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October 19, 2017  |  Friday words, 2017-10-20  |  524 hit(s)

Now that it's getting darker earlier, I'll have less time in the evenings to not do the outdoor exercise that I wasn't doing anyway. I guess I'll concentrate on words instead.

Recently I picked up a couple of phobia-type terms:
  • koumpounophobia: fear (and/or loathing) of buttons. Apparently this is a thing. Per the blog post where I found the word, Steve Jobs suffered this phobia, which accounted in part for his particular sartorial style.

  • trypophobia: aversion to patterns of small holes. (The Wikipedia page refers to this as a "proposed" definition; I have a thought about that later.) Examples of triggers, which I won't show, include honeycombs, soap bubbles, "aerated chocolate," and lotus pods. According to an article in The Atlantic, 16% of people experience this, and the article discusses why this phobia might be useful. I ran across the word recently in a piece about an artist who creates sculptures that, um, play with this visual stimulus. If you think you don't react to trypophobic stimuli, you might have a peek, but be prepared; the stuff is kind of grotesque.
Trypophobia isn't a formally recognized affliction, and that gets to an issue with the names for all these various phobias. Speaking from a purely lexicographic point of view, finding a "new term" that names a phobia is about as hard as finding shells on a beach. The -phobia morpheme is so productive that you could put practically anything in front of it and declare a new word. Especially if you use one of them fancy classical languages. I happen to find these two examples interesting (well, strange), but I won't make a habit of listing phobias as new-to-me words.

Let's turn to technology. Of late I've seen the term copypasta (alternatively copy-pasta) kind of a lot.[1] This isn't a new term—it was spotted at least as far back as 2006. Copypasta refers to stuff to be copy-and-pasted, specifically with the sense of something that is copied repeatedly. I ran across it in a pretty neutral setting; I saw an email at work in which someone discussed "a template that gives people copy-pasta for codeblocks, notes, etc." In this spirit, someone created an app named Copypasta that lets you copy text between your phone and your computer.

A somewhat less innocuous sense involves copypasta that people craft specifically to be spread via social networks as a kind of manual spam. (There's a subreddit; usual caveats apply.) The Know Your Meme site has a good writeup.

Update: See Jerry's comment for more thoughts about copypasta.

To my mind, copypasta fills a semantic hole, and it's useful for the neutral sense that I saw at work. But I doubt that we in the software world will be using it in documentation anytime soon.

And one final term today, even tho this is long already! Last year I learned the word confirmshaming, which is a practice where to decline an offer on a web page, you have to click an insulting or condescending button. For example, you click a button that says "No, thanks, I don't want to be fit" for an exercise product. I just learned another term for this: manipulink.

Let's pivot, as they say, to unexpected origins. You've probably heard this old joke: "I just bought a thesaurus and when I got it home, all the pages were blank. I have no words to describe how angry I am." We know what a thesaurus is, but do you know where the word came from? I sure didn't. But I learned from the slightly insufferable Simon Winchester that Peter Mark Roget both invented the idea of a book of synonyms and decided on the name for it. The term thesaurus is more or less directly from Greek, and means "treasury." However, there are older instances of thesaurus in English (back to 1565 at least) in the wider sense of a "storehouse of knowledge," as for example an encyclopedia. These days, I think it's pretty safe to say that if you hear thesaurus, it's Roget's meaning that is intended.

Like this? Read all the Friday words.

[1] It's possible that copypasta is a part of the Google lexical culture, which might explain why I seem to be running into it a lot lately. Dunno.

Jerry Kindall   20 Oct 17 - 9:11 AM

"Copypasta" also has the sense that the one who reuses the material is going to modify it somehow to make it relevant to the current context.

Here's one of the most famous: