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14 Terms of Affection from Across the U.S.

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Looking for a way to spice up your love language? Snuggle up with these 14 idioms, slang terms, and sayings from the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) on how to get it on all over the United States.

1. HOTTER THAN DUTCH LOVE

Used in the North to mean hot weather or a hot relationship. Also used, according to quotes in DARE, in regards to coffee or “when somebody can’t figure out what is going on at a neighbor’s house, for a gathering that looks hotter’n Dutchlove." Why Dutch love is particularly passionate isn’t clear. There’s also the inexplicable Dutch kiss, which involves holding onto either both ears or an ear and the nose of the kissee.

2. CUPID’S CRAMP

A term that means amorous infatuation. According to a 1961 book called The Old-Time Cowhand, “If there was a pretty daughter the whole range would soon be sufferin’ with Cupid’s cramp.”

3. BETWATTLED

Yet another way to say infatuated. Betwattled also means “confused, distressed, bewildered, stupid.” A 1927 quote describes it as an “excellent and common term” that refers to when a person is so in love he or she is “unable to use good judgment." Still more terms for “infatuated” include beany, cranky about, struck on, and case, as in “to have a case on someone.”

4. DROP ONE'S WING

This saying meaning to make affectionate advances or to flirt with may be heard in Georgia. Comparable is to wing down, which is British English dialect and means to court or pay attention to.

5. FEIST

In the south Appalachians, flirting might be called feisting, which also involves strutting and moving “so as to draw attention to oneself.” Feist may be related to the energetic and excitable feisty, which comes from the American English feist, a small dog.

6. GALLANT

To gallant in the South and South Midland means to court or flirt, or to escort (someone). According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), an earlier adjectival sense of gallant is gorgeous or showy, and comes from the Old French galant, meaning "courteous."

7. HONEYFUGGLE

Engaging in some public display of affection? You’re honeyfuggling. Some might say it means to make “too much of a show of affection in a public place." Honeyfuggle has a slew of other meanings as well, including to swindle or dupe; to flatter; to “snuggle up to”; and to lure or entice. The term might be a variance of connyfogle, an English dialectal that means to hoodwink or coax with flattery.

8. LOLLYGAG (AROUND)

Another term for out-in-the-open hanky-panky, as well as to neck, flirt, or gush. To lollygag around can also mean to loiter or chatter idly. As a noun, lollygag can refer to nonsense or idle talk, and can also be used as a term of disparagement. The plural, lollygags, means "airs, affections, love-making."

9., 10., AND 11. QUAKER FIP, DUTCH NICKEL, AND YANKEE DIME

All terms for kisses, and all based on old-timey stereotypical beliefs about thriftiness. It was believed Quakers, the Dutch, and Yankees (that is, northerners) were so frugal, they’d rather drop a peck on the cheek than respectively, a fip (which is a small thing or trifle), nickel, or dime.

Fip, by the way, is a shortening of fippenny bit, a six-cent coin “that circulated in the eastern U.S. before 1857,” according to DARE. For Quaker fip (also called Quaker nickel) DARE has quotes from Illinois and Ohio, and for Dutch nickel, Texas, Kentucky, and Missouri. Meanwhile, Yankee dime is primarily used in the South and South Midland, especially Alabama.

12. BUSS

This kissing word is chiefly used as a noun in the Midland states and as a verb in the South Midland. The OED describes a buss as “a loud or vigorous” kiss, and says it might be imitative in origin.

13. SCHMUTZ

While schmutz might be more known for its Yiddish or German meaning (dirt or filth), in the Pennsylvania-German area it means to kiss. According to a book called Ferhoodled English: Curious and Amusing Pennsylvania Dutch Talk, while “‘Knoatching und Schmutzing’ may not sound very romantic to us,” to the “young folks in the Pennsylvania Dutch country it means hugging and kissing.” Schmutz meaning to kiss comes from the Pennsylvania-German schmutze, “to kiss,” while schmutz meaning dirt comes from the German schmutzen, "to make dirty." It's not clear if the two are related.

14. GUMSUCK

This rather old-fashioned—and revolting—idiom for kissing might have been heard back in the day in Kentucky, Tennessee (“coupled with neck-sawing,” whatever neck-sawing is), and Georgia. In John Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms (1877), “a friend” informs the editor that “he first heard it at Princeton College, in 1854, and thinks it may be a Jersey word.”

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Beyond “Buffalo buffalo”: 9 Other Repetitive Sentences From Around The World
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Famously, in English, it’s possible to form a perfectly grammatical sentence by repeating the word buffalo (and every so often the place name Buffalo) a total of eight times: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo essentially means “buffalo from Buffalo, New York, who intimidate other buffalo from Buffalo, New York, are themselves intimidated by buffalo from Buffalo, New York.” But repetitive or so-called antanaclastic sentences and tongue twisters like these are by no means unique to English—here are a few in other languages that you might want to try.

1. “LE VER VERT VA VERS LE VERRE VERT” // FRENCH

This sentence works less well in print than Buffalo buffalo, of course, but it’s all but impenetrable when read aloud. In French, le ver vert va vers le verre vert means “the green worm goes towards the green glass,” but the words ver (worm), vert (green), vers (towards), and verre (glass) are all homophones pronounced “vair,” with a vowel similar to the E in “bet” or “pet.” In fact, work the French heraldic word for squirrel fur, vair, in there somewhere and you’d have five completely different interpretations of the same sound to deal with.

