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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."


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Here is the origin of quokka discourse.

The origins are not complimentary. But the quokka pictured in "The Motte Needs You!" is a deliberate inversion of the origin: we want quokkas here, because that is the world we'd like to build.

You might also add that "tradfem" is kind of a play on "radfem," or "radical feminist"--the other side of the "libfem" coin. Liberal feminists tend to be more gender-eliminativist (they are big on equality) while radfems see at minimum a place for special consideration of the female role in reproduction and how that impacts their intersectional identity. This is also why the term (or, perhaps, slur) "TERF" (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) exists; libfems tend to be blandly supportive of trans-women (while criticizing, at times, their gender essentialism), while radfems are much more skeptical of trans-women invading female spaces. In my experience, ironically, trans-women tend to speak more like radfems in their opinions of e.g. revolution against "the patriarchy," which if anything seems to make the radfems more upset, in a "but you are the patriarchy!" sort of way.

This may warrant a ban, and I've generally lurked to avoid breaking the low-effort rule, but...

Damn it, I just can't help myself: those quokka pictures are the most adorable things I've ever seen!

Thank you. I'll edit that in.

I don't like the comments. I know what HBD is, btw.

It's either a glossary or an article, something is between is annoying to read.

It wasn't my intention to annoy, but I'm often guilty of that IRL as well. I'm sure most everyone knows what HBD is, that was the joke. Still the average person on the street might not.

When you say "comments" do you mean the linked comments, which I posted as exemplars, or my own editorializing?


I'm a fan of keeping them tucked away from the main body of the text through front-end elements like gwern does or through footnotes like DFW does, lol.

It wasn't my intention to annoy

I think you've done a fine job, and clearly an effortful one. Don't let grumpy comments dissuade you from this sort of thing.

The HBD entry struck me as a bit weird as well. It doesn't feel like it's difficult to define, like something like 'Moloch' might be (could also be added to the glossary btw), so it's confusing why you seem to be playing coy with this one thing all of a sudden.

Also, the "von" in von Neumann should be lower case.

It doesn't feel like it's difficult to define

I find that it is, in that any time one pins down a definition it's susceptible to moving into the motte or out to the bailey as needed. From "HBD is just the belief that genetics influences human beings" through "HBD is the belief that we have identified distinct human populations that exhibit genetic influences in measurable ways" through "HBD means 14 words, maybe with Jews and East Asians thrown in, maybe not." I've attempted to pin people down on these and been accused of engaging in games of Gotcha, while other people tell me that is absolutely true and correct and the way forward. It's probably better to use a vague definition to encompass everyone who uses the HBD label on here, rather than get into an argument with 3/4 of them.

Okay, how's this:

The belief that genetics cause significant individual differences in socially significant mental traits of people, such as temperament and intelligence, and these differences may be difficult or impossible to change with environmental interventions. For example, people might have an innate level of intelligence that cannot be meaningfully raised and that isn't high enough for effectively learning complex and high-status jobs for many people. Opposed to a belief held implicitly in much of mid-to-late 20th century sociology and cultural anthropology that differences in such features are culturally determined and can be fully remedied with environmental interventions like extending compulsory education and policing racist microaggressions. The thing Steven Pinker writes about in his book The Blank Slate and Charles Murray in Human Diversity.

(Look mom I'm famous!)

As an aside, I'm pretty sure that when quokka is used to describe someone or a group of people, it has pejorative intent.

It signals naivety, being too kind and trusting to the point where it makes it easy for bad-faith actors to steal the catalytic converter out of your car while you're busy trying to, earnestly, find a good reason why they might have benign motives.

Sure, some people might intentionally "reclaim" the term, much like gay people and "fag", but it's still usually used in a pejorative manner if it comes from an outgroup.

My impression has always been that quokka is primarily used as a reclaimed fake pejorative. People claim to be quokkas in order to justify being a prick: You're trying to take advantage of me being a quokka, therefore I'm going to refuse all discussion.

I've also seen a lot of people call others in the ratsphere quokkas to justify their own being a prick, but I dunno if that's just seeing the meme earlier (naraburns points to the zerohplovecraft origin as a prototype of someone calling everyone else quokkas) or different focuses.

No that's more or less the dynamic I'm talking about. Selections from the 0hp original:

There was a time in the past when I considered myself to be [a Rationalist]. Rationalism arose out of a particular cultural moment, when new atheism made people realize that they actually wanted to believe in something strongly, even if that thing was phrased as a negative[.]

And rationalists, bless their hearts, are REALLY easy to lie to. It's not like taking candy from a baby; babies actually try to hang onto their candy. The rationalists just limply let go and mutter, "I notice I am confused". This is also why they are poly.

All this comes off as mean but I empathize, because I was once like them. Yud teaches you a mental model of how people behave when you desperately need one, framed in terms that are familiar. When you don't know how people work at all, a bad model is still a huge improvement[.]

0hp is essentially arguing that "we" are so easily deceived, so I should behave more like him, his maximally aggressive tactics against his perceived ideological opponents are optimal.

Everyone who uses the term Quokka at some level considers themselves to have things in common with the Rationalists they apply the term to. They consider themselves to be a bit more streetwise, a bit less naive, than the person they're applying the term to. But they think that the tendency as a whole, within the autistic/rationalist/intellectual community justifies their maximally spiteful bad faith actions against their enemies, because to do otherwise would be to act as a Quokka.

Maybe it's incorrect to say that I see Quokka used to refer to oneself, and more correct to say that anyone who uses the term Quokka typically perceives themselves as being at risk of Quokkism.

Yeah, that's fair.

Look mom I'm famous!

Do Indians mostly write ‘mom’ or ‘mum’?

Uh.. I think mum is probably more common in those who use English as their primary language, but I've certainly heard both. I obviously prefer mom, though I do call her ma most of the time, even when I'm speaking in English.

