Monday, October 31, 2011

Hell’s Bells

NOTE: Whoops. Thought I scheduled this for Halloween, but I now realized that I only saved it as a draft. Damn new Blogger interface. Late but nonetheless awesome, may I present a pitch-perfectly dark Disney short, the Silly Symphony “Hell’s Bells”?


Granted, there’s everything skin-crawly about the opening number, “Funeral March of a Marionette,” but was there ever a time when “In the Hall of the Mountain King” wasn’t creepy? Certainly, it being played on xylophones didn’t help.

(Via Monster Brains.)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Me & Cinderella

This week’s work comes courtesy of obscure etymology and an underappreciated NBC TV show.
padiddle (puh-DID-ul) — noun: a vehicle with one of its headlights out. interjection: a word shouted when one spots a vehicle driving with one headlight out.
Not dictionary definitions, I should note; they’re my own. And I had to make my own up because padiddle isn’t a word that appears in any dictionaries. However, it’s apparently a recognized term among a certain group of people. An age group? People who grew up in a specific geographic region? I’m not sure, but the fact that I learned it from Prime Suspect might be a tip-off.

Since the NBC adaptation of Prime Suspect began airing, I’ve been recapping it for KCET, trying my best to compare Maria Bello’s fedora-topped lady detective to the Helen Mirren original. As a result, I’m one of the few people watching Prime Suspect, which is really too bad, considering the gradual disappearance of the New York City-based crime procedural. (You watch — they’ll vanish before you realize they’re endangered, just like the common pigeon.) In the most recent episode, an important clue was hidden in a homeless dude’s addled ramblings about a padiddle moving in and among the trees in Central Park. The detectives don’t know what to make of it until their lieutenant points out that padiddle is a word that apparently refers to a car with only one headlight. It’s also what you yell out when you spot such a highway hazard. Sometimes there’s a punch. Yeah, it’s basically to the Chinatown headlights what Slugbug is to the Volkswagen Beetle.

So why padiddle? That’s a good question. No site I found seemed to have any idea how this nonsense-sounding word got attached to cars with less-than-optimal nighttime visibility, though at least I learned that some people spell it pediddle or perdiddle. A possible hint: There may be a connection to drumming vocabulary, and I say this based on the fact that there’s some debate whether padiddle should be listed on Wikipedia’s “Glossary of musical terminology” page, plus the fact that there exist the terms paradiddle and paradiddlediddle that refer to a specific style of drumming. (ABAA and ABAABB, respectively, referring to the left and right sets. That has to be a clue, right? What with the left and right headlights?)

So wherefore padiddle? I don’t know. But I can at least offer this, in perfect alignment with the recent spate of 90s nostalgia that now characterizes the state of pop culture. (I mean, fuck: In Living Color is coming back?):

But I have to admit that I actually never got tired of this song.

Previous words of the week after the jump.
Word nerd? Subscribe to Back of the Cereal Box’s word-related posts by clicking here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Deflating Balloon Fight

As it does fairly frequently, Nintendo did something funny. This particular funny thing happened in 1990, when it released a Game Boy game, Balloon Kid, as a sequel to its 1984 title, Balloon Fight.

A lot of Nintendo’s lesser-known titles saw sequels rendered in the glorious creamed spinach color of the Game Boy, I suspect because these cheaper, shorter games presented less risk to the companies that made them. In any case, non-A-list Nintendo franchises like Metroid and Kid Icarus saw their first sequels on the Game Boy before getting more respect on “proper” systems years later. Balloon Fight did too, with Balloon Kid and its floaty airborne adventure through the pointy-tipped landscape of Pencilvania (ha!), but it as a franchise never really crawled out from the bargain bin.

And that’s too bad, because it’s a fun little game — a festive little variation on Joust where in balloons replace funny flying ostriches. Flit about, clip the balloons attached to the bad guys and, if you want, also pop the balloons keeping Player Two aloft.

There’s also an alternate mode unique to the NES version, “Balloon Trip,” where in one player can float in one direction, attempting to snag free-floating balloons while avoiding obstacles. (Weirdly, the screen scrolls right-to-left — a rarity in platforming video games.)

