Wednesday Words: Downton Dialect, Linsanity and More

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

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David McGlynn

Sports saying: “Linsanity”

Oh, the world is wild for this Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, the Asian-American benchwarmer turned NBA star. The undrafted, devoutly Christian Harvard grad reportedly slept on his brother’s couch before his contract was finalized — he wouldn’t even qualify for the Buffett Rule. And all the attention he, his team and his sport have been getting has been dubbed “Linsanity.”

Meanwhile, the man himself is being called “the Taiwanese Tebow” or “Lin Tebow” (as in devout Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow); he is, notably, the first Taiwanese-American NBA player. The New York Times reported fans toting signs that read “Madison Square Guard-Lin.” Others say he’s Linspiring, a Lincredible Linspiration for us all. He’s a Linderella story. He’s Linvincible. He’s like a Linja assassin. He’s Super Lintendo. With a name like that, the sky’s really the Linmit.

(MORE: Linsanity Strikes China, But Could Chinese Basketball Ever Produce a Jeremy Lin?)

Wedding word: hypergamy

In a New York Times op-ed about education and marriage, Stephanie Coontz discusses the notion of hypergamy, i.e. marrying up. In decades of yore, there was much more pressure for women to practice hypergamy, she explains. But today, when women are getting college degrees at higher rates than men, the ladies are the ones marrying down—what we might call hypogamy, at least in terms of education.

Though Coontz uses the term hypergamy in the sense of describing any marriage to a person in a higher class, it was first used by anthropologists to describe customs that forbade women to marry into classes lower than their own—like when (spoiler alert!) Lady Sybil runs off with the chauffeur in Downton Abbey. She scoffed at hypergamy. And she doesn’t need your money, Lord Dad! She’s just needs love! Someday you’ll understand. Go make out with the maid, you hypocrite.

Writer’s whoopsie: to get shafted

Speaking of Downton Abbey, the PBS program centered on a noble English family in the early 20th century, language guru Ben Zimmer compiled some of the anachronisms the show’s writers have used. In mid-1918, Thomas, the evil, secretly gay footman, says, “I get fed up seeing how our lot always get shafted.” Zimmer points out that using to get shafted to describe being treated unfairly or harshly wasn’t in fashion for at least another 30 years.

Other anachronisms he found include “I’m just sayin.” and “Step on it.” But suffering through some disingenuous dialogue is a small price to pay for such a compelling show. (I mean, an evil, secretly gay footman is but one piece of ammunition in the show’s dramatic arsenal.)

(VIDEO: The Real Downton Abbey: Highclere Castle)

Musical muse: to roll deep

In an interview with Vogue, the voluptuous, heart-broken sensation and Grammy champ Adele divulged her inspiration for hit single “Rolling in the Deep”: gangsta slang. “There’s a gang phrase in the U.K., roll deep,” she told the magazine. “That basically means having someone have your back so you are never on your own if you come into trouble. It’s a real gangster thing, but I think it’s really beautiful.” NewsFeed looks forward to the mash-up of her song and Coolio’s equally moving “Rollin’ With My Homies.”

Fashion fad: “The Duchess Effect”

The Global Language Monitor named The Duchess Effect, as in “I’ll buy anything Kate Middleton even thinks about wearing and therefore drive the economy,” as the top fashion buzzword of 2012. Their official definition: “The positive economic impact of Kate Middleton’s fashion choices, derived from her new title, ‘the Duchess of Cambridge.’”

The runner-up on their list was peplum: “a short flared, gathered, or pleated strip of fabric attached at the waist of a woman’s jacket, dress, or blouse to create a hanging frill or flounce,” as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it. (You can see some excellent examples here.) One only regrets that the even-more-fun-to-say pantaloons didn’t make the cut. But there’s always next year.

PHOTOS: Kate Middleton’s Amazing Fashion Evolution