August 2011 Archives

woop woop

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I recently encountered the term Woop Woop, which turns out to be, according to, “An imaginary town in the remote outback, supposedly backward.” The example sentence, from the Sydney Morning Herald, includes the phrase “It was like council night in Woop Woop.”

That page adds that “the woop-woops” is remote country; I'm guessing it's used much the same way Americans would refer to “the boonies” or “the boondocks.”

Never occurred to me to wonder where that last term came from. Turns out it's from Tagalog bundok, meaning “mountain”—which Wikipedia says is “a colloquialism used to refer to rural areas.”

Fancy words from the NY Times

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Interesting blog entry from the New York Times about the words that readers look up most often using their website's dictionary function; there's a list of the top 50, arranged in order by number of lookups per article.

I know all the words on the list, but it's a nice list of cool and interesting words. The top three most-looked-up words, for example, were panegyric, immiscible, and Manichean.

slow clap

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The thing I find fascinating about the phrase “slow clap” is that it's used to refer to two different things that are near-opposites in meaning.

On the one hand, there's what TV Tropes calls the Slow Clap, wherein someone starts clapping slowly, the whole crowd gradually joins in as the pace quickens, and it ends with wild applause from everyone.

On the other hand, there's what TV Tropes calls Sarcastic Clapping, wherein someone (usually one person) claps slowly and sarcastically.

TV Tropes gives the two things different names, but the illustrative quote at the beginning of the Sarcastic Clapping entry uses the phrase “slow clap.”

Urban Dictionary demonstrates the same contrasting usages of the term.

This wouldn't normally be particularly notable. There are lots of things that are said or done sarcastically to mean the opposite of the surface meaning.

But the reason I'm posting about it, and posting here in my words/language blog rather than elsewhere, is that recently I've seen the phrase used fairly often on the Internet. And it's often unclear which of the two meanings the writer intends.

I usually see it in a comment on a blog entry or similar posting. The entirety of the comment is usually “Slow clap” or “Slow. Clap.”

I suspect that in most such cases, the commenter doesn't realize that there are two opposite things that the comment could mean. And to be fair, in some cases it's pretty clear; for example, if someone posts about some wonderful awesome thing that someone has done, then probably a “slow clap” comment indicates actual applause rather than sarcastic applause.

I suppose this is arguably just one more example, among thousands, of the difficulties of detecting sarcasm in written communication. But it seems different to me.

Perhaps because in movies and TV shows, if a single person does a slow clap, it's almost always the sarcastic kind. So if one commenter writes “slow clap,” the mental image I get is not of a crowd of people starting to applaud slowly and then picking up the tempo.

Also, the reason that the positive kind of slow clap starts out slow is generally that the audience is (for example) hesitant or chagrined or uncertain, or sometimes embarrassed on the applaudee's behalf. So it's not the “slow” part of it that's an accolade. So it seems odd to me to say “slow clap” rather than just “applause” in a comment that's intended to be positive; the slow clap tends to suggest to me that the clappers start out with some reservations. Otherwise it would be just a regular clap.

Anyway, I'm not trying to be prescriptivist about this; clearly, people do use the written phrase “slow clap” to indicate approval. So this entry isn't meant to criticize that usage, but rather to document it, because it surprised me when I started seeing it.

secret banana writing

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No, this entry isn't about the letter-tile game Bananagrams. (Some of my friends love it; if you're unfamiliar with it, take a look. But it doesn't really fit my head for some reason.)

Instead, this entry is a link to the Bloggess's entry about how to write magically appearing notes on a banana.

Just write on a banana skin with a toothpick, and a few hours later, the words you wrote will become visible. Cute!


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A roving, says Wikipedia, is “a long and narrow bundle of fibre [...] usually used to spin woollen yarn.”

I'm sure y'all fibre-arts people knew that already, but I hadn't heard it before.

Wikipedia also says that a roving (I can't even type that without wanting to add “a-roving, for roving's been my ru-i-in”) can be used in thrummed knitting; another term I hadn't heard (in this context) before. The linked-to site says that a thrum is “a little wisp of unspun fleece or roving that is knit into your project every so often,” and adds that “Thrumming makes the insides soft and fuzzy, and freakishly warm.”

Yeah, thrumming does that to me, too. —never mind.

Hipster Ipsum

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Want some sample filler text, but find faux-Latin too stodgy?

Now you can use Hipster Ipsum—“Artisanal filler text for your site or project” to fill your space with hipster-related terms.


Tofu tattooed Brooklyn farm-to-table put a bird on it, hoodie +1 raw denim locavore cliche. 8-bit Portland keytar butcher wolf lomo retro.

Let them eat...


Mary Anne was talking about eating cake the night before surgery. I noted that cake is the best medicine.

Which led me to think there could be a whole series of proverbs with “cake” substituted in, along the lines of the Star Warspants” meme (that linked-to Words & Stuff column is NSFW; the pants quotes are at the end of it).

So I came up with the following:

  • Cake is a dish best served cold.
  • Red cake at morning, sailors take warning; red cake at night, sailors delight.
  • A cat may look at a cake.
  • All cake comes to he (or she) who waits.
  • All that glisters is not cake.
  • An army marches on its cake.
  • You made your cake; now you have to lie in it.
  • Half a cake is better than none.
  • You can't make a cake without breaking a few eggs.
  • Cake is wasted on the young.
  • Misery loves cake.

Eric Z replied with a comment about “the boy who cried cake.”

And then Shmuel took the idea and ran with it:

  • It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of cake.
  • It was the best of cake, it was the worst of cake.
  • Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover cake.
  • They say when cake comes close ranks, and so the white people did.
  • There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved cake.
  • He—for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the cake which swung from the rafters.
  • Cake, light of my life, fire of my loins . . .

As Mary Anne noted, that last one may be hard to top.

However, I invite y'all to try, or at least to have fun with the idea. Take a well-known phrase, saying, or quotation, substitute in “cake” for one or more words, and post it as a comment here.

Okay to make slight alterations to make the grammar come out right, make it funnier, or otherwise improve the MFQ, but try to stick close to the original where possible.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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