The Words of the Week - August 19

Dictionary lookups from Palm Beach, movies, and the produce aisle
veggie crudite platter with three different dips
Photo: Getty Images

Et tu, crudités?


We espied a large spike in lookups for espionage this week after it was reported that former President Donald Trump may have violated the Espionage Act.

A search warrant made public on Friday revealed federal agents had recovered top secret documents when they searched Mr. Trump’s Florida residence earlier in the week as part of an investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act and other laws .... The stunning revelation made clear the gravity of the Justice Department's inquiry months after the National Archives and Records Administration said it had discovered classified information in documents Mr. Trump had held onto after leaving office. “What he doesn't have the right to do is possess the documents; they are not his,” Jason R. Baron, a former director of litigation at the National Archives for more than a decade, said. “There should be no presidential records at Mar-a-Lago, whether they are classified or unclassified or subject to executive privilege or subject to attorney-client privilege.”
— Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Maggie Haberman, The New York Times, 15 Aug. 2022

We define espionage as “the practice of spying or using spies to obtain information about the plans and activities especially of a foreign government or a competing company.” The Espionage Act was enacted shortly after the United States entered World War I, and “prohibits acts pertaining to the gathering, transmitting, delivery, or loss of national defense information.”


Crudités saw a bump—not a dip—in lookups this week after an old campaign video of U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz shopping for asparagus and guacamole went viral.

The new fundraising effort comes after an Oz campaign video from earlier this year became the focus of renewed attention on Monday. In that video, Oz appeared to mix up the names of grocery chains Radner’s and Wegmans and said that he was shopping at “Wegners.” Oz… also mentioned shopping for crudités—a plate of vegetables often served with sauces—during the campaign video, eliciting ridicule from [John] Fetterman. “To honor Dr. Oz's love for crudités and Wegners (and also because it's my birthday) we're launching this NEW limited edition sticker," Fetterman tweeted. “Make a donation of any amount + it’s all yours,” the Democrat said, adding: “Because it’s actually just a veggie tray.”
— Darragh Roche, Newsweek, 16 Aug. 2022

Although crudités dates back in English only to the mid-20th century, party hosts and partygoers have presumably enjoyed nibbling on vegetal bits and bobs for a lot longer. The word is a borrowing and pluralization of the French crudité, meaning “rawness” which in turn comes from Latin cruditas, meaning “indigestion.” Gulp!


It was business-up-front, party-in-the-back for mullet this week, with lookups jumping as news outlets across the country celebrated local finalists for the USA Mullet Championship.

An 8-year-old from Wisconsin with a rock-star do is competing for the best mullet in the Kids Division of the USA Mullet Championship. Emmitt Bailey, also known as “Mullet Boy,” got the chance to show off his hairstyle when he threw the opening pitch at the Eau Claire Express collegiate baseball game this summer.
— Ellie Jo Pomerleau and Andrew McMunn, WEAU News (Eau Claire, Wisconsin), 16 Aug. 2022

We define mullet as “a hairstyle in which the hair is short on the sides and top and long at the back.” The Oxford English Dictionary credits seminal hip-hop trio the Beastie Boys with coining and popularizing this sense of the word (though the group did not invent the hairstyle itself, of course). Now that’s some ill communication.


Javelina received considerably more lookups earlier this week than it normally does. However, interest in the word does not appear to be due to national news (unless we’ve missed another article about 30-50 feral hogs) but rather Spelling Bee, the popular New York Times word game whereby players attempt to make as many words as possible from a selection of seven letters. In the game’s parlance, a word that successfully uses all seven letters at least once, such as javelina, is called a “pangram.”

Javelina is a synonym of the more common peccary, which refers to “any of several largely nocturnal gregarious American mammals resembling the related pigs.” The collared peccary, whose range extends from South America into Texas and the southwestern United States, is often called javelina, among other names. Javelina did appear in the news earlier this year when one busted into a car to pig out on a bag of Cheetos but if you’re a fan of early 2000s cinema, you may also recognize the word from The Royal Tenenbaums, wherein the titular family patriarch (played by Gene Hackman) asks “Where’s my javelina?” several scenes before discovering the mounted boar’s head in a closet filled with board games.

Words Worth Knowing: ‘Flintcraw,’ ‘Saddlecock,’ and ‘Friscalating’

The crickets and the rust-beetles scuttled among the nettles of the sage thicket. ‘Vámonos, amigos,’ he whispered, and threw the busted leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock. And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight.

Speaking of The Royal Tenenbaums, in another scene, the Cormac McCarthy-esque author Eli Cash (played by Owen Wilson) reads the above passage from his novel Old Custer at a tony event. Flintcraw, saddlecock, and friscalating have not yet attained the heights of such film and television coinages as The Simpsons’ embiggen—which was added to our dictionary in 2018—but there’s no time like the present! Flintcraws and saddlecocks may need to be invented first, but we can’t be the only ones whose hearts friscalate at the thought of friscalating garnering increased usage. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.