Weekly Word Watch: moonmoon, condimeat, and flexitarian
On this week’s Word Watch, we journey from new possibilities in outer space to the outmoded language of cyberspace.
We’ve been full of moons of late on the Word Watch. Last week, we directed our lexical gaze at exomoon, or the moon of an exoplanet. But what if moons had their own moons? That is the question astronomers Juna Kollmeier and Sean Raymond consider in a draft of paper they published this week. Though such moons have been never detected, they conclude they can theoretically exist.
In their paper, Kollmeier and Raymond call such moons of moons submoons, with the Latin-derived prefix sub- meaning ‘under’ or ‘lower’. The pair, however, are open to a number of more playful names for the hypothetical submoon. One of the most popular is moonmoon, whose recursive reduplication has the effect of diminution. Other candidates include moonito, with -ito a Spanish diminutive suffix, and moonette, featuring a French one. The elongated option of moooon brings all the vowels into one orbit.
The term “moonmoon” has been put forth as a potential name. Other suggestions include mini-moon, second-order moon, and nested moons. Atlas staffers’ contributions: Meta-moon? Moon squared? Moony McMoonface? Tell us what you think it should be called. https://t.co/1jY4YPuQ6z
— Atlas Obscura (@atlasobscura) October 10, 2018
If moonmoons are discovered, the International Astronomical Union will determine the nomenclature. Submoon is sensible, though it’s certainly hard to resist the whimsy of moonmoon.
Another thing out of this world this week, or maybe far too much of it, is the latest culinary – and lexical – concoction. To promote the return of its Pastrami Thickburger, a hamburger topped with pastrami, the North American fast-food chain Carl’s Jr. has also cooked up condimeat.
The burger chain defines condimeat, a blend of condiment and meat, as ‘meat on meat’. It goes on:
The additional protein one puts on top of an already protein-packed, 100% black angus charbroiled beef burger; served this way such that the burger’s colossal flavor is amplified, augmented, and accentuated. Examples: bacon, pork, and PASTRAMI.
Carl’s Jr. has a yet bigger appetite, however. It launched a petition to have its creation officially added to a major dictionary. While we’re pretty sure that meat isn’t how condiments work, we’re definitely sure that coining a word like condimeat and making a petition isn’t how words get added to the dictionary.
And some scientists are absolutely sure that condimeats aren’t going to be at all helpful in dealing with climate change. A major study published this week concluded that ‘dietary changes towards healthier, more plant-based diets,’ among other efforts, will lead to more sustainable food systems, ‘a major driver of climate change’.
The study refers to these plant-based diets as flexitarian, a blend of flexible and vegetarian. Flexitarian diets are mostly but not strictly vegetarian. The Oxford English Dictionary records the word in 1998, citing an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that spurned the term as an ‘icky neologism’. Twenty years later, any concerns of lexical elegance aside, flexitarian is proving itself not only useful for scientific research, but apparently essential for our planet.
Dietary terms like flexitarian are far from new – zeitgeisty as it may seem. Vegetarian dates back to the 1830s, which has served as a model for fruitarian (1890s, one whose diet based on fruit), insectarian (1890s, insects), lacto-vegetarian (1900s, milk and vegetables), lacto-ovo-vegetarian (1940s, dairy, eggs, and vegetables), nutarian (1900s, nuts), and pescatarian (1990s, include fish but not meat). Editor and fellow word nerd Mike Pope has identified other, more fanciful and recent formations such as pastarian, pizzatarian, and pollotarian (chicken).
Meanwhile, we might rather fancy ourselves verbitarians, subsisting only on words…
Hoarding usually conjures up images of houses filled floor to ceiling with old books, newspapers, clothes, electronics – any excessive amount of stuff compulsively acquired and kept by someone past its use or value. But not all hoarding takes up physical space.
As The Guardian reported this week, the new European Problematic Use of the Internet Research Network will study internet-related health issues. These possibly new disorders have warranted new names, including cyberhoarding, or ‘reluctance to delete information gathered online’, as The Guardian glosses it.
We can find cyberhoarding in a 2010 French psychology text on digital behaviors in children and young adults, which presents cyberhoarding (of images found on the web) as an alternative name for cyberamassage, ‘amassage’ being the French equivalent for ‘hoarding’. A 2011 book on hoarding also discusses how cyberhoarding voicemail messages can impair one’s life. And way back in 1997 on a Usenet message, a poster shares about their ‘cyberhoard’ in their ‘cyberlair’ of images and information gathered online. This early instance, though, has a more positive connotation.
Cyber, a word and prefix that came to signal ‘internet’, indeed sounds like it belongs in 1990s online discussion groups more than in contemporary research on how the internet is affecting our health. Consider how dated cyberspace and cybersex sound, even if we haven’t yet found better alternatives to the likes of cyberwarfare. So, too, do other digital prefix likes e- (electronic) or i- (internet).
Cyberhoarding may be very real, but our active lexicon doesn’t exactly feel compelled to hold on to cyber- and its kin to denote all things internet. And that’s perhaps because, as our lives are increasingly online, we need to make fewer distinctions between the virtual and the actual, between the web and the world. Still, we’ll never fully expunge them from our wordhoard, a poetic Old English term for ‘vocabulary’ forever stored on the cyberpages of the OED.