Feeling Viddy, maybe you have The Rona . . . . . . what?!

Since the start of the pandemic we have not only altered the way we work and play, we have also morphed our language to fit the evolving and changing coronavirus known as COVID 19 that has haunted us over the past few years. I feel viddy. The Rona. The COVID shakes. And more.

Feeling Viddy

People with COVID-19 symptoms, in particular light-headiness, have been heard using the phrase “I feel viddy.” Well at least in our household they have. It may not have stretched far yet, but we think it will catch on because it is such an onomatopoeic phrase. And it’s not far from I feel dizzy, but with more specificity that those who have had COVID will recognize immediately.

Stylized image of kids on a merry go round feeling a bit dizzy, and also giddy with delight.  So giddy they might even feel viddy.

Not Giddy with COVID

You of course would never feel happy with COVID, either as a diagnosis, or if you were symptomatic. So please do not confuse viddy with giddy, even if they sound similar. They are not one and the same.

Not like watching a viddy either

In some circles a video might be called a viddy. As in let’s watch this viddy. Or let’s turn on the TV and catch a few viddies.

A wall of videos, also known as viddies, a different form of Viddy.

Unconfirmed reports say the use of the “viddy” or “viddies” phrasing for videos is more common in the UK, but we can neither confirm nor deny this rumor.

Not latin, as in Vidi

“Veni, Vidi, Vici” is attributed to Julius Caesar, meaning “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Plutarch tells us this was Caesar’s report to the Roman Senate, reporting on his 47 BC victory in the Battle of Zela (now know as Zile, Turkey).

A bust of Julius Caesar, Roman Emperor, who said "Veni, Vidi, Vici."  "I came, I saw, I conquered"
Here Vidi is contrasted with Viddy.
Gaius Julius Caesar,

Caesar was the first Roman Emperor. After he took control of government he used his power to reform government in Rome, and gave us our modern “Julian” calendar. He was assassinated on the Ides of March in 44 BC.

In Shakespeare’s dramatic retelling of this story Caesar is warned by a soothsayer in the first Act of the play to “Be aware the Ides of March.”

The most famous scene from Julius Caesar, as depicted by George Clint.  It was Ceasar that said Veni, Vidi, Vici" meaning I came, I saw, I conquered.  Here the Vidi is compared to Viddy.
Clint, George; ‘Julius Caesar’, Act III, Scene 2, the Murder Scene; Royal Shakespeare Company Collection

In Shakespeare’s hands, after being stabbed by the rebellious Senators, including his friend Brutus, Caesar says “Et tu, Brute? – Then fall, Caesar.”

Veni, Vidi, Vici is one of the most famous non-fictionalized phrases that has passed down to us from ancient times.

And finally, not to be confused with Stanley Kubrik’s viddy, as in “to see”

Stanley Kubrick’s film Clockwork Orange, based on the Anthony Burgess novel offers a dystopian view of crime, punishment, and “rehabilitation.”

Malcolm McDowell as Alex in Clockwork Orange

Burgess and Kubrick deploy “viddy” to mean “to see” or “to understand,” and in the hands of the central character Alex (played by Malcolm McDowell in the film) viddy is used to nauseating effect. Alex ensures his victims of what he calls “ultra violence” understand and see what he is doing. The “viddy” theme continues through Alex’s forced conditioning, where he watches violent videos and is drugged to feel ill.

What about The Rona

What a terrible phrase: The Rona. It’s not clear how widely used this is, but hopefully it disappears before it catches on. It conjures up an image of sci-fi post-apocalyptic scenes of disaster. Of course COVID has been a disaster, so maybe it’s an appropriate label.

Already in the Urban Dictionary

The Urban Dictionary picked up the word Rona in 2020, meaning to have the Coronavirus, or COVID-19. They don’t have the full treatment with the pre “The” in front of it to make The Rona, but they get close enough.

Not the Canadian store Rona

There is a relatively large Canadian Home and Garden retailer (a bit like Home Depot or Lowe’s for the US audience; they are actually owned by Lowe’s Canada) called Rona. Next time you are north of the border check them out, they have close to 400 stores.

Who exactly is Miss Rona

The Public Health Insider launched an Ask Miss Rona Q&A series.

My Sharona

Yes, the biggest problem with The Rona is that it sounds like My Sharona, an ear-worm of a song that if you are of a certain age you want to forget but just never can or will.

My Sharona is by a band called The Knack which are often described as a one-hit wonder. They actually were quite talented musicians and songwriters that suffered from over-hype and over-play that left their one big hit song, My Sharona, a parody of itself.

The Knack Press Photo
The Knack, press photo

Other COVID-19 language incursions

The Covid Shakes

Just like it sounds, high fevers the come along with an active COVID-19 infection can lead to shivering and shaking. Hence, covid shakes.


A demographic group, growing up with COVID-19. Coronials conjures up Millennials or Centennials. Sometimes this is used to refer to children in school during this period. In some cases it has been applied to nurses graduating during COVID-19.


Like Coronials, quaran-teens refers to teens growing up in quarantine, missing out on many of the usual interactions they would face. There was even a short lived TV series.


Just like it sounds, covidivorce is a divorce driven by COVID-19 or the isolation and quarantine that came along with the early part of the pandemic.


Simply an acne outbreak caused by masks or other face coverings.


A quarantini is cocktail consumed during quarantine, possibly with others via a zoom call.


A covidiot is someone who ignores public health recommendations, with or without intent, for better or for worse. This phrase is sometimes reserved for someone who contracts COVID or who gives some someone else COVID.

