8 Weird and Ridiculous Scientific Terms

  • Piloerections, Sonic Hedgehog, and cummingtonite, oh my!

When thinking about scientific language, the general public usually falls into two groups. The first think of it as highly sophisticated — the pinnacle of education — while the other finds it the most boring thing ever.

But little did you know what science speak can also be a real barrel of laughs. Whether it’s because of a researcher with a sense of humor, or one that’s completely oblivious, some scientific terms are actually pretty funny.

Or they can sound downright filthy. Here’s a collection of the most ridiculous ones we found.

Cute Aggression

Have you ever seen a cute puppy or kitten and gone: “Oh you’re so cute, I could just eat you!” Congratulations, you’ve provided your own example of cute aggression.

Cute aggression sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s a real thing. People who define such things define cute aggression as the desire to pinch, smush, eat, or otherwise violently embrace something adorable.

It usually doesn’t involve any desire to actually harm the object of one’s affections. Usually.

Scientists think we developed this behavior to regulate overwhelmingly positive emotions. We feel like it says something about us when we have to deal with overjoyed by channeling into imagined violence.

Gorilla gorilla gorilla

You may have known that the scientific name for the genus that includes gorillas is… Well, Gorilla. You might even know that the western gorilla, living unsurprisingly in West Africa, is scientifically known as Gorilla gorilla.

But this rabbit — or primate — hole goes even deeper. Allow us to introduce to you the western lowland gorilla, scientifically known as Gorilla gorilla gorilla.

Going by the number of gorillas in its name, this must be the single most gorilla gorilla that ever gorilla’d. It’s also a prime example of a complete lack of imagination.


S*** Flow Diagram

What would you call the technical drawing describing the movement of waste through an urban settlement’s waste treatment infrastructure? If you came up with some meaningless engineering jargon, you couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s called a s*** flow diagram. Or, an SFD for short.

No, we’re not kidding. That’s the actual term they use in urban planning to design sewage systems.

Fun fact, Bill Gates fund the SFD Promotion Initiative to bring proper sanitation to developing countries. He just wants to see everyone on the planet to enjoy a proper s*** flow.

Penis Fencing

If this one sounds dirty to you, that’s probably because it is. Penis fencing is a term biologists use to describe the mating ritual of certain oceanic flatworms.

It’s surprisingly accurate, too. You see, these flatworms are hermaphroditic, meaning each individual has both a wingwong and hooha.

When another worm catches their fancy, both worms expose their pair of penises (yes, they have two). They will then proceed to fight with them like swashbuckling pirates.

The fight goes on until one worm loses and gets inseminated. That probably doesn’t happen with pirates — at least not in the movies we’ve seen.


Unlike penis fencing, this term only sounds dirty. There’s nothing sexual about it — in fact, you might be having a piloerection right now.

Did you get goosebumps from wondering whether or not you do? Then you definitely have a piloerection!

It’s the scientific term for when your hair stands on end. In another world, R.L. Stine’s scary kids’ books didn’t become such a hit.

Snap, crackle, and pop

More than a crisped rice cereal snaps, crackles, and pops. But we at least didn’t expect it’d have to do with fairly advanced physics.

Snap, crackle, and pop describe the fourth, fifth, and sixth derivatives of a position vector. In plainer terms, they describe time elements of a thing moving in a certain direction.

The first three derivatives describe more commonly known concepts, namely velocity, acceleration, and jerk. And that’s as far as we’re digging into this — we’re already getting a headache.

Sonic Hedgehog

From the moment you were conceived, Sonic Hedgehog has been guiding you along the path of life. No, we’re not talking about the blue video game character — notice the missing “the” in the name.

Instead, Sonic Hedgehog is a protein governed by the SHH gene. It’s extremely important to any life that begins as an embryo, since it plays a part in controlling the growth, shape, and specialization of important cells.

Sonic Hedgehog is responsible for shaping various parts of your body, including your spine, teeth, and brain. If you’re wondering why it’s called that, well, that’s because a scientist thought it’d be funny.


Photo: Parent Géry, Wikimedia Commons

Go ahead, say that word. Out loud. Do it.

Suggestive as its name is, there’s nothing particularly thrilling about cummingtonite. It’s a magnesium-iron silicate hydroxide metamorphic amphibole mineral.

It does have kind of a pretty red color, but that’s it. Its name references the location of its discovery — Cummington, MA.

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