site banner

The Motte: A Working Glossary

I made this list not out of snark or spite, but because it has rained all day, rained, even, on me as I took my walk, which I cut short, and because I have been making notes for months, and now seemed as good a time as any.

I had a long intro for this, hearkening back to grad school and people using terms they thought others knew and probably others did know but maybe not, and argots, and random musings, but I'll spare you.

These are words or terms I've seen in my many months here that I didn't know, or did know but didn't put together with their meaning. I am linking specific posts to where they were used, though these I found by doing a hard-search and are not necessarily the posts where I first saw the word/term. Any mistakes or misrepresentations are my fault. I hope this is helpful to others among us who are sometimes as confused as I am. Probably many of you know all these and must imagine me very old to post this. So be it.

If you recognize yourself as the author, I am not intending to be snide, or criticize your post. You just got lucky.

Edit: Many of these are probably going to need to be updated and tweaked. Feel free to add comments.

Let's start with the biggie:

asabiyyah: a concept of social solidarity with an emphasis on unity, group consciousness, and a sense of shared purpose and social cohesion.

ex: “I don't think democracy, in itself, will help you maintain Asabiyyah any more than theocracy will, or vice versa.”

Bagdhad Bob: When war propaganda becomes so out of touch with reality it turns comedic and achieves the opposite of the desired effect. It is said such propaganda is "Baghdad Bobbed" exactly at the moment when this threshold is crossed. From Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, Iraqi War Information Minister in 2003.

ex: "In such a scenario, this is a very strong way to build a reputation for accuracy, and counter what seems like an emerging narrative even in the West that the Ukrainian government may be Baghdad Bobbing (I've seen a lot of palpable irritation about Zelenskiy's recent implausibly low figure for Ukrainian casualties, and before that the stories like the Kramatorsk air defence accident already strained the relationship)."

Baumol’s Cost Disease: From the late William Baumol, NYU’s Stern School of Business. used to explain why prices for the services offered by people-dependent professions with low productivity growth—such as (arguably) education, health care, and the arts—keep going up, even though the amount of goods and services each worker in those industries generates hasn’t necessarily done the same.

"This is Baumol's cost disease in a nutshell."

Note: @jeroboam helpfully linked a Wiki page in this instance.

Chesterton’s fence: rule of thumb that suggests that you should never destroy a fence, change a rule, or do away with a tradition until you understand why it's there in the first place

"So if you really believe that reality is created by our beliefs then this is a massive Chesterton's Fence."

consent à outrance: From the French. Suggests an agreement or consent that is given fully and without reservation, sometimes to the point of being excessive or without consideration of the consequences.

“It brings to mind feminist consent-a-outrance ideas, where second-to-second affirmative consent in the presence of a notary is the current-year standard for wholesome sex.”

CRT: Critical Race Theory.

"…CRT, BLM, Gays and Abortion, which between them comprise the majority of Social Justice's most visible ideological commitments."

DRM: (I saw it used as a verb but have no link because I can no longer find it). Digital Righs Management. Presumably restricting the ways in which content (music, whatever) can be used, copied, or distributed.

Dunbar-limited world: Reference to Robin Dunbar, biological anthropologist. The “Dunbar Number” is the upper limit on the number of social relationships a human can effectively manage. (I believe it is supposed to be 150.)

"When it comes to physical goods, proprietary knowledge, or genuinely clandestine information in a Dunbar-limited world, these concerns basically make sense."

Einsatzgruppen: : From the German. Actually, a German word. These were “mobile killing units,” best known for their role in the murder of Jews in mass shooting operations during the Holocaust.

"Seems to me large parts of the military were involved in it, or otherwise 'pacifying' to allow the einsatzgruppen to do their work."

Euthyphro: : A “straight-thinker.” A combination of εὐθύς (euthys), which means straight or direct and φρονέω (phroneô) which means to think or to reason.

"We can Euthyphro this all day but even setting aside questions of the One True Good, the loss of that external nudge has been disastrous."

NB: Alternate definition here.

Frasurbane: portmanteau of the sitcom Frasier and urbane, is the wonderfully specific aesthetic of late '90s interiors of people who want to come across as sophisticated and worldly.

“As a Frasurbane adult, I take edibles with my wife and go to a nice dinner and La Boheme and I think that is a just-fine thing to do.”

HBD: If you do not know what this means, that’s weird, because it is almost a theme here. Human Biodiversity. Some here swear by its truth, others do not swear by it but expect it’s real, others think it’s dubious. Too many instances to choose from.

lolcow : A person whose eccentric or foolish behaviour can be exploited to amuse onlookers.