There's no clear cutoff like between the US and the UK.

Should be noted it can be a term of endearment in ingroup usage! Quokkas are cute, and you can enjoy this sort of easy and earnest personality while also acknowledging that if they ever encounter a serious predator, they will absolutely become lunch, no doubt about it.

Varg is Varg Vikernes.

I thought this was a really neat post, by the way. Thanks for putting it together.

Delighted this exists, great idea.

I'm not sure in which context you've encountered "Varg", but it may be a reference to Varg Vikernes, a neo-Nazi paganist metal musician from Norway, who records music under the name Burzum and was convicted for murdering a bandmate and burning down multiple churches in the early 90s.

I've only ever seen- or used- it as a reference to him.

Crazily enough, it was your comment that I first saw the term, so there you go. I somehow missed adding that as a link above.

Some other terms I see a lot which might be confusing to outsiders:

  • motte-and-bailey
  • toxoplasma
  • Moloch
  • scissor statements
  • NPC

Word count limits me, and I'm just about at 2000, but I agree all those are worth knowing in order to understand the ethos in many, many posts here.

An online image of an emasculate man, often with an excited expression, with an art style based upon the original wojak.

It's derived from the term "soy boy", which refers to the idea that soy products are rich in estrogen (don't ask me if this is true, I've no idea) and that men who consume them are hence low in testosterone.

Also, the “excited expression” is a specific one, where the mouth is held open in a highly artificial way.

With various cod-evo psych theories about how it's a facial expression meant to convey submissiveness.

I think "quokka" is usually disparaging, as it's meant to imply naïveté.

Great job. If we're going to have PMC it might be worth adding failson

Success daughter vs Failson is a predominant dynamic in the pmc world, and definitive of much of modern life.

I’d say faildaughters are almost as common in real life, it’s more of a general phenomenon of downward mobility that affects many children of the PMC who don’t get on the right ladder (good college, well-paid law/finance/tech/medicine job) by their late teens and early twenties.

I’d say it runs more in families. You could have two senior 60 year old investment bankers, with three kids (say two sons and a daughter) each, and one of them will have a doctor, a corporate lawyer and a banker, and the other will have a failed artist, a NEET and a school teacher or academic or something. Often it seems arbitrary.

Kind of, but women overall seem to fail more gently. For example, even if a women does not have a lot of raw talent to become an actually good artist, she will often be good enough at navigating social environments that she will find some kind of safety net, such as becoming an art teacher, working in some sort of subsidized gallery, or the archetypical husband paying the bills. A guy in the same situation is much more likely to be a complete trainwreck imo. Partially this is just a result of the expected higher male variability.

In my opinion I’ve seen downward mobility affect both sexes. It’s true that the woman has the safety valve of marrying someone of her birth class, but this is also becoming rarer with assortative mating/dating, and it happens increasingly with men too (eg. of my banker friends many are dating men who make a lot less than them).

It seems like being cute and from a wealthy background isn’t enough to land a rich husband anymore, you’re right, and that’s because it’s no longer a social necessity for wealthy men to have wives who come from a similar class background.

Wealthy men can acceptably marry much poorer women, quite easily, and they usually choose to do so.

Admittedly you almost surely have a better personal insight into the upper echelons of western society than most of us do, including me.

But at least in academia I get the the impression that there's plenty (obv not everyone, but a lot) of women who just flat-out refuse to marry down, and most statistics on the topic I can find seem to imply the same. It might have to do with that for jobs that are considered status-equivalent, academia pays pretty bad, while banking is at the other end of that spectrum.

I agree that a woman academic is unlikely to ‘date down’ by marrying a blue collar laborer (even if he makes much more than her). But she might date a teacher, and nobody in my office would be hugely surprised to hear a banker say she’s dating an academic or something even if he makes 1/5th what she does.

Yes, but the gender dynamics at play make the Failson--SuccessDaughter dynamic much more distinct and important, as @RenOS points out, than three kids with one successful son and one fuckup, or a weirdo daughter and a successful son. Everyone involved tends to be much more confused by a Failson than a fail daughter. I don't tend to see it run in families as often as you do, for whatever reason, but I do agree that there are families with fuckups of either gender.

The historical expectation has always been for families to invest in the high success of their son, while their daughters get secondary importance with a focus on stability (ie marrying well or entering socially acceptable but low-variance careers like teaching). The reverse of this confuses everyone. It's natural, in a gendered dynamic, for the daughter to be lesser than the brother, to look up to the brother. She can still have valuable roles in the family and in life without being the more successful. The reverse isn't as true, the failson doesn't have a natural role in the life of the family. For fictional examples: Succession throughout the dynamics around Shiv, Kendall and Tom are jealous of her success and don't know what to do with themselves if they aren't capable of exceeding her in money and power and deliver various angry soliloquies on the topic; Downton Abbey or Pride and Prejudice where it's accepted that at least one daughter will stay home to take care of the parents.

In my own family, I see this dynamic with my in-laws. My wife is much more successful than her brother, and it eats at him. He is, frankly, a better homemaker than she is, he's a fantastic cook. But it's unnatural for the daughter to say "OMG sorry I'm just blowing in the day before, I have so much going on at work, my caseload is crushing me..." and the son to spend all day in the kitchen working on his sauces. Both suffer from the self-esteem hit: my wife from feeling unfeminine and uncaring for not being able to cook, my brother-in-law from being unmasculine for not earning money and for having the time to cook.

It might be that I run in much more traditional-gendered circles than you do.

Families invest in the high success of their son because, unlike his sister, he is expected to become a family head and breadwinner. Investing in their daughter was unnecessary as she is still capable of filling her future expected role without it.

Sure. Which is what makes it hurt so bad when he fails to become a breadwinner, despite needing to, while she succeeds in doing so, despite not needing to.

