. A high diver jumping off a board is in free fall. So is an astronaut orbiting the earth. That’s why they feel no gravity.

Some Lingo From The Back Lot

  • Abby singer [AB-ee SIN-gur]: n The second-to-last shot of a day of filming. The real Abby Singer, a production manager for numerous films and TV series, often called out, “Only one more shot,” signaling to cast and crew that the workday was almost over. But the director frequently trumped him, asking for more takes or another shot. The Abby Singer is followed by . . .
  • Martini [mar-TEE-nee]: n The very last shot of the day is called the martini because, the director hopes, the only shot left is a nice Bombay Sapphire.
  • Alan Smithee [AL-in SMIH-thee]: n A pseudonym used when a director wants nothing to do with the finished film, having lost creative control due to extensive reediting, studio meddling, or other interference. Directors can appeal to the Directors Guild of America (DGA, their union) to have their name taken off the film. If the appeal is successful, the name is replaced with Alan Smithee, the only pseudonym the DGA allows for directors, although writers, producers, and even actors have used it. John Frankenheimer, Dennis Hopper, Sam Raimi, and many others have all chosen to “Smithee” their films. So get up and leave the theater if the opening credits say “An Alan Smithee Film.”
  • MOS [EM OH ES]: adj Describes a scene shot without live sound, such as panoramic landscapes or the like. Hollywood legend links the origin of MOS to Austrian actor and director Erich Von Stroheim, whose accent turned “without sound” into “mit-out sound.”