It’s the second mode that Nintendo chose to focus on in the sequel, but that choice isn’t the strange one. As I realized while reading The Gay Gamer’s entry on Balloon Kid, Nintendo’s strange move was actually the one to switch the gender the main character. In place of the anonymous little dude in the skydiving suit is Alice, a little girl wearing a bow in her hair. In fact, Alice is the second-ever female character to be the main controllable one in a Nintendo game. (The first is Samus from Metroid, whose space armor totally disguises her gender until the end of the game — and even then only if you meet certain conditions. Bubbles, the lead of the Pac-Man-like Clu Clu Land, is only female in the U.S. Alice, however, is clearly female from the get-go.)

original dude on the left, his successor on the right

Alice and her unflinching girliness are also featured fairly prominently in the box art.

So why make this call? Why make the second entry in the franchise stand out by putting a girl in the lead role? The game was fun, as I remember, but it didn’t benefit from the fact that its main character wore a skirt. Of course, Alice being female didn’t have any effect on the gameplay, exactly, but what it did do was turn off a few boys who saw the box art and decided they didn’t want to be caught playing a “girl’s game.” In the end, Balloon Kid didn’t become a major seller, and Balloon Fight as a franchise never really went anywhere. Mr. Anonymous Fighter was shortlisted for inclusion in one of the Smash Bros. games, but ultimate didn’t make the cut. And the series has yet to get a new entry. Balloon Kid, however, did find a strange second life that further situated it in the “girl’s game” ghetto: It underwent a makeover and finally got released in Japan as Hello Kitty World, with that weirdly mouthless Sanrio cat replacing Alice.

Hello Kitty and her friends being the sort that typically decorate the backpacks and pencil boxes of young women, Nintendo clearly thought the game, with the proper dressings, could appear to girls, though I’m not sure what it is exactly about balloons that skews feminine.

So what eventually became of Balloon Fight? Not all that much. Like I said, the Balloon Fighter himself just missed out on Smash Bros.. However, the original title scored a remake in 2007 for the Nintendo DS as Tingle’s Balloon Fight, starring one of Nintendo’s least masculine characters ever — Tingle, the Zelda series’s middle-aged, spandex clad man who thinks he’s a fairy. (What, you mean every long-running video game franchise doesn’t have one?)

Nintendo was a lot more straightforward about the fact that they were mashing a foreign character into Balloon Fight, hence this cover with Tingle being taped into the original box art. For what it’s worth, Tingle already had an association with balloon travel…

But the fact that the this version of Balloon Fight starred a character most gamers seem to have a hard time loving — and furthermore it was only released in Japan and only made available to Club Nintendo members — makes me think Nintendo maybe isn’t as interested in making the franchise as popular as it could be. Which is too bad, because the series features simple, fun arcade-style play at its best, no matter how Nintendo dresses it up.

Games and gender stuff, previously:


Remember that street sign from not-my-street deposited on my street? Back, like, almost a month ago? Guess how far it has moved.

From flat on the grass to propped up next to the palm tree on the grass. Seriously, what level of city government does one notify about this kind of thing?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Galactus, Destroyer of Fashion

I had my geek credibility called into question this week. My job has me writing about celebrity culture, whether I care about it or not. But this particular assignment didn’t bother me: Heidi Klum’s awesome Halloween costumes. Yes, the woman who doles out cutting insults on Project Runway with that unnerving sort of German jolliness. She has a quirky seasonal pastime, and it’s showing up her famous friends every Halloween. Last year, she donned a particularly elaborate costume, which she described as “an alien transformer.” Speaking as someone who prides himself on pop culture knowledge, I can say that that isn’t a thing, this alleged “alien transformer.”

Here’s the costume:

As you can see, she’s rocking stilt legs and not falling on her ass — an admirable feat on Halloween or any other day — but it’s curious the fact that her generically sci-fi costume is paired with that of her husband, Seal, who is obviously the Marvel Comics superhero Silver Surfer. Granted, it’s a loincloth-clad version of this character that’s not flaunting his bulge to the world in the way he did in the second Fantastic Four movie, but even a novice Marvel fan would be able to recognize his costume.

When I wrote about Klum’s 2010 Halloween, I noted this strangeness — the Silver Surfer posing next to some sort of vaguely alien, apparently non-Marvel entity, and looking more like a fiery-colored cousin to the alien diva from The Fifth Element than anything else. I, apparently, was wrong. People with keener eyes for comic references instantly recognized Klum as a female version of Galactus, Destroyer of Worlds. For comparison’s sake, please observe his in-the-book incarnations:

So I’m curious: How obvious is her costume to you, my geekily-minded readers? Granted, the side-by-side association with the Silver Surfer should be a dead give-away, yet it never occurred to me that Klum was an actual character and not some kinda-sorta hodgepodge that Klum arrived at by watching the middle of several famous sci-fi movies. Based on her description of her costume, she might not have realized that she was actually one particular thing instead of an original creation, but I suppose I should have.