“I suspect that a trans movement capable of producing activists that leave kiwifarms alone also would not produce so many lolcows.”

idpol: abbreviation based on identity politics is politics based on a particular identity, such as race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, social background, caste, etc.

"We’re barely or not even a year removed from when the race-card was (successfully) played to agitate for Embiid getting the MVP instead of Jokic, to essentially zero pushback on the idpol front."

If-by-whiskey: If-by-whiskey is a type of argument that supports both sides of a topic by employing terminology that is selectively emotionally sensitive. Originates from a speech given by Mississippi state representative Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr. in 1952.

"There's a lot of if-by-whiskey, where sometimes the alt-right was just the nutty white nationalists when defining their ideology, others where it was people who hadn't denounced them heavily enough, and then other times the alt-right was pretty much everyone to the right of Mitt Romney."

Kolmogorov Complicity: Originated with Scott Alexander from his blog. Reference to the Soviet mathematician Andrey Kolmogorov. The idea of navigating or conforming to oppressive orthodoxies while still trying to contribute to the growth of knowledge and truth discreetly.

“Like I've said the last 3 times we've had this conversation, Kolmogorov Complicity is just Complicity.”

libfem: Stands for liberal feminist, also known as intersectional feminism or third wave feminism. A societal ideology focused on power dynamics and microlabels. a main branch of feminism defined by its focus on achieving gender equality through political and legal reform within the framework of liberal democracy and informed by a human rights perspective.

“The far end of libfem, maybe.”

MGTOW: an acronym for Men Going Their Own Way, an online social movement and backlash to feminism where men renounce interactions with women and seek to define and live out their masculinity on their own terms.

“It’s largely an excuse to remain single into middle age and to reject marriage without adopting the most cringe (some would claim) aspects of MGTOW.”

Orbanization: : (maybe) the process of adopting political strategies and governance methods that are similar to those of Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary. Orbán's tenure has been characterized by a centralization of power, control over media, erosion of checks and balances within government structures, and a move towards what is sometimes called "illiberal democracy."

"There won’t be a civil war, though, a slow Orbanization is more feasible and the modern American ruling class is much more disunited than they were 30 years ago (the Israel question discussed above is one example)."

Overton window: an approach to identifying the ideas that define the spectrum of acceptability of governmental policies. It says politicians can act only within the acceptable range. Shifting the Overton window involves proponents of policies outside the window persuading the public to expand the window.

“Transgender politics wasn’t in the Overton window at this point.”

Pascal’s Wager: the argument that it is in one's rational self-interest to act as if God exists, since the infinite punishments of hell, provided they have a positive probability, however small, outweigh any countervailing advantage.

"Pascal's wager is terrible because infinite rewards break game theory."

Pill colors: Red, Blue, Black

  1. Red Pill: In the context of online communities, particularly those focused on gender and relationships, "Red Pill" refers to the belief that men have been socially disadvantaged and that conventional beliefs about gender, attraction, and social interaction are misleading or false. It often involves the idea that men need to become aware of and confront these supposed harsh realities to improve their own lives. The term is frequently used in men's rights and certain dating advice communities.
  2. lue Pill: The "Blue Pill" is often posited as the opposite of the "Red Pill." It represents adherence to conventional or mainstream beliefs about gender, relationships, and society. In communities that use these terms, taking the "Blue Pill" means accepting societal norms and beliefs without questioning them, often portrayed as living in blissful ignorance.
  3. lack Pill: The "Black Pill" takes a more fatalistic and often nihilistic viewpoint compared to the Red Pill. It's associated with a belief that certain unchangeable traits (like physical appearance, height, etc.) predominantly determine one's success in areas like dating and social interaction. Black Pill ideology is often linked with extreme pessimism, defeatism, and a belief that systemic changes or personal improvements are largely futile.

PMC : Professional/Managerial Class

“I’ve been to many wonderful small towns in the US, but they were all in New England or in the outer suburbs of wealthy cities and the residents all had some source of external wealth, either from commuting into highly-paid PMC jobs in the nearest major city or from tourism.”

purity spiral: a sociological theory which argues for the existence of a form of groupthink in which it becomes more beneficial to hold certain views than to not hold them, and more extreme views are rewarded while expressing doubt, nuance, or moderation is punished

"Once the ground shifted underneath them and their purity spiral was broken, leftists would just forget their causes in exactly the same way they forget e.g. their support for Stalin in the 50s, or all the crazy shit they said in 2020."

quant: short for quantitative analyst.

