This is the first dictionary entirely devoted to new words and meanings to
have been published by the Oxford University Press. It follows in the
tradition of the Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary in attempting
to record the history of some recent additions to the language, but,
unlike the Supplement, it is necessarily very selective in the words,
phrases, and meanings whose stories it sets out to tell and it stands as
an independent work, unrelated (except in the resources it draws upon) to
the Oxford English Dictionary.
The aim of the Oxford Dictionary of New Words is to provide an informative
and readable guide to about two thousand high-profile words and phrases
which have been in the news during the past decade; rather than simply
defining these words (as dictionaries of new words have tended to do in
the past), it also explains their derivation and the events which brought
them to prominence, illustrated by examples of their use in journalism and
fiction. In order to do this, it draws on the published and unpublished
resources of the Oxford English Dictionary, the research that is routinely
carried out in preparing new entries for that work, and the word-files and
databases of the Oxford Dictionary Department.
What is a new word? This, of course, is a question which can never be
answered satisfactorily, any more than one can answer the question "How
long is a piece of string?" It is a commonplace to point out that the
language is a constantly changing resource, growing in some areas and
shrinking in others from day to day. The best one can hope to do in a book
of this kind is to take a snapshot of the words and senses which seem to
characterize our age and which a reader in fifty or a hundred years' time
might be unable to understand fully (even if these words were entered in
standard dictionaries) without a more expansive explanation of their
social, political, or cultural context. For the purposes of this
dictionary, a new word is any word, phrase, or meaning that came into
popular use in English or enjoyed a vogue during the eighties and early
nineties. It is a book which therefore necessarily deals with passing
fashions: most, although probably not all, of the words and senses defined
here will eventually find their way into the complete history of the
language provided by the Oxford English Dictionary, but many will not be
entered in smaller dictionaries for some time to come, if at all.
It tends to be the case that "new" words turn out to be older than people
expect them to be. This book is not limited to words and senses which
entered the language for the first time during the eighties, nor even the
seventies and eighties, because such a policy would mean excluding most of
the words which ordinary speakers of English think of as new; instead, the
deciding factor has been whether or not the general public was made aware
of the word or sense during the eighties and early nineties. A few words
included here actually entered the language as technical terms as long ago
as the nineteenth century (for example, acid rain was first written about
in the 1850s and the greenhouse effect was investigated in the late
nineteenth century, although it may not have acquired this name until the
1920s); many computing terms date from the late 1950s or early 1960s in
technical usage. It was only (in the first case) the surge of interest in
environmental issues and the sudden fashion for "green" concerns and (in
the second) the boom in home and personal computing touching the lives of
large numbers of people that brought these words into everyday vocabulary
during the eighties.
There is, of course, a main core of words defined here which did only
appear for the first time in the eighties. There are even a few which
arose in the nineties, for which there is as yet insufficient evidence to
say whether they are likely to survive. Some new-words dictionaries in the
past have limited themselves to words and senses which have not yet been
entered in general dictionaries. The words treated in the Oxford
Dictionary of New Words do not all fall into this category, for the
reasons outlined above. Approximately one-quarter of the main headwords
here were included in the new words and senses added to the Oxford English
Dictionary for its second edition in 1989; a small number of others were
entered for the first time in the Concise Oxford Dictionary's eighth
edition in 1990.
The articles in this book relate to a wide range of different subject
fields and spheres of interest, from environmentalism to rock music,
politics to youth culture, technology to children's toys. Just as the
subject coverage is inclusive, treating weighty and superficial topics as
even-handedly as possible, so the coverage of different registers, or
levels of use, of the language is intended to give equal weight to the
formal, the informal, and examples of slang and colloquialism. This
results in a higher proportion of informal and slang usage than would be
found in a general dictionary, reflecting amongst other things the way in
which awareness of register seems to be disappearing as writers
increasingly use slang expressions in print without inverted commas or any
other indication of their register. The only registers deliberately
excluded are the highly literary or technical in cases where the
vocabulary concerned had not gained any real popular exposure. Finally, a
deliberate attempt was made to represent English as a world language, with
new words and senses from US English accounting for a significant
proportion of the entries, along with more occasional contributions from
Australia, Canada, and other English-speaking countries. It is hoped that
the resulting book will prove entertaining reading for English speakers of
all ages and from all countries.
I am grateful to John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Co-Editors of the Oxford
English Dictionary, for their help and advice throughout the writing of
this book, and in particular for their constructive comments on the first
draft of the text; to OED New Words editors Edith Bonner, Peter Gilliver,
Danuta Padley, Bernadette Paton, Judith Pearsall, Michael Proffitt, and
Anthony Waddell, on whose draft entries for the OED I based much of what I
have written here; to Peter Gilliver, Simon Hunt, Veronica Hurst, and
Judith Pearsall for help with corrections and additions to the text; to
Melinda Babcock, Nancy Balz, Julie Bowdler, George Chowdharay-Best,
Melissa Conway, Margaret Davies, Margery Fee, Ken Feinstein, Daphne
Gilbert-Carter, Dorothy Hanks, Sally Hinkle, Sarah Hutchinson, Rita
Keckeissen, Adriana Orr, and Jeffery Triggs for quotation and library
research; and, last but not least, to Trish Stableford for giving up
evenings and weekends to do the proofreading.
HOWTO How to Use this Dictionary
This topic, with some modification, has been reproduced from the printed
hard-copy version of this dictionary. Some display devices limit the
effects of the highlighting techniques used in this book. You can see
what your display device provides by looking at the following examples:
This is an example of large bold type
This is an example of italic type
This is an example of bold type
The entries in this dictionary are of two types: full entries and
HOWTO.1 Full entries
Full entries normally contain five sections:
1. Headword section
The first paragraph of the entry, or headword section, gives
° the main headword in large bold type
Where there are two different headwords which are spelt in the
same way, or two distinct new meanings of the same word, these are
distinguished by superior numbers after the headword.
° the part of speech, or grammatical category, of the word in italic
In this book, all the names of the parts of speech are written out
in full. The ones used in the book are adjective, adverb,
interjection, noun, pronoun, and verb There are also entries in
this book for the word-forming elements (combining form, prefix,
and suffix) and for abbreviations, which have abbreviation in the
part-of-speech slot if they are pronounced letter by letter in
speech (as is the case, for example, with BSE or PWA), but acronym
if they are normally pronounced as words in their own right (Aids,
NIMBY, PIN, etc.).
When a new word or sense is used in more than one part of speech,
the parts of speech are listed in the headword section of the
entry and a separate definition section is given for each part of
° other spellings of the headword (if any) follow the part of speech
in bold type
° the subject area(s) to which the word relates are shown at the end
of the headword section in parentheses (see "Subject Areas" in
The subject areas are only intended to give a general guide to the
field of use of a particular word or sense. In addition to the
subject area, the defining section of the entry often begins with
further explanation of the headword's application.
2. Definition section
The definition section explains the meaning of the word and sometimes
contains information about its register (the level or type of language
in which it is used) or its more specific application in a particular
field; it may also include phrases and derived forms of the headword
(in bold type) or references to other entries. References to other
entries have been converted to hypertext links.
The third section of the entry begins a new paragraph and starts with
the heading Etymology: This explains the origin and formation of the
headword. Some words or phrases in this section may be in italic type,
showing that they are the forms under discussion. Cross-references to
other headwords in this book have been converted to hypertext links.
4. History and Usage
The fourth section also begins a new paragraph and starts with the
heading History and Usage. Here you will find a description of the
circumstances under which the headword entered the language and came
into popular use. In many cases this section also contains information
about compounds and derived forms of the headword (as well as some
other related terms), all listed in bold type, together with their
definitions and histories. As elsewhere in the entry, cross-references
to other headwords have been converted to hypertext links.
