Wednesday Words: Twinkie, Taxmageddon and More

NewsFeed's weekly highlight of our vocabulary. Humans say the darnedest things.

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Interstate Bakeries Corporation / AP

Twinkie (n.): the proprietary name of a cream-filled sponge cake distributed by Hostess Brands. 

The Twinkie, a Depression-era invention currently in limbo, was named after shoes. Bakery manager James Dewar, the brains behind the treat, was on a business trip to St. Louis when he saw a billboard advertising “Twinkle Toe” footwear. He dropped the “l,” added an “i” and history was made. In later decades, the Twinkie inspired other American phrases. The most notable is the “Twinkie defense,” which became shorthand for any improbable legal defense after a California lawyer blamed his client’s murderous behavior on eating too much junk food.

Taxmageddon (n., slang): a nickname for the expiration of George W. Bush-era tax cuts, set to end on Jan. 1, 2013. 

This political label is becoming a favorite for conservative pundits and think tanks, echoing the Republican Party’s classic cry for lower rates. The Heritage Foundation has dedicated an entire website to the subject. “Taxmageddon” follows in the rich tradition of tacking “geddon” onto anything people think will be disastrous, à la the original Armageddon of Revelations 16:16. (See also: Carmageddon, Snowmageddon, Twinkiegeddon)

suttin (n., slang): American regional variation of something.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has released a report outlining what he sees as wasteful expenditures made by the Department of Defense. One item was a study funded by the Air Force and Navy that examined regional dialects among Twitter users. “In northern California, something that’s cool is ‘koo’ in tweets, while in southern California, it’s ‘coo,’” the report concluded. “In many cities, something is ‘sumthin,’ but tweets in New York City favor ‘suttin.’” Other items that ground Coburn’s gears included the development of new “meat snacks” and experiments that used trained fish to learn more about human political behavior.

post-familial (adj.): occurring after the family no longer serves as the central organizing feature of society. 

In a New York Times column, David Brooks laments how “intolerant” people have become “of any arrangement that might close off their personal options.” By “arrangement,” he means things like getting married and having kids, and he cites Joel Kotkin’s report on “The Rise of Post-Familialism” to explain why humans are less driven by the family dream than they used to be. Brooks highlights factors such as careers, economic stress, atheism and the insufficient “usefulness” of children in developed countries compared to their cost. (Which must exclude adolescents’ recent work in viral YouTube videos.)

synod (n.): an assembly of the clergy of a particular church (sometimes with representatives of the laity) duly convened for discussing and deciding ecclesiastical affairs.

This week, the Church of England’s synod rejected a move to approve female bishops. Male members of a synod are sometimes referred to as synodsmen. According to BBC, synodsmen will be up for more promotions than synodswomen for at least five more years, when a similar measure might again come to a vote. Here’s hoping we get another chance to talk about synodspeople in the meantime.

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