Thanks for your reply. I’d say that increasingly in ‘my circles’ I think the failson is kind of an accepted part of the family landscape. I do think there’s big variation based on class nuance; being a failson of a centimillionaire or billionaire still makes you a rich young guy with a nice apartment and tons of time to go to the gym or hit on women at bars without ever worrying about money provided your dad doesn’t go apeshit and fully cut you off. This is low status for his parents among their friends but is obviously arguably a much better and more fulfilled life for the young man than spending a hundred hours a week at his desk at Goldman because Dad really wants his boy to follow him into private equity.

I’d say the more archetypal failson I knew grew up upper-middle class, went to a good private school in Manhattan, failed to get into an elite college but went somewhere still objectively fine, graduated but didn’t get a good job and felt themselves above, say, the back office or mid/lower tier white collar work (in part also because their friends would make fun of them). Then they move back in with family in Manhattan or get their limited support to move into deep Brooklyn with roommates and spend ages 21-27 bumming around, working at failed low-tier (ie not backed by good venture capital) startups in “sales” or “content” or something vague that isn’t technical, living essentially off the couple thousand dollars a month that Dad gives them because he feels like a bad parent. May have a longstanding coke / ket problem, definitely a stoner, has a significant inferiority complex relative to the guys his age he knew who succeeded on the ‘right’ path.

Honestly though a lot of these guys do eventually pull it off. The commanding heights of biglaw/consulting/ib are probably closed off to them but many will eventually get an OK white collar job, climb through the ranks, are personable enough. They’ll be fine at 45 and when their parents die the couple million they inherit will provide for a comfortable later life and pay for a home outright unless they’re still a fiend at that age. This is the kind of ‘soft’ downward mobility I’m talking about, it’s not that your son becomes a crackhead or even a manual laborer, they’re just slowing falling through the ranks of the PMC and their kids will probably go to public school.

The faildaughter is a tougher situation. Neither the beautiful daughter who pursues a highly unprofitable career as a gallery assistant or jewelry designer before marrying a wealthy Swiss businessman’s hotel owner son nor the plainer but highly ambitious daughter who becomes a successful McKinsey consultant and makes partner young are ‘faildaughters’, obviously, whatever the parents’ thoughts on the potential (for career success and/or family life) they might have had. Women’s downward mobility is increasingly a product of assortative marriage. 90 years ago a wealthy woman who became a teacher would likely marry a man of her (birth) class, for example. Today she’s much more likely to marry another teacher or some other male profession of similar status. Doctors marry doctors now, not nurses.

So the faildaughter kind of bums around, similarly to the man in his twenties, gets tattoos, smokes a lot of weed, and then at 31 gets engaged to a hot line cook or a fellow teacher or an adjunct prof she meets at a poetry recital or whatever. And her Dad knows, in this case too, that both his daughter and his future son-in-law are going to be living off him. The difference is that the failson could still pull off an upset in the 30-40 range and make something of his life, whereas if the faildaughter isn’t either dating the right men or on a great career track by 25 (or both), it’s typically over and she’s going to have a kid with the loser and then you better hope you’re around to spend quality time with your grandkids and have the money to pay for their education.

I’d also add that increasingly just being a moderately pretty young woman isn’t enough to marry into the same PMC circles you grew up in. You either need a good job, family money, or to be very outgoing and personable. The shy girls I went to school with who didn’t do so well professionally mostly date/marry down even if they’re pretty.

Fair enough. I think you're applying it very specifically to the sociological context of the 1%, I'm thinking of the phenomenon more broadly as "Brothers who are less successful than their sisters along traditional Masculine lines of money and career success." This is a pretty unique phenomenon, as far as I know, in all of human history: never have daughters outperformed sons en masse at achieving money and power on an individual basis. This dynamic has always been reversed. We are now seeing a world where it occurs, not just occasionally, but frequently, possibly even in the majority of cases. We haven't formed the cultural programming for this.

I cannot name any society which even has a shared concept of the 'faildaughter', at least not in the modern West. That is because the factor of personal responsibility is absent. Societies share the concept of the failson because there's consensus that the failson's failings are his own, and bears responsibility for them. When a daughter fails in her romantic or professional life, to the extent that society even dares to acknowledge that women do 'fail', it's generally seen not as her failing, but a problem caused by men in general and by a patriarchal society. She didn't fail; shitty men and a shitty society failed her.

Hag, wine aunt, leftover women/sheng nu, there are lots of terms for faildaughters, it’s just that they encompass primarily lack of romantic success rather than career success. But these are increasingly tied together because of assortative mating anyway, so I think the term still applies.

I'm fairly sure the phrase 'leftover woman' isn't used outside China.

Even in China, it's not really a thing anymore. Instead they're having big problems with men unable to find wives, so the "bride price" that a man is expected to pay the bride's family is going up and up.

I'd be sort of surprised myself if 'leftover women', female hypergamy notwithstanding, were a significant social phenomenon in a country with a lopsided sex ratio favoring women.


Yeah, men (sons) have the burden of performance. Women (daughters) cannot fail; they can only be failed.

Just existing can be enough for a daughter to retain her father's love, not so much for a son: "Sons are expected to have agency, force of will, ambition. They fail... For Tony Soprano, Bobby Bacala, Johnny Sacs: their girls are their princesses. Forever. Even as they grow up and go to college or get married — they’re daddy’s little girl. If they do something career focused, it’s window dressing or status points... But nevertheless [sons are] expected to win. Daughters are not. Daughters are only there to be loved."