5. Illustrative quotations
This final section of the entry begins a new paragraph and is indented
approximately 5 character spaces from the left margin of the previous
text line. These illustrative quotations are arranged in a single
chronological sequence, even when they contain examples of a number of
different forms. The illustrative quotations in this book do not
include the earliest printed example in the Oxford Dictionaries
word-file (as would be the case, for example, in the Oxford English
Dictionary); instead, information about the date of the earliest
quotations is given in the history and usage section of the entry and
the illustrative quotations aim to give a representative sample of
recent quotations from a range of sources. The sources quoted in this
book represent English as a world language, including quotations from
the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, and other
English-speaking countries. They are taken for the most part from
works of fiction, newspapers, and popular magazines (avoiding wherever
possible the more technical or academic sources in favour of the more
popular and accessible). There are nearly two thousand quotations
altogether, taken from five hundred different sources.
HOWTO.2 Cross-reference entries
Because this book is designed to provide more information than the
standard dictionary and to give an expansive account of the recent history
of certain words and concepts, there is some grouping together of related
pieces of information in a single article. This means that, in addition to
the full entry, there is a need for cross-reference entries leading the
reader from the normal alphabetical place of a word or phrase to the full
entry in which it is discussed. Cross-reference entries are single-line
entries containing only the headword (with a superior number if identical
to some other headword), a subject area or areas to give some topical
orientation, the word "see," and the headword under which the information
can be found. For example:
ESA see environmentally
A cross-reference entry is given only if there is a significant distance
between the alphabetical places of the cross-referenced headword and the
full entry in which it is mentioned. Thus the compounds and derived forms
of a full headword are not given their own cross-reference entries because
these would immediately follow the full entry; the same is true of the
words which start with one of the common initial elements (such as eco- or
Euro-) which have their own full entries listing many different formations
in which they are used. On the other hand, the forms grouped together by
their final element (for example, words ending in -friendly or -gate) are
all entered as cross-reference entries in their normal alphabetical
HOWTO.3 Alphabetical order
The full and cross-reference entries in this book are arranged in a single
alphabetical sequence in letter-by-letter alphabetical order (that is,
ignoring spaces, hyphens, and other punctuation which occurs within them).
The following headwords, taken from the letter E, illustrate the point:
HOWTO.4 Pronunciation Symbols
Pronunciation symbols which follow the headword in printed copy have been
excluded from this soft-copy edition. In-line pronunciation symbols have
been replaced with /--/.
HOWTO.5 Subject Areas
The subject areas in parentheses at the end of the headword section of
each entry indicate the broad subject field to which the headword relates.
The subject areas used are:
Drugs words to do with drug use and abuse
Environment words to do with conservation, the environment, and green
Business World words to do with work, commerce, finance, and marketing
Health and Fitness
words to do with conventional and complementary medicine,
personal fitness, exercise, and diet
Lifestyle and Leisure
words to do with homes and interiors, fashion, the media,
entertainment, food and drink, and leisure activities in
Music words to do with music of all kinds (combined with Youth
Culture in entries concerned with pop and rock music)
Politics words to do with political events and issues at home and
People and Society
words to do with social groupings and words for people with
particular characteristics; social issues, education, and
Science and Technology
words to do with any branch of science in the public eye;
technical jargon that has entered the popular vocabulary
War and Weaponry
words to do with the arms race or armed conflicts that have
been in the news
Youth Culture words which have entered the general vocabulary through
their use among young people
CONTENTS Table of Contents
Title Page TITLE
Edition Notice EDITION
How to Use this Dictionary HOWTO
Full entries HOWTO.1
Cross-reference entries HOWTO.2
Alphabetical order HOWTO.3
Pronunciation Symbols HOWTO.4
Subject Areas HOWTO.5
use-by date... 21.3
video nasty... 22.4
well safe... 23.2
zygote intra-fallopian transfer 26.6
AAA (War and Weaponry) see triple A
abled adjective (People and Society)
Able-bodied, not disabled. Also (especially with a preceding
adverb): having a particular range of physical abilities;
differently abled, otherly abled, uniquely abled: euphemistic
ways of saying 'disabled'.
Etymology: Formed by removing the prefix dis- from disabled.
History and Usage: The word abled arose in the US; it has been
used by the disabled to refer to the able-bodied since about the
beginning of the eighties, and is also now so used in the UK.
The euphemistic phrases differently abled, otherly abled, and
uniquely abled were coined in the mid eighties, again in the US,
as part of an attempt to find a more positive official term than
handicapped (the official term in the US) or disabled (the
preferred term in the UK during the eighties). Another similarly
euphemistic coinage intended to serve the same purpose was
challenged. Differently abled has enjoyed some success in the
US, but all of the forms with a preceding adverb have come in
for considerable criticism.
Disabled, handicapped, differently-abled, physically or
mentally challenged, women with disabilities--this is
more than a mere discourse in semantics and a matter of
Debra Connors in With the Power of Each Breath (1985),
In a valiant effort to find a kinder term than
handicapped, the Democratic National Committee has
coined differently abled. The committee itself shows
signs of being differently abled in the use of English.
Los Angeles Times 9 Apr. 1985, section 5, p. 1
I was aware of how truly frustrating it must be to be
disabled, having to deal not only with your disability,
but with abled people's utter disregard for your needs.
San Francisco Chronicle 4 July 1990, Briefing section,
ableism noun Also written ablism (People and Society)
Discrimination in favour of the able-bodied; the attitude or
assumption that it is only necessary to cater for able-bodied
Etymology: Formed by adding the suffix -ism (as in ageism,
racism, and sexism) to the adjective able in the sense in which
it is used in able-bodied.
History and Usage: This is one of a long line of -isms which
became popular in the eighties to describe various forms of
perceived discrimination: see also fattism and heterosexism.
Ableism was a term first used by feminists in the US at the
beginning of the eighties; in the UK, the concept was first
referred to as able-bodism in a GLC report in 1984 and was later
also called able-bodiedism. However, ableism was the form chosen
by the Council of the London borough of Haringey for a press
release in 1986, and it is this form which has continued to be
used, despite the fact that it is thought by some to be badly
formed (the suffix -ism would normally be added to a noun stem
rather than an adjective). The spelling ableism is preferred to
ablism, which some people might be tempted to pronounce /--/.
In practice, none of the forms has been widely used, although
society's awareness of disability was raised during the
International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981. The adjective
corresponding to this noun is ableist, but its use is almost
entirely limited to US feminist writing. For an adjective which
describes the same characteristics from the opposite viewpoint,
A GLC report...referred throughout to a new phenomenon
called mysteriously 'able-bodism'--a reference
apparently to that malevolent majority, the fully-fit.
Daily Telegraph 1 Nov. 1984, p. 18
Able-ist movements of the late-nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries regarded disability as problematic
Debra Connors in With the Power of Each Breath (1985),
I was at the national convention of the National
Organization for Women. I consider myself a
feminist...but I'm...embarrassed by the hysteria, the
gaping maws in their reasoning and the tortuous twists
of femspeak. Who else can crowd the terms 'ableism,
homophobia and sexism' into one clause without heeding
the shrillness of tone?
San Francisco Chronicle 4 July 1990, section A, p. 19
ABS (Science and Technology) see anti-lock
abuse noun (Drugs) (People and Society)
Illegal or excessive use of a drug; the misuse of any substance,
especially for its stimulant effects.
In the context of human relationships, physical (especially
sexual) maltreatment of another person.
