Wednesday Words: Necrotizing Fasciitis, Gaffoons and More

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David McGlynn

digital asset (n.): an intangible, electronic thing that one owns. According to a recent report from BMI Retirement Institute, dealing with digital assets is the next revolution in estate planning. Digital assets could be anything from Flickr albums to a Twitter feed to a movie-packed iTunes account to rewards you’ve been racking up for years. We can see it now: “The house and financial holdings will go to Johnny. Jim, you will oversee ‘Let’s see if this pickle can get more Facebook likes than Nickelback.'”

necrotizing fasciitis (n., Med.): a bacterial disease that can destroy skin, fat and tissue surrounding muscles. Searches for necrotizing fasciitis (NEK-ruh-tahyz-eeng fash-ee-AHY-tis) spiked this week after a pretty young woman contracted it following an ill-fated fall from a homemade zipline. Necrotizing comes from necrosis, a term for the death of cells that’s been around since the 1500s. Fasciitis refers to inflammation of the fascia, the thin sheath that envelops our muscles, organs or other special tissues. The woman in question, 24-year-old Aimee Copeland, has lost a leg and could lose several fingers to the disease, but is reportedly improving.

(MORE: The Disease One Georgia Grad Student Is Fighting)

Grexit (n.): a nickname for Greece’s potential switch from using the common currency of the European Union to their own: the drachma.  According to the Los Angeles Times, the prospect of a Grexit could also cause a run on the local banks, as Grecian citizens worry about the fate of their euros. Bank customers took out 700 million euros in the past week, and the withdrawals will likely keep coming. Some skeptical of this eventuality have said Greece has nothing worse to fear than a “bank jog.”

zugzwang (n.): in chess, a situation in which a player is limited to self-damaging moves. Pronounced TSOOK-tshvang, the word is prime for metaphor. Forbes contributor Lawrence Hunter used it in a recent article about the perils of being “too big to fail.” President Obama found himself in zugzwang when he recently came out in favor of gay marriage, a perilous political move, after Vice President Joe Biden forced Obama’s hand when he publicly expressed his own support. And speaking of the ever-exciting things that come out of Biden’s mouth …

gaffoon (n.): in politics, a move that appears to be a gaffe but is in reality a trial balloon to gauge potential reactions. Vanity Fair‘s Juli Weiner has been reveling in the term, one that seemed it might apply to Biden’s blurting, but, after further investigation, did not. Still, just the existence of this word is a reminder of what a rough role the Vice Presidency can be. “Hey Joe, I need you to go on the Today show and tell everyone that you’d like to try a house-swap vacation with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Let’s just see what happens.”

MORE: Gay Marriage in the Swing States: Where Will Obama’s ‘Evolution’ Matter?