12 Timey-Wimey Terms from Doctor Who

What’s that noise? It’s the sound of glorious Doctor Who episodes approaching, of course. Season eight arrives on Netflix today (finally), while brand new episodes are slated to air starting September 19.

If you're new to the Whoniverse, though, you'll need a crash course in Who-speak before you go adventuring. Here are 12 terms to get you started:


The TARDIS, aka Time and Relative Dimension in Space, is the Doctor's one-of-a-kind combination spaceship and time machine. It can fly anywhere and anywhen, occasionally read the Doctor's mind, and even morph into a human brunette named Sexy (but just the once). 

Also, because its “chameleon circuit” is busted, it's no longer able to blend into its surroundings, but is instead stuck, for the most part, in the form of a blue 1960s-style London police box. However, the TARDIS is famously much bigger on the inside.


Where would be the Doctor be without his companions? In the bottom of a galactic volcano, probably.

Part audience surrogate, part moral compass, and part 'straight-woman' to the Doctor's kooky comedy (i.e. the Bert to his Ernie), companions are regular humans who accompany the Doctor on his adventures in space and time. While companions tend to be attractive young women (showrunner Steve Moffat has an iffy explanation as to why that is), there’s never any real hanky-panky.

The Doctor's had many fine companions, though once you've caught up on a couple seasons, you'll likely be partial to Donna Noble, we think (Amy Pond is a close second).


The Doctor certainly looks human (but still not a ginger), but he’s actually a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. Time Lords have a variety of extraordinary powers, including telepathy, the ability to understand various languages (including those of babies and animals), and physicial regeneration. The latter ability even lets these super-aliens generate new bodies (in the form of new actors) every few decades as needed--or, in human TV time, every couple of years--and live well into their 900s at least.


The planet Gallifrey was thought to have been destroyed in the Last Great Time War, a deadly conflict between the Time Lords and their archenemies, the Daleks. However, the planet was eventually found to be caught in a "pocket universe," and has since been revisited in the show.

Where the name Gallifrey comes from isn't clear, but fans of the show have come up with some possible connections. For example, the word is reminiscent of gallimaufry, meaning 'medley or hodgepodge,' which comes from the French galimafrée, a word for 'hash,' or 'ragout.' Galimafrée, too, could be a combination of the Old French galer (to make merry) and the Old North French mafrer (to eat a lot).


The Daleks, i.e. the Doctor's main nemeses, are machine on the outside but alien on the inside, and say “EXTERMINATE!” a lot. First introduced in 1963, Daleks were originally hilariously low-tech and got an upgrade in 2005 for the series reboot, but they still retain their fundamental qualities (like plunger-shaped appendages). 

As for their race's name: in a 1964 interview, show writer Terry Nation claimed that the inspiration for the word Dalek came from seeing an encyclopedia with DAL-LEK on its spine. Then, in 1973, he admitted that the word “simply rolled off the typewriter.” However, linguist Ben Zimmer points out that in Serb-Croation dalek can mean “distant,” and by extension, “alien.”


The Cybermen of Mondas started out as humanoid; however, once they started implanting artificial body parts, they just couldn’t stop. Now they’re almost all robot—cold, calculating, and hell-bent on making everyone else into Cybermen, too.

The word Cyberman is a Doctor Who-original, coined in a 1966 episode, but has since been widely adopted and now might refer to any cyborg or humanoid robot. The term had its own long history before its use on the show, however: the practice of attaching the prefix cyber- (relating to computers, technology, and anything futuristic) to other terms originated in the early 1960s with the shortening of cybernetics, first used in the 1940s to describe the new technology and theory of “self-regulatory control through feedback mechanisms.” And the word cybernetics was itself taken from the Greek kybernetes, or "steersman.”


A bulky, mostly humanoid warrior race from the planet Sontar, the Sontarans first made their appearance in 1973. They reproduce by cloning (hence their general alikeness), are crazy for both battle and glory, and have heads that're a bit like potatoes. 

Whovian legend says the accepted pronunciation, son-TAR-an, is credited to Australian actor Kevin Lindsay, who played the classic character Sontaran Linx. The creature’s creator, show writer Robert Holmes, argued for a SON-tar-ran pronunciation, to which Lindsay (hopefully dressed as Linx) replied, "Well, I think it's ‘son-TAR-an’, and since I'm from the f**king place, I should know."