A hard search for this term provided too many instances of other words using these five letters, e.g. quantify, etc. and I didn’t have the patience to keep looking. But I’ve seen this term used and you will, too, if you keep reading this forum.

quokka: I have no idea what this means except a small marsupial. Help. Thank you @naraburns. The origin is here. From what I can gather a quokka is a kind of gentle-dispositioned person, innocent of nature, who is a bit of a nerd and wants to discuss things in good faith. Often applicable to certain autists. It is not a pejorative term. Edit: Maybe it is.

"Can you imagine a bunch of quokkas going about EA and Skynet every two days on the forum?"

Russell conjugation: a rhetorical technique used to create an intrinsic bias towards or against a piece of information.

“Let's work out the Russell conjugation: I offer good-faith criticisms of the United States, you disparage America as part of a project to prove how great Russia is.”

shape-rotator: Someone with high mathematical and technical skills, often portrayed as rivals to the wordcels (who have stronger language and verbal skills)

“I thought we were shape rotators?”

soyjak: (I still only vaguely understand this.) An online image of an emasculate man, often with an excited expression, with an art style based upon the original wojak.

"This looks more like an excuse to draw your enemies as the soyjak and yourself as the, uh, tiger." Edit: Despite repeated attempts, I cannot get this link to work.

stochastic: having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analysed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.

“All efforts to reconcile the stochastic distribution of boons and curses dished upon us with a belief in an Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnibenevolent Creator are, well, rather moot when you recognize that there's no reason (or grossly insufficient reason) to assume one exists.”

technocrat: an adherent to technocracy, or the government or control of society or industry by an elite of technical experts as opposed to professional politicians.

“The technocrats pretend to believe in that so that they can trick normies into hypersexual practices that obliterate communities.”

thot: From “That Ho Over There.” A woman who has (or is presumed to have, for whatever reason) many casual sexual encounters or relationships. Likewise, e-thot is a woman who makes money online from male (or predominantly male) audiences, by doing whatever for cash.

"I've seen sponsored ads (with the "ad" tag) for individual OnlyFans thots."

Third World-ism: a political concept and ideology that emerged in the late 1940s or early 1950s during the Cold War and tried to generate unity among the nations that did not want to take sides between the United States and the Soviet Union.

“Third worldism, or really socialism in general, had a uniquely compelling message to many leaders, and to many of the young, middle/upper middle class students who wielded or would eventually wield significant amounts of power over many developing countries in the latter half of the twentieth century.”

Noe: various users question the meaning and use of this term.

tradfem: a portmanteau of "traditional feminism" in reference to belief that adherence traditional feminine gender roles are better or more correct, especially those held by conservative Christian Americans, especially WASPs. Edit: Also a play on "radfem" or radical feminist. Thank you again, @naraburns.

“The Harrington and the other tradfems are hard to place on the left-right axis.”

Varg: I still don’t know what this means. I found various meanings of varg but none are satisfactory. Help.

Von Neumann: synonymous with “really big-brained person” as far as I can tell. Refers to John Von Neumann, a computer guy. Notably a “Von Neumann probe” would be a spacecraft capable of replicating itself. Edit: As I said above, misrepresentations are my fault.

"I've worked in QA for a couple years and I wouldn't touch whatever software would be used for digitization with a ten-foot pole even if it would've been written by fifty von Neumanns."

Westphalian: the concept of state sovereignty and the idea that each state has exclusive sovereignty over its territory and domestic affairs, free from external interference. From a series of treaties in 1648. We also have a member with this as part of his username.

“Christian nationalism, which is hard to talk about because no one agrees what it means, is hardly guaranteed to impinge on Westphalian tolerance.”

Wignat "wigger nationalist" and was originally used to describe lower class, violent, and unattractive neo Nazis that were willing to engage in street violence and unabashed Nazism with the use of swastikas and other symbols.

"Hanania’s a gentile but he’s also Palestinian so most wignats would consider him nonwhite or an edge-case at best."


Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

I think your read of 'Euthyphro' here is wrong. It's a reference to one of the Socratic dialogs which discusses what is classically known as the "Euthyphro Dilemma" - when you say God commands us to do good things, are they good because God commands it? (In which case, what do you do when God commands you to bash out your firstborn son's brain with a rock?) Or does God command them because they are good? (In which case, what do God's commands have to do with it, why not just do the good things?)

To paraphrase that part of his post, he's saying, "We could argue about the relationship between religion and morality all day, but putting that aside and looking at outcomes..."