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10 Pointy Pieces of Slayer Slang from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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The Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS) universe, or the Buffyverse, has always been about more than dusting vampires and banishing demons. It's also been about language. Slang, neologisms, new word forms. English professor Michael Adams explores them all and more in Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon. Here we put a stake in 10 of our favorites on the 20th anniversary of the show's debut.

1. BUFFY

The Buffmyster. The Buffster. The Buffinator. Whatever you call her, she's the Chosen One. She also has a name that was popular in the 1960s and ‘70s, perhaps because of Buffy Sainte-Marie—a Native Canadian singer prominent at the time—or the character Buffy on the sitcom Family Affair, which ran from 1966 to 1971.

In the movie Bring It On, the name refers to a stereotypical cheerleader: "Can we beat these Buffys down so I can go home?" It’s not clear if this refers to Buffy’s short stint as a cheerleader on the show although there is a Bring It On-BTVS connection: Three actors in the film—Eliza Dushku, Clare Kramer, and Nicole Bilderback—were also on Buffy as, respectively, Faith, Glory, and unnamed lackey of mean girl Cordelia Chase.

2. POINTY

"Punishing yourself like this is pointless," Giles says. "It's entirely pointy," Buffy responds. Pointy here means purposeful and meaningful—the opposite of pointless. It's also the nickname of Buffy's favorite vampire-slaying stake, Mr. Pointy.

3. SLAYAGE

The slaying of vampires, demons, or any otherworldly baddies. Adding the suffix -age is common in Buffyspeak, according to Adams. There’s saveage, as in "world saveage," and kissage, a term for kissing. Kissage was actually first used by Rudyard Kipling in 1886.

4. SITCH

Shortening or truncation is also a common technique. "What's the sitch?" Buffy asks. In other words, “What’s the situation?” According to show writer and linguist Jane Espenson, Buffy creator Joss Whedon has used "sitch" since at least his college days. “Sitch me” translates as “Bring me up to date on the situation.”

5. SCOOBY GANG

Also known as the Slayerettes and the Scoobies, the Scooby Gang's core members are Buffy, watcher/librarian Giles, witch Willow, and wisecracking everyman Xander. The gang also includes a rotating cast of characters such as Cordelia, vampire-with-a-soul Angel, and former demon Anya. Scooby Gang is named after the "meddling kids" from the cartoon Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! A 2002 film version starred Buffy's Sarah Michelle Gellar as Daphne.

6. FIVE BY FIVE

“As long as you don't go scratching at me or humping my leg,” rogue slayer Faith tells sometime-werewolf Oz, “we're five-by-five, you know?" This term meaning satisfied or good originally referred to the “the clarity of a radio signal,” Adams writes, “as measured according to five-point scales.” It originated in the 1940s as U.S. military slang.

Five by five made a recent reappearance in the Gilmore Girls revival, written by professed Buffy-holic Amy Sherman Palladino. "I’m five by five,” Rory says. “I was watching a Buffy marathon and some things stick.”

7. WIGGINS

"That place just gives me the wiggins," Buffy says. The wiggins is a state of fear, perhaps like an agitated version of “the creeps.” The term comes from 1950s slang wig out, to get excited or upset.

8. OVERSHARE

In the Buffy episode "Halloween," the slayer notes that Angel is “not exactly one to overshare." While not coined by the BTVS writers, this term for excessively sharing personal information may have been popularized by the show. Visual Thesaurus says an early usage is from 1996 while this episode of Buffy aired in 1997.

9. EDGE GIRL

"You really got some quality rage going. Really gives you an edge,” Faith tells Buffy. "Edge Girl," Buffy responds. "Just what I always wanted to be." Edge Girl is a play on It girl, a stylish and well-known young woman. The term "It girl" was coined by British writer Elinor Glyn in reference to silent film star Clara Bow, while “it” meaning sex appeal originated with Rudyard Kipling.

10. SCULLY

"I cannot believe that you of all people are trying to Scully me," Buffy says to Giles. Scully, of course, refers to skeptical Agent Dana Scully of The X-Files.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
A Chinese Museum Is Offering Cash to Whoever Can Decipher These 3000-Year-Old Inscriptions

During the 19th century, farmers in China’s Henan Province began discovering oracle bones—engraved ox scapulae and tortoise shells used by Shang Dynasty leaders for record-keeping and divination purposes—while plowing their fields. More bones were excavated in subsequent years, and their inscriptions were revealed to be the earliest known form of systematic writing in East Asia. But over the decades, scholars still haven’t come close to cracking half of the mysterious script’s roughly 5000 characters—which is why one Chinese museum is asking member of the public for help, in exchange for a generous cash reward.

As Atlas Obscura reports, the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan Province has offered to pay citizen researchers about $15,000 for each unknown character translated, and $7500 if they provide a disputed character’s definitive meaning. Submissions must be supported with evidence, and reviewed by at least two language specialists.