Let us know what you think, or please suggest some new phrases we should add to our growing COVID-19 lexicon. And please check out our other language posts.


M. Mdot, it’s time to free us all from gendered shackles

Has the time come for eliminating gendered honorifics and titles? Instead of Mr. Mister, Mrs. Missus, Miss Miss, and even Ms. Miz, we propose an all inclusive M. Just M. M with a dot.

Not Mr. Jones – M. Jones. Not Miss Pettigrew – M. Pettigrew. Not Mrs. Maisel – M. Maisel. Not Mr. (or Mrs.) President – M. President.

Why now?

Why not? The time has come for M. If we believe, as most of us do, that men and women are equal, why continue the charade of gendered titles which are, and have always been, sexist and structured around defining power.

A 2019 survey on gender Gender Census 2019 found that 33% of people say that if given a choice they would choose no title at all.

What’s the history here

What we think of as the traditional Mr. Mrs. Miss pronouns actually trace their current usage only back to the mid 18th century. And these pronoun titles are not only gender specific but in many cases overtly sexist. This is the call to action to consider a change.

Mrs. actually meant something a bit different historically

In the 18th century and earlier Mrs. actually was a title bestowed on both married and unmarried women of social status. For example, a woman that ran a business would be addressed as Mrs. as a professional courtesy, although that title would not be used on legal or written documents.

The ownership thing . . .

From the later portion of the 18th century onwards the Mrs. and Miss usage we know today have been widely used with roughly the meanings we think of today.

Most of the usage contexts for Miss and Mrs. are designed to convey marital status. In a traditional context, married women would use Mrs. and unmarried women would be titled Miss. One might argue these distinctions were designed to describe ownership – a Miss would belong to her father, and a Mrs. to her husband. Is there a better argument for why we might want to drop these titles?

You want to do what with my name?

In the 19th and 20th century the use of the Mrs. pronoun did so in the context of subsuming a woman’s identity by replacing her name with that of her husband. As in Mrs. Alex Rodriguez, which would probably not go over well with J. Lo!

Today most women who still use Mrs. do so with the woman’s name. For traditionalists, this is the simplest way to signify that a woman is married. For most others, the usage is often skipped in favor of Ms. (see below).

And why do the powerful skip the Mrs. ?

For people in positions of power, the Mrs. title is often skipped in favor of Madame or another term. For instance, while we say Mr. President, we would not say Mrs. President, opting for Madame President instead. The Mrs. President usage can be tied up in the pejorative traditional interpretation which would describe the wife of a male president. This would be demeaning, to say the least!

And another sign for why Mrs. and its companions need to go!

How about Miss for a young woman?

According to Emily Post Miss should be used differently for young women under the legal age (corresponding to the male use of Master), where it is followed by the first name. For example Miss Christine, as opposed to its use for an unmarried adult where as a sign of respect it would be used with the last name or first and last names, e.g., Miss Christine Bunton, or just Miss Bunton.

What about Mr. Man?

For Men, the head of household in upper class English and American homes was referred to as Master. This was abbreviated as Mr. Following the civil war, and certainly by the late 1800s, the pronunciation of Mr. evolved to Mister (possibly but not definitively as a rejection of the slave owning class).

The archaic form of Master continues to be used, although much less than a century ago, to describe a male under the legal age of adulthood (corresponding with the current use of Miss, with the use of a first name, as in Master Liam and Miss Amelia).

What about Ms.?

The Ms. title goes a long way towards solving the inherent flaws in the Miss/Mrs. morass.

While forms of Ms. to represent the term Mistress may have been used as early as the 17th century, in the modern context Ms. was first proposed in 1901 in The Sunday Republican of Springfield, Mass. The paper proposed “a more comprehensive term which does homage to the sex without expressing any views as to their domestic situation.” Ms. was offered as a simple compromise between Miss and Mrs., and initially positioned as a language simplification, not as an entry to gender politics. After a minor splash it was largely forgotten (they didn’t have blogs like this one to push lingual arguments forward!).

Sheila Michaels, and the modern Ms.

It wasn’t until late 1969 that Ms. started to catch on. Sheila Michaels, a civil rights activist, took on the charge. It was an interview on WBAI, a progressive New York radio station, that finally let Ms. catch on. And catch it did . . .

Ms. magazine

Just a few years later, in 1972, Gloria Steinem and Dorthy Pitman Hughes launched Ms. magazine. Ms. was a breakthrough publication that spoke for women, and covered topics missing from the mainstream press. It became a voice for the feminist movement.

“I realized as a journalist that there really was nothing for women to read that was controlled by women, and this caused me along with a number of other women to start Ms. magazine.”

Gloria Steinem, In Her Own Words (2011 documentary, directed by Peter Kunhardt)

Adoption slow, but steady

It wasn’t until 1986 that many of the formal keepers of language like the New York Times embraced the use of Ms., noting in a recent article on this topic that the “void in the English language” had been filled.

Genderless titles

There are a wide range of other gender-neutral titles available ranging from Dr. to Zr., and many of them have merit and some adoption. That said, M. stands above them all because it’s not restricted to someone with a professional credential. And of course for its simplicity and the beginnings of broad acceptance.

Doctor in the house

Doctor is the most widely used of all the genderless titles. In fact, according to the AAMC more than a third of the medical doctors practicing medicine in the United States are women and the majority of U.S. medical students are now female. But this wasn’t always the case.

A woman doctor?

In recent history, the title Doctor was assumed to be held exclusively by men. A popular riddle from the 1970s gives a clear window to this not so distant assumption that doctors would be male.