Sure, there are some failure conditions that would apply to both sons and daughters (e.g., becoming a street junkie), and some of the most devastating ways a parental heart can be broken is by way of a daughter to her father, but the general set of failure conditions for a son is much larger than those for a daughter. If you're an M&A Managing Director at an investment bank, your son who became a school teacher is a failson. Your daughter who became a school teacher is just a daughter. Failson is much more of a thing than faildaughter, just as #GirlPower is much more of a thing than #GuyPower, #GirlBoss more of a thing than #GuyBoss.

This reminds me of @Folamh3's comment from a few months ago, although I would add a woman/daughter being pleasant, agreeable, talkative, and amiable can be optional in such circumstances:

I always took this ["women are loved for who they are, men are loved for what they can provide"] to mean that a woman is loved for her intrinsic traits (of which beauty may be one, but doesn't have to be), whereas love for men is conditional on their being productive members of society. I don't just mean "love" in a romantic sense, but also platonic and familial sense. This is difficult to express and back up with hard data, but I do think it's generally much more socially acceptable for the average woman to e.g. take a "sabbatical" or "career break", move back in with her parents and not work for several months, than it would be for a man to do the same. We have a hundred derisive terms for adult men who live with their parents and stubbornly refuse to find a real job and get their shit together ("NEET", "basement dweller", "hikikomori", arguably "incel"), but the reflexive assumption is that a woman who lives with her parents and refuses to get her shit together must be "going through some stuff" or suffering from some nebulous undefined "trauma". Consider also that there's no distaff counterpart to terms like "deadbeat dad", "prodigal son" or "failson". Generally speaking, a woman who is pleasant, agreeable, talkative and amiable, but who's moved back in with her parents, hasn't worked for six months and isn't actively looking for a job is "figuring herself out"; a man who does the same is an embarrassment to the family. I don't think the situation is fundamentally different if the woman is overweight and unattractive. This, I think, is what the "woman are loved for who they are" concept is getting at.

The phenomenon I'm describing isn't just a negative one (romantic, platonic and familial love being extended to women in spite of what they refuse to do - their "sins" of omission) but also positive (their loved ones extending them love and charity in spite of what they have done). It's variously called the "women are wonderful" effect or "hypoagency" or whatever, but my general impression is that whenever a woman does something bad (including criminal offences) people will scramble to find someone or something to blame other than her. I'm racking my brains trying to think of a time I read about a woman on trial for a criminal offense and her crime wasn't attributed to self-defense/justified retribution, "mental health issues", or manipulation by a (male, obviously) third party

So this is my interpretation of "women are loved for who they are": women tend to be loved and respected by their families, friends and romantic partners more or less unconditionally. Crimes of omission, derelictions of duty and shortcomings will be ignored; crimes of commission will be forgiven, excused or explained away. "Pretty privilege" factors into this but is by no means dispositive (e.g. there are no "plus-size men").

Re. definitions I’m cited in I’d add that “wignat” is now used pretty broadly both here and on the ‘dissident right’ or in wider very online communities to refer to all white nationalists, not just swampland prison tattoo neonazis. Your definition of thirdworldism isn’t wrong, but it primarily carries connotations of (a) efforts by economic leftists to embrace decolonial Said-style politics, which arguably is part of the intellectual origin of modern progressive racial politics as the radical left abandoned some of its pure economic focus during the falling out with the Soviet Union and embrace of Mao’s China after Stalin’s death, and (b) the core thirdworldist belief that the solution to capitalist western imperialism (etc) was an alliance of the dispossessed black, brown and asian masses of the world, because neither the US nor Soviet Union under Khrushchev etc were going to fix the problem.

You do often use terms I need to look up, and at times I suspect this is just stylistic (e.g. using "Orbanization," though maybe that is a term many others have used) but other times I think it's just that I'm not as steeped in certain varieties of online communication. And then other times you just seem to have a considerably wider breadth of knowledge than I (You are not alone there.) This is one of the reasons I like The Motte, though I do wonder sometimes if it's just me and no one else having to open new tabs to get through a post without losing the plot. (forgive unintentional rhyme)

I would have expanded on many of these but didn't know if the embedded links were contributing to word count and it seemed quite long already.

@2rafa you are perhaps overly represented in the quotes, sorry about that.

You're not the only one that has to pull out a dictionary at times, here, and I say that with the recognition that no one else has or likely would want to use if-by-whiskey.

You left out the 3rd clause in the Russel conjugation:


I think the link for this one is broken. I’ll admit to only checking because I thought I recognized my own words! And while I can find it with a search, permalink takes me to the same incorrect spot as yours. Maybe there’s a problem on mobile?

The term is in reference to a specific reaction image whatever the kids call this sort of thing nowadays. He was shorthand for a particular sort of impotent excitement, usually attributed to Internet liberals, hence “soy.” And the art style was derived from the wojak.

I've tried several times to link it but it won't take me to the right place for some bizarre reason.


This link:

And yes, it was your post. Did you delete it? I have no idea why this won't work. Edit: It doesn't work even with the link. Beats me. Do a hard search for soyjak and you can find the post.

I don’t think I deleted it, nor would I expect it to show up in search if I had.

@ZorbaTHut any ideas?

EtherShout’s ban/ account deletion means Contexts that include one of his posts will not load properly. Presumably other accounts in similar straights will do the same. Contrast or

I’ve reported it jn the Motte dev discord, but I dunno if anyone’s had a chance to look into it in depth, and the relevant code was pretty opaque at a first glance.

I’ll admit to only checking because I thought I recognized my own words!

I find it funny that Frasurbane, which I think I'm the only one who uses it and purely to mock myself, made the list.

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

Varg Vikernes born Kristian Larssøn Vikernes, sometimes known as Louis Cachet, is a Norwegian black metal musician best known for his work under the name Burzum between 1991 and 1996. After undergoing a 15-year stint in Nordic prison for arson and first-degree murder of another band member, Varg went on to become an internet figure promoting a pre-industrial European pagan society and opposing Christianity, Islam, Judaism, capitalism, socialism and materialism.

