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The human brain.

Ever since software made its first appearance in the language around 1960, this word has inspired several others ending in -ware. Freeware, for example, is software distributed free of charge, while vaporware is software that's planned but still non-existent.

Wetware denotes the human element in computing, whether it's the people needed to keep a computer system running, or more specifically, the human brain. A less common (and less appetizing) word for the same thing: meatware.

"Oh, but if only I could upgrade my wetware!"




white elephant

1. A costly possession requiring so much upkeep that it becomes a burden.

2. Something no longer wanted by its owner.

In the old kingdom of Siam, the rare albino elephant was sacred, and each new one born belonged to the king. Moreover, it was forbidden to kill such an elephant or to use it for work.

Therefore, the story goes, whenever the king wished to punish an obnoxious courtier, he'd make him a present of one of these pale pachyderms. It was a gift to be dreaded, however. Recipients could neither use the elephant nor get rid of it -- and inevitably went broke trying to keep it fed. Nowadays, the expression white elephant is used to apply more generally to any burdensome possession.

"Of course, a cynic might be forgiven for wondering whether today's million-dollar mini-mansions are the white elephants of tomorrow."







In a counterclockwise or contrary direction.

Also spelled "withershins," this comes from Middle High German "widersinnes," meaning "back in the direction of." See also deasil.

"Walking widdershins one wintry morn, Wolfgang scratched his head, trying to remember that odd word for 'counterclockwise.'"







A badger-sized, stocky, burrowing marsupial.

You don't hear this word that often, and its etymology isn't all that interesting: it comes from a similar-sounding word in an indigeneous language of Australia.

But you may see much more of it in the form of an extremely handy acronym now making its way around the Net. WOMBAT stands for "Waste Of Money, Brains, and Time."

"Oy, these marathon mid-afternoon meetings are always such a WOMBAT!"


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