In July of 1958, Action Comics #242 was released, with a new Superman comic written by Otto Binder and Al Plastino. In it, a newly introduced evil genius known as Braniac attempted to bottle up and steal all the major cities on Earth. Superman foils the plot, but Braniac escapes unharmed at the end. This helped kicked off the so-called "Silver Age" of Action Comics, with a renewed emphasis on the Superman stuff and less emphasis on everything else. After that, braniac seeped into popular culture to mean an annoying or malicious smart person, eventually dropping the negative connotation. So, kryptonite isn't the only word we get from Superman. That in itself is pretty cool, but how they came up with the name is neat as well. Clearly it was influenced by the word brain, but the secondary influence is, curiously enough, sort of a hybrid of maniac and ENIAC, one of the first computers and an acronym for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (the former to emphasize the evil aspect of Braniac and the latter to draw attention to his intelligence).
Thanks to Will Phillips for this blog post idea.
Adam Aleksic, a freshman studying linguistics and government at Harvard University, has been described as the internet's sixth most famous etymologist. He also has disturbing interests in words, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law.