Pill colors: Red, Blue, Black

You are missing the oft used clear, white, pink and probably -pilled as a general suffix.

Whitepill (reasoned optimism) I know of, but pink pill and clear pill I haven’t heard of.

Clearpill is a reference to but damned if I'm reading a five-parter of Yarvin's to remember what it actually means.

Purple pill is also important, I think.

Purple pill seems more like an adjective to describe a space (most notably purplepilldebate) than a particular perspective.

Purple pill is simply "red and blue pill mixed together"

And who can forget the dogpill?

I would also specify that it's gone well outside of communities focused on gender relationships, especially blackpill (see also here, here, here), but also whitepill (see also here) and more rarely bluepill (see also here).

Clearpill doesn't actually seem popular here (the only older ref is from a Moldbug piece?) or much of anywhere.

Pink, I don't think I've seen here, and it's not very common even in spheres that are about AMAB people being briar patched into dressing as women.

There is dogpill, as ChrisPrattAlphaRaptr points out, and grillpill, but those are probably at the point where it's a generic suffix.

AFAIK pinkpill means becoming a femcel, or the realization that femcel memes about men are true as a woman.

I've mostly seen it used very differently, for guys who give up on dating as a man and turn trans so they can date as a woman.

Interesting, I’ve heard that described as trans pill.

These other colors are rarely mentioned and fall under "putting them in the list is OCD and is harmful to the goal of the list".

John Von Neumann, a computer guy

I think it's a bit insulting to reduce one of the most impressive polymaths of all time to "a computer guy".

He helped build the mathematical framework of quantum physics, made large contributions to functional analysis, game theory, codified the concept of the cellular automata, played a key role in the design of ICBMs and MAD, coined the first use of the concept of technological singularity, and did a million other things.

He also happened to design the architecture that all modern computers use, but I don't think that makes him "a computer guy".

You mean to say we should call him the computer guy?

Nah, that's either Turing or Babbage.

I don't know whether he's better or worse than Euler when it comes to having so many bloody things named after him that they need disambiguation pages on Wikipedia.

Von Neumann is a bit hard to pin down because, like you said, he "helped" and "contributed" to all those brilliant ideas, but he was rarely the first or only person to work on something. It's hard for a layman to figure out what he actually did. I've heard some people argue that he was a bit of a glory hog, deliberately chasing whatever work was "hot" and getting involved just so that he could share/take credit. EG:

Although the single-memory, stored program architecture is commonly called von Neumann architecture, the architecture was based on the work of J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, inventors of ENIAC and its successor, EDVAC.

edit: this is also pretty funny:

Von Neumann was the first to establish a rigorous mathematical framework for quantum mechanics, known as the Dirac–von Neumann axioms

Usually when you're "the first to establish" something, they name it after you. You don't share the name with someone else who did it 2 years earlier...

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..."

Great post.

“Thot,” in my understanding, is much more complex than “slut” or “easy” or “loose” - it carries a subtle gentlemanly warning that the woman in question is a honey-/thirst-trap whose attractiveness and/or complexity (and/or complexion) is only profile-deep.

Suggested addition: The various [color] tribes, red, blue and grey, and possibly violet.

Ingroup / outgroup / fargroup for that matter, and the weird dynamics that follow, like blue tribe turning a blind eye to Islam because they see it as the irrelevant fargroup and red tribe as the existential risk outgroup.

Excellent post! Minor quibble but for tradfem I agree on the Conservative Christian Americans part, but the part on WASPs my first thoughts is always on Catholics contributions to this movement (Phyllis Shafly). We're each biased by our experiences so maybe I'm wrong here!

Yes, agree that trads are more often Catholic. There are some WASP (ie Episcopalian/Anglican) offshoots that are pretty trad, but they’re very niche in the US and more generally.

Quant refers to anyone working in a job in finance which requires Masters or PhD-level maths skills on a regular basis.

The original quants built the computer models that allowed banks to efficiently trade and risk manage derivatives. These jobs still exist, and are still well-paid, but they are no longer as prestigious in geekworld as they used to be when derivatives were a largely unexplored growth area for the banks. Nowadays, and particularly on this forum, quant is likely to refer to someone who uses high-end maths or computing skills working for a hedge fund (or a proprietary trading firm like Jane Street, which is functionally similar) - effectively they are trying to build computer models that beat humans at playing the stock market. These buy-side quant jobs are the best-paying jobs you can get as a pure shape-rotator who sucks at office politics, which is why a lot of quants are quokkas.

These buy-side quant jobs are the best-paying jobs you can get as a pure shape-rotator who sucks at office politics

Bravo, you just perfectly described the theory of my early career and the careers of several other quants I know. Source: am a recovering quant.

Fantastic post.

DRM is "Digital Restrictions Management": it grants no extra rights, and manages restrictions by which consumers may use the software or content.

It would be great if you could expand on CRT, as expanding the initialism doesn't say what it actually means.

I suggest 'human biological determinism' as the alternative meaning of HBD. At least that's how I've seen it defined in the past.

I've never seen that.

I think it's a more accurate meaning though.

This is excellent stuff! With this place off reddit, not advertising elsewhere, and slowly developing it's own jargon things like this are great for legibility for newcomers.

"Westphalian....From a series of treaties in 1648. We also have a member with this as part of his username."

Hey that's me! Hi everyone!

It's an honor to be a recognized name enough to make this list. I don't comment that often but I like to think that I have a pretty good AAQC-to-comment-ratio to compensate. Actually AAQC as shorthand should probably also make the list.

A "prominent people" list may also be useful at somepoint. If only to explain why everything is on the main thread and then suddenly this Kulak guy thinks he's important enough to justify his own thread that's just a link to his substack. Which makes sense in context but must seem kinda bizarre from afar.

