czarina (n.): a chic Russian female who has gained attention as a customer, designer, etc., of high fashion. The New York Times‘ Eric Wilson writes of the czarinas’ return to the haute scene, describing them as “a pack of fabulous-looking young women” more striking than Vladimir Putin in a zoot suit. Compare to: gallerinas, the fabulous ladies of the American art scene; and princelings, arguably less aesthetically pleasing but plenty powerful players in Chinese institutions.
banksterism (n.): financial practices that are pejoratively likened to the behavior of gangsters. A member of British Parliament got some attention this week when he used this word in the House of Commons. “The public believe that Parliament and parties have indulged the banksterism that is now all too apparent,” Mark Durkan quipped. Some reporters thought he was the first, but the term has been around since the Great Depression, when Americans were similarly disillusioned with Wall Street. A Montana Senator leveled the label during the Pecora hearings of 1932, when bankers were grilled over their potential role in the collapse. “The best way to restore confidence in the banks,” he said, “would be to take these crooked presidents out … and treat them the same way we treated Al Capone when he failed to pay his income tax.” Zing!
derecho (n.): a large cluster of thunderstorms that produces widespread wind damage. This term spread as news outlets rushed to explain exactly what hit residents with extreme winds and power outages along the East Coast on June 29. “An ordinary thunderstorm produces a swath of damaging winds usually only a mile or two wide and a few miles long,” the Weather Channel said in a post last month, “but derechoes can produce damage swaths tens of miles wide and several hundred miles long.” The word means straight in Spanish, a reference to the long lines of wind damage the storms can leave behind. (On a lighter note, derecho–deh-REH-choh–also seems like a fine term for disappointingly low-quality nachos.)
skeuomorph (n.): an object or feature which imitates the design of a similar artifact in another material. The Brooklyn Brainery, a community teaching organization, recently delved into a dire foodie mystery: why do so many maple syrup canisters have “tiny, useless handles”? (See their article and picture here.) Their answer was that this ostentation used to be practical–when the jars and handles were bigger–and is now a mere skeuomorph. This history bears further investigation, but the word is excellent regardless–much like the vision of a world in which maple syrup is only consumed from five-gallon containers. Just think of the pancakes.
scrub (n.): a lout, a failure, a dirty or unpleasant person or thing. Flavorwire did a fun roundup of slang-that’s-older-than-you’d-think, and one of their words is scrub. As in “Girl, you know I don’t want none.” Writer Emily Temple dates the term back to the 1580s with an online etymology dictionary; Green’s Dictionary of Slang, from which this definition comes, dates their first entry at 1698. Other scrubby terms from Green’s include scrub turkey, an itinerant who moves around the Australian bush; and scrubbado, “a general term of abuse.” As in, “Scrubbado you meddling kids, and your dog, too!”