Say What?!

One of the funny things about being a scientist is all the specialized vocabulary. On one hand, its great to have idiomatic terms to describe a distinctive technique or phenomenon—it adds clarity and prevents the writer from having to repeatedly include a string of adjectives when discussing something. For example, you can say “anadromous fish” instead of “fish that live in salt water but migrate to fresh water to spawn”. On the other hand, I feel like I am constantly running across unfamiliar words (especially when I read papers from outside of my direct field) and sometimes have a hard time finding an easy, reliable source for definitions. Its not like I own a dictionary for random marine botany vocabulary (though I’ve been told they exist!). Another negative aspect is that word documents become peppered with those ugly, red squiggly lines because the spell check doesn’t recognize half of the words used. If word processors had autocorrect, I’m sure my writing would be complete nonsense!

Continuing with this thread, I put together a list of funny words I’ve come across and their definitions. I also asked some of my fellow graduate students at the MSC for some of their favorites, and I love what they came up with:

Microvascularanastomosis– Joining of small blood vessels

Pyrexia– Fever (is this where pyrex cooking dishes got their name?!)

Thigmotaxis– Moving towards or away from the feeling of touch, mostly used in reference to ‘corner-seeking’ or an invertebrate’s desire to hide in corners

Quadrat– Designated sampling or survey area. Microsoft Word will tell you repeatedly it’s “quadrant” but, alas, it is not!

Haemocoel– The cavity in semi-open circulatory system invertebrates that holds their haemolymph or ‘blood’

Dioecious– Dioecy; is characterised by a species having distinct male and female organisms

Philopatric– The behaviour of remaining in, or returning to, an individual’s birthplace

Autonomize– Voluntary losing of limbs by invertebrates (like a lobster dropping its claw to escape another lobster that is pinching it)

What are your favorite ‘weird’ terms? Please write them in the comments section!


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