29/05/2016

Notable words, Q2 2016


  • oppo (n.). "Opposition research"; the private industry that runs smear campaigns against public figures. Tabloid journalism wholly unmediated by ordinary press objectivity (yuk yuk), the 'public interest' (ho ho), or the sense of fairness typical of actual activists (YUK YUK). Oppo has already begun to creep outward from politicians to academics and protestors with unpopular views. This greatly increases the cost of overt political action; since both political tribes are arming themselves with opposition research farms, this industry can only harm absolutely every part of the public sphere. In America, oppo people have charity status and can be totally anonymously funded. Be afraid.

  • to spitball (v.) To brainstorm; to suggest without decision or strong support.

  • doomstead (n.). A house in which to die? (Had to infer; it was coined here without explanation.)
    (Edit: Christian tells me it is in fact the bunker and farmland preppers each prepare for the end times.)

  • data exhaust (n.). Digital paper-trail: cookies, logs, IMSI broadcasts, ISP cache, EM pollution, cold RAM, maybe even packets in transit. Much bigger than big data and ten times as worthless.

  • king-punch (Oz n. & v.): to hit brutally without warning; a sucker-punch or cold-clock. Interesting because of what it implies about the historical strategies of monarchy.

  • ban (n.): A base-10 unit of information; about 3.3 bits. Coined by Turing, and bearing his very particular, continental style (see also the Bombe, Turingery, Banburismus, Scritchmus). As he saw it, one deciban is "about the smallest change in weight of evidence that is directly perceptible to human intuition". (A claim so in need of giant systematic empirical investigation - perhaps the most in need I have seen. To refine it, possibly, not to bury it!) Renamed to the hartley by some committee or other.

  • catom (n.): a "claytronic atom", i.e. a single molecule that organises itself with other catoms according to a modifiable program. The first concrete proposal for universal machines without moving parts. They sort-of exist, but are obviously fantastically expensive and limited and only manipulable in a 2D plane.

  • natty (Jamaican or bodybuilder adj.): As well as the usual use, for smart clothing: 1) a compliment, esp. for someone's dreadlocks; creole of 'knotty'; 2) a contraction of 'natural', implying a physique obtained without steroids, as in "you're a fake-natty liar".

  • rhoticity (n.): degree to which an accent pronounces its 'r's. Spaniards and the West Country have maximum rhoticity (Beijingese too); the Boston accent is the most famously non-rhotic. In English it is not quite a proxy of accent social class.

  • katal (n.): the unit of catalysis; one katal = one mole catalysed per second

  • gesceap (Proto-Euro n.) A thing's finished shape; a creature, or a creation. (The distinction was obscure to people when this word was in use.)

  • the Jacksonian mode of discourse (n.): Tyler Cowen traces the beginning of the polemical, irrational, personal style that rules democratic election campaigns across the globe to 1824, when Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams' respective mobs started an awful culture of attack pamphlets and mob disruption. Opposition research is just the institutionalised form of this mode.

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