Wednesday Words: ‘American Idol’-isms, Hawaiian Shirts and More

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Welcome to NewsFeed’s weekly highlight of the vocabulary of our lives — including useful, new, hilarious and surprising words (as well as some that are just fun to roll off the old tongue).

Best silver-lining coinage: Durbinomics

Scotty McCreery, that country-twangin’ young thang, may have taken home the American Idol title this past week, but the hard-rocking third-runner-up, James Durbin, has been generating titles of his own at home. In Santa Cruz, Calif., his performances have produced enough economy-boosting to inspire the term Durbinomics—a power seen most fully during “Durbin Day” while people ate sandwiches named after him: Hawaiian-style “Durbinators.”

NewsFeed neologism: In the cherished tradition of poking fun at the person who has it all, NewsFeed suggests a new verb to describe the unique way the Idol winner holds the microphone. McCreering (mah-KREAR-ing) will thus be defined as a foppish, sideways grabbing motion that suggests a singer thinks a normal microphone is in fact a flute made out of egg-shell china.

(PHOTOS: American Idol’s Past Winners)

Most titter-inducing club name: Sublime Society of Beefsteaks

Oxford’s collection of national biographies added more than 100 people and groups to their database on Thursday, one of which was this mid-18th century dining club. According to Oxford, the SSB contained “the princes, the nobles, the wits of the land, seated at a plenteous, but frugal board, and in equal brotherhood, keeping alive the old, in-bred good-nature of the better classes of the English people” … by eating steaks together. Sounds sublime indeed (minus the inbreeding part)

Behind the name: The title is best because of its bathos, the ridiculous presence of something commonplace (beefsteaks) in the context of things elevated and lofty (sublime societies). Bathos can be generated accidentally, as in bad poetry, or for comic effect, like if Hamlet threw some Ebonics into the Shakespearean dialogue. “Methinks the lady doth protest too much, Home Slice.”

(PHOTOS: The Search for the Perfect Steak)

Normal nugget of Hawaiian culture: da kine

Da kine is a term native Hawaiians use to replace almost anything. It may be derived from “that kind” or “a kind”—making it a sort of synonym for thing—but it can refer to a place, a person, a drug, an action, a hodgepodge—all kine da kine. This kind of island-style English is called “pidgin,” a term that can refer to any language which comes into existence when speakers of two different languages try to communicate.

Using it in a sentence: Hawaii Five-0 cast members have taken some flak for their attempts to use bits of pidgin to make the show authentic, as in one blog post entitled “Eh, you da kine, ah?” and in another, more polite, writeup mentioning the actors’ “da kine faux pas’.” But hey, at least they’re trying to do something cultural in between flashes of abs and guns.

Weird appropriation of Hawaiian culture: “Super Cool Biz”

The Japanese government, in their infinite hipness, is launching a new campaign called “Super Cool Biz,” a “campaign that advocates wearing Hawaiian shirts, T-shirts and sandals to work as a way to save electricity this summer,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Because we all know nothing helps churn out those TPS reports like a little flowered-shirt action.

Hawaiian shirt breakdown: New York Magazine does a beautifully thorough breakdown of the kinds of guy you might catch wearing some Tommy Bahama gear. There are the Cool Guys (Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I.), the Mellow Dudes (Adam Sandler in 50 First Dates), the Druggies (Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing), the Wild-and-Crazy-Types (Kramer), the Unfashionables (see Weekend at Bernie’s), and the Guys on Vacation (see any main-lander on vacation). Now all they need is a slide for Pacific Rim Businessmen.

(PHOTOS: The Pioneer of the Hawaiian Shirt)

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