Welcome to NewsFeed’s weekly highlight of our vocabulary — including useful, new, hilarious and surprising words (as well as some that are just fun to roll off the old tongue).
Disease designation: listeriosis
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have announced that 72 cases of listeriosis, spread from Maryland to New Mexico, have been reported (and that 13 people may have died from the disease). Listeriosis is usually caused by eating or drinking the bacteria Listeria, and officials suspect this case came from Rocky Ford cantaloupes shipped out of Colorado. In animals, listeriosis is sometimes called “circling disease,” because it causes the animals to walk in circles. “The whole cantaloupe thing, this is a real unusual situation,” a Colorado health director told a local paper. “It’s a bad deal.” Not terribly informative, but true enough.
Fruit namesake: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, cantaloupe got its name from the Italian Cantalupo (incidentally a word that is much more fun to say, especially if intoned like a flamboyant Italian chef). Cantalupo was the name of a papal seat near Rome where the fruit was said to have first been cultivated after being introduced from Armenia. The cantaloupe is one of many melons in the gourd family. Siblings include the “serpent melon,” which has a cucumber-like flesh, and “stinking melons,” which are “highly fragrant but inedible ornamental fruit” (that are, presumably, given quite a hard time by the less stinky melons).
Sneaky-state lingo: “textbook adoption”
Rather than ban books, Yahoo news reports, some states use a system called “textbook adoption,” which requires that books be on a pre-approved list before schools can spend state funds on them. The practice attracts less bad press than banning and gives states a hold over book publishers—since there is a clear market advantage to having one’s book put on the list. According to Joan DelFattore, a banned-book expert from the University of Delaware, publishers will give schools advance copies and let them censor/skew histories or literature as an incentive. Texas, for example, might get rid of those pesky evolution-promoting passages, she says.
Celebrating (anti-)censorship: We’re in the middle of the annual “Banned Books Week,” a First Amendment festival encouraging everyone’s freedom to read what they darn well please. If you want to get involved before it ends on Oct. 1, you might consider heading to your local street corner and bellowing out passages from one of the following: Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species—or, if you really feel like stirring the pot, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. But we might also take a moment to be thankful for the act of attention-grabbing censorship itself. As they say, “Art breathes from containment and suffocates from freedom.”
Geek speak: social gamer
A “social gamer” is someone who plays games on social networking sites like Facebook. These include pastimes such as Mafia Wars, Farmville and Scrabble. Research has shown that the average social gamer is 43 years old and that the majority work full-time. In other words, research has shown that most social gamers are middle-aged people who are bored by their jobs and have lax oversight at work, i.e. precisely the demographic you would expect.
Breaking it down: A new study highlighted in AdWeek identifies archetypes of the social gamer. There’s “Premium Paul,” the guy who’s willing to spend money for the best games. There’s “Competitive Charlie,” the type of person who plays social games to WIN and alerts his Facebook friends to the result of every online poker hand. A “Newbie Nancy,” meanwhile, hasn’t played games very much and will sit through any amount of ads to avoid spending a buck on premium games. Then there is “Devoted Danielle,” the woman who spends the majority of her time playing social games, i.e. engaging in something that is—at most—a quasi-social activity.