Weekly Word Watch: crossushi, cocktail avocado, and selfitis
Welcome to the final Weekly Word Watch of the year! Thanks for joining us each week as we monitored the many lexemes and monikers, the numerous neologisms and nonce words that made 2017 a very interesting year.
In the wake of youthquake, Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2017, let’s have one last reading of the lexical seismograph to see what words have been making waves in the past several days. This week, we hope you’ve brought your appetite:
In 2013, Dominique Ansel caused long queues outside his New York City bakery after he concocted the cronut, a trademarked cross between a croissant and doughnut. Next year in San Francisco, Mr Holmes Bakery continued the croissant hybrid hysteria with the cruffin, a croissant–muffin mix that they popularized, though the pastry and portmanteau predated their ovens.
Now, Mr Holmes Bakery is trying at what might be the next crescent-shaped craze: the California Croissant. Served with a side of soy sauce, this creation stuffs a sesame-seed-topped croissant with smoked salmon, wasabi, and nori seaweed. The item has been duly dubbed the crossushi, or croissant–sushi. Reviews are mixed, shall we say.
Elsewhere in nosh news, eaters are eager to mash up a different sort of culinary trend: the cocktail avocado. This food is notable, though, not for what it blends together, but for what it leaves out. Cultivated from unpollinated avocado blossoms, the cocktail avocado lacks a stone, or pit.
This past week, Marks & Spencer started selling the cocktail avocado not only as an answer both to the massive appetite for all-things avocado, but also due to increasing avocado-related injuries. The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons has reported more and more incidents of what it calls ‘avocado hand’, or the accidental cuts some suffer in efforts to remove the stone from the avocado.
Also diminutively known as an avocadito, the cocktail avocado looks like a little cucumber with a thin, edible peel – and makes for a tasty, bit-sized, pre-entree snack, like a prawn cocktail or cocktail sausage. While novel to many consumers, the unusual produce isn’t a new food, as Specialty Produce explains:
The avocado is a native of Mexico and Central America, and has been appreciated and utilized for at least 10,000 years. Cocktail avocados have likely shared the same history, but have only found commercial relevance in recent years. Unpollinated avocados are usually quick to fall from the tree, but those that remain and grow to a sizable length may be harvested and sold as a niche crop. Some farmers have developed methods to actively inhibit pollination for Cocktail avocado production, while others have simply seized the opportunity to capitalize on what would otherwise be an unwanted crop.
With all the recent buzz of its cocktail counterpart, we’ll just have to see the regular, old avocado is, well, toast.
McDonalds is also keeping abreast of current tastes with a new item also notable for what it lacks: animal products. The burger behemoth announced it will be serving the meat-, cheese-, and egg-less McVegan burger in Sweden and Finland starting just before the New Year.
The sandwich has some meat-lovers crying McGross as some animal-activists cheering McProgress:
— The Humane League (@TheHumaneLeague) December 15, 2017
The McVegan features a soy-based patty, further expanding the semantics of what a hamburger is and can be. The McVegan is also expanding the company’s long McMenu: McAloo Tikki, McArabia, McBacon, McBites, McChicken, McCrab, McGrill, McLobster, McMuffin, McNuggets, McRib, McSkillet, and McVeggie, to name a few. It’s a veritable McFeast – and yup, they’ve trademarked that one, too.
The crossushi, cocktail avocado, and McVegan will be keeping many foodies busy posting pics of their food porn on Instagram. Meanwhile, the World Chess Organization has posted some provocative pics, if you will, of its own. One of the logos for its 2018 championship in London features two chess-players intimately intertwined, and it has gotten punsters excited with wordplay:
World Championship logo puts chess in ‘odd position’ https://t.co/jzxgFarcgF
— Viswanathan Anand (@vishy64theking) December 20, 2017
As a number have wisecracked, the poster is too pawnographic:
Bit too pawnographic for my tastes.
— Jennifer Schlicht (@jenelaina) December 20, 2017
This isn’t first occasion people have played the pawnographic gambit. The pun has appeared in a variety of other chess- and/or sex-themed jokes – not to mention in reference to the Las Vegas-based reality TV show, punningly named Pawn Stars, and the short-lived US game show called Pawnography it inspired.
You might say pawn has a foot fetish: the name for the lowly chess piece ultimately comes from the Latin word for foot, pes.
Speaking of social media and spoofs, a satirical news story from 2014 joked about a condition called selfitis:
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has officially confirmed what many people thought all along: taking ‘selfies’ is a mental disorder… The APA made this classification during its annual board of directors meeting in Chicago. The disorder is called selfitis, and is defined as the obsessive compulsive desire to take photos of one’s self and post them on social media as a way to make up for the lack of self-esteem and to fill a gap in intimacy.
The article then classified selfitis into three levels: borderline, acute, and chronic.
Well, a paper recently published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, suggests the concept of selfitis, or ‘being obsessed with taking selfies’, may not be such a joke after all. As the authors write in the abstract:
[T]he stories were a hoax but this did not stop empirical research being carried out into the concept. The present study empirically explored the concept and collected data on the existence of selfitis with respect to the three alleged levels (borderline, acute, and chronic) and developed the Selfitis Behavior Scale (SBS).
The authors developed their so-called SBS out of extensive focus groups, identifying ‘selfie behaviors’ motivated by ‘social competition’ or ‘self-confidence’, and validated the instrument on hundreds of university students. They conclude: ‘The findings demonstrate that the SBS appears to be a reliable and valid instrument for assessing selfitis but that confirmatory studies are needed to validate the concept more rigorously.’
Selfitis, we might say, really puts the I in -itis, used to form the names of inflammatory diseases. The suffix roughly means ‘pertaining to’ in ancient Greek, and was applied to illness in that language, e.g., ἀρθρῖτις, or arthritis, referring to a disease ‘of the joints’, with the word ‘disease’ (νόσος, nosos) implied.
And as we see with selfitis, the suffix has also long been used to poke fun at conditions treated as diseases. The Oxford English Dictionary cites one such early example from British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith in a 1903 edition of the Westminster Gazette: ‘All the people were suffering from a new disease—the disease of fiscalitis.’
Finally, let’s conclude with a festive follow-up to the Italian lesson we got last week in pizzaiuolo.
The official Christmas tree of the city of Rome, imported from the Italian Alps at a cost of over £42,000, has been shedding its needles, so much so that locals have nicknamed the not-so-evergreen evergreen spelacchio, meaning ‘mangy’ or ‘threadbare’. The word appears to derive from roots meaning ‘out of hair’ (pelo, hair, cf. depilatory).
Spelacchio inspired a hashtag – even its own Twitter account.
Il vero testo della determina dirigenziale
DEAD OR ALIVE
REWARD € 49.000 pic.twitter.com/gyZYj367sr
— Spelacchio (@spelacchio) December 19, 2017
And just as quickly as it was a term of derision, spelacchio became a term of endearment, with Romans leaving Christmas cards for the ‘balding’ tree. How very 2017, spelacchio. How very 2017, indeed.