A father and son are in a horrific car accident and the father dies at the scene. The son is rushed to the hospital, and as they are about to go into surgery the doctor looks at the boy and says “I can’t operate on this boy, he is my son.” How can this be?

Popular Jokes, 1973

Of course, the surgeon was the boy’s mother, but the fact this was considered a funny joke with an unexpected punchline is telling as to the mores and expectations of the recent past.

Merit Ptah, and Peseshet

Women have been healers and practicing medicine for millennia. But men have more often been the keepers of history, and there is relatively little documented notation of early female medical practitioners.

Merit Ptah, purported to have lived in ancient Egypt roughly 2700 or 2800 BCE, is widely described as the earliest known female doctor. Her tomb was said to call her the “Chief Physician.” She is reputed to have either worked with or been the mother of Imhotep the High Priest of the sun god Ra, who is also recognized as a physician.

The only problem with this wonderful story is that it is probably not true, and has been largely debunked. Not to say that women weren’t working as doctors alongside men in ancient Egypt, just that this particular story is bunk.

The better documented story is that of Peseshet who would have lived around 2400BCE (four hundred years after Merit Ptah). Peseshet was a woman who practiced medicine and held the title “Overseer of Woman Physicians” during either the fourth or fifth dynasty. Peseshet is the oldest documented woman physician in history! Go Doctor Peseshet!


The best documented, and widely regarded, early female physician comes from a much later period: Ancient Greece sometime between 200-400 CE. Cleopatra Metrodora, a Greek doctor, is the author of the important book On the Diseases and Cures of Women. She built on Hippocrates work and focused on Women’s health outside of obstetrics and childbirth. This is important to note, as many of the women practicing medicine in ancient Greece and Rome worked primarily in those areas, but Metrodora was practicing medicine and doing research across a range of pathologies that her male contemporaries were also studying.

Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman in America to receive a medical degree. No medical schools would accept her until a small school in upstate New York, Geneva College, accepted her in what may have been a practical joke. She nevertheless thrived in school, overcoming a meaningful amount of discrimination, and graduated first in her class in 1849.

Geneva College is now called Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The medical school moved to Syracuse University in 1871, and eventually became part of the SUNY system and is now known as the State University of New York Upstate Medical University.

Dr. for a Doctorate

The title of Doctor is not restricted to those practicing medicine. It is also widely used for any Doctorate holder across any field. A PhD, Doctor of Philosophy, is granted across subject areas. And the titles Dr., Doctor, or PhD are not gender specific.

And of course one of the most visible holders and users of the doctor title is the current first lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden.

The Doctor in the Tardis

Paging Dr. Who. While the Doctor has been male in most of the adaptions of this British science fiction series, the 13th Doctor was played by Jodie Whittaker, who did a wonderful job these past few years. Not to knock the fantastic acting by many of the other players that have filled the part, including David Tennant. In a wonderful twist, the show is able to reinvent itself every few years by having the main character evolve into a new version of themself, and change the cast in the process.

You can explore more about Doctor Who from the BBC, or one of the many fan pages or official site. And if you haven’t watched, please give it a try.

Professions and Formal Titles

There are a handful of other professional titles that don’t connote gender. These include Reverend or Judge. Others have come into common usage in neutralized form, like Mail Carrier, Firefighter, as well as Officer (we typically don’t say Policeman or Policewoman any longer).

Some terms that were historically “gendered” are now widely used to describe both men and women. For example, “Chairman” clearly has the historic gender assumption that the holder of the title would be a “man,” but now generically means the leader of an organization. In deference to the gendered history of the term, these individuals are now sometimes referred to as Chairperson or just Chair.

Actor, Bartender (yes, those two often go hand in hand), Nurse, and many others were historically used with an assumption about the gender of the individual. But these have all become acceptably used in a gender-neutral manner. Even those that keep a traditionally masculine or feminine word structure are used interchangeably for any practitioner, for example Midwife.

The Military gets this right!

The military does not differentiate ranks by gender. A Private, Airman, Corporal, Sergeant, Master Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Colonel, Commander, General, or Admiral, and all the ranks in between have no gender differentiation! The US DOD has a nice page with all of the Ranks and Insignia.

Even outside the military, ranks are typically deployed without gender. A police Sergeant, Lieutenant, or Captain or fire Captain, Chief, or Commissioner can describe any gender.

Other Gender-Neutral titles beyond M.

A growing list of gender-neutral titles are being used by a wide range of people. In many cases these are being deployed by and for people who don’t fit a binary gender definition. But beyond nonbinary individuals, these titles are increasingly being adopted by those that just don’t want to be categorized.

The offers a growing list that now includes 20 titles including De, Div, Ind, Mir, Misc, Are, Msr, Mx, Mv, Myr, Mzr, and Zr. Of course, they also include M.

Mx. vs M.

The most commonly used of the alternate neutral titles seems to be Mx. This is variously pronounced mix, mex, meks, or mixter. Nonbinary usage for Mx. has been growing. But apparently Mx. is not gaining much traction with the broader population. This is precisely why M. is a broader and more fulsome solution.

We propose M. not just for individuals that don’t find other titles fitting, but for the entire population, consolidating all other forms.

What about M. and the French?

M. is used in French as the abbreviation for Monsieur. Some have offered this as a reason to avoid adopting M. in English speaking countries. But as French influence in global affairs continues to wane, now may be the time to move past the risk of alienating French speakers with the confusion of an English language M.

In fact, it’s not clear what harm or damage would be done to a Monsieur that had their male identity masked for a moment. The French are welcome to come along for this ride!