It's an honor to be a recognized name enough to make this list. I don't comment that often but I like to think that I have a pretty good AAQC-to-comment-ratio to compensate. Actually AAQC as shorthand should probably also make the list.

This. AAQC nominations are an important part of the culture of this forum, something that noobs won't necessarily be aware of, and involve a non-obvious process to nominate. Should definitely be in the glossary.

Others I'd add:

  • Rationalist an adherent (or some style of critic) of the philosophy established on LessWrong, originally focused on trying to develop a more accurate model of what is true through understanding available information and avoiding the various pitfalls newly being recognized by 1990s-2005-era social psychology. Not... very typically that rational, and very much not philosophical rationalism.

  • Ratsphere, rationalist diaspora. A reader or commenter from LessWrong that started moving to other social media, typically in 2010-2014, or those adjacent to them, or adjacent to those adjacent to them. See here or here.

  • Postrat or post-rationalist, someone that rejects the rationalist movement's interest in what is true as impossible, and instead prioritizes what is useful to believe. Usually part of the (twitter) rationalist diaspora. See example here.

  • Tpot, usually lower-cased. 'That part of twitter', a mostly coastal techie group, some overlap with ratsphere. Largely an endonym. Example here.

  • Litany of Tarski, a poem saying to want to know and believe things that are true, usually with the connotation that the true thing is depressing or unpleasant. See here.

  • Conflict Theory and Mistake Theory, where Conflict Theory is the model that disagreements reflect two sides naturally opposed to each other who at best are negotiating over the division of spoils, while Mistake Theory is the model that each side disagrees about a question and could be persuaded. See example here or here. Quokka is largely a criticism of or self-identifier for mistake theorists and... I think we're at the point where there's not enough pure mistake theorists to have anything similar going the other way for conflict theorists.

CRT: Critical Race Theory.

It's important to add that this is mostly an internet slang term used by people making fun of it. It's based on something real- Critical theory - where there really are people calling themselves "critical theorists" and doing stuff like "taking a critical theory approach to sociology with an emphasis on issues of racial justice." But no one in academia officially uses the term Critical Race Theory. It sounds a bit cringe when Republicans say they want to ban CRT, because officially it doesn't exist.

I think part of what makes it so pernicious is that its fiercest advocates won't even admit they're fighting for it. It's just taken as a given- like, of course they believe in racial justice, that's just "being a good person." They can't admit that they have this belief system, because that would admit that there are other, competing belief systems which might also be valid.

edit: I guess there are a few people in Academia who use the term and embrace it, like this guy: but I still think it's very rare. More often they're just teaching English or history or something and they're like "oh by the way 99% of this class will be about race."

But no one in academia officially uses the term Critical Race Theory.

Google Scholar reports 4,000 citations from the 20th century, which hopefully is an old enough cutoff date to clearly precede the current backlash, and another 200,000 citations since, which probably aren't all part of the backlash to the backlash.

It sounds a bit cringe when Republicans say they want to ban CRT, because officially it doesn't exist.

Wow, that takes me back down memory lane. I never understood how this sort of historical revisionism was expected to work, when we don't actually have a Memory Hole to drop actual history into, we have an Internet. But if the first history you see on the internet is still the revisionist one, it's hard to fault the revisionists for their choice of tactics. Perhaps someday even still-problematically-factual summaries will also learn to love Big Brother.

It's tempting to wonder whether the enraging pattern of gaslighting isn't to persuade, so much as deliberately to enrage. But that's unfair; to the people who actually complain that we aren't all jogging along the euphemism treadmills as fast as they demand, the complaint appears to be a mix of standard attempts to rebrand themselves to avoid "scorn and sarcasm", just combined with very non-standard attempts to condemn anyone who doesn't immediately keep up with the rebranding.

First of all: I share your frustration. I have wasted far too much of my life arguing with SJWs online while also trying to navigate the subtle office politics so that I wouldn't get fired. Please trust me that I'm really, really not trying to gaslight you.

And, I was wrong. It is a real term. There are real people who proudly wear the label "Critical Race Theorist" and have prestigious academic positions writing papers about it.

But I still say it's a niche term. All of the scholars I could find who self-describe as CRT are all law school professors, and it seems like a holdover from the 1970s era of groundbreaking race-based court decisions. Basically they're trying square the circle of "how can we give affirmative action and welfare to blacks, without the government officially categorizing us by race, and without giving anything to the other ethnic groups?" Quite a difficult problem! If I was a lawyer, and I was hired to make a case for that, I don't know what I'd say. But those brilliant legal scholars found a way...

Some of your other links aren't really about CRT? They're about Conflict Theory, Cultural Marxism, and other related ideas. I still think the real, main idea here should is simply Critical Theory (which is arguably Marxism in another form). Which might seem like a pointless quibble, but you have to appreciate that Critical Theory is everywhere in the humanities, almost to the point where no one bothers to say they're going Critical Theory or arguing against it, they just take it for granted. To outsiders, it sounds like nothing (is there a field of Complementary Experiments?), but it hit academia like a lightning bolt in the 60s and never stopped. As one of your link said:

Many others have drawn on conflict theory to develop other types of theory within the social sciences, including feminist theory, critical race theory, postmodern and postcolonial theory, queer theory, post-structural theory, and theories of globalization and world systems

So the modern humanities game is about taking the framework of Critical Theory (or Conflict Theory, I don't know the difference) and finding new areas to apply it to. They have to continuously invent new words because they're all competing to get tenure, and they're people with high verbal IQ, so this sort of wordplay is just what they do. Arguing with them is like Richard Feynman arguing with Rabbinical students: they're very clever and this is their home turf. Even if their actual ideas are total nonsense, they're going to win if you fight them there.

