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Buzz Heard 'Round the World via Facebook
Buzz Heard 'Round the World via Facebook

The Real-Life Operation That Works Like Operation

Buzz Heard 'Round the World via Facebook
Buzz Heard 'Round the World via Facebook

Before he became a resident at Johns Hopkins in the late 1980s, Andrew Goldstone, M.D., spent many adolescent hours trying to liberate the funny bone, wish bone, and Adam’s apple from Cavity Sam, the hapless patient plastered on every copy of the Operation board game.

“It had to be floating around in my subconscious,” he tells mental_floss. “But I didn’t make the connection until later.”

The connection Goldstone is referring to is between Operation and his pioneering technique for thyroid surgery—one that works eerily like the game’s anxiety-inducing buzzer after its surgical tweezers lose their precision and touch the edges of Sam's surgical sites.

While observing thyroid surgeries in medical school, Goldstone quickly became aware of the potential to injure the vocal cords. With their nerves running in such close proximity to the thyroid, it’s easy for even highly-skilled surgeons to cause damage that can lead to hoarseness or airway obstruction. What was needed, Goldstone thought, was an alarm that would go off when they got too close.

“I thought if there was a way of reading the electrical signal coming off the vocal cord muscle, to hear a buzzer, it was a way of telling the doctor, ‘Hey, don’t cut that,’” he says.

Because the vocal cords are on either side of the breathing tube that’s placed in the airway during general anesthesia, Goldstone applied an electrode to the tube that would pick up signals sent to the muscles. If a surgeon touched the nerve with a probe—analogous to the game’s tweezers—the electrical signal would pass to the electrode, and a monitor in the operating room would buzz, just like in the game. (Presumably, the patient’s nose would not light up.)

Goldstone’s invention was licensed to the Medtronic medical company in 1991; dubbed NIM, it’s been used in the majority of thyroid surgeries since.

One day, Goldstone’s young son, Alec, asked him how his invention worked. After hearing him explain it, he told his father, “You’ve reinvented Operation.”

“I would say it inadvertently inspired me,” Goldstone says. “It’s the exact same thing. On some level, it had to have played a part.”

In 2014, Goldstone wrote to John Spinello, the game’s creator, after reading news reports about Spinello’s Kickstarter campaign to raise money for oral surgery. (Having sold Operation in 1964 for $500, Spinello never received any royalties from the game.) In it, Goldstone expressed admiration for the game inventor and “how much more than just pure joy can be attributed to your invention.”

The letter, among others, found its way to Spinello, who is now the subject of a documentary: Buzz Heard ‘Round the World is currently raising funds via Indiegogo in the hopes of financing the rest of the production and relating stories about how the game has inspired others to enter the medical field.

“He probably has no idea how many people he’s helped,” says Goldstone, who is now a Clinical Associate Professor of Otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins and was interviewed for the movie. The device, he says, has worked to prevent vocal cord paralysis in hundreds of thousands of patients around the world.

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'Puggle,' 'Emoji,' and 298 Other New Words Added to Scrabble Dictionary
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Scrabble aficionados and wordsmiths around the world will soon have some new reading material to bone up on. In celebration of National Scrabble Day today, the makers of the classic word game announced that 300 new words will be added to Scrabble’s official dictionary.

The new words will be published in the sixth edition of Merriam-Webster’s The Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary, which will be released this fall, according to Mashable.

Here are just a few of the new additions:

Emoji (noun): A small computer symbol used to express emotion
Ew (interjection): Used to express disgust
Facepalm (verb): To cover the face with the hand
Macaron (noun): A cookie with filling in the middle
Puggle (noun): A kind of dog
Sriracha (noun): A spicy pepper sauce

Some players of the 70-year-old game may be surprised to learn that “ew” isn’t already a word, especially considering that Scrabble recognizes more than 100 two-letter words, including “hm” (another expression), “ai” (a three-toed sloth), and “za” (slang for pizza). If played strategically and placed on a triple word square, “ew” can land you 15 points—not bad for two measly letters.

New Scrabble words must meet a few criteria before they’re added to the official dictionary. They must be two to eight letters long and already in a standard dictionary. Abbreviations, capitalized words, and words with hyphens or apostrophes are immediately ruled out.

