A lexicon of neologisms for the 21st century. Updated weekly. Need a word minted? Ask the wordbird. (And buy the BOOK to see 150 wordbirds you won't find anywhere else...)

Cophetua complex

(Phrase) ko-‘fet-tew-a ‘kom-pleks  First named by the author Graham Greene, this phenomenon describes a person who can only sexually desire partners to whom he feels superior (inspired by the legend of the frigid King Cophetua, who fell passionately in love with a beggar). Usage: Dwight liked the brainy, pretty girls he met in college, but felt no attraction to them. His Cophetua complex drew him instead to a waitress, a shop clerk, and eventually, a dogwalker—whom he married after graduation.


(Phrase) 'tee-tur-'tot-tur 'pair-ents  When one parent has a paying job and the other stays home with the kids, they are teeter-totter parents, or a teeter-totter couple. Usage: At first, when the twins were born, Betsy quit her HR job and stayed home to raise them, while Daniel worked two jobs. But when her office lured her back with a promotion and salary increase, Daniel quit his day job and looked after the twins. It was cheaper to be a teeter-totter couple than to  hire a full-time nanny, they figured.


(v) 'par-king 'skwot  To sit in a parked car, giving the impression to parking-space-seekers that you are about to vacate your spot, when in fact you intend to linger there indefinitely. Also (n) parking squatter. Usage: Scott drove around the block three times, waiting for one of the parking squatters to pull out so he could park his car, then gave up and went to a garage.


(Phrase) 'men-tal 'screen-say-vur  The reservoir of short-term memory we all have in our heads, which allows us to store large amounts of information for up to a few days, and recall it as needed–as if we were downloading our brains. (Synonym: mental desktop) Usage: while cramming for the midterm, Carson read 3,000 pages in two days so his mental screensaver would be packed with all the facts he would need to pass the test.


(n.) ee-‘mo-to-‘roo-tur  Someone who habitually asks prying, personal questions in order to elicit strong emotional reactions or private information. Also (n.) emoto-rooting and (v.) emoto-root. Usage:  Whenever Rob’s supervisor got one of his team members alone, she would ask, “Are you all right?” in maternal tones, as if she cared deeply. But whenever she got any dirt from these emoto-rooting sessions, she used it against them. 


(Adj.)pair-uh-grim  Describing a negative travel experience, or a hostile attitude to travel taken by those vexed or demoralized by its rigors . (From the Latin roots per + ager, i.e., through  + [foreign] land; + the English “grim). Usage: Her friends seemed to enjoy hiking the Camino de Santiago, but for Allie, who wasn’t wildly fit, the trip was peregrim from start to finish, and she wished she’d stayed home.


(V.) 'prin-gul  To devour the entire contents of a package of salty or sweet snacks.  Usage: "Hey, can you hand me the can of cashews?” “I’m so sorry, I pringled it.” “Seriously? Then hand me the “Crunch ‘n’ Munch.” “Yeah, well, um…I pringled that one, too.”


(V.)ree-‘sel-uh-rayt  To get back to speed after a vacation, break or lull. Also, literally, to speed up after slowing on the road. Usage: After two satisfying weeks of summer vacation, Meredith had to shake herself to recelerate and start getting ready for the fall semester. 

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(N.) ‘krotch-frok A prideless fashion popular among college-age women this decade—a short dress that barely stretches to cover the private parts. Often worn with stripper heels. Usage: On Saturday night in New Haven, women teetered across York Street in tight dresses that barely covered their backsides. They looked like cross-dressers or exotic dancers, but in fact they were ordinary undergraduates, wearing crotchfrocks simply because that was “in”.


(Adj.) be- ‘sund  To be besunned is to feel out-of-it, dazed or even queasy on hot, sunny, humid days. (Like being befogged, but in fair weather.) Usage: While biking across the Williamsburg Bridge on a bright, 90-degree afternoon, Adele suddenly felt faint, realized she was besunned, dismounted and chugged a bottle of water.

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