What say you? Is it indeed all that obvious?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Rainbow in Every Toilet Bowl

Some rules of thumb for proper toilet usage:
If it's yellow, let it mellow. 
If it's brown, flush it down.

If it's red, you'll soon be dead.

If it's blue, bring in friends to view.

If it's green, you are unclean.

If it's pink, see a shrink.

If it's violet, remember 9-1-1 and then dial it.

If it's turquoise, stand with more poise.

If it's gray, eat curds and whey.

If it's scarlet, you're a harlot.

If it's chartreuse, cease self-abuse.

If it's indigo, fear the Wendigo.

And if it's black, you're probably consuming too much iron.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Rude Hat (A Question in Need of an Answer)

Except for the part where you’re not supposed to say anything unless it’s nice (because my humor is mean-spirited and without mean jokes I worry I’d just be etymology trivia, anecdotes about old video games and some combination of these two), I do try to follow rules. The kinds that go in various governmental books prevent us from devolving into hooting monkeys, and the kinds that remain in our grandmother’s heads (and hearts and souls) make us at least monkeys who hoot politely and wear pants. I won’t argue with this, and you shouldn’t either.

I do, however, find fault with the rules that don’t make any sense, because when you obey the spirit of law that has no, like, physical body attached to it, you verge on superstition. Chewing with your mouth open? A no-brainer. It’s gross. Someone else’s mostly masticated, saliva-soaked food looks quite a bit like vomit, and it’s unappetizing to see someone else’s vomit any time much less at mealtime. (I wager that no one would ever break this rule if the human eye were able to swivel around and somehow watch its neighbor mouth as it chews food, for it would appear no less disgusting than it would in someone else’s mouth.) Other rules confuse me. For example, why is it considered rude to place your elbows on a dining table during a meal? What is it about a goddamn raised surface that happens to be supporting food that makes it so special? Clearly nothing. No one has ever been explained to me why this act is considered rude, and I think there is in fact no reason, which is why more and more members of polite society eat with their elbows resting comfortably at the same level as their dinner plate. Similarly but on the opposite end of the scale of meaningfulness: the prohibition against gay marriage. Obviously, people are gradually realizing they have no reason to refuse this small (but important) group of people this basic human right, and so they say, “Feh. Do whatever you want, you crazy kids,” especially because other places have condoned it without having been swallowed by The Void or plagued by ghosts or hit with natural disasters any harder than any other part of the world.

So that brings me to my question: What the hell is the problem with wearing a hat indoors? Fewer and fewer people consider this rude, and so we see people (mostly men) strutting about be-capped in homes and casinos and museums and other places. Yet the admonitions of my mother and grandmother ring in my ears whenever I do, particularly during meals. (What is our deal with eating. Is this a Last Supper thing? I’ll bet it is.) So please, someone, explain to me why this rule of etiquette ever existed, so I can realize that its origins are silly and I can put it out of my head once and for all.

I swear I’m not, like, hiding a sword under my hat, or whatever other medieval times-originated worry is responsible for the hat hatred.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

That Progressive Machine

The Playboy Club has scuttled off the new fall schedule and into a hole in the ground, never to show its fluffy tail again. I’m not complaining. I’m thankful that this particular historical lens won’t get a chance to focus on, say, the JFK assassination, because I just can’t imagine myself enjoying the sight of a woman in a rabbit costume falling to her knees in despair, then pulling herself together and bunny-dipping the night away because “that’s what President Kennedy would have wanted from me!”

I mean, that is what JFK would have wanted her to do, of course. It’s just not the kind of TV I’d want to watch.

All that said, one of the historical footnotes the show did offer was the story of the Mattachine Society, one of the first U.S. gay rights organizations. Really, this plotline was a surprising inclusion, and I have to imagine that the gay characters resulted from NBC’s desire to fight the perception that The Playboy Club was more than just a liberal interpretation of history plus jiggletits. (“See? We got homos on this show. That oughta shut up them women’s libbers.”) For what it’s worth, I thought it was a welcome distraction to watch this depiction of a lavender marriage and a clandestine civil rights movement whose goals are only today being realized.

actual gay sean maher discussing gayness with gays, in a gay manner.