The sonic screwdriver is the Doctor’s tool of choice. First introduced in 1968, it was used only intermittently throughout the series 'til its 2005 reboot, when it came back full-force. As your classic all-purpose magic tool, the sonic screwdriver acts as a lockpicker, a cutting tool, a flashlight, a universal remote control, a diagnostic device, and much, much more.


The Torchwood Institute is a secret organization established by Queen Victoria in Doctor Who and which is tasked with defending the world against extraterrestrial and supernatural baddies—a tall order for an organization that employs no more than 10 people at a time. Torchwood is also a popular Doctor Who spinoff that centers on the shady (but heroic) group, and which features Doctor Who veteran character Jack Harkness, a dashing, (almost) immortal American who made his first appearance in a 2005 episode.

Torchwood—an anagram of "Doctor Who"—was the code name used, according to the BBC, “to disguise preview tapes of the first episodes” of the Doctor Who reboot in 2005.


The term behind the sofa refers to a television show so scary that one must hide "behind the sofa" in self-defense. It supposedly arose in the 1970s in reference to particularly frightening Doctor Who scenes, and was likely further popularized by a 1991 Doctor Who exhibit at London’s Museum of Moving Image called Behind the Sofa.


“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,” says the 10th Doctor in a 2007 episode. “But actually, from a nonlinear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey ... stuff.” And, to be honest, timey-wimey and wibbly-wobbly pretty much sum up how time travel is explained in the show. 


We have the Yanks to thank for this one. Whovian, referring to a Doctor Who fan, seems to have been coined in the early 1980s by the Doctor Who Fan Club of America, which published a newsletter called The Whovian Times. However, some fans dislike the name, deeming it too Seussian, and prefer Wholigan instead. So, if you think you're likely to become a Doctor Who fan in the near future, you might want to put some thought into which fandom name feels right for you.

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8 of the Weirdest Gallup Polls
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Born in Jefferson, Iowa on November 18, 1901, George Gallup studied journalism and psychology, focusing on how to measure readers’ interest in newspaper and magazine content. In 1935, he founded the American Institute of Public Opinion to scientifically measure public opinions on topics such as government spending, criminal justice, and presidential candidates. Although he died in 1984, The Gallup Poll continues his legacy of trying to determine and report the will of the people in an unbiased, independent way. To celebrate his day of birth, we compiled a list of some of the weirdest, funniest Gallup polls over the years.


According to this Gallup poll, 75 percent of Americans have at least one paranormal belief. Specifically, 41 percent believe in extrasensory perception (ESP), 37 percent believe in haunted houses, and 21 percent believe in witches. What about channeling spirits, you might ask? Only 9 percent of Americans believe that it’s possible to channel a spirit so that it takes temporary control of one's body. Interestingly, believing in paranormal phenomena was relatively similar across people of different genders, races, ages, and education levels.


In this poll, Gallup tried to determine the popularity of heliocentric versus geocentric views. While 79 percent of Americans correctly stated that the Earth revolves around the sun, 18 percent think the sun revolves around the Earth. Three percent chose to remain indifferent, saying they had no opinion either way.


Gallup first measured anti-Mormon sentiment back in 1967, and it was still an issue in 2011, a year before Mormon Mitt Romney ran for president. Approximately 22 percent of Americans said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate, even if that candidate belonged to their preferred political party. Strangely, Americans’ bias against Mormons has remained stable since the 1960s, despite decreasing bias against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and women.


This 2010 poll amusingly confirms the stereotype that southerners are more religious than the rest of the country. Although 42 percent of all Americans attend church regularly (which Gallup defines as weekly or almost weekly), there are large variations based on geography. For example, 63 percent of people in Mississippi attend church regularly, followed by 58 percent in Alabama and 56 percent in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Utah. Rounding out the lowest levels of church attendance, on the other hand, were Vermont, where 23 percent of residents attend church regularly, New Hampshire, at 26 percent, and Maine at 27 percent.


Although 76 percent of Americans knew that the United States gained independence from Great Britain as a result of the Revolutionary War, 24 percent weren’t so sure. Two percent thought the correct answer was France, 3 percent said a different country (such as Mexico, China, or Russia), and 19 percent had no opinion. Certain groups of people who consider themselves patriotic, including men, older people, and white people (according to Gallup polls), were more likely to know that America gained its independence from Great Britain.