2. “CUM EO EO EO EO QUOD EUM AMO” // LATIN

Eo can be interpreted as a verb (“I go”), an adverb ("there," "for that reason"), and an ablative pronoun (“with him” or “by him”) in Latin, each with an array of different shades of meaning. Put four of them in a row in the context cum eo eo eo eo quod eum amo, and you’ll have a sentence meaning “I am going there with him because I love him.”

3. “MALO MALO MALO MALO” // LATIN

An even more confusing Latin sentence is malo malo malo malo. On its own, malo can be a verb (meaning “I prefer,” or “I would rather”); an ablative form of the Latin word for an apple tree, malus (meaning “in an apple tree”); and two entirely different forms (essentially meaning “a bad man,” and “in trouble” or “in adversity”) of the adjective malus, meaning evil or wicked. Although the lengths of the vowels differ slightly when read aloud, put all that together and malo malo malo malo could be interpreted as “I would rather be in an apple tree than a wicked man in adversity.” (Given that the noun malus can also be used to mean “the mast of a ship,” however, this sentence could just as easily be interpreted as, “I would rather be a wicked man in an apple tree than a ship’s mast.”)

4. “FAR, FÅR FÅR FÅR?” // DANISH

Far (pronounced “fah”) is the Danish word for father, while får (pronounced like “for”) can be used both as a noun meaning "sheep" and as a form of the Danish verb , meaning "to have." Far får får får? ultimately means “father, do sheep have sheep?”—to which the reply could come, får får ikke får, får får lam, meaning “sheep do not have sheep, sheep have lambs.”

5. “EEEE EE EE” // MANX

Manx is the Celtic-origin language of the Isle of Man, which has close ties to Irish. In Manx, ee is both a pronoun (“she” or “it”) and a verb (“to eat”), a future tense form of which is eeee (“will eat”). Eight letter Es in a row ultimately can be divided up to mean “she will eat it.”

6. “COMO COMO? COMO COMO COMO COMO!” // SPANISH

Como can be a preposition (“like,” “such as”), an adverb (“as,” “how”), a conjunction (“as”), and a verb (a form of comer, “to eat”) in Spanish, which makes it possible to string together dialogues like this: Como como? Como como como como! Which means “How do I eat? I eat like I eat!”

7. “Á Á A Á Á Á Á.” // ICELANDIC

Á is the Icelandic word for river; a form of the Icelandic word for ewe, ær; a preposition essentially meaning “on” or “in;” and a derivative of the Icelandic verb eiga, meaning “to have,” or “to possess.” Should a person named River be standing beside a river and simultaneously own a sheep standing in or at the same river, then that situation could theoretically be described using the sentence Á á á á á á á in Icelandic.

8. “MAI MAI MAI MAI MAI” // THAI

Thai is a tonal language that uses five different tones or patterns of pronunciation (rising, falling, high, low, and mid or flat) to differentiate between the meanings of otherwise seemingly identical syllables and words: glai, for instance, can mean both “near” and “far” in Thai, just depending on what tone pattern it’s given. Likewise, the Thai equivalent of the sentence “new wood doesn’t burn, does it?” is mai mai mai mai mai—which might seem identical written down, but each syllable would be given a different tone when read aloud.

9. “THE LION-EATING POET IN THE STONE DEN” // MANDARIN CHINESE

Mandarin Chinese is another tonal language, the nuances of which were taken to an extreme level by Yuen Ren Chao, a Chinese-born American linguist and writer renowned for composing a bizarre poem entitled "The Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den." When written in its original Classical Chinese script, the poem appears as a string of different characters. But when transliterated into the Roman alphabet, every one of those characters is nothing more than the syllable shi:

Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.

The only difference between each syllable is its intonation, which can be either flat (shī), rising (shí), falling (shì) or falling and rising (shǐ); you can hear the entire poem being read aloud here, along with its English translation.

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'Froyo,' 'Troll,' and 'Sriracha' Added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary
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Looking for the right word to describe the time you spend drinking before heading out to a party, or a faster way to say “frozen yogurt?" Merriam-Webster is here to help. The 189-year-old English vocabulary giant has just added 250 new words and definitions to their online dictionary, including pregame and froyo.

New words come and go quickly, and it’s Merriam-Webster’s job to keep tabs on the terms that have staying power. “As always, the expansion of the dictionary mirrors the expansion of the language, and reaches into all the various cubbies and corners of the lexicon,” they wrote in their announcement.

Froyo is just one of the recent additions to come from the culinary world. Bibimbap, a Korean rice dish; choux pastry, a type of dough; and sriracha, a Thai chili sauce that’s been around for decades but has just recently exploded in the U.S., are now all listed on Merriam-Webster's website.

Of course, the internet was once again a major contributor to this most recent batch of words. Some new terms, like ransomware (“malware that requires the victim to pay a ransom to access encrypted files”) come from the tech world, while words like troll ("to harass, criticize, or antagonize [someone] especially by provocatively disparaging or mocking public statements, postings, or acts”) were born on social media. Then there’s the Internet of Things, a concept that shifts the web off our phones and computers and into our appliances.

Hive mind, dog whistle, and working memory are just a few of the new entries to receive the Merriam-Webster stamp of approval. To learn more about how some words make it into the dictionary while others get left out, check these behind-the-scenes secrets of dictionary editors.

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