More practically: I think when rightists say they want to ban Critical Race Theory, they have in mind someone like Ibram X Kendi, and to stop public school teachers from teaching his books to kids. Which is very reasonable! He's a lunatic! But he doesn't self-describe as a Critical Race Theorist, so if you banned it, he would just shrug and keep on doing what he's doing.

Meanwhile, if you banned all forms of Critical Theory? I'm not sure how you'd enforce that, but if you could? Everything in academic humanities from post 1960s would crumble.

I think when rightists say they want to ban Critical Race Theory, they have in mind someone like Ibram X Kendi, and to stop public school teachers from teaching his books to kids. Which is very reasonable! He's a lunatic! But he doesn't self-describe as a Critical Race Theorist, so if you banned it, he would just shrug and keep on doing what he's doing.

Let's compare to another controversial topic: Common Core Curriculum. If a Governor ran on withdrawing from Common Core in their state, they might accurately state "Common Core is taught in our state's schools." This doesn't mean that any particular teacher is passing out copies of the Common Core standard and telling students to turn to page 68. The candidate means that the schools are teaching through the lens of Common Core, with the goal of teaching the topics preferred by the common core, skipping over topics that are not covered.

When someone on the right says they want to ban Critical Race Theory, they aren't trying to imply that teachers are going into obscure legal theory. Instead, a more charitable way to understand them is that they do not want Public Schools teaching through the lens of Critical Theory (particularly as it pertains to race.)

When looking at the specific bans that have passed through state legislatures, I haven't seen "Critical Race Theory." Instead, I see bans on teaching any single race is worse than another or uniquely bad for the ills of the world. For example, the Indiana SB 386 states:

A school corporation or qualified school shall not compel or promote, as part of a course of instruction or in a curriculum or instructional program, a person to adopt, affirm, adhere to, or profess an idea that:

(1) a person or group of people of one (1) age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion, or national origin are inherently superior or inferior to a person or group of people of another age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion, or national origin;

(2) a person or group of people should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion, or national origin of the person or group of people; or

(3) a person or group of people of one (1) age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion, or national origin cannot and should not attempt to treat another person or group of people equally and without regard to age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion, or national origin

When someone on the right says they want to ban Critical Race Theory, they aren't trying to imply that teachers are going into obscure legal theory. Instead, a more charitable way to understand them is that they do not want Public Schools teaching through the lens of Critical Theory (particularly as it pertains to race.)

Sure, that's fair. I just think it's important to understand the exact terms. 98% of the time when I see the term Critical Race Theory, it's from people criticizing it.

That might be because proponents of it like the term well enough until it develops a stink, and then it goes through a cycle of rebranding and gaslighting of definitions. But their opponents won't let it go, or let them forget. They are done discussing CRT in dispassionate terms for the benefit of progressives, and have decided to weild it as a cudgel. See also 'DEI' and 'ESG', where these things are touted as super important and needed to be implemented yesterday, and then paradoxically there isn't ever a single case in the wild as a legit example of the practice.

CRT is being used as a shorthand for all the racial crap education is pushing, and the glove fits well enough. I don't even think I can say they're using it wrong.

Some of your other links aren't really about CRT?

That's the point, though, not a mistake. As the saying goes, "once is happenstance; twice is coincidence; three times is enemy action". If "No, that's not Critical Race Theory; don't you realize how cringe you're being!" had been a new sort of claim to me, I'd have been inclined to take it seriously. But it's just one more instance of an increasingly predictable pattern of the modern left trying to disavow their own endonyms as soon as they're subjected to cross-examination, and I'm getting increasingly tired of it.

Even if their actual ideas are total nonsense, they're going to win if you fight them there.

Nah. Their home turf isn't wordplay, it's institutional support. Hence the current panic over the right's discovery that they still have control over a few institutions (some state legislatures and governors) that at least nominally have authority over the local left-controlled institutions. Indiana can pass a law about "no saying one race is inherently superior" and the media can blatantly lie to turn that into "they're trying to prevent students from learning about Black history!", but if the law passes anyway then it's not going to be a journalist's (95%-left) opinion that matters, it's going to be a judge's (maybe 50%-left, and also often more serious about their honesty than their ideology).

I think it goes back to an idea best explained by Paul Graham:

"The spread of the term "political correctness" meant the beginning of the end of political correctness, because it enabled one to attack the phenomenon as a whole without being accused of any of the specific heresies it sought to suppress."

The post 2000 academic left learned that lesson well. They fight hard against any attempt to label them. They are just a bunch of people who want "good things" not a political group with an agenda.

This flows into some other areas. For instance some people get upset with the term Democrat when discussing politics. There was a guy on HN who insisting that saying Democrat was like saying Jew instead of Jewish. Of course that leaves the english language without a verbal way to distinguish between democratic policies and Democratic policies. Which is exactly the point. It makes discussions difficult.

Meanwhile both Republican and GOP refer to a clear group.

"Please Just Fucking Tell Me What Term I Am Allowed to Use for the Sweeping Social and Political Changes You Demand". Didn't realise that @roystgnr linked to this article in their comment, making my link redundant.


Likely a reference to this guy.

Blue Pill, Red Pill, Black Pill

I think you're defining these terms too narrowly by tying them to gender and dating discourse. They are broad concepts that can apply to many things.

Blue Pill is idealism; believing the world works the way it's "supposed to." A person who is blue pilled about US politics might say "Politicians make decisions based on what they believe is in the best interest of the nation. Therefore the best way to accomplish our political goals is to explain why those goals are in the nation's best interest."

Red Pill is realism; seeing the way things actually work and trying to exploit those realities to accomplish your goals. A person who is red pilled about US politics might say "Politicians are human beings who make decisions based on self-interest. Therefore the best way to accomplish our political goals is to make sure accomplishing those goals is personally beneficial to the right politicians."

