TIME Thanksgiving

Tiny Hamsters Enjoy a Tiny Thanksgiving Meal in the Name of Cuteness

Featuring the world's tiniest rolling pin

Mice have been used in many studies that measure the effects of tryptophan, an amino acid in turkey that’s commonly associated with post-feast drowsiness. But why should mice have all the amino acid-induced fun? This video of a hamster Thanksgiving poses a highly scientific question (what happens when tiny rodents eat tiny holiday dishes) and delivers the shocking empirical results: They nibble stuff really adorably.

The YouTube channel behind the video, HelloDenizen, has produced several riveting case studies of hamsters’ eating habits. In one video, a hamster battles competitive eating champion Takeru Kobayashi in a hot dog eating contest. In another, the balloon-cheeked rodent takes on miniature burritos while a nervous chef looks on, eager for approval.

If our portion sizes were anywhere near this small, we might not have to unbutton our pants at the table. But human-sized stomachs demand human-sized slices of pie.

TIME celebrity

Steve Carell Declares His Love for Taylor Swift by Singing ‘Shake It Off’

"I actually love Taylor Swift. I think she's great."

During a recent appearance on ABC’s Popcorn with Peter Travers to discuss his new movie Foxcatcher, Steve Carell treated us all to an unexpected little surprise.

Travers asks the actor about the music that’s been playing in his house lately. Without missing a beat, Carell takes a breath, keeps his face stoic and launches into the chorus of Taylor Swift’s total earworm “Shake It Off.” He maintains serious eye contact with Travers before eventually turning to sing into the camera.

Travers just laughs, apparently very surprised about this response. (Kinda being a hater, in fact.)

“I love it. I actually love Taylor Swift,” Carell says, unironically. “I think she’s great.”

Read next: The 6 Best Celebrity Versions of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’

TIME language

See Every ‘Word of the Year’ in One Chart

From 'Not!' to 'w00t' and everything in between

Every year, from autumn through January, the world enjoys a very special season: institutions selecting their respective words of the year, one after the other, in a glorious parade (for unabashed nerds like the author of this article). The modern tradition, as TIME explains, was started in 1990 by the American Dialect Society. Later, major dictionaries like Oxford, Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com joined the show.

Below, we’ve compiled a graphic showing the historical record that is every single one of their past picks, each of which is like a little time capsule for what was on people’s minds or in people’s lives that year. There are lesser known outlets whose picks we haven’t included, and it’s worth noting that some dictionary publishers have decided not to take part in the frenzy at all. “As the years went on, more and more companies did a word of the year thing,” Steve Kleinedler, executive editor of American Heritage Dictionaries says. “We didn’t want to be yet another voice jumping on the bandwagon.”

Here’s the trail that the increasingly crowded “WOTY” bandwagon has tread for the past quarter century.

words of the year list
Bronson Stamp for TIME

Read about Oxford’s 2014 Word of the Year: Vape

TIME Food & Drink

Sushi Restaurant Owners Plead Guilty to Serving Whale Meat

The Hump Restaurant is seen in Santa Mon
Gabriel Bouys —AFP/Getty Images The Hump Restaurant is seen in Santa Monica, California on Wednesday, March 10, 2010.

After the documentarians behind The Cove got footage of the crime

The owners of a defunct sushi restaurant pled guilty Tuesday to serving whale meat, more than four years after a documentary film crew captured the illicit meal on tape.

Brian Vidor, owner of The Hump restaurant in Santa Monica, California, and his parent company, Typhoon Restaurant Inc., agreed to pay a $27,500 fine for slicing up a serving of Sei whale, an endangered species protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Sushi chefs at the Hump unwittingly served the meat to undercover agents for the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The scene was captured on film by the documentarians behind The Cove, an Academy Award-winning expose of the dolphin meat trade.

[L.A. Times]

TIME viral

Breaking Bad Gets the Perfect Frozen Parody: ‘Do You Want To Build A Meth Lab?’

Walter White makes for a surprisingly emotional Disney princess

In this parody by Animeme, the Frozen song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” gets the Breaking Bad treatment with Walter White knocking on Jesse Pinkman’s door, pleading, “Do you want to build a meth lab?”