But what’s with that name, Mattachine?

Henry Hay, one of the founders of the group explained the name in 1976: The group took its name from a medieval French group, the Société Mattachine, which donned identity-concealing costumes and performed public rituals during the Feast of Fools. Explained Hay:
Sometimes these dance rituals, or masques, were peasant protests against oppression — with the maskers, in the people’s name, receiving the brunt of a given lord’s vicious retaliation. So we took the name Mattachine because we felt that we 1950s gays were also a masked people, unknown and anonymous, who might become engaged in morale building and helping ourselves and others, through struggle, to move toward total redress and change.
Etymologically, the term is a bit more complicated. Mattachine, as a French word, comes from the Italian Mattaccino, the name of an Italian jester character who, according to Wikipedia, would “speak the truth to the king when nobody else would.” (There is a word for this, by the way: narrenfreiheit. Also the diamond-based design that the Mattachine Society often used as its logo was apparently inspired by the similar diamond patterns that you sometimes see on harlequin costumes.)

mr. mattaccino and his decidedly less-than-colorful costume

Italian, in turn, took Mattaccino from mattachin, Moorish dancers who, like the jesters and the French Mattachine performers, wore brightly colored costumes. And mattachin, comes from the Arabic mutawajjihin, meaning “mask-wearers.”

Now, often, when you trace a word’s etymology, you see how wildly its meaning can change from the present to however far back you can follow it. And I admit that this one has gone pretty far — from Arabian masks to a bygone American gay rights groups. But at the same time, it’s interesting to look at how the meaning has retained a lot, and how the literal meanings have been twisted into figurative ones. As Hay pointed out, the Mattachines were still wearing masks in the mid-twentieth century. (Make what you will of the brightly colored clothing.)

Surely, this etymology is something the show would have explored in its third season. Surely.

  • Not that I’m going to make a habit of writing about strange costumes of medieval Europe, but I did recently post this.

A Most Quaint-Sounding Cause of Barf

It’s hard to vomit gracefully. For one, there’s the noise — the vocal wretching followed by that wet slap. There’s also the undignified sprint to the toilet or sink or unattended fedora. There’s the whole Jackson Pollock-y result of it all. There’s the fact that vomiting serves as both an announcement of both everything you’ve eaten in the recent past (“You should chew your Goldfish crackers more thoroughly!”) as well as how bad your insides smell. (In certain cases, it can also testify to the vomiter’s inability to withstand Tilt-a-Whirls or celebratory shots.) In short, there’s a lot that can go wrong and you need all the help you can get.

So the next time your partially digested food starts rumbling up your throat in a daring escape from the humid, squishy prison that is you, consider this charming word to describe your illness.
collywobbles (KAH-lee-wah-bulz) — noun: 1. a stomachache. 2. anxiety or fear.
I mean, how great is this word? How cute? It could be a character in some picture book for British children. Maybe Mr. Collywobbles would be a nervous hare who discreetly in the background of every scene. I’d guess that the term was an antiquated British one, but it’s apparently used in all English-speaking lands — just not often enough.

The origin is uncertain. While Etymonline calls it a “fanciful formation from colic and wobble,” The Phrase Finder posits that it could have some connection to colly, meaning “coal-colored,” with the connection being that breathing coal-colored, coal-infused air actually made a lot of people sick. Wobble, by the way, is a word I forget exists until I actually think about it. Nothing against it. I sort of sounds like baby talk, I guess, but it’s a full-fledged word that refers to all manner of unsteady action, literal and otherwise.

It’s also a video game, apparently. The game may not be etymologically appropriate.

Previous words of the week after the jump.
Word nerd? Subscribe to Back of the Cereal Box’s word-related posts by clicking here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On the Merits of Standardizing the Western Spelling of Ghadafi

As I write this, Gadhafi is trending on Twitter, but his chances at posthumous internet fame are no doubt being hurt by the fact that Westerners have so many ways they can tweet about the now-former dictator and now-former alive person. Consequently, the most-tweeted-about event ever, as it stands now, is still Beyonce’s revelation that Jay-Z had put a baby in her. Which is just great. As if to flaunt the Beyonzygote’s continued domination over major world news events, Wikipedia notes that the we Roman alphabet users have 112 possible ways to spell his name, at least by the count of ABC news. This graphic lays out just some of these possibilities:

But which one is best? I’d have to go with Moammar Khadaffy, just because it has a certain fun, kooky flair to it. I mean, when you’re using a dh and an fi together in the same word, it’s all deserts and yelling. But that daffy in there really lightens the mood, don’t you think? I mean, now that he’s dead, the least we can do is obliterate any notion of authority he tried to create by conflating him with a Looney Tunes character.

