More updates in the Devil’s dictionary

All the best for 2020!
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today’s entries: tohuwabohu, vegan, zither, and zoology.

See the complete Devil’s Dictionary of Scientific Words and Phrases here.

all entries in the Devil’s Dictionary copyright 2020 by Russ Hodge

tohuwabohu  a state of absolute chaos, similar to the state of the very early universe, or the laboratory after a party.

vegan  an extraterrestrial being from a planet that orbits the star Vega, in the constellation Lyra. The biochemistry of their world is so fundamentally different from that of our own that vegan refugees have a hard time finding anything edible on Earth.

zither  an annoying instrument which only functions after being pounded on, pinched or stroked. While this is also the case for most other equipment, true zithers are seldom seen in modern laboratories. If you’re asked for one, first determine whether your colleague has a lisp and is actually asking for “scissors”.

zoology  the scientific study of zoos, a field which has produced remarkable insights into interactions between predators and their prey – particularly crocodiles, polar bears, zookeepers and small children, although not necessarily in the same cage at the same time. A number of general principles have emerged from zoological research: cotton candy should not be sold within the grasp of great apes, and people should not climb over fences to take selfies with lions. And anyone who makes rude faces at an orangutan or disturbs a shark by knocking on the glass may well get what is coming to him. In recent years zoology has taken on the wider theme of studying any interaction between species that have been removed from their native environments and sequestered together in an unnatural habitat, such as a marriage.

NEW: Need that perfect birthday gift for a scientist? Get your printed copy of the Devil’s dictionary here. I’m also planning to publish a book of the cartoons and a new calendar this year.

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I am a science writer at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, author of fiction and popular science books, an artist, and a professional musician who performs on the viola da gamba and Medieval and Renaissance stringed instruments. I edit manuscripts of all types and teach the full range of scientific communication skills. I am doing theoretical work in this subject - see for example

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