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Word to your mother: We have a winner

Judging from your entries in our "coin a new word" contest, last week you had two things on the brain: politics and Pluto. Quite a few of the entries were either partisan (right and left alike) or planetary, such as:

Plutonic relationship: A romantic relationship that has recently been downsized to "just friends."

Venus envy: Jealously of another celestial body's recognition as a planet. ("Pluto, recently having been downgraded, was suffering from a serious case of Venus envy when Neptune came to visit.")

We also liked several new words that seemed like signs of their times: ecotist (a person who believes s/he might be contributing to global warming but refuses to trade the Hummer for a Prius), mentorture (the experience of being assigned to a more senior associate to learn the ropes, only to find their primary skill is bitching about the company), wasbian (a woman who used to date women but no longer does), and explosure (what happens when a morbidly obese person wearing low-rise jeans bends over).

But our winner went for something timeless -- in fact, we had to Google it to make sure it didn't already exist. May we present:

Teratonym: A very big word. Comes from terato (greek, monster) + nym (name). Only existing way to say this until now was "sesquipedalian word," literally, a foot-and-a-half-long word. ex: That sociology journal is full of neologistic teratonyms; no wonder nobody can understand it.

Samuel Johnson (pictured above) would have approved, and as fans of both simple prose and all things Greek, so do we. Congratulations, Baehr! Send your contact info and shirt size to tips-at-mentalfloss.com. Everybody else: We'll announce our new contest later this afternoon...

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Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
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Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]

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