High-Octane Nightmare Fuel (14th Century Edition)

Do you know this amazing term, high-octane nightmare fuel? It’s a good one, popularized by the Television Tropes & Idioms website to describe those media images that have a way of worming into you subconscious and subverting the most personal, positive, familiar images into something skin-crawlingly horrible. This blog actually gets namechecked on the HONM page, specifically for my post on the Batman villain Baby Doll, whose kindergartner form belies the mind of a psychopath, though I think other posts here fit the category rather nicely. (Case in point: the owl choking on a rat or the futurismo train of death or this fucking spider or that woman who burned to death in the Brady Bunch kitchen or the Birdo fetish costume or that heart-stoppingly creepy painting “The Hands Resist Him”.) But I digress. I meant to be posting about new horrifying things here today, by which I mean new-to-you because you weren’t alive in fourteenth-century Europe.


And this:

And this too:

Nightmare stuff, right?

This costume existed as a result of function rather than form. However, its intent was not to horrify the people viewing it so much as it was to protect the people inside it. Medical professionals donned the “Plague Bird” outfit when treating sick people because they misunderstood how germs were communicated from one person to another. In their minds, the waxed canvas robe shut out those pesky disease-causing vapors while the elongated “beak” mask buffered the nose with supposed plague-fighters such as roses, carnations, camphor and vinegar. In the end, of course, it’s about as effective as wearing green to ward of St. Patrick’s Day pinches, but back in the day this horrible thing was doctor-recommended.

Quaint, yes, but just think about the scenario: You, about to succumb to the plague in your filthy little thatched-roof, mud-floored, chicken-populated hovel, when all of a sudden this anthropomorphized carrion-picking bird shows up. He means well, but you don’t know that. In fact, you don’t know anything about what has caused pulsating black bumps to envelope your upper-body section. You’re delirious. And you’re scared in your delirium. In the end, your thoughts are occupied totally by wondering why this grotesque bird has come to visit you in your dying hours.

I totally understand people who fear birds now. Also: I cannot understand how there isn’t already a horror movie franchise based around the plague bird as the killer.

Now that is nightmare fuel right there.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Proof of Ned Flanders’ Association With Whores

Of course, this news comes to us via Truman Capote:

Don’t read the filthy first part of the photographed text. Scroll a third of the way down to the mention of a supposed inhabitant of New Orleans, via “Hidden Gardens” in Capote’s Music for Chameleons: Neddie Flanders.

This, of course, actually proves nothing, except, as Spencer points out, that the line “The characters. I could list hundreds” could also apply to me and The Simpsons.

Our show of shows, previously:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Monologue: “Guys, I Swear I’m Not Turning Into a Zombie”

Okay, okay — what happened was this, I think: Everyone is all freaked out by the zombies, and we’ve been cooped up for a while, and I thought it would be funny to lighten the mood by playfully suggesting that I eat Carol’s brains. I don’t want to eat Carol’s brains. Never have. Not going to. But you see in the context of this crazy situation, I thought it might be funny to, like, speak as one of the zombies, you know?

Carol, stop crying.

The thing is, guys, lots of non-zombies eat brains. Have you ever gone to that little taqueria downtown? The one where there’s always a line out in front during lunch? They serve all kinds of tacos, and this one time I got tacos de cabeza. I didn’t realize it then, but it turns out they were brain tacos. (Cabeza is brain. Didn’t know. Took French in high school.) I know, I know. But you’d be surprised how good they were. Like me, not knowing that I was eating brains, I ate these tacos, and let me tell you: They were the. best. tacos. that I’ve ever had. But see, I’ve already eaten brains, before this whole zombie mess started.

Alright, I see that you guys aren’t willing to listen to reason. Dennis, put the mallet down. (And where did you get a mallet that big anyway?) Now, the taqueria didn’t serve human brain tacos. I believe they were cow brains. Not totally sure. But if we’re going to have a “don’t talk about eating brains” rule here, it’s something we should put out in the open right now.