Not the department of transportation

Of course many government agencies at all levels use DOT to signify department of transportation. Our dot is very different, but we expect many millions of people working at those agencies would be proud to refer to themselves equally without gender distinction . . . gender is not a qualifier for doing good work on our transportation system.

State and Local Transportation Departments

No surprise, DOTs are everywhere. And for states or municipalities beginning with the letter M we have a lot of MDOTs out there:

MDOT – Michigan

The Michigan Department of Transportation is of course one of the MDOTs.

MDOT – Maryland

Yes, in Maryland the transportation department is another MDOT. The Maryland Department of Transportation span of control includes Ports, Transit, Aviation, Tolls, Highways, and Drivers in its many responsibilities.

MDOT – Mississippi

Another M state, another MDOT. The Mississippi Department of Transportation. Could this be Mississippi stepping up and doing its part in pushing the cause of gender equality?


The United States Department of Transportation refers to themselves as DOT. Their mission is:

To improve the quality of life for all American people and communities, from rural to urban, and to increase the productivity and competitiveness of American workers and businesses.

-United States Department of Transportation

While none of the entities within the department use M, the breadth of the agency is amazing. The USDOT includes 11 operating administrations including some well known ones like the FAA, and other lesser known but still critical agencies.

FAA – the Federal Aviation Administration

The FAA is dedicated to providing the safest, most efficient, aerospace system in the world. They regulate 19,633 U.S. Airports, handle 45,000 flights on average every day, manage 20 million square miles of US domestic and oceanic airspace, and have licensed 416 and counting commercial space launches.

A veritable soup of agency acronyms

Beyond the FAA there are ten other agencies operating under the USDOT. These are:

FHWA – the Federal Highway Administration (on the road again)

FMCSA – the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (keeping it safe for and from large trucks and buses)

FRA – the Federal Railroad Administration (the very cool URL is !)

FTA – the Federal Transit Administration (go public transportation!!!)

GLS – the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway (working with Canada on the Great Lakes)

MARAD – the Maritime Administration (to foster, promote, and develop the maritime industry of the United States)

NHTSA – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (saving lives, preventing injuries, and reducing economic costs from traffic and crashes)

PHMSA – the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (say that 10 times fast)

OIG – the USDOT’s Office of Inspector General (because every department needs a general)

OST – the USDOT’s Office of the Secretary (because every department needs an office)

Since we are running down the DOT agencies, what about the head of the Department? As noted above, sexual orientation has nothing to do with using M. But we have to wonder, as a trailblazing first openly gay Cabinet Secretary, if USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg would be an early adopter of M. Thanks Pete!

And so, M. Mdot has arrived

The time has come to drop gendered Mr. and Mrs./Ms./Miss honorifics! It’s time for change! Now . . . as in please start using M. today!!! You can just call us M. Fab.

Leave us a comment to tell us what you think. And if you have it in you to be a trailblazer, let us know how it goes!


Cheers! Bottoms up or goodbye, depending where you stand!

If you are from the United States saying “cheers” typically means bottoms up, or wishing people well, celebrating life, and encouraging them to enjoy their drink. In the UK it also is a common sign-off, just like saying “goodbye.” Read on to find the history of this curious phrase, and where it’s ok to use, or not! Hint — it’s OK, so go ahead and start now.

Cheers – To you health, bottoms up, or drink up

There are a shocking number of ways to say “cheers” around the globe. Sobriquets for a toast include prost, skoal, salut, sláinte, and even Å’kålè ma’luna. We made a word cloud to try to capture all of the phrases, and also found a very nice pronunciation guide here.

All of the ways to offer a toast around the globe!
All of the ways to offer a toast around the globe!

It was on TV? What’s a TV?

Of course no one can forget the TV show Cheers. Love it, or hate it, if you have watched it you will remember it. This very popular show ran for 11 seasons on NBC from 1982 to 1993. And in reruns, reruns, and reruns.

Logo used in the television show Cheers
“Where everybody knows your name”

The network almost cancelled the show when it launched in 1982 because it’s premier was one of the lowest rankings in the ratings (74 out of 77 for that week). They gave it a bit of time, and it became one of the most watched shows on television. It’s finale had 40% of the US population, 93 million viewers, watching. Not quite the 125 million that watched the finale of M*A*S*H, but a very respectable number.

Was Cheers the best comedy ever?

Many consider Cheers to be one of the best network television comedies of all time. It’s certainly up there on the list with contemporaries like Taxi, and Seinfeld, also shows about modern life with no overriding themes or messages. It’s often considered as important culturally as earlier shows like All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore, and M*A*S*H, although those were filled with social commentary on topics like racism, women’s right, and the Vietnam war. Cheers is also sometimes mentioned alongside all-time TV comedy classics Dick Van Dyke, The Honeymooners, and I love Lucy. While it may not be the best ever, its certainly in the top 10 or 15. Polls and critics often give the top rating of all TV comedies to Seinfeld. Cheers to you Jerry!

What a cast!

The cast from the TV series Cheers
What an amazing cast!

Cheers featured an ensemble cast that either were or became very successful, including: Ted Danson as Sam, Rhea Perlman as Carla, George Wendt as Norm, John Ratzenberger as Cliff, Nicholas Colasanto as “Coach,” Shelley Long as Diane, Woody Harrelson as Woody, Kirstie Alley as Rebecca, Kelsey Grammar as Frasier, and Bebe Neuwirth as Lilith. Wow!

There’s a real Cheers bar? No way!

The Bull & Finch Pub is the basis for the bar in Cheers
The bar in Cheers was based on the Bull & Finch Pub

This author had a drink one time at the Bull & Finch in Boston, the pub which was the model for the bar in the show. It’s since been renamed Cheers . . . well why not! It was a quintessential pub, surprisingly like the bar in the show.