In a style that owes much to South Park‘s epic musical numbers, the most unsentimental topics — meth, money and murder — ooze sentimentality. When Walt pleads, standing outside Jesse’s closed door, “We built this empire together — it’s all we have,” it’s hard not to get a little misty-eyed. The video captures a great deal of the five-season story arc in three short minutes, staying true to the shots in the original Frozen scene.

If only Jesse could have traveled back in time and said no.

TIME technology

Watch Tony Hawk Ride the World’s First Real Hoverboard

Get ready, Back to the Future fans: all your dreams are slowly coming true

Earlier this year, legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk pranked us with a phony video about new hoverboard technology. But now, to make up for it, here he is riding a real hoverboard.

Yup, Marty McFly’s preferred mode of transportation is now a real thing. Or at least, it’s pretty close. What the skateboarding icon rides in the video is a Hendo board, which bills itself as the world’s first hoverboard. Its developers recently launched a Kickstarter campaign, where you can pre-order one of these high-tech boards for a cool $10,000.

If that’s out of your price range, then just enjoy this video of Hawk testing one of them out. He’s not nearly as graceful as he is on a normal skateboard, but that’s understandable.

TIME Music

Listen to Kristen Bell’s Christmas Song for the Selfie Generation

“I’ll be right here waiting for my pants to start vibrating”

This holiday season, let your loved ones know you care by going through the tremendous effort of selecting the right emoji for a text message. So says Kristen Bell in a newly released holiday song, “Text Me Merry Christmas,” recorded with a capella group Straight No Chaser. The song pokes fun — very lightly, perhaps too lightly — at the increasing informality of communication, where a text message today provides a measly substitute for the in-person visits of yore.

The lyrics (“I’ll go ‘neath the mistletoe and pretend my screen is you”) are a very intentional far cry from romantic songs of Christmases past, in which lovers kissed using the old-fashioned technology of lips and facial muscles. Bell has proven her musical talents before, in projects like Frozen and a Funny or Die parody video in which she played the part of Mary Poppins. And Straight No Chaser launched its career in the late ‘90s with a performance of “12 Days of Christmas,” which led to a five-album record deal.

It may be out of fashion to lament the adverse effects of technology. But it’s not hard to imagine that a day will come when we yearn for the close and personal touch of a winking emoji.

TIME celebrity

Benedict Cumberbatch Tries to Get Jimmy Fallon to Say ‘Booty’

Spoiler alert: Kim Kardashian gets discussed

Did you experience varying stages of grief when the Benedict Cumberbatch announced his November engagement? Well here’s something to temporarily numb the pain: It turns out that he probably would have been really bad at couples game night.

When on Jimmy Fallon Monday, the actor was asked to play the “Three Word Game.” The rules are simple: you have to make your opponent say a keyword using only three words. Fallon accomplished the goal with relative ease. Cumberbatch, on the other hand…

Here are some of the clues he gave Fallon for the word “booty”:

  • “You’ve got to shake…” (that’s four words, but whatever)
  • “Shake the shake…” (if at first you don’t succeed…)
  • “At the top…” (clearly not ready for this jelly)

Finally he got to the right territory, saying “A beautiful big,” inspiring Fallon to say “Kim Kardashian’s butt.” After a couple more attempts, booty was revealed.

Who are we really kidding, though. We would still offer to pair up with Cumberbatch for a rousing game of Scrabble or Taboo anytime.

Read next: Watch Benedict Cumberbatch Nail 11 Celebrity Impersonations in a Minute

TIME language

Clickbait, Normcore, Mansplain: Runners-Up for Oxford’s Word of the Year

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JGI/Jamie Grill — Getty Images/Blend Images The expression displayed by the women in this stock photo is sometimes described as a duck face.

Here are the words that Oxford editors would like to give a hearty round of recognition

On Nov. 17, Oxford announced that their word of the year for 2014 is “vape.” The venerable publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary also gave TIME three lists of candidates: the long list, the short list and the “blip list.”

