N. ‘tu-rist-a-‘trap-shun A roadside monstrosity erected in a place of no particular interest, in hopes of luring families to exit the highway, stop, and take a photo. (Very common in the American southwest and west.) Usage: John and Liz took a half- hour detour from their cross-country drive to check out the “World’s Largest Ball of Twine.” They knew it was a...
Adj. ‘slip-sokt To be slipshod is to wear cruddy, down-at-heel shoes. To be slipsocked is to be caught wearing weird, mismatched, fraying, dingy, or ugly socks or tights upon arriving at a household whose owners ask guests to remove their shoes. Usage: Jackson was into the party. It was fall, he was looking to meet someone new, and he had great new boots. But the hosts asked him to take...
N. ‘an-im-ul-ad-‘ver-zhun Deep dislike of domesticated animals—chiefly dogs or cats (it is often species-specific), but also gerbils, ferrets, canaries, etc. Usage: Mina longed to get a sheltie, but David claimed he was allergic. She knew it wasn’t true—he’d grown up with dachshunds. But he’d resented the chaos and noise of a dog-filled household as a kid, and as an...
N. pwah-‘vrut French word, for a “female rummy” or boozer—that is, a woman who drinks more than she should. (Literal translation, ‘pepperhead’. An expression ripe for American import). Usage: As the party raged, Matilda downed her fourth glass of highly fortified fruit punch and stumbled out of the territory of frisky inebriation and into the lurching, drunken...
N. ‘vel-lo-rap-ter One who attempts to effect the death of a bicyclist; usually the driver of a sideswiping car or taxi, but also head-in-the-clouds pedestrians who change course mid-intersection, or fling open the doors of parked cars. Usage: Every time she rode her bike downtown from Central Park, Monique nearly got killed. Dodging potholes and manhole covers was hard enough—but it was...
V. ‘en-vee-pree-‘empt To play down, hide, or abuse your good fortune so as to keep others from resenting you for it. Usage: Cyril drove Walter nuts by constantly complaining about the “grotesqueness” of his huge house, the expense of his diesel-guzzling sportscars, the tiresomeness of his social obligations, the unreliability of his kids’ nannies and tutors, and...
V. dee-‘lib-ur-rot To waste hours, days—even years—pondering, mulling and re-thinking a situation until it’s too late to amend it. Usage: For years, Nadia had longed to quit acting, leave New York, move to the southwest and teach school. But after spending two decades deliberotting the question, she began to suspect that she would die in Boerum Hill, taking bit parts in...
N. ‘fayss-look The overall effect of your Facebook profile photo. Usage: For ages, Bianca had used a snapshot of herself at 12, doing a cartwheel, for her Facebook profile picture. But when she went out job-hunting, she subbed in a photo with a more grownup facelook, so her bosses wouldn’t think she was infantile if they found her profile on the internet.
N. ‘mam-purz Diapers for grown men. Usage: “Hey, was Tom DeLay wearing manpers on Dancing With the Stars last night?” Carin asked. “Nah,” said Todd. “It just kind of looked like it because he has a very flat backside, so his slacks bunched up.” “Oh,” she said.
Adj. by-‘post-ul To be crazy on both coasts, or to be made crazy by someone who moves freely between both coasts. Usage: Nicole’s boyfriend, Max, was loopy as a yo-yo, but she was crazy about him. When he moved to the Pacific Northwest (she lived in Baltimore) she’d hoped she’d get over him, but Max went bipostal, and flew back to see her all the time to prolong the...
N. ‘soo-iss-tile To commit suistyle is to get a hideous new haircut (or to recklessly cut your own hair) during a traumatic life juncture (job loss, break-up, failed audition, an enemy’s good fortune). Usage: When her best friend Pamela got the part Andrea had coveted, Andrea flipped out, went to the hair salon and committed suistyle, letting the hairdresser hack off her long dark...
N. ‘pin-stryp-py-ruts Greedy, ruthless money men on Wall Street and in powerful corporations, who enrich themselves with bloated bonuses and inflated salaries and use their wealth to influence weak-willed lawmakers to protect their ill-gotten gains. (A term in use in the UK.) Usage: President Obama stopped the economy’s free-fall in the spring of 2009 by bailing out Wall Street....
