Wednesday Words: Cone-ing, ‘Tea Party Hobbits’ and More

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

New viral fad: “cone-ing”

One cone-ing site defines the action thusly: “Putting it simply, it is grabbing a soft serve upside down and creating the most awkward situation possible.” And people, including Justin Bieber, are now creating videos of themselves in the throes of this latest Australian craze. It may be hilarious, or a key factor in why anthropologists will one day call this The Age of Too Much Time On Their Hands.

How fads fly: This fad follows owling, which moments ago was “the new planking,” before getting shown up by “batting.” (All of which describe actions one does when posing in a picture to then share on a social media site.) In fact, in the time it took to write this, cone-ing has become roughly as fresh and hip as acid wash jeans.

Best new noun: Portlandification

This noun is at the center of an article that describes how Brooklyn has become increasingly like Portland, Ore., a self-loving land of organic affectation where the ideal citizen is equal parts hippie, bicycle-enthusiast, Franciscan and foodie. (As was captured in the fabulous skit show Portlandia.) “Brooklyn is producing and consuming more of its own culture than ever before,” the author writes, “giving rise to a sense of Brooklyn exceptionalism.”

City slang: Portland may have its own verb, but few cities can rival Chicago when it comes to slang, and it’s mostly thanks to gangsters. (Thanks, gangsters!)  “Chicago lightning” refers to gunfire. A “Chicago mowing machine” is a machine gun (while a “Chicago piano” or “Chicago typewriter” is a Tommy Gun). And a “Chicago overcoat” is, of course, a coffin. As in, “Keep runnin’ your mouth, Johnny. I’ve got a Chicago overcoat I think’ll fit you real nice.”

(SEE: TIME’s Summer 60: The Hottest Stuff in the Coolest Cities)

Dorkiest political metaphor: Tea-Party hobbits

In a Wall Street Journal editorial mocking Republicans who thought government default wouldn’t reflect poorly on them, the author described their line of thinking: The House GOP would refuse to budge, America would default, all would turn on the President, “and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.” Then Sen. John McCain read the editorial aloud on the Senate floor, lending gravitas to “Tolkies” everywhere.

Oh, the comparisons: The debt-ceiling showdown was a breeding ground for figurative speech. President Obama told America to “eat our peas.” House Speaker Boehner in turn said dealing with the White House was like “dealing with Jell-O” and likened negotiations to solving a Rubik’s Cube. But the award for Best Metaphor goes to Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, who criticized the eventual deal as “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich.”

Parenting parlance: linguistic tiger moms

In a Slate column on “verbal stumbles” like uh, er and um, Michael Erard argues that such bumpy segues aren’t necessarily bad: They keep things from sounding too scripted, which in turn makes a speaker seem more credible, and they’re a natural part of how people communicate, he says. He also criticizes “linguistic tiger moms” who try to drill their children into complete “umlessness.”

Rearing trends: Parenting is often broken down into four styles: authoritarian (“You’ll eat again when you’ve perfected that concerto!”), indulgent (“Of course you can have all your friends over to get drunk, my teenager.”), uninvolved (“I think I have two sons. Buuuut it might be three.”) and authoritative, which, as with most breakdowns, is the single category most would want to be put in. Firm yet loving, involved but not overbearing. Basically Mary Poppins at her nicest without the abandonment tendencies.

(MORE: Tiger Moms: Is Tough Parenting Really the Answer?)

Katy Steinmetz is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @KatySteinmetz. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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