Wednesday Words: Birthers, Consumer Jihads 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

birther (n.): one who believes that Barack Obama is not an American citizen and is therefore ineligible to serve as President. After a welcome hiatus, the word birther found itself in the top search trends this week, courtesy of Donald Trump circling back to a favorite pastime: stoking doubts about where the President was born. The construction follows in the footsteps of truther, a term for those who believe the U.S. government was somehow behind 9/11. Birther is often used derisively, suggesting that the person in question is a quack-a-doodle conspiracy theorist rather than merely a subscriber to certain beliefs, like a GOP-er or a meat-eater.

princeling (n.): in China, a relative of current or former senior officials who has amassed vast wealth, often playing a central role in fields that are closely entwined with the state. This definition is adapted from David Barboza and Sharon LaFraniere’s recent New York Times article on the “princeling” culture. The word princeling can simply refer to a young prince but can also carry a derogatory tone, implying that said prince is unworthy of his realm; it’s been used to refer to such beneficiaries of China’s recent economic boom for at least 20 years.

(MORE: How Beijing’s Intrigues Will Impact U.S.-China Relations)

consumer jihad (n.): a consumer boycott of a brand associated with Western influences and policies. In an upcoming article from the Journal of Consumer Research, University of Michigan—Dearborn professor Elif Izberk-Bilgin investigates how certain products “become targets of religiously charged consumer activism.” She calls these “infidel brands” and the phenomenon “consumer jihad.” Among her Islamic Turkish subjects, she found objections to Nestlé, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s—despite the cultural olive branch that is the McTurco®.

fartlek (v.): to occasionally increase the intensity of one’s workout’s through the use of intervals. In a recent TIME Q&A with author Gretchen Reynolds, she explains that the word is derived from the Swedish for “speed play” and provides the example of fartleking while jogging (which sounds like it would shame you in front of your neighbors but is apparently good for getting faster and fitter). “If you are a runner,” she says, “you look for a tree maybe 100 yards away and speed up, sprint to the tree and then slow down.” Then you talk as much as possible the rest of day about how awesome you fartlek.

have someone’s six (v., slang): to be able and willing to support or defend someone. This is aviator lingo, derived from the language pilots have used to describe where other aircraft, etc., are in reference to their planes. Straight ahead is twelve o’clock;  back behind, where you can’t really see what’s going on, that’s six o’clock. Hence, the much-needed guy on your rear “has your six.” The entertainment industry co-opted the term for their charity Got Your Six. In the new PSA, we learn that the likes of Tom Hanks has got the military’s six—and are humbly reminded that looking at his back is more interesting than looking at most people’s faces.

MORE: Top 10 Worse Alternatives to Plane Travel