N. ‘twit-gyst The spirit of the times…whereby a giddy brouhaha arises whenever an indiscreetly blurted or tweeted statement gets picked up on, broadcast, circulated and harped upon in the media. Usage: When President Obama remarked that Kanye West was a “jackass” for insulting Taylor Swift at the VMA awards, the twitgeist ensured that the comment replayed on every network...
N. pok-ket skwyr A toady who associates himself as closely as possible with the boss, trailing him around the office like a busy, servile shadow. Usage: Clarence was by nature a company man, and from his earliest days in the office acted the part of the pocket squire, courting his supervisor’s praise and attention, and trumpeting his devotion. He hoped it would lead to promotion, but...
N. old-‘fayth-less An employee who’s worked in an office for eons, but never stops complaining about the boss and grumbling about the irritations of his work situation. Usage: When he started teaching philosophy at the local college, Gordon was fascinated by the job; and when he got tenure in the 90s, he was overjoyed. But soon after, he grew dissatisfied, and over a decade,...
N. ‘kyoo-bi-kul-kween One who overdresses and/or wears too much makeup at the office. Usage: Carrie always put great thought into how she dressed for work, taking care to match her purse to her shoes and her outfit to her lipstick. She never picked up on the fact that all of the other women wore jeans or low-key outfits, and no no makeup at all—much less rhinestones and pearls. She was the...
N. ‘hay-tree-utz Angry, intolerant, suspicious Americans who thwart the national interest by sowing political discord and speaking contemptuously (even treasonously) against liberal and progressive politicians and policies. Also (N.) HATRIOTISM. Usage: During the administration of President Obama, right-wing hatriots spewed vitriol at the president and blocked cooperation between...
N. ‘Hait-kut A haircut you loathe, and wish you hadn’t had. Usage: Goldie gave in to the hairdresser’s aggressive wish to give her an ‘updated new look,’ but as the scissors flew, and her long tresses fell to the floor, she felt vaguely ill; and when she looked at the mirror half an hour later and saw her spiky feathered bob, she realized she’d been stuck with...
N. ‘gul-lig-gal 1.) A woman who pretends to be naïve, malleable and unambitious in order to attract admirers and allies, and to disarm potential rivals or enemies. Usage: When Beryl started out at the TV news show as an assistant, she flattered her co-workers, continually put herself down, asked constantly for advice, and appeared unthreatening at all times. Within two years, the gulligal...
N. ‘meh-ga-tass-king Accomplishing a huge array of varied tasks in a short period of time (a very rare occurrence). Usage: Kenneth woke up at 6 instead of 9, jogged five miles, raked the yard, cleared the eaves, went to the office, and finished two projects that had been dragging on for months. Back at home after supper, he fixed the screen door, helped the boys with their homework, then...
V. bur-‘lits-kreeg A survival tactic adopted by travelers who don’t speak the language of the country they’re visiting, whereby they use their linguistic cluelessness to cut in lines, brazen their way into crowded attractions, and scrape by best as they can. Usage: Paola and Gianni arrived at Kabataş just as the ferry was about to pull away. Leaping over the turnstiles, they...
N. ‘dis-tur (F.) A scheming sister, close friend or relative, who professes love and support for her female friend or relative, but who talks behind her back and undermines her when given the chance. Usage: Claudia was touched when her sister Tallulah offered to make posters for Claudia’s student council campaign for class secretary, but Tallulah, more dister than sister, never...
N. kon-‘fet-tee-os The multi-colored heap of mixed-up breakfast cereals—Trix, Grape Nuts, Cheerios, Honeycomb, Raisin Bran, etc.—you resort to eating when you don’t have enough of any one kind to fill a bowl. Usage: Marshall padded to the kitchen to get a bowl of Cocoa Puffs, but there was hardly any left, so he ended up pouring himself a bowl of confettios—the last of the Cocoa...
N. (Noun Phrase) ‘bad ‘fehr-ee Like the malevolent godmother who curses the infant Sleeping Beauty, a Bad Fairy is someone you seek out for cheering, helpful advice who instead barrages you with grim, brutally frank, doom-filled judgments. Usage: Dave felt awful about his breakup with Molly, but when he went to his sister for solace, she went Bad Fairy on him—pointing out that all his...
N. ee-‘ten-shun ‘def-i-sit The distracted, hazy focus that people bring to email reading, resulting in inadequate e-sponses that reveal the reader’s failure to absorb message contents. Usage: Reed sent a list of urgent questions to the realtor the day before the condo closing, but when a reply finally pinged in his inbox, he could tell the guy had a serious etention...