Etymology: These are not so much new senses of the word as
specializations of context; abuse has meant 'wrong or improper
use, misapplication, perversion' since the sixteenth century,
but in the second half of the twentieth century has been used so
often in the two contexts mentioned above that this is becoming
the dominant use.
History and Usage: Abuse was first used in relation to drugs
in the early sixties; by the seventies it was usual for it to be
the second element in compounds such as alcohol abuse, drug
abuse, and solvent abuse, and soon afterwards with a human
object as the first word: see child abuse. Interestingly it is
not idiomatic to form similar compounds for other types of abuse
in its traditional sense: the abuse of power rather than 'power
abuse', for example. This is one way in which the language
continues to differentiate the traditional use from the more
specialized one, although there have been some recent exceptions
(a tennis player who throws his racquet about in anger or
frustration can now be cautioned for racquet abuse, for
This is a setback for the campaign against increasing
heroin abuse among the young in all parts of the
Sunday Times 9 Dec. 1984, p. 3
Just over 30 per cent of the girls questioned said they
had tried solvent abuse.
Daily Express 20 Aug. 1986, p. 2
Asked why she continued diagnosing abuse after three
appeals from other agencies to stop because they could
not cope, she replied: 'With hindsight, at the time we
were trying to do our best for them. In the event, with
some children, we were sadly unable to do that.'
Guardian 14 July 1989, p. 2
ace adjective (Youth Culture)
In young people's slang: great, fantastic, terrific.
Etymology: The adjectival use has arisen from the noun ace,
which essentially means 'number one'.
History and Usage: As any reader of war comics will know,
during the First World War outstanding pilots who had succeeded
in bringing down ten or more enemy planes were known as aces;
shortly after this, ace started to be used in American English
to mean any outstanding person or thing, and by the middle of
the century was often used with another noun following (as in
'an ace sportsman'). It was a short step from this attributive
use to full adjectival status. In the eighties, ace was
re-adopted by young people as a general term of approval, and
this time round it was always used as an adjective ('that's
really ace!') or adverbially ('ace!') as a kind of exclamation.
With staff, everything becomes possible. And--ace and
brill--they confer instant status on the employer at the
same time. A double benefit: dead good and the
apotheosis of yuppiedom.
Daily Telegraph 12 July 1987, p. 21
The holiday was absolutely ace--loads of sailing and
mountain walking, and even a night's camping in the
Balance (British Diabetic Association) Aug.-Sept. 1989,
noun (Music) (Youth Culture)
A style of popular music with a fast beat, a spare, mesmeric,
synthesized sound, few (if any) vocals, and a distinctive
gurgling bass; in the UK, a youth cult surrounding this music
and associated in the public mind with smiley badges,
drug-taking, and extremely large parties known as acid house
parties. Sometimes abbreviated to acid (also written acieeed or
aciiied, especially when used as a kind of interjection).
Etymology: The word acid here is probably taken from the record
Acid Trax by Phuture (in Chicago slang, acid burning is a term
for stealing and this type of music relies heavily on sampling,
or stealing from other tracks); a popular theory that it is a
reference to the drug LSD is denied by its followers (but
compare acid rock, a sixties psychedelic rock craze, which
certainly was). House is an abbreviated form of Warehouse: see
History and Usage: Acid house music originated in Chicago as
an offshoot of house music in 1986; at first it was called
'washing machine', which aptly described the original sound.
Imported to the UK in 1988, acid house started a youth cult
during the summer of that year, and soon spawned its own set of
behaviour and its own language. The craze for acid house
parties, at venues kept secret until the very last moment,
exercised police forces throughout the south of England, since
they often involved trespass on private land and caused a public
nuisance, although organizers claimed that they had been
maligned in the popular press.
I suppose that a lot of acid house music is guilty
of...being completely cold and devoid of any human
Spin Oct. 1989, p. 18
Aciiied was a figment of the British imagination. Like
British R&B in the Sixties, it was a creative
misrecognition of a Black American pop.
Melody Maker 23-30 Dec. 1989, p. 34
Acid House, whose emblem is a vapid, anonymous smile, is
the simplest and gentlest of the Eighties' youth
manifestations. Its dance music is rhythmic but
non-aggressive (except in terms of decibels).
Independent 3 Mar. 1990, p. 12
See also warehouse
acid rain noun (Environment)
Rain containing harmful acids which have formed in the
atmosphere, usually when waste gases from industrial emissions
combine with water.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: rain with an acid content.
History and Usage: The term acid rain was first used as long
ago as 1859, when R. A. Smith observed in a chemical journal
that the stonework of buildings crumbled away more quickly in
towns where a great deal of coal was burnt for industrial
purposes; this he attributed to the combination of waste gases
with water in the air, making the rain acidic. In the early
1970s the term was revived as it became clear that acid rain was
having a terrible effect on the forests and lakes of North
America, Europe, and especially Scandinavia (killing trees and
freshwater life). Acid rain started to be discussed frequently
in official reports and documents on the environment; but it was
not until environmental concerns became a public issue in the
eighties that the term passed from technical writing of one kind
and another into everyday use. With this familiarity came a
better understanding of the causes of acid rain, including the
contribution of exhaust fumes from private vehicles. By the end
of the eighties, acid rain was a term which even schoolchildren
could be expected to know and understand, and had been joined by
variations on the same theme: acid cloud, a term designed to
emphasize the fact that acidic gases could damage the
environment even without any precipitation; acid fallout, the
overall atmospheric effect of pollution; acid precipitation, the
name sometimes used for snow or hail of high acidity.
She has a list of favorite subjects, favorite serious
subjects--nuclear proliferation, acid rain,
unemployment, as well as racial bigotry and the
situation of women.
Alice Munro Progress of Love (1987), p. 190
Burning oil will contribute to the carbon dioxide
umbrella and the acid rain deposited on Europe.
Private Eye 1 Sept. 1989, p. 25
acquired immune deficiency syndrome
(Health and Fitness) see Aids
active adjective (Science and Technology)
Programmed so as to be able to monitor and adjust to different
situations or to carry out several different functions; smart,
Etymology: A simple development of sense: the software enables
the device to act on the results of monitoring or on commands
from its user.
History and Usage: This sense of active became popular in the
naming of products which make use of developments in artificial
intelligence and microelectronics during the late eighties and
early nineties: for example, the Active Book, the trade mark of
a product designed to enable an executive to use facilities like
fax, telephone, dictaphone, etc. through a single portable
device; the active card, a smart card with its own keyboard and
display, enabling its user to discover the remaining balance,
request transactions, etc.; active optics, which makes use of
computer technology to correct light for the distortion placed
upon it as it passes through the atmosphere; active suspension,
a suspension system for cars in which the hydraulic activators
are controlled by a computer which monitors road conditions and
adjusts suspension accordingly; and active system, any
computerized system that adjusts itself to changes in the
immediate environment, especially a hi-fi system.
The only development that I would class as the 'biggy'
for 1980 was the introduction of reasonably priced
Popular Hi-Fi Mar. 1981, p. 15
The company is also pioneering the development of active
or supersmart cards, which rivals...believe to be
impractical on several counts.
New Scientist 11 Feb. 1989, p. 64
One of our mottos is 'Buy an Active Book and get 20 per
cent of your life back'.
Daily Telegraph 30 Apr. 1990, p. 31
noun (Health and Fitness)
Childbirth during which the mother is encouraged to be as active
as possible, mainly by moving around freely and assuming any
position which feels comfortable.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: birth which is active rather
History and Usage: The active birth movement was founded by
childbirth counsellor Janet Balaskas in 1982 as a direct
rejection of the increasingly technological approach to
childbirth which prevailed in British and American hospitals at
the time. Ironically, this technological approach was known as
the active management of labour; to many of the women involved
it felt like a denial of their right to participate in their own
labour. The idea of active birth was to move away from the view
that a woman in labour is a patient to be treated (and therefore
passive), freeing her from the encumbrance of monitors and other
medical technology whenever possible and handing over to her the
opportunity to manage her own labour. The concept has been
further popularized in the UK by Sheila Kitzinger.
