Wednesday Words: Bayonet, NSFW and More

NewsFeed's weekly rundown of words you should know

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Boston Globe via Getty Images

LEIXNGTON, MA - APRIL 1: The bayonet slips and comes off on third practice as Jim Hart, 77, practices getting bayonetted by British soldier Mike Foley as they rehearse for Patriots' Day reenactment.

bayonet (n): a stabbing instrument of steel, which may be fixed to the muzzle of a musket or rifle.

The bayonet is a short flat dagger that can be used on its own, though Americans are more familiar with bayonets attached to soldiers’ guns in old sepia-colored photographs. The weapon has become newly famous, and contentious, since President Obama mentioned it as an example of obsolete weaponry during the last debate. The name may be derived from the French city of Bayonne–une ville also famed for its ham–where the weapon was supposedly first used. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an alternate explanation is that the name derives from the Italian bajonetta, meaning “little joker.” Which really tells you something about how 17th-century Italians got down in knife fights.

zozzled (adj., slang): drunk, intoxicated.

In a review of a Prohibition-era exhibit at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, New York Times’ Edward Rothstein revisits some speakeasy slang. Zozzled = drunk. Foot juice = cheap wine. Jag juice = hard liquor. Being zozzled sounds fun, but foot juice does not sound like a pleasant means of getting there. Fun aside: A friend of mine living in Wyoming says he knows people who refer to tap water in metropolitan areas as “city juice.” Note to Brita®: I will immediately be trademarking the slogan “Turn your city juice into spring water.”

NSFW (acronym): the initial letters of “not safe (or suitable) for work.” 

Oxford Online Dictionaries adds the helpful note that NSFW is typically “used in electronic communication to indicate that a particular web page or website contains explicit sexual material or other adult content.” A Google news search for “NSFW” relays plenty of material you apparently should not look at until after 5 p.m., including a music video for Danny Brown’s “Wit It,” an interview with the cast of Happy Endings and tweets from Ke$ha’s new boyfriend. That is, of course, assuming you don’t work at TMZ.

chin check (n., slang): the act of one inmate punching another in the face to see if he or she will fight back. 

The Atlantic includes this term in a fascinating compendium of jailhouse slang, though they unfortunately do not explain in what situations a “chin check” is advisable. Other interesting terms: those orange jumpsuits are referred to as “peels”; HIV is called “monster” or “ninja”; and death by lethal injection is euphemized as the “stainless steel ride.” Be grateful you’re on the outside.

trickle-down government (n.): a pejorative description of the belief that government spending can stimulate the economy. 

This is the conclusion that The New Republic‘s Timothy Noah comes to in his brief but thorough history of term. Romney, he notes, has used the phrase more than once. It’s catchy, vague and malleable, like many popular bits of political rhetoric. See: Glenn Beck telling people to “wrap truth in boldness” or Obama espousing the need for “economic patriotism.”

3 comments
j2lovesfriday
j2lovesfriday

@katysteinmetz Katy, thanks for weds. words. I wish more commentariat would reply there (I did), though current livefyre woes make it hard.

katysteinmetz
katysteinmetz

@j2lovesfriday Thanks for reading, as always.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Thanks, Katy. You can also include the game "Battleship", which can be redefined as a game where two presidential candidates sit at laptops full of numbers where they guess how many ships the Navy really has.