Wednesday Words: Kate Middleton’s Condition, Sandwich Slang and More

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

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David McGlynn

hyperemesis gravidarum (n.): excessive vomiting during pregnancy. 

Royalwatchers are wringing their hands over the officially pregnant Kate Middleton, who is currently hospitalized with a condition that the media has taken to calling “acute morning sickness.” Here’s the linguistic breakdown, so you can one-up your lady friends: in pathology, hyper means “over much” and emesis comes from the Greek for “the act of vomiting.” Gravid–like its relative gravity–is derived from the Latin for “heavy” and has come to mean pregnant, denoting a woman who is heavy with child. Hence: hyperemesis gravidarum. (You can hear it pronounced here.)

lower middle market (n.): the sector composed of small businesses that produce more than $5 million and less than $10 million per year in sales. 

That is the definition the New York Times’ Josh Patrick lays out in a post about the art of running a small business. But it’s not absolute. Private equity firm Virgo Capital, for instance, defines the lower middle market as “all companies with revenue between $10 and $50 million” —  about 125,000 outfits, by their count.

Adding categorical options between high and low is often helpful. Another example: Given the distance between “high maintenance” and “low maintenance,” many women are certainly better described as “upper middle maintenance.”

sandwich carer (n., slang): a person who cares for both  parent and child. 

The number of sandwich carers in Britain is growing, according to the U.K. government, and some of them are calling for more assistance with their double-duty.

Sandwiches, while primarily useful to hungry people, are also useful for metaphors. A “sandwich man” wears a pair of advertising boards on his front and back, while the middle-lane of a three-lane highway, according to Green’s Dictionary of Slang, is sometimes called a “sandwich lane.”

bunkum (n.): empty, clap-trap oratory.

Joe Biden’s now famous use of the word malarkey in his vice presidential debate against Paul Ryan set a new record for lookups on Merriam-Webster’s website, according to NBC. Merriam-Webster equates malarkey, meaning “insincere or foolish talk” with bunkum.

Bunkum, in turn, comes from Buncombe, the name of a county in North Carolina. The Oxford English Dictionary explains: During a debate about whether to admit Missouri to the Union, a man from that county rose. Despite people pleading for him to stop, he rambled on about the issue, “declaring that the people of his district expected it, and that he was bound to make a speech for Buncombe.”

BTWITIAILWU (abbrev.): texting slang made of the first letters of “by the way, I think I am in love with you.”

According to Gizmodo, who put together a “treasury” of slang to celebrate the 20th birthday of the Short Message Service (SMS), this is an abbreviation that the kids are using. And there are many responses that factoid might inspire in others, including WTF, OMG and “YOU KNOW NOTHING OF LOVE AND HEARTACHE, TWELVE-YEAR-OLD. NOTHING.”