Now, to address your second concern, the wound on my arm is not a zombie bite. What I think happened — and what I think you’ll all agree is totally plausible — is that that this was a pre-existing injury. I got it while I was playing with my dog just a few days ago before the whole zombie thing started. What? No, that’s a valid point, but I think you just never noticed it before now because we previously didn’t live in a “fleshwounds equal zombification” society. And I think I can grandfather in this little wound — just a scratch, really — by demonstrating how the teethmarks could not have been made by a human mouth, zombified or otherwise. See, if ah playth mah ahrm in mah mouf wike thith, you cah thee that the bite markth ah jutht too — OH GOD DAMN IT, CAROL. Stop crying. I’m was putting my own arm in my own mouth.

Now, the last point, which I think you’re all very curious about — and rightly so — is why it appeared that I was biting Carol’s head. Now I have a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, and that is that we’re all a little tense, and I thought that Carol, in comparison to the rest of us, was really starting to lose her shit. YEAH, I SAID IT, CAROL. EVERYONE WAS THINKING IT. Oh, for the love of — blow your fucking nose, Carol. (I mean, look at her. She’s a mess. I’m thinking maybe she’s the zombie. NOT THAT THERE’S A ZOMBIE HERE, Dennis.) Now, Carol was doing her whole hysterical woman thing, going on about her sister again, and I thought maybe a little physical affection could calm her nerves. I mean, everyone else was trying to sleep, and I simply embraced her and was leaning in to kiss her on the back of the head as a sign of platonic affection. And then she heave-sobbed, like she’s been doing this whole time, and bucked her head right into my tooth. That’s it, I swear.

Hmm? Yeah, well, okay, I think that’s a valid point. I don’t think I would have wanted any kind of physical contact with Carol before this either, but things are different now, people. We’re looking at the end of our society as it existed before the zombies. And we all have to make sacrifices. And is it really so incredible that I’d be willing to subject myself to physical proximity with Carol?


Guys, this is neither funny nor fair.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mistpouffers: Creepier Than Their Name Might Indicate

Sometimes a word’s definition simply does not match its form or pronunciation. For example, my word of the week. I’m fairly certain it can’t mean what it does, and it should rather refer one of the following:
  • a thing that exists in the Harry Potter universe
  • a euphemism for a rude noise made by the female anatomy
  • something your grandmother might call a male homosexual
  • a sort of cookie
  • a crop duster
  • a crotch duster (if that’s a thing maybe)
  • a synonym for whatchamacallit or cajigger
But it’s actually none of these. No, it’s actually a bit more sinister.
mistpouffers (MIST-poof-ers) — noun: unexplained noises that sound like cannon fire or sonic booms.
Chances are that if you’re hearing mistpouffers, you’re near a body of water. Picture yourself standing there, enjoying nature in all its wetness, when a clap of thunder disturbs the tranquility of the scene. But then you notice: no clouds. What the hell? That’s what scientists have been wondering since the first report of mistpouffers back in 1824. Ever since, prominent noiseologists have attributed the mystert sounds to everything from meteors to geothermal gas to the collapse of underwater caves. (Or, you know, aliens. Personally, I think it’s Cloverfields.)

And depending on what cursed part of the world you’re in when you hear these mystery noises, these above-water bloops, you might call them something else: brontidi in Italy, retumbos in the Philippines, Seneca Guns in the American Southeast, Moodus noises specifically in Connecticut, uminari in Japan, and Barisal Guns in Bangladesh.

But why mistpouffers? That is equally baffling, because no article that I can find lists an origin for the term. (I blame Cloverfields for this as well.) But I can at least guess were it came from. It seems possible that the term shares some connection with the French pouffer, “to burst out (as with laughter),” even if the closest relative this word in English would seem to be puff, which names an eruption of a different sort. The fact that another apparent term for this phenomenon is fog guns could possibly explain the mist in mistpouffers, and while it seems like the word could have also described some kind of smoke-belching gun or cannon, I can’t seem to find an instance of this word being used to name anything other than the noise. Oh well.

I suppose that if anyone’s looking into mistpouffers, it’s for the best that they’d be looking into not into the term but the sounds themselves, especially given the long list of other unexplained noises sounding off throughout the world, doubtlessly heralding the death of us all. By Cloverfields, of course.

Previous words of the week after the jump.
Word nerd? Subscribe to Back of the Cereal Box’s word-related posts by clicking here.