Wednesday Words: Royal Riddle, Trump Titles, “Food Rakes” and More

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Welcome to NewsFeed’s weekly highlight of the vocabulary of our lives — including useful, new, hilarious and surprising words (as well as some that are just fun to roll off the old tongue).

Fashion term you’ll only get to use this week: fascinator hat

One of the drawbacks of being an American is that hats aren’t really part of formal wear, unless you’re a sweet old lady going to church or a bourgeoisie at the Kentucky Derby. But things are different on the Sceptred Isle, where British ladies can throw on fascinators for just about any occasion. Fascinators, which should be in great supply at the royal nuptials, are ornate hairpins or little hats with fancy trimmings, often feathers, that are usually perched on the side of the head. Oh, those lucky birds that get to wear them.

(More on See how animals learn languages)

A royal wedding word game: While you’re waiting for the festivities to start, pose this riddle to friends: What English word changes from plural and masculine to singular and feminine when you add the letter s to the end? (See the end of this post for the answer.)

Most fertile man, in terms of nicknames: Donald Trump

Vanity Fair did a roundup this week of the many and various names being used to refer to entrepreneur/reality-TV star/presidential-run flirt Donald Trump. These include “financially embattled thousandaire,” “gelatinous cartoon slumlord,” “pouty fathead,” and “a junk-bond gnome so gauche that he makes the cast of Jersey Shore seem genteel.” Ouch. Tell us how you really feel.

Anagram alternatives: If we instead just rearrange the letters in Donald Trump’s name, we could use the following largely nonsensical (but still fun) monikers: “damp old runt,” “Lord Mudpant,” or “Mr. Adult Pond.” NewsFeed prefers the latter, for absolutely no good reason.

Least expected political slogan: “What Would Jesus Cut?”

In this time of debt-ceiling talks and federal-spending battles, one might expect to hear from economists or policy wonks, but religious groups are also having their say. One such outfit is the left-leaning Sojourners who use the slogan “What Would Jesus Cut?”. According to their leader, Jim Wallis, Jesus would not cut education or nutrition programs, and he certainly wouldn’t support tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

(More on See the new lowbrow dictionary)

Other religion rhetoric: In an article out this week, a Real Clear Politics author discusses the Sojourners and poses a parallel question: “What would Allah think?” Other considerations might include how Vishnu would feel — or, if we want to go less mainstream — what Thor would support, or how Ra would react. Though these questions are unlikely to catch on as slogans, high school religion and history teachers could cook up some pretty excellent lesson plans along these lines.

Best new culinary slang: food rakes (meaning forks)

In the latest episode of Parks and Recreation, NBC’s Amy Poehler-led comedy that is so hot right now, comedian Aziz Ansari’s hilariously sleazy character breaks down his overwrought lingo for all things related to eating. Toward the end of the list, we get to this gem. Because, really, what is a fork but a highly maneuverable little rake that gathers food and piles it in your belly?

Other Azizisms:  Desserts are zerts, entrées are tré-trés, sandwiches are sammies, sandoozles or Adam Sandlers, cakes are big ol’ cookies, noodles are long-ass rice, fried chicken is fry-fry chicky-chick, root beer is super water, and tortillas are bean blankies. (You can watch him give the speech here, starting at the 10:20 mark.)

Most out-of-control euphemism: uncontrolled spontaneous sleep episodes

NewsFeed has well covered the recent problems with air-traffic controllers. The story in a nutshell: air-traffic controllers keep falling asleep on the job, and it’s much harder for them to monitor the screens with their eyes shut. In discussing the issue, CNN had this exchange with one official from the National Transportation Safety Board:

Referring to a variety of transportation workers who unintentionally fall asleep on the job, the NTSB official said, “We have many circumstances of documented, uncontrolled spontaneous sleep episodes,” including incidents among air traffic control, long-haul trucking and railroads.

In layman’s terms, “Yeah, we got people fallin’ asleep all over the place.”

Other sleepy slang: Consulting our trusty Green’s Dictionary of Slang, we find some intriguing sleep-related terms. A “sleep” can mean a short prison sentence. In Australia, sleeping at Mrs. Green’s means catching some shut-eye in the open air. And sleeping with one’s glasses on is a way to describe someone acting in an arrogant manner. NewsFeed suggests the addition of sleeping with one’s contacts in to describe someone who pays little or no attention to what they’re doing.

(Riddle answer: Add an s to princes, and you get princess. Happy Royal Wedding Week.)