Slang City Mail

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April 15 , 2004

Slang of the Week: screaming meemies/screaming mimis (noun phrase)
An attack of nerves

Jane took Valium before her audit at the IRS, because she had the screaming meemies.

Celebrity quote:
“One of my best friends owns this second-hand clothes store called Screaming Mimis, where I used to work before I made it. Now she's my stylist. She'll find all these amazing things and I go in and look them over. When we get together it's a try-on hell!”
-Cyndi Lauper

This week’s category: things that blow up! While we now use screaming meemies to describe our fragile emotional states, it was originally a rocket in the First World War. It went up into the air, came down making a loud screaming noise, and exploded when it hit the ground (or an unfortunate soldier). Needless to say, hearing one coming would make you pretty nervous!

In the Second World War, screaming meemie was used specifically about a rocket called the nebelwerfer. Its other nickname was moaning minnie (also from the sound it made), an expression which is now used in British slang to describe a person who complains a lot.

A similar word is whiz-bang (sometimes whizz-bang). This was the nickname for a WWI artillery shell that made a whizzing noise just before landing with a bang! But this word also got a second life in everyday slang. By the 1920s, a whiz-bang had become both a word for someone (or something) that is really impressive and drug slang for a combination of cocaine and heroin.

What’s new at Slang City?
This week’s Ask AC column is When a Tossed Salad Contains No Lettuce. We take a look at Oprah, Howard Stern, and some bad words that the FCC has been worried about since Janet Jackson’s Superbowl striptease.