Go ahead and move the map image, or zoom in . . . that is the Bull & Finch which has been renamed, as you can see in the map.

Cheers – Australian for thanks, English for farewell, and for the Americans . . .

Across much of the English speaking world, including England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, and far beyond, “cheers” means goodbye as well as all its other meanings.

bye bye polar bear, goodbye
Polar Bear saying goodbye

Cheers as goodbye or farewell

Not a good buy, as in a great deal you just found online or in your favorite shop. Goodbye! As in farewell. See you later, or “See Ya!” if you want to be colloquial about it. In Italian arrivederci!

Image from Sound of Music of the children saying Cheers and Goodnight

Rogers and Hammerstein missed the opportunity to include “cheers” in the famous “So Long, Farewell” from the The Sound of Music. You know the one . . . so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. Each child says goodnight in their own way, including German, French, and although the song is in English, it’s American English, unfortunately not UK English which would have yielded a healthy cheers. As in: It’s time for bed, cheers to you and me.

Cheerio? Can I eat it?

Do not confuse the English Cheerio with the General Mills cereal Cheerios. These are most definitely different and distinct words!

A box of Cheerios cereal

The English have been using Cheerio along with Cheers for centuries. That said the earliest appearance in print seems to be from a 1908 log of the Transactions of the Philological Society.

And no one outside of American television has ever said Cheerio Mate, that’s just a made up expression with a bit of Australian English tossed into the mix.

Cheers as thank you?

In fact in many English speaking places, especially Australia, “cheers” also means “thank you” or “thanks.” This is a relatively recent development, especially in England where it has only been observed since the mid-1970s, according to the OED.

In American movies the phrase often get’s used as a thank you in a cliche-style as “cheers mate.” Where does this “mate” thing come from! Of course that could also be spoken with sincere intent, so please go ahead even and don’t let us stop you.

What about the Americans?

What about Americans? Is it ok for Americans to say cheers at the end of a conversation? What about signing off in an email? The double meaning of goodbye and thanks, both things you might say at the end of an informal conversation or correspondence really seems to work. This American author has done it, and nothing terrible has happened, so we urge you to ahead and give it a try . . . what can happen?

But what about the applause?

A crowd cheers at a rock concert

Cheers can also mean applause or appreciation. Clapping, singing, screaming. As in, “the crowd went wild with cheers!” It’s just another great use of the phrase to keep in mind.

So use it, and cheers to you!

Really, its OK to use “cheers,” even closing off an email. We challenge you to try it, even once. We think you won’t turn back! Let us know what you think. And check out our other posts about language. Cheers!


Haps & Hols – a better and quicker holiday greeting!

“Haps & Hols.” It’s that time of year again to wish your co-workers, friends, and family a happy holidays. But you don’t know what to say . . . those “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas” greetings are so saccharine, and leave you feeling blah when you should be filled with cheer. We’ve updated this post to solve your greetings malaise!

Haps & Hols to the rescue

We’ve got you covered. In a nod to the digital messaging and texting shortening our speech, we propose Haps & Hols replace the much longer and b-o-r-i-n-g Happy Holidays. It can also fill in for all of the other holiday salutation you use like: Warmest Holiday Wishes, Wishing you Joy and Peace (we might go with Joypeace!), Merry Christmas, Peace on Earth (just Peeeace?), Good Tidings for the Holidays (quaint and long), Season’s Greetings (just don’t!).

A very Haps & Hols to you with festive lights and ornaments on a holiday bush
A holiday tree adorned with Haps & Hols; photo courtesy @eyesofavery

If it fits your cultural context you can add in Happy Hanukkah (or Happy Chanukah depending on your spelling preference). You might say “Matunda ya Kwanza” to note the Kwanzaa celebration, which was created in the 1960s (read more here).

If you are inclined to good deeds, or have just lived in England or a former English Colony you might wish someone “Good Works on Boxing Day.” This is a tradition dating from Good King Wenceslas the 10th centuryDuke of Bohemia, of charitable giving the day after Christmas. Much of the charity has faded from Boxing Day, but the holiday remains in many parts of the world.

And of course when the year changes we have Happy New Years. Just make sure it’s in the right context. Of course with our penchant for simplifying language, we might go for Haps 22!

While scholars may argue that texting is ruining our language, we like to think of it as a very normal, evolutionary process. We don’t speak Elizabethan english for a reason . . . our language has evolved.

So what are the Haps and the Hols?

OK, let’s break it down. What exactly do we mean by Haps & Hols.

Haps is more than a short form for Happy. It conveys all of the good wishes we might have for someone to find Happiness. For the season, for the year, and for their lifetimes. Any time of year you can close a conversation with the quip: “Haps.”

Hols is the short form for Holidays. Not just Holiday. Not just Christmas. This is a salutation representing all of the days you might celebrate or consider celebrating this season. When you say “Hols,” you are telling someone you wish them to have a wonderful season of holidays, all going well for them, their friends, and their family. Pretty powerful for just a few letters!

What about the Holly?

Holly looking very happy growing wild
Holly growing wild in Northeastern PA

Hols can also encompass the joy from the decorations found in nature. Holly is any of 46 types of Aquifoliaceae, but usually applies in our common usage to either opaca (eastern United States) or aquifolium (Eurasia). Both have spiny-margined evergreen leaves and bright red berries.

Holly is a beautiful plant, and is often woven into wreathes, or gifted as a potted plant. We love to find it in nature as well, and encourage you to look for it as you travel.