The museum began farming out their oracle bone translation efforts in Fall 2016. The costly ongoing project has hit a stalemate, and scholars hope that the public’s collective smarts—combined with new advances in technology, including cloud computing and big data—will yield new information and save them research money.

As of today, more than 200,000 oracle bones have been discovered—around 50,000 of which bear text—so scholars still have a lot to learn about the Shang Dynasty. Many of the ancient script's characters are difficult to verify, as they represent places and people from long ago. However, decoding even just one character could lead to a substantial breakthrough, experts say: "If we interpret a noun or a verb, it can bring many scripts on oracle bones to life, and we can understand ancient history better,” Chinese history professor Zhu Yanmin told the South China Morning Post.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
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Salmonella species growing on agar.

Having something named after you is the ultimate accomplishment for any inventor, mathematician, scientist, or researcher. Unfortunately, the credit for an invention or discovery does not always go to the correct person—senior colleagues sometimes snatch the glory, fakers pull the wool over people's eyes, or the fickle general public just latches onto the wrong name.

1. SALMONELLA (OR SMITHELLA?)

In 1885, while investigating common livestock diseases at the Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., pathologist Theobald Smith first isolated the salmonella bacteria in pigs suffering from hog cholera. Smith’s research finally identified the bacteria responsible for one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans. Unfortunately, Smith’s limelight-grabbing supervisor, Daniel E. Salmon, insisted on taking sole credit for the discovery. As a result, the bacteria was named after him. Don’t feel too sorry for Theobald Smith, though: He soon emerged from Salmon’s shadow, going on to make the important discovery that ticks could be a vector in the spread of disease, among other achievements.

2. AMERICA (OR COLUMBIANA?)

An etching of Amerigo Vespucci
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) claimed to have made numerous voyages to the New World, the first in 1497, before Columbus. Textual evidence suggests Vespucci did take part in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, but generally does not support the idea that he set eyes on the New World before Columbus. Nevertheless, Vespucci’s accounts of his voyages—which today read as far-fetched—were hugely popular and translated into many languages. As a result, when German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was drawing his map of the Novus Mundi (or New World) in 1507 he marked it with the name "America" in Vespucci’s honor. He later regretted the choice, omitting the name from future maps, but it was too late, and the name stuck.

3. BLOOMERS (OR MILLERS?)

A black and white image of young women wearing bloomers
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dress reform became a big issue in mid-19th century America, when women were restricted by long, heavy skirts that dragged in the mud and made any sort of physical activity difficult. Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was inspired by traditional Turkish dress to begin wearing loose trousers gathered at the ankle underneath a shorter skirt. Miller’s new outfit immediately caused a splash, with some decrying it as scandalous and others inspired to adopt the garb.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was editor of the women’s temperance journal The Lily, and she took to copying Miller’s style of dress. She was so impressed with the new freedom it gave her that she began promoting the “reform dress” in her magazine, printing patterns so others might make their own. Bloomer sported the dress when she spoke at events and soon the press began to associate the outfit with her, dubbing it “Bloomer’s costume.” The name stuck.

4. GUILLOTINE (OR LOUISETTE?)

Execution machines had been known prior to the French Revolution, but they were refined after Paris physician and politician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin suggested they might be a more humane form of execution than the usual methods (hanging, burning alive, etc.). The first guillotine was actually designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgery, and was known as a louisette. The quick and efficient machine was quickly adopted as the main method of execution in revolutionary France, and as the bodies piled up the public began to refer to it as la guillotine, for the man who first suggested its use. Guillotin was very distressed at the association, and when he died in 1814 his family asked the French government to change the name of the hated machine. The government refused and so the family changed their name instead to escape the dreadful association.

5. BECHDEL TEST (OR WALLACE TEST?)

Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Bechdel Test is a tool to highlight gender inequality in film, television, and fiction. The idea is that in order to pass the test, the movie, show, or book in question must include at least one scene in which two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man. The test was popularized by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and has since become known by her name. However, Bechdel asserts that the idea originated with her friend Lisa Wallace (and was also inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf), and she would prefer for it to be known as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

6. STIGLER’S LAW OF EPONYMY (OR MERTON’S LAW?)

Influential sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested the idea of the “Matthew Effect” in a 1968 paper noting that senior colleagues who are already famous tend to get the credit for their junior colleagues’ discoveries. (Merton named his phenomenon [PDF] after the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew, in which wise servants invest money their master has given them.)

Merton was a well-respected academic, and when he was due to retire in 1979, a book of essays celebrating his work was proposed. One person who contributed an essay was University of Chicago professor of statistics Stephen Stigler, who had corresponded with Merton about his ideas. Stigler decided to pen an essay that celebrated and proved Merton’s theory. As a result, he took Merton’s idea and created Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer”—the joke being that Stigler himself was taking Merton’s own theory and naming it after himself. To further prove the rule, the “new” law has been adopted by the academic community, and a number of papers and articles have since been written on "Stigler’s Law."

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