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, told Entertainment Weekly, “For a living language, the only constant is change. New dictionary entries reflect our language and our culture, including rich sources of new words such as communication technology and food terms from foreign languages.”

The last edition of the Scrabble dictionary came out in 2014 and included 5000 new words, such as "selfie," "hashtag," "geocache," and "quinzhee."

[h/t Mashable]

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25 Double-Letter Scrabble Words to Have in Your Back Pocket
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The best Scrabble players are the strategic ones who keep adding words to their player vocabulary. Once you've mastered a number of two-letter words and the high-scoring ones (that are admittedly very difficult to play), start looking to double-letter words to take advantage of the multiples on your tile rack.

1. AGLOO

seal on snow
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Don't have an I for IGLOO? Use an A for AGLOO, meaning an air hole through the ice made by a seal.

2. ALLEE

allee
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Instead of an ALLEY, use this double-double-lettered word meaning a tree-lined walkway.

3. BETTA

betta fish
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Rather than BETA, use that extra T to mean the freshwater fish.

4. BRATTICE

Coal mine
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A BRATTICE now means a heavy curtain or barrier in a mine to help direct air flow, though the medieval meaning was simply a temporary partition along a wall.

5. DRESSAGE

Dressage
Adam Ihse, AFP/Getty Images

The fanciest of all horse training and equestrian events, DRESSAGE is the obedience and discipline riding competition, rather than the racing.

6. FUGGY

man holding his nose because of terrible smell
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To FUG is to make something stuffy or odorous, but its adjective form (FUGGY) and past and present participles (FUGGED, FUGGING) will take care of any extra Gs on the board.

7. GHYLL

two people looking into a ravine
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Not only will GHYLL, which is a deep ravine, utilize a double-letter, but it will help if your tile bar is sorely lacking in vowels.

8. GRAAL

gold chalice
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GRAAL is an older form of the word GRAIL, but it's also a technique used in glassblowing.

9. HEELER

Shoemaker holding high heels
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Don't have an A for HEALER? A HEELER is a person who puts heels on shoes (as well as an Australian cattle dog).

10. HELLUVA

cursing key on keyboard
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If you're having a HELLUVA time getting rid of a few letters, this nonstandard combination word is actually Scrabble-approved.

11. INNAGE

worker examining containers
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INNAGE is the quantity of goods remaining in a container when received after shipment.

12. LARRUP

man defeating other man at video games
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To decisively defeat someone or trounce them is to LARRUP.

13. MAMMEE

tropical island
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Another double-double-letter word, a MAMMEE is species of tropical tree with large red fruit.

14. MOGGY

cats
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A MOGGY or MOGGIES (plural) is the cat equivalent of a mutt.

15. OLLA

Salad in glass jars
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A quick word to tack onto some common board letters, an OLLA is a wide-mouthed pot or jar.

16. OUTTELL

woman with megaphone mural
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OUTTELL, OUTTELLS, and OUTTELLING all refer to speaking out or declaring something openly.

17. PERRON

outdoor staircase
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A PERRON can refer to both large outdoor stairways or the stone platforms of certain columns and edifices.

18. PIGGERY

pig in pig pen
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You're surely prepared with PIGGY, PIGGIE, and PIGGISH, but a PIGGERY is a pigpen.

19. QUASSIA

Quassia amara
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Score extra points with a well-place Q. A QUASSIA is another tropical tree whose bitter bark is sometimes used as a digestive aid or an insecticide.

20. SCABBLE

clay in hands
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No, not Scrabble. SCABBLE means to shape roughly.

21. TIPPET

tippet
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A TIPPET is a covering for the shoulders, or a ceremonial scarf worn by clergy.

22. TYPP

balls of yarn
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A TYPP (or TYPPS, plural) is a unit of yarn size. It's an acronym for thousand yards per pound.

23. VALLUM

Vallum at Hadrian's Wall
Optimist on the run, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The VALLUM was part of the defensive wall of earth and stone surrounding Roman camps.

24. WEEPIE

man and woman crying in movie theater
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While WEEPY is an adjective for tending to weep, a WEEPIE is a very maudlin movie.

25. WELLY

child wearing wellingtons
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According to the official Scrabble dictionary, WELLY is an acceptable form of WELLIE, the British rainboots.

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