Kris Weberg | May 17, 2005
Isn't it great when you're able to provide a genuine, preexisting word or phrase for something that gets caught on the tip of your tongue all the time? Let's share 'em and their definitions. Improve your fellow TCers lives!

Here're mine:

1. l'esprit d'escalier -- Literally "the spirit of the stairway," this old French phrase refers to the brilliant remark, comeback, or zinger you don't think of until the moment's passed, like when you're walking up the stairs after talking to your neighbor. (For the French-impaired, it's pronounced "less-spree desks-call-yare." Or use the German word treppenwitz, which has a similar meaning.)

2. Aglet -- That little plastic or metal thing at the end of your shoelace, the one that always splits or falls off so your laces fray and get yecchy curb-water all over them? That's an aglet. Probably everyone here already knew that, though.

3. callipygean -- A nice, classically-inflected phrase meaning (admiringly) "baby got back." Literally, "Beautiful-buttocked." And unlike the Mix-A-Lot phrase, it's non-gender specific, so women can use it to refer to Mel Gibson, Russel Crowe, or whoever it is that women think has a hot ass right now.

Scott Hardie | May 17, 2005
"Hypekill" – Not to be confused with "buzzkill," this term describes the phenomenon that causes you to be unimpressed with a good book/movie/album/whatever because too many people told you how great it was before you got a chance to enjoy it for yourself. Fragile little indie movies like "Lost in Translation" and "Sideways" are particularly susceptible. (I liked this term so much, I submitted it to the Urban Dictionary.)

"Cuspy" – Used in computer programming to describe software that is both well-coded (thus convenient for the development team) and fun/easy to use (thus convenient for the user), which is rare because one trait is usually sacrificed for the other. In general, the term is merely used to describe the ideal way of coding something.

"Zugzwang" – When your chess game is going really poorly, you'd prefer not to make any move at all, since every possible move is bad for you. But the nature of the game demands that you must make a move anyway. That's zugzwang. It can be applied to any game or situation of course, except perhaps FIN, where you can get away with not replying even when members of the group are in mortal danger. ;-P

Anna Gregoline | May 17, 2005
Cuspy? Where did the sounds of that word come from?

Kris Weberg | May 17, 2005

Presumably, it's the "apex" of quality that fuels the comp-prog use of the term. And I agree, Scott, it's very useful for anything that combines power, versatility, and ease of use.

Say, there's another good one for the list:

usuform -- designed for functionality, rather than for beauty or representative/symbolic meaning.

Anna Gregoline | May 17, 2005
Ok, that makes more sense now. The only use of cusp I've ever used is in reference to astrology and sun signs ("on the cusp of aries and pisces) so I don't think I'll be using that one. Not that I need to, really.

Scott Hardie | May 18, 2005
Originally, it derived from Commonly Used System Program, but that explanation is going to fade as more people use it to mean something on the "cutting edge" of development. Great word.

Anna Gregoline | May 18, 2005
Oh, I like acronyms much better! Thanks, Scott, that's cool.

Anna Gregoline | May 18, 2005
Oh, and I'd like to submit something I heard that I love - don't remember from where though.

When someone is telling you nonsense, you can say "They are such a starfish!" because starfish only have one opening for their mouth and anus. =)

Kris Weberg | May 18, 2005
Aaargh, I've lapsed intop folk-etymology again!

Jackie Mason | May 18, 2005
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Kris Weberg | May 18, 2005 an EXCELLENT word, Jackie. And I also plan to slip "starfish" past people who annoy me.

And I recalled another great word: mondegreen, the term for all those song lyrics you mishear and repeat unwittingly for years. The word itself derives from a mondegreen in an old Irish song, "Bonnie Earl' of somethingorother -- many people mishear the line "and laid him on the green" as "and Lady Mondegreen."

Amy Austin | May 18, 2005
I'm digging the starfish, too. Finally, a clean way to tell my family members when they're full of it. ;-D

"Trivet" I knew. One that I found to be much more obscure -- despite having worked in the food service industry -- is "ramekin"... which I learned from Ed, who's also done his fair share of waiting tables. It's what your little side dishes (usually condiments) come in... the cute little mini-bowls or small baked dishes (liked lasagne, for instance). Anyone else know that one already? I know I'm not the first wait-person to learn that fairly late, since I sometimes see quizzical looks when E asks for one at a restaurant.

Jackie Mason | May 18, 2005
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E. M. | May 22, 2005
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Kris Weberg | May 22, 2005
The ancient Greeks actually believed that the philtral dimple, which they called the philtron (and the Romans, the philtrum), was the most erogenous spot on the body.

(Male) anatomists did not discover the clitoris until 1559, when Renaldus Columbus (no relation to the later, arguably lesser explorer Christopher) published his De re anatomica.

Sadly, I have fabricated none of the above:


And the nose thing, which I know is second to the clitoris material for most of you in terms of interest:


And I add frenulum, the little stretchy bit of gum-skin that moors your lips to your, uh, toothal region.

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