The concept of Active Birth is based on the idea that
the woman in labour is an active birthgiver, not a
Sheila Kitzinger Freedom & Choice in Childbirth (1987),
New Active Birth by Janet Balaskas...After Active Birth,
published in 1983, updated New Active Birth prepares a
woman for complete participation in the birth of her
Guardian 1 Aug. 1989, p. 17
A member of the public who takes an active role in the
community, usually by getting involved in crime prevention, good
neighbour schemes, etc.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a citizen who is active in
society rather than passively soaking up the benefits of
History and Usage: The term active citizen was first used in
the name of the Active Citizen Force, a White militia in South
Africa, set up in 1912 and consisting of male citizens
undergoing national service. In a completely separate
development, active citizen started to be used in the US from
the late seventies as a more polite way of saying 'political
activist' or even 'future politician'; some active citizens even
organized themselves into pressure groups which were able to
affect local government policies. In the UK, the term active
citizen and the associated policy of active citizenship were
popularized by the Conservative government of the eighties,
which placed great emphasis upon them, especially after the
Conservative Party conference of 1988. The focus of active
citizenship as encouraged by this government was on crime
prevention (including neighbourhood watch) and public order,
rather than political activism. This put it on the borderline
with vigilante activity, a cause of some difficulty in turning
the policy into concrete action.
Pervading the researches will be an effort to plumb
individuals' moral convictions, their motives for
joining or not joining in active citizenship.
Christian Science Monitor (New England edition) 2 June
1980, p. 32
Intermediate institutions...help to produce the 'active
citizen' which Ministers such as Douglas Hurd have
sought to call into existence to supplement gaps in
Daily Telegraph 3 May 1989, p. 18
'Active citizens'...brought unsafe or unethical
practices by their employers to official notice. As
their stories reveal, active citizenship carries
considerable personal risk. Blacklisting by other
employers is a frequent consequence.
Guardian 27 June 1990, p. 23
noun (Health and Fitness)
A complementary therapy also known as shiatsu, in which symptoms
are relieved by applying pressure with the thumbs or fingers to
specific pressure points on the body.
Etymology: Formed by combining the first two syllables of
acupuncture (acupressure is a Japanese application of the same
principles as are used in Chinese acupuncture) with pressure.
The word acupressure actually already existed in English for a
nineteenth-century method of arresting bleeding during
operations by applying pressure with a needle (Latin acu means
'with a needle'); since no needle is used in shiatsu it is clear
that the present use is a separate formation of the word,
deliberately referring back to acupuncture but without taking
into account the original meaning of acu-.
History and Usage: Acupressure has been practised in Japan as
shiatsu and in China as G-Jo ('first aid') for many centuries;
it was exported to the Western world during the 1960s, but at
first was usually called shiatsu. During the late seventies and
early eighties acupressure became the preferred term and the
word became popularized, first in the US and then in the UK, as
complementary medicine became more acceptable and even sought
after. In the late eighties the principle was incorporated into
a popular proprietary means of avoiding motion sickness in which
elastic bracelets hold a hard 'button' in place, pressing on an
acupressure point on each wrist. A practitioner of acupressure
is called an acupressurist.
Among the kinds of conditions that benefit from
acupressure are migraine, stress, and tension-related
Natural Choice Issue 1 (1988), p. 19
After one two-hour massage that included...acupressure,
I was addicted.
Alice Walker Temple of My Familiar (1989), p. 292
acyclovir noun (Health and Fitness)
An antiviral drug that is effective against certain types of
herpes, including cytomegalovirus.
Etymology: Formed by combining all but the ending of the
adjective acyclic (in its chemical sense, 'containing no cycle,
or ring of atoms') with the stem of viral.
History and Usage: The drug was developed at the end of the
seventies and became the only effective treatment for genital
herpes that was available during the eighties. It was widely
publicized as a breakthrough in antiviral medicine at a time
when genital herpes was seen as the most intractable sexually
transmitted disease affecting Western societies (before the
advent of Aids). During the late eighties it was used in
combination with AZT (or Zidovudine) in the management of
cytomegalovirus, a herpes virus which affects some people
already infected with HIV.
The beauty of acyclovir is that it remains inactive in
the body until it comes in contact with a herpes-induced
enzyme. The enzyme then activates the drug.
Maclean's 2 Nov. 1981, p. 24
Professor Griffiths said studies in the US have shown
the drug Acyclovir to be effective in preventing the
side effects of CMV infection.
Guardian 7 July 1989, p. 3
Adam noun (Drugs)
In the slang of drug users, the hallucinogenic designer drug
methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA, also known as Ecstasy.
Etymology: The name is probably a type of backslang, reversing
the abbreviated chemical name MDMA, dropping the first m, and
pronouncing the resulting 'word'; it may be influenced by the
associations of the first Adam with paradise. A similar designer
drug is known in drugs slang as Eve.
History and Usage: For history, see Ecstasy.
On the street, its name is 'ecstasy' or 'Adam', which
should tell how people on the street feel about it.
Los Angeles Times 29 Mar. 1985, section 5, p. 8
One close relative of MDMA, known as Eve--MDMA is
sometimes called Adam--has already been shown to be less
toxic to rats than MDMA. Because of a 'designer-drug'
law passed in 1986, Eve is banned too.
Economist 19 Mar. 1988, p. 94
additive noun (Environment) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A substance which is added to something during manufacture,
especially a chemical added to food or drink to improve its
colour, flavour, preservability, etc. (known more fully as a
Etymology: Additive has meant 'something that is added' since
the middle of this century; recently it has acquired this more
specialized use, which partly arose from the desire to
abbreviate food additive once the term was being used
History and Usage: Public interest in what was being put into
foods by manufacturers grew rapidly during the eighties because
of the green movement, with its associated diet-consciousness
and demand for 'natural' products, and also because of growing
evidence of the harmful effects of certain additives (including
their implication in hyperactivity and other behavioural
problems in children). This interest was crystallized in the mid
eighties by new EC regulations on naming and listing additives
and the publication of a number of reference books giving
details of all the permitted food additives as well as some of
the possible effects on health of ingesting them. Possibly the
most famous of these was Maurice Hanssen's E for Additives
(1984); certainly after the publication of this book, additive
could be used on its own (not preceded by food) without fear of
misunderstanding. In response to the public backlash against the
use of chemical additives, manufacturers began to make a
publicity point out of foods which contained none; the phrase
free from artificial additives (bearing witness to the fact that
food additives from natural sources continued to be used) and
the adjective additive-free began to appear frequently on food
labels from the second half of the eighties.
Last week Peter turned up at Broadcasting House with the
first ever commercially produced non-sweetened,
Listener 10 May 1984, p. 15
Every human and inhuman emotion magnified itself in New
York; thoughts...more quickly became action within and
beyond the law; some said the cause lay in the food, the
additives, some said in the polluted air.
Janet Frame Carpathians (1988), p. 103
See also Alar, E number, -free
noun (Business World)
An advertisement which is written in the form of an editorial
and purports to contain objective information about a product,
although actually being limited to the advertiser's own
Etymology: Formed by replacing the first two syllables of
editorial with the word advert to make a blend.
