Wednesday Words: Superstorm, Halloween Fireballs and More

NewsFeed's weekly highlight of our vocabulary

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David McGlynn

superstorm (n.): a storm which markedly surpasses others of its class, esp. in size and damage caused.

See: Many, many headlines about Superstorm Sandy. The term superstorm also avoids awkwardly explaining that weather experts changed Sandy’s classification from a “hurricane” to a “post-tropical cyclone,” also known as a wintertime cyclone, to a regular old “storm” as of Wednesday morning. You can read the nitty-gritty differences here.

Halloween (n.): the eve of All-Saints or All-Hallows Day, the last day in October; observed principally by children in costumes asking for candy.

See: Today. Originally pagans and their rituals owned Oct. 31, but — perhaps in an effort to commandeer the holiday — Christians announced centuries ago that they would start celebrating all their saints on Nov. 1, transforming the evening before into a hallowed, or blessed, one.

Halloween fireball (n., slang): a nickname for Taurid meteors, which often appear mid-October to mid-November.

See: This guide from Space.com, explaining that the meteor show will likely be between Nov. 5 and Nov. 12 this year. The name Taurid comes from the way these meteors appear to “radiate” from the constellation Taurus, author Joe Rao explains.

elbow (n., slang): a pound of drugs.

See: The New York Post‘s guide to deadly gang slang. The name elbow derives from the abbreviation for pound, lb. Which begs the question: Do London gangsters measure their drugs in kegs?

one-and-done (adj., slang): describing an athlete who played only one year of collegiate sports before becoming a professional.

See: A Bleacher Report slideshow on some of the best “one-and-done” players. “In 2005 the NBA instituted what is commonly referred to as the one-and-done rule,” explains Scott Polacek, “which virtually requires high school basketball players to attend college (or go overseas) for one season before entering the draft.”

first-year (adj.): a non-gendered description of students in their initial year of college.

See: Critics saying it’s political correctness gone too far when schools like the University of North Carolina strike the word freshman from all their official documents. At least, as one underwhelmed woman pointed out, nobody’s calling anyone “freshpeople.”

cherpumple (n.): a dessert that combines a cherry pie, pumpkin pie and apple pie.

See: A recipe contest from social site Food52; also, this holiday season’s heart attacks waiting to happen.

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deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Thanks, Katy. I'd like to add to your list "The Great Pumpkin", Linus Van Pelt's divine patron spirit of Halloween. Since YOU painfully know how swampland commenters need their conspiracy fixes, maybe we should investigate the true inside history of Halloween to learn when the holiday was first hijacked by the Big Candy conglomerates, similar to other holidays' takeover by Big Greeting Card cabal. I'm not sure how the Great Pumpkin would be involved. Halloween fireballs also remind me of the ending to the film "Jason X" (aka the last Friday the 13th installment for now), which of course is Jason's body tumbling through the sky. Naturally, his hockey mask survives.