Some interesting words, June 2021

Some recent additions to the list of interesting words.

Link-detached house (or link house): A detached house has space between its side walls and the walls of the adjacent houses. A semi-detached house has space on one side, but shares a party wall with another house on the other. The link-detached house looks like a detached house, but part of its basement abuts the basement of its neighbor, allowing the construction of higher-priced detached houses on land that is zoned for semi-detached houses. Particularly common in the UK and in Canada, especially in the Toronto suburbs. Sometimes buildings aren’t what they seem above ground.

Synthetic data: Social science organizations sometimes release microdata—the individual responses to a survey, or a dataset that is close to the original responses but has some information removed in order to protect privacy. The U.S. Census Bureau plans to start releasing synthetic data instead, to prevent anyone from identifying individuals. Each line will look like an individual participant’s response, as in the past, but the responses will be fictionalized, but in a way so that larger statistical relationships remain. Particular records become falsehoods, but taken together, at a broader scale, they would still illuminate truths. Researchers object to this plan, noting that synthetic data would not reflect all the relationships someone might be interested in.

Wildcat strike: A strike that workers undertake even without the support of union leadership, like the 1970 postal workers strike.

Millihelen: A unit of measure; the amount of female beauty that will suffice for the launching of a single ship. (Via @rachelvetica.)

Hügelkultur: The practice of burying woody materials, up to the size of whole tree trunks, in mound-like raised beds, to build a healthy soil ecosystem and add nutrients to a garden. Popular in permaculture gardening, but possibly influenced by German and Eastern European traditions.