History and Usage: The advertorial (both the phenomenon and the
word) first appeared in the US as long ago as the sixties, but
did not become a common advertising ploy in the UK until the mid
eighties. Advertorials came in for some criticism when they
started to appear in British newspapers since there was a
feeling of dishonesty about them (as deliberately inducing the
reader to read them as though they were editorials or features),
but they apparently did not contravene fair advertising
standards as set out in the British Code of Advertising
An advertisement should always be so designed and
presented that anyone who looks at it can see, without
having to study it closely, that it is an advertisement.
In many cases the page on which an advertorial appears is headed
advertising or advertisement feature (a more official name for
the advertorial), and this is meant to alert the reader to the
nature of the article, although the layout of the page often
does not. The word advertorial is sometimes used (as in the
second example below) without an article to mean this style of
advertisement-writing in general rather than an individual
example of it.
Yes, advertorials are a pain, just like the advertising
supplement pages in Barron's, but I question whether
'anyone who bought FNN would have to junk the
Barron's 24 Apr. 1989, p. 34
This will probably lead to a growth in what the industry
calls 'advertorial'--a mixture of public relations and
journalism, or editorial with bias.
Sunday Correspondent 22 Apr. 1990, p. 27
aerobics noun (Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A form of physical exercise designed to increase fitness by any
maintainable activity that increases oxygen intake and heart
Etymology: A plural noun on the same model as mathematics or
stylistics, formed on the adjective aerobic ('requiring or using
free oxygen in the air'), which has itself been in use since the
late nineteenth century.
History and Usage: The word was coined by Major Kenneth Cooper
of the US Air Force as the name for a fitness programme
developed in the sixties for US astronauts. In the early
eighties, when fitness became a subject of widespread public
interest, aerobics became the first of a string of fitness
crazes enthusiastically taken up by the media. The fashion for
the aerobics class, at which aerobic exercises were done
rhythmically to music as part of a dance movement called an
aerobics routine, started in California, soon spread to the UK,
Europe, and Australia, and even reached the Soviet Union before
giving way to other exercise programmes such as Callanetics.
Although a plural noun in form, aerobics may take either
singular or plural agreement.
Aerobics have become the latest fitness craze.
Observer 18 July 1982, p. 25
The air-waves of the small, stuffy gym reverberated with
the insistent drum notes as thirty pairs of track shoes
beat out the rhythm of the aerobics routine.
Pat Booth Palm Beach (1986), p. 31
See also Aquarobics
1.6 affinity card...
noun Sometimes in the form affinity credit card (Business World)
A credit card issued to members of a particular affinity group;
in the UK, one which is linked to a particular charity such that
the credit-card company makes a donation to the charity for each
new card issued and also passes on a small proportion of the
money spent by the card user.
Etymology: Formed by combining affinity in the sense in which
it is used in affinity group (an American term meaning 'a group
of people sharing a common purpose or interest') with card°. In
the case of the charity cards, the idea is that the holders of
the cards share a common interest in helping the charity.
History and Usage: Affinity cards were first issued in the US
in the late seventies in a wide variety of different forms to
cater for different interest groups. These cards were actually
issued through the affinity group (which could be any non-profit
organization such as a college, a union, or a club), and
entitled its members to various discounts and other benefits.
When the idea was taken up by large banks and building societies
in the UK in 1987, it was chiefly in relation to charities, and
the idea was skilfully used to attract new customers while at
the same time appealing to their social conscience.
One alternative [to credit-card charges] is an affinity
credit card linked to a charity, although the Leeds
Permanent Building Society is considering charging for
its affinity cards.
Observer 29 Apr. 1990, p. 37
Affinity cards cannot be used to access any account
other than one maintained by a Visa card-issuing
Los Angeles Times 10 Oct. 1990, section D, p. 5
adjective and noun (People and Society)
adjective: Influential largely because of great wealth; rich and
noun: A person whose influential position in society derives
Etymology: Formed by telescoping affluent or affluence and
influential to make a blend.
History and Usage: A US coinage of the second half of the
seventies, affluential became quite well established (especially
as a noun) in American English during the eighties, but so far
shows little sign of catching on in the UK.
Spa is the name of the mineral-water resort in Belgium,
and has become a word for 'watering place' associated
with the weight-conscious affluentials around the world.
New York Times Magazine 18 Dec. 1983, p. 13
affluenza noun (Health and Fitness) (People and Society)
A psychiatric disorder affecting wealthy people and involving
feelings of malaise, lack of motivation, guilt, etc.
Etymology: Formed by telescoping affluence and influenza to
make a blend.
History and Usage: The term was popularized in the mid eighties
by Californian psychiatrist John Levy, after he had conducted a
study of children who grow up expecting never to need to earn a
living for themselves because of inheriting large sums of money.
The name affluenza had apparently been suggested by one of the
patients. By the end of the eighties, the term had started to
catch on and was being applied more generally to the guilt
feelings of people who suspected that they earned or possessed
more than they were worth.
The San Francisco group also runs seminars that teach
heiresses how to cope with guilt, lack of motivation,
and other symptoms of affluenza, an ailment she says is
rampant among children of the wealthy.
Fortune 13 Apr. 1987, p. 27
Also pathogenic is 'affluenza', the virus of inherited
wealth, striking young people with guilt, boredom, lack
of motivation, and delayed emotional development.
British Medical Journal 1 Aug. 1987, p. 324
ageism noun Also written agism (People and Society)
Discrimination or prejudice against someone on the grounds of
age; especially, prejudice against middle-aged and elderly
Etymology: Formed by adding the suffix -ism (as in racism and
sexism) to age.
History and Usage: The word was coined by Dr Robert Butler of
Washington DC, a specialist in geriatric medicine, in 1969; by
the mid seventies it was fairly common in the US but did not
really enter popular usage in the UK until the late seventies or
early eighties. Until then, it was often written age-ism,
displaying a slight discomfort about its place in the language.
Along with a number of other -isms, ageism enjoyed a vogue in
the media during the eighties, perhaps partly because of a
growing awareness of the rising proportion of older people in
society and the need to ensure their welfare. The adjective and
noun ageist both date from the seventies and have a similar
history to ageism.
The government campaign against 'ageism' was stepped up
this weekend with a call for employers to avoid
discrimination against the elderly in job
Sunday Times 5 Feb. 1989, section A, p. 4
John Palmer, who had been at that desk for many years,
was completely screwed...I think that's ageist.
New York 23 July 1990, p. 29
See also ableism, fattism, and heterosexism
AI abbreviation (Science and Technology)
Short for artificial intelligence, the use of computers and
associated technology to model and simulate intelligent human
Etymology: The initial letters of Artificial Intelligence.
History and Usage: Attempts to 'teach' computers how to carry
out tasks (such as translation between languages) which would
normally require a human intelligence date back almost as far as
computer technology itself, and have been referred to under the
general-purpose heading of artificial intelligence since the
fifties. This was being abbreviated to AI in technical
literature by the seventies, and by the eighties the
abbreviation had entered the general vocabulary, as computing
technology became central to nearly all areas of human activity.
The abbreviation is often used attributively, with a following
noun, as in AI technology etc.
Sales for AI technology will top њ719 million this year.
Business Week 1 July 1985, p. 78
Military research...has been both the driving force
and...paymaster of AI development.
CU Amiga Apr. 1990, p. 89
-Aid combining form Also written -aid and without hyphen (People and
The second element in names of efforts to raise money for
Etymology: Based on Band Aid, the punning name of a rock group
formed by Irish rock musician Bob Geldof in 1984 to raise money
for famine relief in Ethiopia; Band-Aid is also the trade mark
of a well-known brand of sticking-plasters. Until Bob Geldof
became involved in this area, aid had tended to be associated
with economic assistance given by one government to another,
often with political conditions attached.
