There's a word for that

The Baltimore Sun

He smashes Olympic records, he hauls home more gold than any athlete in history, he inspires adjectives.

Gather 'round wordsmiths: Thanks to the stunning performance of Michael Phelps, an amazing accomplishment will now be known as a "Phelpsian Feat."

Fellow swimmer Aaron Piersol coined the term, thinking "Spitzian," which used to mean the same thing, was as passe as Mark Spitz's ample '70s mustache.

One could say it's all but Phelpsian, how fast the new word has slipped into the lexicon.

By yesterday morning, the word had produced nearly 5,000 Google hits and its own Wikipedia entry.

It's too soon for The Global Language Monitor, a Texas-based company that tracks language trends, to register the word. But Paul JJ Payack, its president and "chief word analyst," considers Phelpsian to be "an excellent word that works."

"It works in the sense that that other product of Baltimore, Ruth-ian, works," he said. "It has a certain, let's say, melodic sound to it. This is unlike Unitas-ian or Ripken-ian or, even, Poe-ian, which come across as both unfamiliar and nearly unpronounceable."

But before the Beijing games end, the dictionary might have to make room for even more original words.


Spitz: adj. Something outdated. Such as: Those shoulder pads are so spitz.

Torres v. To excel at something one is supposed to be too old for. (See Dara Torres, who at 41 not only earned a spot on the Olympic swim team, but won three silver medals.)

Chinesegymnast v. To sneak into something you're too young for. Such as: Johnny totally Chinesegymnasted into that bar - he's not even close to 21!

Costas v. To overdramatize a situation, usually in a grave tone of voice. Such as: Morgan Freeman has really costased some of those Olympics Visa ads.

DebbiePhelps n. Mom busting with pride. Such as: She was such a debbiephelps when her daughter took her first steps.

Have ideas for more Olympics-inspired terms? Let us know at

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