The short list contains strong contenders that, had the linguistic winds blown a little differently, might have won the title. The long list contains solid candidates that editors found easier to cut. And the “blip list” is full of early favorites that editors watched fizzle in usage by the time their final votes came around in the autumn. Here is everything that had a chance, with most definitions taken or adapted from Oxford:

Winner

vape (v.): to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device

Short list

bae (n.): a term of endearment for one’s romantic partner, likely a shortening of baby or babe, though some theorize that it is an acronym for “before anyone else.”

budtender (n.): someone who works at a medical marijuana dispensary or retail marijuana shop.

contactless (adj.): describing technologies that allow a smart card, etc., to connect wirelessly to an electronic reader, typically in order to make a payment.

indyref (n.): an abbreviated form of Scotland’s failed referendum to declare independence from the United Kingdom.

normcore (n.): a fashion movement in which ordinary, unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate statement.

slacktivist (n.): one who engages in digital activism on the Web which is regarded as requiring little time or involvement. Also slacktivism.

Long list

anti-vax (adj.): describing someone who is opposed to vaccination.

Brexit (n.): reference to the proposed exit of Britain from the E.U.

brogrammer (n.): a portmanteau of bro and programmer, which can describe a computer programmer with typically macho characteristics.

clickbait (n.): content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.

cybernat (n.): a term used to pejoratively refer to supporters of Scottish independence, especially those who express opinions online.

dronie (n.): a selfie taken from a camera attached to a flying drone.

duck face (n.): a (pejorative) term for a facial expression made by pressing one’s lips together into the shape of a duck’s bill, often performed in selfies.

Euromaidan (n.): a word attached to protests in Ukraine, often used to describe anti-government demonstrators.

frost quake (n.): a sudden, rapid freezing of ground in which frozen water can crack surrounding rock and soil, causing loud sounds.

hangry (adj): to experience both hunger and anger, often to be easily angered because of hunger or so hungry that one becomes angry.

mansplain (v.): to explain something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.

microaggression (n.): brief and commonplace behaviors, intentional or unintentional, that convey hostility or insults toward another individual or group, particularly an ethnic group.

neuromorphic (adj): describing computing systems that mimic the human nervous system (and more complicated things).

polar vortex (n.): though many experts have debated the use of the term in the media, it describes a system of winds that circle one of the earth’s poles, the state of which can contribute to very cold temperatures.

poor door (n.): a separate door to a building meant to be used by people of a lower economic class, as in a luxury apartment building with a block of affordable units.

Blip list

Columbusing (n.): the act of appropriating, without acknowledgment, a cultural attribute associated with an ethnic group other than one’s own.

conscious uncoupling (n.): an approach to ending a marriage or romantic relationship which emphasizes acceptance of mutual responsibility.

ice bucket challenge (n.): a stunt in which a person films the act of dumping ice water on their head and uploads the video to social media, challenging a friend to do the same or donate to charity.

parcelcopter (n.): an unmanned aircraft used to deliver goods.

smugshrug (n.): an emoticon representing the face and arms of smiling person with hands raised in a shrugging gesture.

spornosexual (n.): a man who is extremely conscious of his appearance and devoted to cultivating a sexually attractive physique.

TIME language

Words of the Year: How the Pithy Tradition Began

Student Using Dictionary
Underwood Archives / Getty Images A spelling bee champion looks up a word in the dictionary in Detroit on April 30, 1963

Oxford has announced 'vape' as their 2014 pick, continuing a tradition that's a quarter-century old

In the summer of 1990, as President George Bush was grappling with going to war in the Persian Gulf and Nelson Mandela was traveling the U.S. seeking support for the end of apartheid, a man named Allan Metcalf had an idea.

A professor of English at MacMurry College in Illinois, Metcalf has also been executive secretary of the American Dialect Society for more than 30 years. Because his duties include planning the annual get together for the word-obsessed academics who make up the Society’s membership, Metcalf was busy arranging logistics for that year’s meeting in Chicago.

The attendees are types who religiously scour everything from periodicals to the banter of their college students for neologisms, shifts in slang, new concepts or funny portmanteaus — linguistic changes that almost always reflect something bigger than themselves. Language is a mirror, Metcalf thought, so why not make something of a moment when all those people, who have been staring in the mirror all year, are in the same room?

“I was thinking, every year TIME Magazine chooses a person of the year, and they choose it not by some computer program but rather the editors and readers making suggestions about who was influential. Why couldn’t we choose a word of the year?” Metcalf says. “If anybody’s expert on what’s important in our language, that would be members of our group.”

