Tag Archives: neologism

Twanging and Twickling with the World’s Best Worm Charmers

Contestant at the World Worm Charming Championships (Photo courtesy Mike Forster)

Contestant at the World Worm Charming Championships (Photo courtesy Mike Forster)

The sport of worm charming is admittedly obscure. But its 18 rules have been translated into more than 20 languages. And the techniques its participants use to coax worms to the earth’s surface have resulted in some great additions to the English language: twanging, twickling, twacking and more.

Worms rise when it rains. Worm charmers try to trick worms into believing–if that’s the right word– that it’s raining. They’re not allowed to use water, or to dig the worms up. Instead they make the earth vibrate. Some play musical instruments. The more successful charmers use pitchforks, which they move in various ways (hence twanging, twickling etc.).

The world record holder is Sophie Smith, who was 10-years-old when she (with the help of an older relative) charmed 567 worms to the surface of a three square meter patch of land in a mere 30 minutes. The World Worm Charming Championships website has all the details on this year’s winners, along with a great photo gallery.

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Gezi Park’s Linguistic Legacy: Words, Chants and Song Lyrics

T shirt, Taksim Square, Istanbul  (Photo: Dalia Mortada)

T shirt, Taksim Square, Istanbul (Photo: Dalia Mortada)

Here’s a guest post from Istanbul-based Big Show contributor Dalia Mortada

When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called protesters çapulcular (pronounced cha-pul-ju-lar), he wasn’t paying them a compliment. The term translates roughly to “looters”, “marauders” or “bums”.

“For him çapulcular was an insult,” community organizer, Ezgi Bakcay, explains. “However, for the protesters, similar to the way some threw back the gas canisters at police, we threw this word back at him.” Although people all over Turkey have been protesting for different reasons in the past two weeks, they came together under this term.

To make sure people around the world knew how to use it one protester made a tutorial video. He starts by teaching viewers the simple present tense, “I chapul everyday…he chapuls everyday.” He moves onto the present continuous tense, “I have been chapulling for six days.” To protect him from teargas while “chapulling”, the instructor dons a surgical mask and some swimming goggles.

Tent labelled ‘Çapulistan’, Gezi Park, Istanbul (Photo: Dalia Mortada)

Turks now have been using the English -ing form, “chapulling”. It means “a resistance to force, or to demand ones rights.” Some protesters wear t-shirts with “chapuller”, or the Turkish form “çapulcu” , scribbled across them. Others labeled their tents at Gezi Park things like, “No. 1 chapul street”. With this word it seems like a wave of creativity and humor was unleashed amongst the protesters.

A choir from the Bosphorous University took a traditional Turkish song and outfitted it with some new lyrics. They sing of gas masks and protests. They sing that the teargas is sweeter than honey.

Community activist Ezgi says protesters used ironic humour every chance they got. Graffiti scribbled across walls and sidewalks as well as signs played with Turkish words and Erdogan’s name.

Instead of writing “Recep Tayyip Erdogan”, protesters played with the prime minister’s name. “Cop” means baton, “tazyik” means pressurized water, and “gaz” refers to teargas (Photo: Dalia Mortada)

One night, a group of football fans even commandeered an earth digger and charged it at one of the police’s “public intervention vehicles”, or TOMA for short. They called it the POMA, for “police intervention vehicle.” To add insult to injury, protesters later painted it pink to soften its look. “The earth digger was lying here like a killed beast,” Ezgi says, “as if a captured enemy.”

The humor was also present in the chants and songs protesters created. Ezgi gave the example of a group of women came up with a slogan that said “Dear Tayyip [Erdogan], thanks to you we will look great this summer, because pressurized water is good for our cellulite!”

Women in an Istanbul apartment, making noise in support of the protests (Dalia Mortada)

In Taksim Square guys chanted, “Let’s see you use that pepper spray. Take off your helmets, drop your batons and let’s see who’s the real man” Meanwhile, feminists warned Erdogan to “run away, because the women are coming.”

Not everyone could make it out to the street to have their say, so they did so from home. Every night at 9pm for the past two weeks, neighborhoods throughout Istanbul have erupted with the clanking of wooden spoons against pots and pans, silverware against plates.

It’s not the first time pots and pans have been used to express discontent in Turkey or abroad. But this time, the sound has inspired musicians.

Kardes Turkuler, or Songs of Fraternity, are a well known ensemble. This song they just released has become a sort of anthem for the protests. “Enough with the headstrong decrees and commands,” they sing, “We’re really fed up!”

Music has played a major role in the Gezi Park protests. Throughout the park, many played instruments, from beating their drums to blowing into bagpipes. Others danced to the music and chanted. Some created new songs based on the protests, and while others sang traditional ones that passersby joined in on.

Many of the protesters say they want to hang onto this spirit of humor and creativity especially now that their argument with the government seems to be entering a more complicated phase.

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Inventing a Word for a Facebook Relationship

Whichever language any of us speak, we have rarely shied away from coming up with new words. Now of course, unnamed new things surround us every day—especially new things on the internet. We forget that only in the recent past, we have had to come up with words like email, podcast, blog, crowdsourcing, tweet, the cloud and countless more.

Most of these words (for the time being) originate in English, and migrate to other languages. Some languages go with two words: their adaptation of the English word, and something made up in their own language. Chinese, for example, has a couple of ways of expressing email: 伊 妹儿 (yimeir, which sounds a bits like email) and 电子 邮 件 (dianzi youjian: electronic mail, often shortened to 电邮: dianyou).

When it comes to naming the as yet unnamed, social networking sites are fantastically helpful. My colleague at The Big Show, Jonathan Dyer, used Facebook to great effect when he posted this request:

“Is there a word for someone you have never met yet you share dozens of friends in common and they like or comment on just about everything your FB friends post? If not, will someone invent one so that I know how to refer to <name withheld> when/if I ever meet him?”

Here’s what he got back:



Viral acquaintance

Virtual friend potential or possible electronic frenemy




Friends once removed











The Uninvited






Members of my unnetwork





Michele Bachmann


Jonathan’s favorite, though, was Facequaintance.

Also in the pod this week:

  • The Iran-based translator of Firoozeh Dumas’ “Funny in Farsi” has vanished, probably arrested.
  • Debunking myths about the Chinese language and things Chinese leaders are believed to have said.
  • Multilingual Angolan singer Lulendo.

Listen via iTunes or here.


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