So a greeting of Happy Hols most likely would mean our shortened form of Happy Holidays, but could also be a compliment on a really nicely growing holly plant.

Our Hols, along with Holly and Holy all trace back to origins in Old Germanic which became Halig. In Middle English (yes we are back to Elizabeth) Holin was used.

Holly growing alongside other bushes . . . one can just imagine the Happy Hols this can inspire!
Happy Hols!, more Holly growing nicely in PA

Hols can also refer to Holy, either as “consecrated to God,” or in its less formal form as “morally and spiritually excellent.”

Don’t confuse either Holly or Holy with Holey. Something “holey” would of course simply be filled with holes, and that would just be wholly (chuckle) unsuited for our holiday greeting.

Use it or be left behind

Actually, you should feel free to use any holiday greetings that feel right to you. We offer Haps & Hols only to give you another go-to option when the usual suspects feel too stuffy.

We’ve already tried it out this season, and its been received to mostly good effect. We had one question mark, but the rest of the feedback has been positive.

This is another in our series of posts on language, many of which are also about simplifying our phrases to fit (or even get in front of) modern usage. If you haven’t read it, check out our posts on “prahps“, and “don’t skep my nav,” they are both worth a read.

A bow in a festive holiday setting for a  Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and good cheers for the new years all in one.  You might even say Joypeace!
A bow on the season brings Haps & Hols all around; photo courtesy @eyesofavery

We wish you Joypeace! Please make sure you let us know where you’ve been able to put Haps & Hols to work. You feedback is always appreciated.


Prahps, or praps not . . . That is the question!

Perhaps. Such a simple word to express a complex equivocal answer. In our hurried modern context it has become Prahps and even Praps. Here is the story of how this has come about, and some guide as to where you should or should not partake . . .

“Perhaps” you say

Perhaps means possibly, but not certainly: Perhaps it will rain later today. Or it can be used to introduce subtle vagueness. Her inclusion of chocolate is perhaps a brilliant addition to this recipe.

There are other words that serve this purpose . . . but not as well. We might say “feasibly,” but that is very squishy and implies some engineering calculation. Or “potentially,” but that is longer and more equivocating, tuned to business cases exploring eventualities, and lacking the subtlety of perhaps. We could simply say “maybe,” but that would risk sounding like a 10 year old that can’t make up her mind.

Hamlet Tries To Follow His Father's Ghost, 1835, Eugène Delacroix.  An inspiration for our exploration of the word prahps.
Hamlet Tries To Follow His Father’s Ghost, 1835, Eugène Delacroix

Shakespeare had Hamlet lament “Perchance to Dream” in the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy. A beautiful word choice. But in the last 400 years perchance has fallen at least a bit out of favor and we would not likely call upon it today.

Prahps it’s time to shorten

So we are left with “perhaps” as a strong word choice in countless situations . . . and we propose formalizing the way it has been used in short form. That’s right, we want to shorten it! As in cut off letters and even an entire syllable. Prahps. Or if you must one of the other shortened forms like Praps, Prhaps, or even P’rhaps. Read on and you can decide which form works best.

Why Prahps?

Simply why not! Purists and traditionalists often push back on lingual evolution. But if our language is to continue to evolve, if we are to continue to evolve, worlds like prahps will continue to become part of our lexicon. It saves a syllable, sounds pleasing to the ear, and conveys the point without confusion.

The Apollo 1 crew in training, we wonder if they pondered the question of prahps (or praps) going into space
The Apollo One crew training –
prahps we should go to space, or
prahps we should just enjoy this sunny day

Did we invent it?

Prahps we did. The single syllable spoken seems to be in at least modest circulation. Although the use is typically written as Praps, which has additional meanings which we will explore below. In our editorial group and our families we have been using the phrase as shorthand for Perhaps for a few years, which is what prompted this post. We aren’t certain how widespread this is, so it’s hard to stake the claim to the spoken.

However, we do think we have coined this written form and spelling! Some searching and sleuthing turned up no other uses. In fact all of the search engines tried to “correct” our spelling. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been used this way before, but to our best evidence we are first! It’s fun to invent a new word, and we think we may have done so here! And you, dear reader, are along for the ride.

Why this spelling?

There are a few obvious (or less obvious) ways to contract or shorten perhaps: that would be p’rhaps, prhaps, or prahps . While we think we are first with any of these three, we prefer the last, and here is why . . .

What about the contraction?

Most contractions follow the form of eliminating a letter or syllable and replacing it with an apostrophe. But in this case if we eliminate the e and insert an apostrophe we would get P’rhaps. This would potentially backfire, and praphs (did you see how we did that) lengthen the pronunciation to the three syllabic Pa-er-haps. At best we would still emphasize the R as Prr-haps, no real benefit over the original two syllables.

And of course the contraction ‘re means are, so a new use of ‘r might lead to confusion.

So why ah over ha?

This is one of those cases where grammar rules and spelling rules run short. Or prahps they don’t really encourage either of these spelling options, so we are out on our own.

There are relatively few words in English that include an ah spelling. That works against us.

And there are many words that use an ha form like mishaps, describing things gone wrong, or even phaps, which is an out of use term for wild pigeons.

A wild pigeon, also know as a phap.  The ha spelling is common but not descriptive, and helps us understand the ah spelling for prahps.
A phap, also known as a wild pigeon
Phap, Phrap, and fraps

The CDC runs a Public Health Associate Program (PHAP), not to be confused with the Public Health Prevention Service (PHPS) it partially replaced. That’s a lot of acronyms.