The members of that group agreed and on Dec. 19, 1990, at the Barclay Hotel in Chicago, history was made. On that day, about 40 people selected bushlips as the New Word of The Year (a portmanteau of Bush and lips, the word was a little-known term for insincere political rhetoric, created to deride Bush’s failed promise, “Read my lips: no new taxes”). Of course, Metcalf was not necessarily the first human to ponder the notion of declaring a word of the year; a TIME reader wrote a letter back in 1945 suggesting that atomic hold that title. But today’s annual foam party for word-nerds, which has institutions throwing out selections from October through January, has roots in the St. Clair Room of the Barclay Hotel.

For the first decade or so, Metcalf says, the “WOTY” ritual—an acronym used by the growing band of linguists who watch for candidates like Ahab for white flukes—was a fairly small affair. That started changing when the American Dialect Society joined their meeting with the Linguistic Society of America’s in 2000, and again in 2003 when Merriam-Webster proclaimed its first WOTY to be democracy. Oxford University Press joined the parade in 2004, announcing that chav (a pejorative name for type of British youth) was their Word of the Year. Then, in 2010, Dictionary.com entered their own float with the simple, politically charged word change. Institutions with lower Q scores make the march too, like Collins English Dictionary (which chose photobomb as their word this year) and Chambers Dictionary (which selected overshare).

As close readers may have noticed, the ritual has not only exploded but also shed a tricky qualification since its inception in 1990. In the beginning, the American Dialect Society decreed that any nominee had to be new. That rule proved flawed over the years, as attendees would pluck a new word from the masses only to find out it wasn’t actually new at all (Not!, 1992’s selection, was eventually dated back to the 1800s) or that, like bushlips, the term was a passing thing that should have been wrapped in the next day’s newspaper rather than put on a pedestal.

By the 1990s, that rule had been dropped, freeing the Society’s members to select words like mom in 1996 (as a nod to the “soccer mom” voter who emerged as a key demographic in that year’s election) and occupy in 2011, recording a year in which a movement against classism took to the streets around the world. It also led to Metcalf penning a book, Predicting New Words, in which is presented his “FUDGE” system for identifying words with staying power.

Institutions have found ways to distinguish their selections amidst the delightful frenzy. Merriam-Webster relies largely on spikes in lookups, rather than making editorial choices, which is why they often end up choosing less-trendy words like last year’s science—a word, as Editor-at-Large Peter Sokolowski said, “lurking behind” big headlines. The people at Oxford University Press, which is monitoring English from South Texas to South Africa, position themselves as thinking more internationally and have often selected one WOTY for the U.S. and another for the U.K., like 2012’s GIF and omnishambles. And Dictionary.com, while taking lookups into account, looks to the news stories of the year and searches for a term that can serve as connective tissue.

Then there remains the American Dialect Society, which exists to study the English of North America—the only outlet to have a public, live vote that will count the hands of anyone who shows up (not just members of the Society), which now entails funneling hundreds into a room where people make nominations and give speeches for or against candidates. It’s a real good time, Metcalf says, which is just what he hoped for in the summer of 1990. “The main thing was I thought it would be fun,” he says. And now, he notes, since their vote happens in January, they’re typically the last to make their choice. “We like to think that we were first and we are the last,” he says.

For every institution, there’s an element of free publicity, sought or not, that comes with announcing a word of the year, a line that will hook reporters (this writer included) every single time. But that’s not just because WOTYs are clickbait. It’s a moment, as Oxford’s Casper Grathwohl says, to remind people that lexicographers are working hard, all year long, to catalog the immense historical record that is our language. And words of the year are a little bit of poetry that come out of a pithy tradition of reflection, regardless of whether, when we have the benefit of hindsight, the selections prove to have bottled up the zeitgeist of a year or mostly hot air.

“There are a lot of windows into thinking about where we are as a society,” Grathwohl says. “Coded in the language we use is a lot of information that we are communicating without directly saying it … When we select the word of the year, it allows people to dig underneath the surface of the words we use to think about what’s there.”

Read about Oxford’s 2014 Word of the Year: Vape

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