Black Pill is pessimism or nihilism; seeing the way things actually work and realizing that you cannot achieve your goals as long as things continue working that way. A person who is black pilled about US politics might say "Politicians are human beings who make decisions based on self-interest. Many powerful interest groups realize this and accomplish their goals by dumping large amounts of money into politics. Our political project will never be able to match the level of resources that our opposition has, therefore we have no hope of persuading politicians to agree with us and we shouldn't even waste our time trying."

Just-worldliness and presumed agency (of say, an advisor and advisee) are two key dimensions to differentiate between blue, red, and blackpill in a general sense. Dating/relationships are perhaps the central/archetypal example, but it’s hardly limited to dating/relationships.

The bluepill presumes a just-worldliness in contrast to the red and black pills; the red pill generally presumes a degree of hyperagency in opposition to the blue and blackpills.


Bluepill: The world is just. Be a decent person, read the room, try your best, and it’ll all work out.

Redpill: The world is not just. But here are some One Weird Tricks by which you can reshape (and even exploit) the world to your liking.

Blackpill: The world is not just and there’s nothing you can do about it, other than eating shit.

This is an excellent list and was more fun to read and see how many I knew than I expected. A couple comments:

  1. A defining feature of a purity spiral is that it is a feedback loop, resulting in people adopting ever more extreme beliefs. Person A makes a statement or adopts a belief demonstrating their ideological virtue, Person B sees that and responds by making a more extreme statement or adopting a more extreme belief that shows that they are even more virtuous, Person C see that and ups the ante again, etc. This dynamic is very common; it is the reason people in niche music communities put such high value on obscure out-of-print cassettes, as an example. Niche one-upsmanship, basically.

  2. I think Von Neumann tends to get used as a symbol not just for the big-brained, but for people who are so smart it is superman or supernatural. Basically he's a stand in for "the smartest human being to ever live." The origin of the use of Von Neumann as a shorthand in the rationalist community comes mainly from Scott's book review of a biography of him (, as well as his articles "the Parable of the Talents" ( and "The Atomic Bomb Considered as a Hungarian High School Project" (

Possible addition, On the gripping hand.

All attempts at editing come back with an error message saying I'm over the word limit. I did try to add everyone's comments, but without deleting and reworking it all--which I do not have the willpower to do--that's not happenin'.

Ping @ZorbaTHut, the glossary looks like a valuable project, is it possible to raise the post length limit for this specific post?

If you hit "edit" and just try to leave it as it is, do you still get the same error? It's possible editing is using the old wordcount limit, which should be fixed.

Just tried it and yes, that's what happens. If I edit and change nothing but hit Save Edit I get an error.

Alright, so it turns out that it won't let you change nothing :V

If you add a single letter do you still have the issue? I'm currently unable to reproduce this locally, unfortunately.

That works I just added an x. Do embedded link URLs count toward the character limit?

They do, yeah - a character is a character, it doesn't do anything smarter than that.

That said, it looks like you're at 20k characters, which . . .

. . . okay, yeah, looking into it again, posts have a 20k limit and comments have a 500k limit.

Let me pester some mods and see if there's a reason we did it this way or if we should just go ahead and relax posts to also be 500k.

Alright that took longer than it should have, but it should be fixed now. Let me know if you have trouble!

Thank you! I will have a go later.

"Wignat" is obviously a pun on "wingnut" which you really should mention in that entry. Also, I've never seen it here.

In general, rare terms shouldn't be in the glossary. The glossary is to help people, not to become an OCD magnet. There is a cost to putting a rarely used term in the glossary. I don't recall the last time I saw if-by-whiskey.

Also, any glossary should be posted with a heavy helping of "what do outsiders think if they stumble on us and read through the glossary", especially if they think we emphasize the things written there. And if you think an entry should be removed for this reason, remove it. Don't be coy about it. You're obviously not spelling out what HBD means because it's wrongthink to do so. In that case, leave it out. Putting in "yeah, but we won't tell you" is calling attention to it and is the last thing you should do; it gives the impression "we have something to hide".

Pascal's Mugging: A situation related to Pascal's Wager where people believe it's rational to act based on an unlikely event that has a positive probability and enormous consequences, but is not actually infinite. A standard example is one where a mugger claims to be a powerful being and says "Give me your wallet or I will cause this mathematically enormous amount of suffering". A naive rationalist may multiply the tiny probability that he's a powerful being by the enormous amount of suffering and conclude that he should be obeyed.

Someone else can do Roko's Basilisk.

You're obviously not spelling out what HBD means because it's wrongthink to do so.

I suppose I understand why you're saying this but, in as much as I can identify my own motivations and account for my subconscious, that's not what I was doing or intended to do. I simply felt, as I stated in the post, that the term is fairly ubiquitous in posts here and that anyone who muddled their way over here would already know, or have a good idea of, the term. Like someone joining an NFL discord probably knows term first and ten.

As for your suggestion that Big Brother or Sister are watching, I don't know what to say to that. If the mods are skittish about it, let them nuke the post from orbit (it is, after all, the only way to be sure. ) I was mostly tongue-in-cheek in writing it.

Should be noted that Kolmogorov complicity is a wordplay off Kolmogorov complexity, a computer-science concept that is an important part of the Sequences for its role in Eliezer's minimalist construction of empiricism.

I think that I’d add the various types of enlightenment beliefs

Dark Enlightenment: the idea that the Enlightenment was a bad idea and that pre-enlightenment society was better.

Grey Enlightenment: the Enlightenment was fine.

White Enlightenment: the enlightenment was a good idea.

I don't think that's quite right.

Rather, I read it as: Dark Enlightenment: knowledge of forbidden truths

Gray enlightenment: see above, but more morally ambiguous

And I've seen no third.

@grayenlightenment, thoughts?