More quirky phrases you (may) want to know…or not

(updated 21 June, 24 June 2018)

Gish gallop: a technique, named after the creationist Duane Gish who employed it, whereby someone argues a cause by hurling as many different half-truths and no-truths into a very short space of time so that their opponent cannot hope to combat each point in real time.

“A debate tactic of drowning your opponent in a flood of individually-weak arguments in order to prevent rebuttal of the whole argument collection without great effort.” (Wikipedia)

  • heard on “Oh No Ross And Carrie” (ONRAC) and “Skeptics Guide to the Universe” (SGU) podcasts.

Fisk (verb): somewhat related to a Gish gallop, but in the other direction: any point-by-point attempt to refute the other guy’s argument. The word has been around since at least 2004, referring to journalist Robert Fisk, but was resurrected by rightist NRA personality Dana Loesch promising, among other things, that she and the NRA would fisk The New York Times. The term “Fisking” (either upper or lower case) figuratively means a thorough and forceful verbal beating.

  • For various reasons, it was (mistakenly) thought at first that the term she actually used was “fist.”

serial fabricator: basically, an inveterate liar. However, use of the term “liar” has the downside of sounding like a permanent character trait, versus something someone does occasionally. According to some researchers, on average, people lie in some form or another, about 1.65 times a day.*

  • Presumably, this includes fibs and polite lies, like responding to “Do these jeans make me look fat?” or “Oh, you brought a Beringer white zinfandel…how nice of you. We’ll just save that for later.”

It’s like labeling someone a “criminal,” implying that that’s the person’s defining trait, whereas the person may have been caught ripping off a convenience store but doesn’t make it a habit. Serial fabricator, on the other hand, suggests someone with a continuing habit of not telling the truth, perhaps not even able to distinguish between truth and fiction, or having such low standards of truth-telling that they simply repeat whatever nonsense they hear from their aides and, having said it, double-down on believing and repeating it. The utterance may not, strictly speaking, even be a lie but a bit of blathering as in “I heard that…” The earliest reference I could find on this term goes back to 2003 referring to former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair. Also, see note below on Elizabeth Holmes.**

TCK – third culture kid (noun phrase): a child raised in a culture other than their parents’ (or the country on the child’s passport, where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early years. They’re exposed to a greater (often dismaying) variety of cultural influences. TCKs move between cultures (and languages!) before they have had the opportunity to fully develop their personal cultural identity. The first culture of such individuals refers to the culture of the country from which the parents originated, the second culture refers to the culWorld in Words logoture in which the family currently resides, and the third culture refers to the amalgamation of these two cultures. “You always feel out of place.” (The World in Words podcast, May 17, 2018)

Despoiling the Egyptians (phrase): Basically a sort of reverse “cultural appropriation” (the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture). The phrase has come to mean any use of another culture’s art and ideas for purposes that may wholly contradict their original intention.

From St. Augustine: In the Hebrew scripture, Exodus 3:21, God tells the Israelites to “despoil the Egyptians” as they left their bondage by taking gold and silver statuary or other works that had been pagan or profane and use the metal for their own, finer purposes. [On Christian Doctrine, Ch. 40, section 60; cited in Hecht, Doubt, 201]

“The Israelites are promised that they will leave Egypt not just with their freedom but with great wealth. “You shall strip the Egyptians bare,” goes the promise, in colloquial English of today. Sure enough, this week the Israelites prepare to leave by “borrowing” objects of silver and gold from their neighbors. Borrowing? Not exactly. Everybody knows, that they are leaving Egypt for good with no intention of returning.” [“Despoiling the Egyptians”: An Exercise In Moral LogicRabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D.]

bouncing compliment: disguising an attack by starting out with a compliment to the other side; that is, hiding your real message under layers of “disingenuous affirmations” to appear sincere. Also, the apparent or superficial acceptance of your opponent’s basic premises as a way of disarming them. The technique is part of 18th C. Irish philosopher/freethinker/satirist John Toland’s “recipe for subterfuge” along with “disguising the thesis” and using terminology that acts as a secret handshake to those in the know–what we now call a “dog whistle” statement. (Jennifer E. Hecht, Doubt, 336)

And in honor of the 2018 Soccer/Football World Cup, here are some multinational slang and jargon terms for various “skill moves” from Tom Williams’ book:

  • “cow dribble” (Portugese?) In the absence of a real soccer pitch or field, rural/village players improvised fields—usually on cattle pastures. Often, cows invaded the makeshift lawn, causing players to dodge their opponents as the animals that came up.
  • “walking on papers” (Andar aos papéis, Portuguese) when a dangerous “cross” comes into the “box” and the goalkeeper makes a complete hash of his attempt to deal with it. For some reason the Dutch call this Vrouwen en kinderen eerst: “women and children first” (UK: “Keystone Cops”)
  • Hawaiifootball is Norwegian for … Hawaii football
  • “big bridge” (in French, le grand pont)
  • “rabona” (Argentina)
  • “the mousetrap” (Dutch)
  • un crochet: “hook” (France)
  • en fuego (Mexico, “on fire”)
  • “Throwing stones at the wrench” (Mexico)
  • “bunny hop” (UK) aka “toad jump”
  • “shower of balls” (Portugese banho de bola): when a team has completely wiped out the opponent in every department


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Note, a few of these items appeared in an updated version of this blog originally posted as Quirky Words on 2018/05/25
* 22.7% of all lies were told by one percent of the sample, and half of all of the lies were told by 5.3% of the sample; thus the majority of lies are told by a relatively small portion of the population (Psychology Today report). “Age accounts for one of the most significant variables in determining a person’s propensity to lie. Lying peaks in adolescence when children begin to test their independence.” (National Geographic)
One notable personage who busts the demographic average is reported to make nearly 6.5 false claims a day
** Another notable serial fabricator (sf) is the now-notorious Elizabeth Holmes who was totally busted in 2015 for her Theranos blood-testing scam operation. Interestingly, her corporate style has been characterized with some familiar terms: secretive, authoritarian, arrogant, sociopathic, and heavily “silo’d” (that is, one part doesn’t know what any other part is doing, often with literal partitions)…but mostly by an outrageous, continuing, overt program of lying. (If the John Carreyrou WSJ story is not accessible, you can find a March 2018 report in Vanity Fair.) As Carreyou details in his book, almost every word coming out of Holmes’s mouth as she built and ran her company was either grossly embellished or, in most instances, outright deceptive.  “In fact, the company she built was just a pile of one deceit atop another.” Vanity Fair, June 2018.  Carreyrou said, “I think she’s someone that got used to telling lies so often, and the lies got so much bigger, that eventually the line between the lies and reality blurred for her.” [Hmm..who else does this all sound like?]
Whether Holmes is a serial fabricator outside her sham business operation, as other notable sf’s seem to be, is a separate issue.

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