Wednesday Words: What Makes a ‘Mass’ Shooting and More

This week's must-adds for the discerning wordsmith's vocabulary.

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David McGlynn

mass shooting (n.): a number of shootings, typically four or more, that occur during the same incident with no distinctive time lapse between them. Defining violent crimes is a grisly job, but academics and law enforcement officials have to do it. The qualifier of four shootings correlates to the FBI’s working definition of “mass murder,” which has historically used the same threshold. (See: this report.) The incident in Aurora, with 12 dead and 58 more injured, sadly flew high above the bar.

preglimony (n.): an allowance which a pregnant woman is entitled to from her impregnator. That’s right. Like alimony, but without any arguments over who gets the china. A University of Richmond law professor, Shari Motro, wrote a New York Times op-ed arguing that DNA testing has brought us to the point where preglimony is possible. “They might be asked to chip in for medical bills, birthing classes and maternity clothes,” she suggests. “They are not spouses, and they may not even continue to be lovers, but they are not strangers either.” One imagines that the shotgun-wedding industry will lobby hard against this.

(MORE: Should Pregnant Women Be Accommodated in the Workplace?)

Ramadan Kareem (phr.): an expression of good wishes made before or during Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims observe strict fasting between dawn and sunset. This year’s season of fasting is going on now and will end mid-August. President Obama ended his official statement on the occasion with this expression, and he wasn’t giving a chaste reminder to that basketball player. Ramadan Kareem suggests hope for a blessed or generous Ramadan, a period during which introspection and self-restraint are meant to bring grace.

border play (n.): the activity of gamblers who leave their home state to play the lottery in a neighboring state. According to Reuters, Massachusetts has hit record profits for their state lottery, in part because they’ve benefited from “border play.” The state has a high payout rate, with almost 3 in 4 tickets winning something; in nearby states such as New York that ratio is closer to 1 in 2. Seems like there may be a state motto lurking in there. “Massachusetts: May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor.”

handle-pull (v.): in reference to thieving, to go from door to door in a neighborhood hoping to find one unlocked. Police in Rocky Mount, N.C., recently suspected a “handle-puller” to be at large in the area. And from the sounds of it, the thief was truly an anything-goes type. A truck was stolen. A tool shed was broken into. Four fishing rods and a gas can went missing. And at one address, “a pair of sunglasses, set of jumper cables and a flashlight were stolen.” It’s like a list of items MacGyver would use to save the world — except very sad.

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