History and Usage: The enormous success of Bob Geldof's appeal
for Ethiopia, which began with the release of Band Aid's record
Do they know it's Christmas? in 1984 and continued with a
large-scale rock concert called Live Aid in 1985, laid the
foundations for this new combining element in the language.
Whereas in the sixties, fund-raising organizations and events
had favoured the word fund in their titles, it now became
fashionable to use -Aid following the name of your group or
activity (School-Aid for schoolchildren's efforts, Fashion-Aid
for a charity fashion show, etc.), or after the name of the
group being helped (as in Kurd Aid, an unofficial name for a Red
Cross concert in aid of Kurdish refugees in May 1991).
Sport Aid organizers were yesterday endeavouring to
maximize the money raised by Sunday's worldwide Race
Against Time in aid of African famine relief.
The Times 28 May 1986, p. 2
Inspired by the Live Aid rockathon, Willie Nelson staged
Farm Aid I in Champaign to help the needy closer to
Life Fall 1989, p. 142
(People and Society) see compassion fatigue
Aids acronym Also written AIDS (Health and Fitness)
Short for acquired immune deficiency syndrome, a complex
condition which is thought to be caused by a virus called HIV
and which destroys a person's ability to fight infections.
Etymology: An acronym, formed on the initial letters of
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
History and Usage: The condition was first noticed by doctors
at the very end of the seventies and was described under the
name acquired immune deficiency state in 1980, although later
research has shown that a person died from Aids as long ago as
1959 and that the virus which causes it may have existed in
Africa for a hundred years or more. Colloquially the condition
was also sometimes referred to as GRID (gay-related immune
disease) in the US before the name Aids became established. The
US Center for Disease Control first used the name acquired
immune deficiency syndrome and the acronym Aids in September
1982, and by 1984 the disease was already reaching epidemic
proportions in the US and coming to be known as the scourge of
the eighties. At first Aids was identified as principally
affecting two groups: first, drug users who shared needles, and
second, male homosexuals, giving rise to the unkind name gay
plague, which was widely bandied about in newspapers during the
mid eighties. Once the virus which causes the immune breakdown
which can lead to Aids was identified and it became clear that
this was transmitted in body fluids, sexual promiscuity in
general was blamed for its rapid spread. These discoveries
prompted a concerted and ill-received government advertising
campaign in the UK which aimed to make the general public aware
of the risks and how to avoid them; this resulted, amongst other
things, in the revival of the word condom in everyday English.
The acronym soon came to be written by some in the form Aids
(rather than AIDS) and thought of as a proper noun; it was also
very quickly used attributively, especially in Aids virus (a
colloquial name for HIV) and the adjective Aids-related. By 1984
doctors had established that infection with the virus could
precede the onset of any symptoms by some months or years, and
identified three distinct phases of the syndrome:
lymphadenopathy syndrome developed first, followed by
Aids-related complex (ARC), a phase in which preliminary
symptoms of fever, weight loss, and malaise become apparent; the
later phase, always ultimately fatal, in which the body's
natural defences against infection are broken down and tumours
may develop, came to be known as full-blown Aids. Colloquially,
the phases before the onset of full-blown Aids are sometimes
The language of Aids (Aidspeak) became both complex and emotive
as the eighties progressed, with the word Aids itself being used
imprecisely in many popular sources to mean no more than
infection with HIV--a usage which, in the eyes of those most
closely concerned with Aids, could only be expected to add to
the stigmatization and even victimization of already isolated
social groups. The Center for Disease Control published a
carefully defined spectrum of stages, in an attempt to make the
position clear: HIV antibody seronegativity (i.e. the absence
of antibodies against HIV in the blood), HIV antibody
seropositivity (see antibody-positive), HIV asymptomaticity,
lymphadenopathy syndrome, Aids-related complex, and full-blown
Aids. In order to lessen the emotive connotations of some
tabloid language about Aids, pressure groups tried to discourage
the use of Aids victim and replace it with person with Aids (see
PWA). The terminology had become so complex and tricky that
those who could find their way about it and understood the
issues came to be known as Aids-literate. At the time of writing
no cure has been found for Aids.
In just one year the list of people at risk from AIDS
has lengthened from male homosexuals, drug-abusers and
Haitians, to include the entire population [of the USA].
New Scientist 3 Feb. 1983, p. 289
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis...will
look at potential drug treatments in animals for an
AIDS-related form of pneumonia, pneumocystis carinii.
New York Times 1 May 1983, section 1, p. 26
Buddies' project is not to examine the construction of
gay identity but to take apart the mythology of AIDS as
a 'gay plague'.
Film Review Annual 1986, p. 160
Of 34 mothers who gave birth to children with Aids at
his hospital, only four had any symptoms of the disease
or Aids-related complex, a milder form.
Daily Telegraph 3 Feb. 1986, p. 5
Like many well-educated professionals who are sexually
active, the man had become an AIDS encyclopedia without
changing his habits.
Atlantic Feb. 1987, p. 45
See also Slim
Aidsline (People and Society) see -line
(Health and Fitness) see HIV
airhead noun (People and Society)
In North American slang, a stupid person; someone who speaks or
Etymology: Formed by compounding: someone whose head is full of
air; perhaps influenced by the earlier form bubblehead (which
goes back to the fifties).
History and Usage: Airhead has been a favourite American and
Canadian term of abuse since the beginning of the eighties, used
especially for the unintelligent but attractive type of woman
that the British call a bimbo. At first airhead was associated
with teenage Valspeak, but it soon spread into more general use
among all age-groups. Although very common in US English by the
mid eighties, airhead did not start to catch on in the UK or
Australia until the end of the decade.
His comedies of manners are very funny, and the vain
airheads who populate his novels are wonderfully drawn.
Christian Science Monitor 2 Mar. 1984, section B, p. 12
Mature women...left the airheads to be abused by the
stuffy, bossy older men and wore shorter skirts than
their teenage daughters.
Indy 21 Dec. 1989, p. 7
airside noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
The part of an airport which is beyond passport controls and so
is only meant to be open to the travelling public and to bona
fide airport and airline staff.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: the side of the airport
giving access to the air (as opposed to the landside, the public
area of the airport).
History and Usage: The word airside has been in use in the
technical vocabulary of civil aviation since at least the
fifties, but only really came to public notice during the late
eighties, especially after the bombing, over Lockerbie in
Scotland, of a Pan-Am passenger jet after it left London's
Heathrow airport in December 1988. As a result of this and other
terrorist attacks on air travel, a great deal of concern was
expressed about the ease with which a person could gain access
to airside and plant a device, and several attempts were made by
investigative reporters to breach security in this way. Tighter
security arrangements were put in place. The word airside is
used with or without an article, and can also be used
attributively in airside pass etc. or adverbially (to go airside
Far too many unvetted people have access to
aircraft...No one should get an 'airside' pass
The Times 27 June 1985, p. 12
For several hours the terminal-building was plunged into
chaos. 'Airside' was sealed off by armed police.
Daily Telegraph 18 Apr. 1986, p. 36
Alar noun (Environment)
A trade mark for daminozide, a growth-regulating chemical used
as a spray on fruit trees to enable the whole crop to be
harvested at once.
