I run across a lot of new words practically every day. Some of them are just “new to me” — many overheard from students (who try to persuade me not to use them), some from podcasts — and some that go back a-ways but that I’ve recently rediscovered.
Read on, MacDuff, at your own risk.
incel (n): an involuntary celibate. “A subset of straight men calling themselves “incels” have constructed a violent political ideology around the injustice of young, beautiful women refusing to have sex with them. These men often subscribe to notions of white supremacy. They are, by their own judgment, mostly unattractive and socially inept. (They frequently call themselves “subhuman.”) They’re also diabolically misogynistic.” [The Rage of the Incels]
deep state (n): the so-called “permanent power élite” or “moneyed, cultured élite” — the non-governmental insiders from banking, industry, and commerce” whose access to information allows them to rule in secret. (see John le Carré’s 2013 novel, A Delicate Truth). Also see this intriguing apocryphal account of Deep State Wine.
choad (n): <vulgar> A loser or undesirable person…and that’s just the nice version. Don’t write this where others can see it—like on a classroom whiteboard.
wratched (adj): <slang> in poor shape or bad taste, “ghetto.” As near as I can tell, it’s an urbanized form of “wretched” but always pronounced as one syllable with the last part sort of slurred, …tchd, that is, “ratcht.” My students have forbidden me to use this.
tag question (noun phrase): a grammatical structure in which a statement is turned into interrogative fragment, as though to ask for a tacit confirmation. “Y’know?” as in “Nice day, isn’t it?”; “You’re Samantha, right”?; In Sherlock Holmes-era novels, a character might end a sentence with “Eh wot?” but I’ve been instructed never to try that. In the British sitcom, The Office, Ricky Gervais would end many of his statements with “Yeah?” “That’ll save us money, will it, yeah.” (OK, I already knew this one, but it’s always fun to quote Ricky.)
And now, recently heard on The Daily Show:
sick burn (noun phrase): a clever and cutting remark that makes someone look silly or feel embarrassed. Shaping your hands like two guns and imitating blowing the smoke off them is a good way to tag the burn.
gobemouche (n): <GOB-moosh> a gullible or credulous person. From French gobe-mouche (flycatcher, sucker), from gober (to suck or swallow) + mouche (fly). Earliest documented use: 1818.*
…not be confused with a “goober”: A foolish, simple, or amusingly silly person.
[Insert political figure of your choice here]
pitchfork rebellion (noun phrase): When the peasants, or common folk, literally or figuratively fashion their farming tools into weapons of war — as in the 1685 Monmouth Rebellion, or when villagers of South Stoke, outside Bath, recently saved their historic, 150-year-old Packhorse pub from being turned into an apartment complex.
duck or decorated shed? (nouns): from the 1972 book Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Some buildings are like ducks—the exterior is perfectly suited to what’s inside and they can’t be anything but what they look like, as their shape clearly indicates.
A decorated shed, by contrast, is a generic structure with a purpose identifiable only by its signage. Is it a clothing store, a restaurant, or a hotel? Just check the sign.
“If one business decides to close its doors, we can remove the sign and add another. No additional construction necessary.” [The Architectural Mirror]. See also 99% Invisible (one of my favorite podcasts): “Lessons from Sin City”
(Photo: Center for Learning at Glendale Community College) **
dead cat bounce (noun phrase): A Wall St. phrase indicating a small, brief recovery in the price of a declining stock, derived from the idea that “even a dead cat will bounce if it falls from a great height.” The phrase can also be applied to any instance of a brief resurgence following a severe decline.***
tent-pole movie (noun phrase): widely released initial offerings in a string of releases that are expected by movie studios to turn a quick profit, usually accompanied by big budgets and heavy promotion and expected to support a wide range of tie-in products such as toys and games. However, in the TV biz, there’s the concept of the hammock: If a network has two tent-pole series, it can boost the performance of a weak or emerging show by inserting it between the two tent-poles.
TCK – third culture kid (noun phrase): a child raised in a culture other than their parents’ (or the country on the child’s passport, where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early years. They’re exposed to a greater (often dismaying) variety of cultural influences. TCKs move between cultures (and languages!) before they have had the opportunity to fully develop their personal cultural identity. The first culture of such individuals refers to the culture of the country from which the parents originated, the second culture refers to the culture in which the family currently resides, and the third culture refers to the amalgamation of these two cultures. “You always feel out of place.” (The World in Words podcast, May 17, 2018)
(noun phrase): the graded concrete ramp at the edge of a sidewalk, originally designed allow wheelchair users to move on or off a sidewalk with less difficulty; however, they have proved eminently useful also for baby buggies, bicycles/tricycles, skateboards, pedestrians using canes, hand trucks and roller bags. This is an examp
le of a related phenomenon, called the “curb cut effect,”
which happens when laws and programs designed to benefit vulnerable groups end up benefiting all of society. Other examples include closed caption TV and automatic door openers. Kalamazoo, Michigan installed curb cuts in the 1940s as a pilot project to aid employment of disabled veterans and the concept grew strength in 1972 when the city of Berkeley, Calif., pressed by disabled activists, installed its first official “curb cut” at an intersection on Telegraph Avenue. A circular pattern of bumps adds to the benefit by providing a warning for visually impaired people. (see, The Curb-Cut Effect
, and Curb Cuts
on “99% Invisible”)
Despoiling the Egyptians (phrase): Basically a sort of reverse “cultural appropriation” (the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture). The phrase has come to mean any use of another culture’s art and ideas for purposes that may wholly contradict their original intention.
From St. Augustine: In the Hebrew scripture, Exodus 3:21, God tells the Israelites to “despoil the Egyptians” as they left their bondage by taking gold and silver statuary or other works that had been pagan or profane and use the metal for their own, finer purposes. [On Christian Doctrine, Ch. 40, section 60; cited in Hecht, Doubt, 201]
“The Israelites are promised that they will leave Egypt not just with their freedom but with great wealth. “You shall strip the Egyptians bare,” goes the promise, in colloquial English of today. Sure enough, this week the Israelites prepare to leave by “borrowing” objects of silver and gold from their neighbors. Borrowing? Not exactly. Everybody knows, that they are leaving Egypt for good with no intention of returning.” [“Despoiling the Egyptians”: An Exercise In Moral Logic — Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D.]
Re: MacDuff — I know the actual Macbeth line is “Lay on, MacDuff,”(Act 5, Scene 8) meaning, roughly, “start the fight,” but “lead on” is just too common to not take advantage of.
** The Center for Learning (known among students as the “Fortress for Learning”) is practically the visual definition of a decorated shed…minus the decoration.
*** Re: “dead cat bounce” — also the name of a contra dance (a kind of energetic “called” couples folk dance, like a square dance). According to Kentucky contra dance enthusiast, Susan Vogt, “there’s a part in the dance where you go forward toward the people in the opposite line and push back on your partner’s hands like a bounce.”