Afternoon Inquisition

Sunday AI: New words out of context

I am sitting in the Tampa Airport today, on my way home after a wonderful scientific conference with the Organization of Biological Field Stations.  (Also, why has no one told Tampa their logo really looks like a vulva? I mean, you would think someone would have noticed that well before the signs were printed.)


It was pretty much 4 days of very little sleep, very much alcohol, and lots of mental overstimulation.  Loved. It.

I also learned some new words, and seemed to constantly be overhearing bits of other conversations that were hilarious out of context.  My new word for the week was “charrette“:

“A charrette is an intensive planning session where citizens, designers and others collaborate on a vision for development. It provides a forum for ideas and offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to the designers. More importantly, it allows everyone who participates to be a mutual author of the plan.”

Charrette was used in the context of someone from the National Science Foundation describing a possible new program to combine several data initiatives.  It’s neat that they want to get community input on how to develop the program and choose what to pursue.  I am a serious word nerd, so I’m excited to have a new one to play with.

I also kept coming in on the end of conversations and not quite getting what the discussion was about. You know what I mean–one of my all time favorites was  hearing someone say “And then PZ comes in wearing a leotard!”  I still don’t know what that was about, actually.

My two favorites from this conference were:

“It’s not the chaps that make them ass-less, it’s the lack of pants.”


“I broke my dongle on the plane. But I was still able to do it manually last night.”

What odd things have you overheard lately? What new words have you learned?


The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

Related Articles


      1. I wish it were! No, Bug, it’s from the Scalzi article about how to be a good commenter, in the last Quickies.

        It’s when a Libertarian commenter pays lip service to the topic in hand, then leaps off onto the usual rave about the gold standard, ra ra.

        Feculent is the proper term for shitty – a delayed action insult is the best – delayed while the target figures out the meaning, by which time you are long gone!

  1. The word “yegg” was in the Sept. 16 NYT crossword puzzle. It means “safecracker.”

    My husband has difficulty hearing and has developed strategies over the years to fill in the blanks in his hearing. Most of the time it works out, but sometimes he responds with a really funny non sequitur!! Cracks us up. Wish I could think of one right now!

  2. This was from about 15 years ago, but:

    “Does anyone know a good lint utility for windows?”

    (Not somebody seeking a centralized infrastructure for delivering amorphous fluff to glass-filled gaps in walls, but someone looking for a program to check for errors in C programs, running on the Windows operating system.)

  3. I did not see that in the logo until you pointed it out. Queue inappropriate comment: You are far more pervert than me… LUCKY!!!
    Sorry for that, but I really did not see that in the logo at all!

    And you hear more inappropriate comments than I do. The best I heard was eaves-dropping on a Chinese mom and son in the DC Aquarium. They were in the touching pool area and I was waiting for my wife and daughter to come out of the restroom when I heard the son say the horseshoe crab was nifty… and then the mom said in Chinese (I teach Chinese)… “Those are really good to eat at the restaurant.”

    All I could do to not bust out laughing… dead give-away for a pale white guy…

  4. Re “charrette”. If you can pull off that approach in the workplace, it works a treat.

    A joint decision is so much more robust, and whilst the decision takes longer to make, the group owns the result so there is less problem with training and compliance..

    Wish I could convince our younger trainee “Managers” of the wisdom in this.

  5. I was in Target a couple days ago and overheard a man talking to his little girl. I couldn’t hear her but what I could hear of his side of the conversation went a bit like this:

    “He’s a Jedi Master. Do you know what that is? … Well, Jedi Masters have… Yes, I suppose you could call them superpowers…”

  6. Also, here are some things I’ve said recently, taken completely out of context…

    “Voice-wise, how close to Eddie Deezen can you get?”

    “Evil Script Writer has a nice ring to it.”

    “You’re making a model of the solar system …but not to scale …or numerically accurate.”

    “What, like one of those Star Trek emotivore aliens?”

    “And the wings seem to be modified ribs in that case.”

    “On closer inspection, it’s obviously an Excalbian.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button