History and Usage: Alar has been manufactured under this brand
name since the mid sixties and is used by commercial growers to
regulate the growth of fruit (especially apples), so larger,
unblemished fruit which remains on the tree longer can be
produced. The chemical does not remain on the surface of the
fruit, but penetrates the flesh, so that it cannot be washed off
or removed by peeling. The results of research published in the
second half of the eighties showed that, when the apples were
subsequently processed (in order to make apple juice, for
instance), Alar could be converted into unsymmetrical
dimethylhydrazine (or UDMH), a potent carcinogen. This discovery
brought Alar unwelcome publicity during the late eighties:
mothers anxious to protect their children from harmful chemicals
in foods (among them some famous mothers such as film star Meryl
Streep in the US and comedian Pamela Stephenson in the UK) led a
campaign to have its use discontinued. Alar was voluntarily
withdrawn by its manufacturers, Uniroyal, from use on food crops
in the US and Australia in 1989; in the UK the Advisory
Committee on Pesticides declared it safe.
Some products which have been publicised as Alar-free by
retailers and manufacturers were still found to contain
She Oct. 1989, p. 18
Most people are far more frightened of the threat of
cancer than of the flulike symptoms that they associate
with food poisoning. Fanning their anxieties are
frequent alerts: about dioxin in milk, aldicarb in
potatoes, Alar in apples.
New York Times 7 May 1990, section D, p. 11
(Drugs) (People and Society) see abuse
(Lifestyle and Leisure) see -free
noun (Health and Fitness)
A complementary therapy which aims to correct bad posture and
teach people a balanced use of their bodies as an aid to better
Etymology: The name of F. Matthias Alexander, who invented the
History and Usage: The Alexander technique was developed by
Alexander, an Australian actor who subsequently devoted his life
to physiotherapy, at the end of the nineteenth century, and was
promoted by the writer Aldous Huxley in the forties. It was not
widely taken up by the general public until the seventies in the
US and the early eighties in the UK, when complementary medicine
and alternative approaches to health became more socially
acceptable than previously. It continued to enjoy a vogue in the
late eighties, since it fitted in well with the New Age approach
to self-awareness. Although not claiming to cure any organic
health problems, teachers of the Alexander technique maintain
that it can relieve or even remove symptoms, notably back pain,
as well as helping people to prevent pain and discomfort in
The Alexander Technique is a very careful, gentle way of
increasing awareness; it was a joy to learn how to
listen to myself.
Out from the Core Feb. 1986, p. 5
I saw an ad...for a cheap introductory course in
Alexander technique and as I had poor posture and...an
aching back, I went along.
Good Housekeeping May 1990, p. 17
aliterate adjective and noun (People and Society)
adjective: Disinclined to acquire information from written
sources; able to read, but preferring not to.
noun: A person who can read but chooses to derive information,
entertainment, etc. from non-literary sources.
Etymology: A hybrid word, formed by adding the Greek prefix a-
in the sense 'without' to literate, a word of Latin origin. The
hybrid form was intended to make a distinction between the
aliterate and the illiterate (formed with the equivalent Latin
prefix in-), who are unable to read and write.
History and Usage: The word aliterate was coined in the late
sixties, but it was not until the eighties that there began to
be real evidence that the increasing popularity of television
and other 'screen-based' media (including information on
computer screens) was having a noticeable effect on people's use
of reading and writing skills. This observation came soon after
it had been revealed that there were considerable numbers of
people leaving school unable to read and write. In the early
eighties, the noun aliteracy developed as a counterbalance to
illiteracy; the two terms described these twin problems. As the
eighties progressed, graphics and video became even more heavily
used to put across information, to teach, and to entertain;
aliteracy is therefore likely to become increasingly prevalent
in the nineties.
The nation's decision-making process...is threatened by
those who can read but won't, Townsend Hooper, president
of the Association of American Publishers, told some 50
persons attending an 'a-literacy' conference.
Publishers Weekly 1 Oct. 1982, p. 34
According to a recent estimate, 60 million
Americans--almost one-third of our entire population--is
illiterate. And a recent report from the Librarian of
Congress suggests that we may have at least the same
number who are aliterate.
The Times 27 Dec. 1985, p. 12
(Lifestyle and Leisure) see mountain bike
noun and verb (Science and Technology)
noun: A preliminary test of an experimental product (such as
computer software), usually carried out within the organization
developing it before it is sent out for beta testing.
transitive verb: To submit (a product) to an alpha test.
Etymology: Formed by compounding. Alpha, the first letter of
the Greek alphabet, has long been used to denote the first in a
series; the alpha test is the first test in a routine series.
History and Usage: The concept of the alpha test comes from the
world of computer software development, where it has been used
since the early eighties. Its purpose is to iron out as many
bugs as possible before allowing the software to be used by
outsiders during the second phase of testing (see beta test). A
person whose job is to test software in this way for the
developer is an alpha-tester; the process is known as alpha
testing and the product at this stage of development is the
As the operations manager for a large computer equipment
manufacturer, Ray Majkut helped oversee the 90-day test
of a 200-line private branch exchange, an experience he
regarded as more of an alpha test than a beta test.
Network World 14 Apr. 1986, p. 35
Apple set Hypercard 2.0 into alpha test right before the
quake, making a spring intro likely.
InfoWorld 23 Oct. 1989, p. 110
Altergate (Politics) see -gate
adjective and noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
adjective: Offering a different approach from the conventional
or established one; belonging to the counter-culture.
noun: An approach that is alternative in this way; also, a
follower of alternative culture.
Etymology: A simple development of sense: alternative first
meant 'offering a choice between two things', but by the end of
the last century could be used to refer to choices involving
more than two options. The meaning dealt with here probably
arose from the phrase alternative society (see below).
History and Usage: The word alternative was first used in this
sense when the hippie culture of the late sixties, with its
rejection of materialism and traditional Western values, was
described as an alternative society. Almost immediately,
anything that served the counter-culture also came to be
described as alternative (for example the alternative press,
consisting of those newspapers and magazines that were aimed at
radical youth); uses arose from within the counter-culture, too
(for example the alternative prospectus, which gave the
students' view of an educational establishment rather than the
official view). Although the term alternative society itself had
fallen from fashion by the end of the seventies, the adjective
enjoyed a new vogue in the eighties as the green movement urged
society to seek new approaches to natural resources, fuel
sources, etc. and the health and fitness movement became
increasingly influential in advocating unconventional medical
therapies. The most important alternatives of the past decade
alternative birth, birthing (Health and Fitness), any method of
childbirth that tries to get away from the intrusive, high-tech
approach of modern medicine towards a more natural and homely
setting in which the mother has control;
alternative comedy (Lifestyle and Leisure), comedy that is not
based on stereotypes (especially sexual or racial ones) or on
conventional views of humour, but often includes an element of
black humour or surrealism and an aggressive style of
performance; also alternative comedian, alternative comedienne,
practitioners of this;
alternative energy (Environment), energy (such as solar power,
wind generation, etc.) derived from any source that does not use
up the earth's natural resources of fossil fuels or harm the
alternative medicine, therapy (Health and Fitness), any medical
technique that aims to promote health and fitness without the
use of drugs, often involving the patient in self-awareness and
self-help; complementary medicine;
alternative technology (Environment) (Science and Technology),
technology deliberately designed to conserve natural resources
and avoid harm to the environment, especially by harnessing
renewable energy sources.
Babies are born with as little medical intervention as
possible in the hospital's Alternative Birth Center,
located on a separate floor from the maternity wing.
Money Dec. 1983, p. 205
A recent survey of more than 1,000 practitioners,
conducted by the Institute for Complementary Medicine,
found the number of patients turning to alternative
therapies growing at an annual rate of 15 per cent, with
a 39 per cent increase in patients visiting homeopaths.
Chicago Tribune 8 Apr. 1985, p. 1
Jennifer is a 20-year-old Alternative, with short
platinum hair jelled and sprayed into a cone, bright
face, smart casual clothes and heavy worker's boots.
Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 27 Sept. 1988, p. 17
The so-called alternative comedy boom was initially
compared to the punk phenomenon and ultimately has
proved to be equally as impotent.