This Halloween-themed Gallup poll asked Americans about their habits and behavior on the last day of October. Predictably, two-thirds of Americans reported that someone in their house planned to give candy to trick-or-treaters and more than three-quarters of parents with kids reported that their kids would wear a costume. More surprisingly, 31 percent of American adults claimed to believe in ghosts, an increase from 1978, when only 11 percent of American adults admitted to a belief in ghosts.


This recent Gallup poll is funny in a sad way, as it sheds light on the tragicomic life of a millennial. In this poll, well-being is defined as having purpose, social support, manageable finances, a strong community, and good physical health. Sadly, only 5 percent of working millennials—defined as people born between 1980 and 1996—were thriving in these five indicators of well-being. To counter this lack of well-being, Gallup’s report recommends that managers promote work-life balance and improve their communication with millennial employees.


If you seem to feel more stress, sadness, anxiety, and pain than ever before, Gallup has the proof that it’s not all in your head. According to the company’s worldwide negative experience index, negative feelings such as stress, sadness, and anger have increased since 2007. Unsurprisingly, people living in war-torn, dangerous parts of the word—Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Sierra Leone—reported the highest levels of negative emotions.

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11 Times Mickey Mouse Was Banned
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Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved characters, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mickey Mouse, who turns 89 years old today. A number of countries—and even U.S. states—have banned the cartoon rodent at one time or another for reasons both big and small.

1. In 1930, Ohio banned a cartoon called “The Shindig” because Clarabelle Cow was shown reading Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn, the premier romance novelist of the time. Check it out (1:05) and let us know if you’re scandalized:

2. With movies on 10-foot screen being a relatively new thing in Romania in 1935, the government decided to ban Mickey Mouse, concerned that children would be terrified of a monstrous rodent.

3. In 1929, a German censor banned a Mickey Mouse short called “The Barnyard Battle.” The reason? An army of cats wearing pickelhauben, the pointed helmets worn by German military in the 19th and 20th centuries: "The wearing of German military helmets by an army of cats which oppose a militia of mice is offensive to national dignity. Permission to exhibit this production in Germany is refused.”

4. The German dislike for Mickey Mouse continued into the mid-'30s, with one German newspaper wondering why such a small and dirty animal would be idolized by children across the world: "Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed ... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.” Mickey was originally banned from Nazi Germany, but eventually the mouse's popularity won out.

5. In 2014, Iran's Organization for Supporting Manufacturers and Consumers announced a ban on school supplies and stationery products featuring “demoralizing images,” including that of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and characters from Toy Story.

6. In 1954, East Germany banned Mickey Mouse comics, claiming that Mickey was an “anti-Red rebel.”

7. In 1937, a Mickey Mouse adventure was so similar to real events in Yugoslavia that the comic strip was banned. State police say the comic strip depicted a “Puritan-like revolt” that was a danger to the “Boy King,” Peter II of Yugoslavia, who was just 14 at the time. A journalist who wrote about the ban was consequently escorted out of the country.

8. Though Mussolini banned many cartoons and American influences from Italy in 1938, Mickey Mouse flew under the radar. It’s been said that Mussolini’s children were such Mickey Mouse fans that they were able to convince him to keep the rodent around.

9. Mickey and his friends were banned from the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a roundabout way. As they do with many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, Disney had contacted American favorites to win in each event to ask them to say the famous “I’m going to Disneyland!” line if they won. When American swimmer Matt Biondi won the 100-meter freestyle, he dutifully complied with the request. After a complaint from the East Germans, the tape was pulled and given to the International Olympic Committee.

10. In 1993, Mickey was banned from a place he shouldn't have been in the first place: Seattle liquor stores. As a wonderful opening sentence from the Associated Press explained, "Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny and teddy bears have no business selling booze, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has decided." A handful of stores had painted Mickey and other characters as part of a promotion. A Disney VP said Mickey was "a nondrinker."

11. Let's end with another strike against The Shindig (see #1) and Clarabelle’s bulging udder. Less than a year after the Shindig ban, the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America announced that they had received a massive number of complaints about the engorged cow udders in various Mickey Mouse cartoons.

From then on, according to a 1931 article in Time magazine, “Cows in Mickey Mouse ... pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed others. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting with the cow stood still.”


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