Molecular Mystery with a Side of Sushi

I was trembling like a Chihuahua after a thunderclap from too many Frappuccinos, but ravenous as I reached the Kenmore Arms. I jiggled the key in the lock until it yielded and kicked the door open. I yanked open the fridge but it was emptier than a politician’s promise. But wait. Lurking inside the deli compartment was a small plastic container from Suzy’s Sushi. I held my breath as I pried it open. California rolls of uncertain vintage.

California_RollsWikimedia Commons

Do I dare? No. I snapped the container shut and flung it into the trash. Do I dare to eat a peach? Yes.

I curled up in the armchair with a can of peaches, a shot of bourbon and a copy of Science. The subhead of the article that grabbed my attention read: “Two factors that controls [sic] synapse formation in the mammalian brain are associated with human language acquisition.” Language is like my thing, you know, so I read on: “[A] secreted protein called sushi repeat-containing protein X-linked 2…promotes mammalian vocalization.” Got that? Yeah, I said “sushi repeat-containing protein.” The article continues, “Expression of this protein is known to be repressed by the transcription factor foxhead box protein P2.”

OK. Who’s the wise guy? I thought I’d dodged the whole sushi-repeat fiasco. I know scientists have an oddball sense of humor but this was puzzling. I searched online for molecules with strange names. I found a few. All right, more than a few here:, including moronic acid, vomitoxin, spamol and many more. Spam_(2848174803)But no sushi repeat or foxhead box. I need help. Any molecular biologists out there? Can you tell me who came up with the mystery terms and why?

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Lexie Kahn: Word Snooper is a blog about words and their origins at
This entry was posted in English language, etymology, food and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Molecular Mystery with a Side of Sushi

  1. S. O. says:

    Funny! Delightful! Thanks Judy.


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