There are also near match words like phrap. Very different from a frappuccino (also sometimes referred to as frap or in plural fraps), phrap is coding language used in DNA work. Along with its related phred, there is some science going on there that we prahps should stay detangled from.

So why choose the more awkward ah form? Because it better telegraphs the pronunciation, is more elegant, and better conveys the meaning and intent of the word:


Think Brahms. Johannes Brahms was one of the great Romantic music composers. Go ahead and say “Brahms” out loud. That smile and soothing feeling that 19 out of 23 people we surveyed on this reported are what we are going for here, and we are betting you now understand what we mean. The ah spelling gives a smooth ahh sound, and telegraphs perfectly how to pronounce the word.

Johannes Brahms, a Romantic era composer, born 1833, died 1897.  This photo dates from 1889.
Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897

With absolutely no proof we are going to assert that Prahps is more elegant than Prhaps. Most of our admittedly small survey sample of 23 thought so also, but every once in a while we like a bald assertion, and this is it.

While it has more of a flair to it, another critical thing to note is that when you type it, your computer won’t try to autocorrect your single syllable to the original Perhaps. Try it. Really . . . go ahead and try it!

Meaning and Intent

The most important question to ask is will people understand what you mean when you say it. In this case the ah is the most productive for communicating intent. Our undersized survey confirmed this for us, telling us that people equally understood the two choices, but preferred the ah form. Both forms won out over the street slang form of Praps, and the contraction P’rhaps, as well as the vowelless Prhps which fared the worst.

What about Praps?

The phrase prap or praps seems to be in at least some use. So why not just adopt praps? For one its a sloppy shortening that doesn’t immediately telegraph its intent or meaning. From context a reader can figure out what the writer means, but that’s never an elegant solution.

Praps in slang usage

For another, there seem to be several meanings for this slang term. The top definition from the Urban Dictionary is drunk or high. They ad that a prapser is someone who frequency gets drunk or high.

One use of prap that we rather like: a description of the combination of Pop and Rap music. This is actually quite a witty way to describe this not so uncommon but maybe misguided combination.

Apparently “gangster” slang includes use as a description of the sound of gunfire, as in “prap! prap!

And somewhere buried in these forms, praps can mean maybe or perhaps.

PRAP the acronym already means quite a few different things

The P.R.A.P. acronym is in reasonably wide use.

There is the Psychosocial Risk Assessment in Pediatrics (PRAP) which is a screening tool developed by a team at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

The retirement program offered by United Airlines is called the Pilot Retirement Account Plan (PRAP).

There are two related but different medical uses: Prolactin Receptor Associated Protein (PRAP), and Proline-rich Acidic Protein (PRAP). Some PRAPs may inhibit cancer growth, so hopefully we will hear more about them if they develop into viable drugs on that front.

The Pylos Regional Archaeological Project (PRAP) is “a multi-disciplinary, diachronic archaeological expedition” to investigate the history and settlement “centered on the Bronze Age administrative center known as the Palace of Nestor” in Greece. If exploring this further means a trip to Greece, count us in!

Ruins of the Palace of Nestor at Pylos, Greece.  It is part of PRAP the Pylos Regional Archaeological Project. This helps settle on prahps and rule out praps which increases the risk of ambiguity.
Archeological site at Palace of Nestor, Pylos, Greece

So Prahps it is!

Sometimes it really is OK to let our language breathe, and adopt a new phrase. It’s how language evolves, and it can be a good thing. We’ve done it, and you can too!

So first, we encourage you to drop a “prahps” into your everyday conversation, and see how it feels!

Next, please let us know what you think about our daring linguistic adventure! We had some good comments about our last language post about “not skepping anyone’s nav” which delved into the gender differences in how we develop and talk about technology, and also coined what we think is another turn of phrase “don’t skep my nav” that we think people should adopt.

And finally, if you hear prahps, praps, or even another way to say perhaps, please let us know that as well.



Don’t “Skep my Nav.” GPS designed by men may not be ideal for women

Language has a funny way of evolving, sometimes to fit technology we use, and sometimes to describe our times. I was driving the other day and my co-pilot asked over and over “are you sure this is the way?” All I could say was “please don’t skep my nav!”

They looked dumbfounded so I had to slow down to explain. This post is for you in preparation for that moment when someone close to you uses utterly incomprehensible language in their frustration over navigation.

Skep = Skeptical

Nav = Navigation

Don’t Skep My Nav = please don’t ask questions about my sense of direction, I will get us there if you just sit back and enjoy the ride

Why are men less likely than women to want to clarify where they are headed?

A New York Times article from years ago offers a clue to the mystery. It notes that men tend to navigate by motion and vectors, while women use landmarks and references.

Image of Man Driving a Car, he might be saying don't skep my nav
Does he really know where he is going?

But use of mapping software tends to skew male. More men download Google Maps than women, even though smartphone penetration and drivers licenses are relatively evenly divided. Why is this happening?

Men designed the GPS apps

It turns out that most mapping software is designed by men. In fact over 80% of the engineers on tech teams at the leading technology companies are male. The engineers that create these apps are designing for what intuitively works for them. But half of the users are women, and as we noted above, women tend to navigate differently from men.

Google maps icon - app for Navigation using GPS, please don't be either skeptical or skep someone's  nav skills
A challenge for the engineers to take the entire audience into account!

If we skep the app, will it change?

The most popular GPS mapping apps and software including Google Maps, Waze, Apple Maps, or Mapquest are all designed to show a map view, and are not good at providing visual queues or landmarks. The challenge is for one of these companies, or a new upstart, to develop a visually oriented mapping system that delivers navigation instructions in a way that is more intuitive for women.

