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August 18, 2017  |  Friday words #84  |  3873 hit(s)

I had an influx of new-to-me terms this week, to the point that I'm having trouble picking just one. Or two. As people say, a good problem to have.

I'll start with a term that is new-ish in absolute terms: Milkshake Duck. If you're hip to the meme ecosystem (meme-o-system?), you'll know this term. In fact, you'll know it if you read the New York Times, which covered it this week.

Milkshake Duck describes someone (or something, I suppose) who becomes an overnight darling on the internet, but then almost immediately is discovered to have something disreputable about them. One reason that the new term has gotten attention is that it seems to fill a need: we all recognize the idea. That said, the same couple of examples come up in all the discussion about the new term: red-sweater guy from the 2016 presidential debates (turns out he said some icky things on reddit) and some dude associated with GamerGate.

Why, you ask, Milkshake Duck? This to me is actually the interesting part. The whole thing started off as a joke on Twitter in 2016 by the user "Pixilated Boat," with this tweet:

In the last year, this joke about the fickle nature of internet fame has spawned a term for that phenomenon. Of course, this is the internet and who knows how fleeting this term might be. Even so, the Oxford Dictionary people are keeping an eye on it.

The second new-to-me term pertains to my work (software), and it needs a little background. This also can pertain to things like latter-day product names (e.g. GoFundMe), and I'm hoping for readers' sake it's relevant elsewhere.

In programming, people have to name things. However, names often can’t have spaces in them, so conventions exist for how to combine names that consist of multiple words.

One way is to capitalize each word in the name, a convention known as Pascal casing, which I think (but cannot ascertain) arose as a convention established with the Pascal language:


Another convention is to use caps for all the words except the first word, a convention known as camel casing (because there are humps in the middle):


Yet another convention is to use an underscore character (_) to separate the words. Only this week I learned that this is referred to as snake casing:


As an amusing variant, I also learned that if one or more words in the name are in uppercase, this is known as screaming snake case, which Twitter user Greg Woods suggests might be the best name of all. I’d have to agree.

Ok, done with new-to-me terms. For surprising origins today, I have the word bead, the little things used in jewelry and such. The noun bead turns out to be related to the verb to bid and the German word bitte ("please"), both with the general sense of "to ask." The connection has to do with prayer: the starting point was the Old English verb biddan. This sense "transferred," as the OED says, to the artifacts on the rosary that people used to keep track of their prayers ("telling beads").

I got onto this interesting story via Stan Carey’s Sentence First blog, which I highly recommend for fascinating and sensible writing about language.

Like this? Read all the Friday words.

[Credit for screaming snake image: ICreateWolf13 on Deviant Art]