Please think twice before “skepping someone’s nav”

So the next time you tell someone not to “skep your nav,” this little bit of insight might lead you to at least think about where their question is coming from. Please drive safe, and may all your navigation end with you where you set out to go, or somewhere else at least as interesting.

More on GPS, navigation, and the gender gap

As followup, there is an interesting blog post on this topic from Geospatial World on Why men use navigation apps more than women.

There are also statistics and background on what they are developing from Google itself on their cloud blog.

And if you enjoyed this post, you can check out more of our language posts here.

Don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments below. Especially if you have had a chance to try out the phrase “don’t skep my nav!”


Peds? When you say “watch the peds,” how exactly should I take that?

The word “peds” has more meanings than most people think about. Today’s post is to clear up some of the ambiguity about this shorthand phrase, and talk about some of the ways it has worked its way into our everyday language. Read on to find out all the ways to use this term, and what unintended meanings to watch out for.

Breaking up the confusion

We will disambiguate these seven uses and homonyms:

1) Feet

The first and most obvious use of peds is to describe feet. Because this is from the latin root, it is safe to say this language has been with us for a very long time.

Ancient statue showing feet, also known as peds.  This is from Cyprus dating to the early to mid 6th century B.C.
Feet of a colossal male statue, 6th century B.C., Cypriot.
Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

In fact you might recall the scientific name for things that go on two feet as bipeds. Four footed creatures are known as quadrupeds. In fact anything with more than one foot is a multiped (or as an adjective multipedal). And you guessed it, there are words for both six and eight legged creatures, but they pick up the greek root “pod,” hexapod and octopod respectively.

Image of H.G. Wells Martian Tripod, as illustrated by Henrique Alves Corrêa for the 1906 French edition.
Martian tripod
from the 1906 edition of H.G. Wells’
The War of the Worlds

Most life on earth is characterized by having bilateral symmetry, or an even number of limbs on each side. But science fiction is teeming with speculation about beings with uneven appendages like heptapods, which would be seven legged aliens! H.G. Wells 1898 The War of the Worlds featured Tripods, or three legged fighting machines.

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please don’t step on my feet!

2) Shoes

In addition to the feet that fit inside of them, shoes are often referred to as peds as well. Humans have been wearing shoes for close to 10,000 years. The earliest shoes were sandals and moccasins. Today we have dozens of types of shoes which we wear for work, play, comfort, and style.

Comfortable shoes, often called "peds,"  in the sunlight

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please don’t scuff up my shoes!

3) Pedestrians

Just some people walking. The word pedestrian describes a person walking in the same space where motor vehicles are operating. Along a road, for example. Pedestrians are of course just the plural form.

Pedestrians, sometimes called peds, crossing the street.
Pedestrians; Image courtesy Jay Mantri

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please drive carefully and don’t run into those people walking near the car!

4) Pedestrian (as in ho-hum everyday boring)

Instead of saying “that novel is so pedestrian,” meaning dull or nothing new here, you might instead use the shortcut . . . as in “this book is so peds, I’m not going to bother finishing it.”

Old looking books.

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please make sure you are not being BORING!!!

5) Pediatrics (abbreviation PEDS)

The medical profession typically abbreviate the study of children, or pediatrics, to P.E.D.S. In fact the American Academy of Pediatrics regularly uses this shortened form.

A pediatrician, practioner of pediatrics also known as PEDS, holds a stethescope

So when I say “watch the P.E.D.S.,” I mean observe what these doctors who practice Pediatrics are doing.

6) Children

While medical practitioners of pediatrics refer to their patient, they revert to the latin root of their discipline’s name, referencing the children they treat as “peeds.” But there is no actual accepted spelling for that term, and it can be found as “peds” as well, although often pronounced by medical professionals with a long e sound.

Children, also known as peds, holding hands walking down street.
Will you be my friend?

In slang usage, the short e pronunciation comes into play, often children referring to even younger children in a mildly derogatory way, as in “what are those peds doing playing on my baseball diamond.”

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please be careful not to bump into the children nearby.

7) Performance Enhancing Drugs

Just say no! Performance enhancing drugs are often shortened to the acronym P.E.D. by the various agencies and sports federations that monitor their usage by athletes.

Most sports ban drug use by competitors. Examples of banned drugs include anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, erythropoietin (EPO), beta-blockers, stimulants and diuretics. And these are just the start of some very long lists that run into many pages for some sports. The US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) has a guide which spells out what drugs are prohibited and how athletes will be tested.

Bicycle Race

Hundreds of athletes have been sanctioned or banned from participating in their sport after testing positive for drugs. There is a staggeringly long list on Wikipedia.

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean stay off those drugs or you will be disqualified from your sport.

Could peds have even more meanings?

There are likely another dozen meanings, or at least variations on the definitions above. For example we didn’t show some of the other latin or greek forms like Peditatus for infantry foot soldier, etc. because we would never use them like we might the ones on the list.

Nor did we go very far with the greek root “pod” with its influence on iPods, tripods, and learning pods.

Just for fun . . . a Pedometer records the number of steps we take, Pedomotive means a conveyance powered by feed (think Fred Flintstone), Pedopathy describes any disease effecting feet, Pedoplania is the phrase for flattening of the foot, Pedagogy or Pedagogical describes the art of science of teaching or methods of teaching, and a Pedicure is cosmetic care for the feet and toenails (getting your nails done).

And there are other real word examples. For instance, there is an actual socks and leggings company called Peds, maybe you even own some of their products.

Tell us about how you use peds!

If you use “peds” in any other way that you think is worth sharing, please let us know in the comments below. And also check out all of our other posts related to words and language.