Arena Autumn/Winter 1988, p. 163
Waterfall Vegetarian Food...is launching its new range
of alternative salami slices with its Vegelami slice.
Grocer 21 Jan. 1989, p. 168
The...Trust will invest in companies working to ensure a
better cleaner environment (waste processing,
alternative energy, recycling, etc).
Green Magazine Apr. 1990, p. 82
1.10 angel dust...
noun Sometimes written angels' dust (Drugs)
In the slang of drug users, the hallucinogenic drug
phencyclidine hydrochloride or PCP (see PCP°).
Etymology: Formed by compounding. The drug was originally taken
in the form of a powder or dust; it may be called the dust of
angels because of the supposedly heavenly visions that it
produces, although it has been claimed that the reason is that
the drug was first distributed illegally by Hell's Angels.
History and Usage: Angel dust was popular in the drugs
subculture of the sixties (when the term was sometimes used to
refer to drug mixtures such as cocaine, heroin, and morphine, or
dried marijuana with PCP). In the eighties angel dust enjoyed a
short-lived revival as one of the preferred drugs of the new
psychedelia associated with acid house; the term became the
usual street name this time round for PCP, which also had a
large number of other slang names such as cornflakes, goon, hog,
loopy dust, and rocket fuel.
She could've been on something...Acid, angel dust.
Elmore Leonard Glitz (1985), p. 69
PCP or 'angel dust', a strong anaesthetic which came
after LSD in 1960s drug fashions...has recently emerged
anew. Now they call it 'rocket fuel' in Chicago and mix
it with peanut butter.
Sunday Times 24 Mar. 1985, p. 12
'Angel dust', one of the most dangerous street drugs
ever created, may soon have a new role--in treating
heart attack and stroke victims.
Observer 12 Mar. 1989, p. 32
noun (Health and Fitness)
An operation to repair a damaged blood vessel or to unblock a
Etymology: A compound formed on classical roots: angio- is the
Latinized form of a Greek word, aggeion, meaning 'a vessel';
-plasty comes from Greek plastia, 'moulding, formation'.
History and Usage: Angioplasty has been known as a medical
term since the twenties, but came into the news during the
eighties particularly as a result of the development of two new
techniques for carrying it out. Balloon angioplasty, available
since the mid eighties, involves passing a tiny balloon up the
patient's arteries and inflating it to remove blood clots or
other blockages. Laser angioplasty, still in its experimental
stages in the late eighties, makes use of lasers to burn away
blockages, and is designed to be minimally invasive. The
development of these techniques has meant that expensive heart
surgery under general anaesthetic can now often be avoided, with
angioplasty taking place instead under local anaesthetic.
Angioplasty by these new means has therefore been vaunted in the
popular science press as a very significant medical advance.
Arterial lesions would remain at the center of medical
interest in coronary heart disease for decades to come.
Cholesterol-lowering diets would aim to slow their
growth; bypass surgery would attempt to route blood
around them; in angioplasty, a tiny balloon would
squeeze the lesions open.
Atlantic Sept. 1989, p. 39
A formal agreement between the United Kingdom and the Republic
of Ireland, signed on 15 November 1985, establishing an
intergovernmental conference and providing for greater
cooperation between the two countries, especially where the
sovereignty and security of Northern Ireland were concerned.
Etymology: Anglo- is the combining form of English, but
doubles as the combining form for British and 'of the United
Kingdom', since neither has a combining form of its own; to
describe the agreement as Anglo-Irish therefore means not just
that it was between England and Eire, but between the whole
United Kingdom and Eire (and so by implication included Northern
Ireland, even though it met with opposition there).
History and Usage: The Anglo-Irish agreement was the subject of
some considerable speculation in the press long before it was
actually signed by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and
Irish Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald at Hillsborough, Co. Down, in
1985: the earliest uses of the term date from the very beginning
of the eighties. It became very frequently used in newspapers
during the mid eighties, partly as a result of the intense
opposition to it raised by Ulster Unionists. They particularly
objected to the fact that their political representatives had
not been involved in the negotiations and to the implications
they saw in it for the sovereignty of Northern Ireland.
Attempted Ulster talks in May 1991 sought to involve them first
in a new agreement.
The disagreement goes to the heart of the problem of how
to introduce Dublin as a partner in the talks and what
role it would have in renegotiating the replacement of
the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Guardian 28 June 1990, p. 2
(Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure) see -free
An animal rights campaigner or supporter.
Etymology: A contraction of animal liberationist; formerly, an
animalist was a follower of the philosophy of animalism or an
artist who treated animal subjects.
History and Usage: This snappier term arose in US English
during the mid eighties and is as yet barely established in the
language. The movement to which it refers, variously known as
animal liberation, animal lib, and animal rights, has a much
longer history--the term animal liberation goes back to the
early seventies--and there is a good case for a term which would
be less of a mouthful than animal liberationist or animal rights
campaigner, although this one suffers from possible confusion
with the opposite meaning of the adjective animalist in the
The uproar resulted from a column two weeks ago in which
I reported that animalist Barbara Toth was enraged over
the possibility that some Asian immigrants in Canoga
Park might be turning strays into dog foo young.
Los Angeles Times (Valley edition) 22 July 1985, section
2, p. 7
The dismal sight on Tuesday night of bedraggled
'animalists' distributing protest literature to queues
of happy families agog with the expectancy of pure
Financial Times 28 July 1988, p. 21
adjective (People and Society)
Discriminating against animals; demeaning animals or denying
them rights by the way one speaks, thinks, or behaves.
Etymology: Formed by adding the suffix -ist as used in racist
or sexist to animal: compare ageist (see ageism).
History and Usage: Also very new and still rare, this sense of
animalist is a British usage which promises to give rise to some
considerable confusion by creating a situation in which the noun
animalist and its corresponding adjective carry almost opposite
meanings. Ultimately one or other sense must surely survive at
the expense of the other--if indeed either catches on.
Animal rights campaigners on Merseyside are urging
parents and teachers to stop children using 'animalist'
expressions, which they claim demean certain creatures.
Daily Telegraph 27 Oct. 1989, p. 5
noun (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Science and Technology)
The technique of constructing robots which look like animals,
people, etc. and which are programmed to perform lifelike
movements to the accompaniment of a pre-recorded soundtrack.
Etymology: Formed by combining the first three syllables of
animated with the last two of electronics to make a blend.
History and Usage: The idea of animatronics (which originally
had the even more complicated name audio-animatronics, now a
trade mark) was developed by Walt Disney during the sixties for
use at the World's Fair and later for Disneyland and other theme
parks. The movements and gestures of the robots (each of which
may be called an animatron or an animatronic) are extremely
lifelike, but because they are pre-programmed they cannot be
responsive or interactive: for this reason, animatronics has
been described as being 'like television with the screen
removed'. During the eighties, animatronics became more widely
known as the theme park idea and the robotics technology were
exported from the US to other parts of the world. Although it
looks plural in form, animatronics always takes a singular
agreement when it refers to the technique; plural agreement
indicates that it is being used for a group of the robots
themselves. The adjective used to describe the technology or the
robots is animatronic.
yells Stein, his mouth seeming to move independently of
the words, like one of those eerie Animatronic Disney
Forbes 12 Nov. 1979, p. 177
Sally Animatronics Pty Ltd has set up shop in Sydney to
capitalise on what it perceives to be a boom market in
Australia...--the production of lifelike robots for
theme parks, exhibitions and museums. The robots, known
as animatronics, were made famous by
Disneyland...Designing an animatronic figure is a
The Australian 24 Nov. 1987, p. 58
The animals and acrobats of the popular entertainment
will give way to a Disney-style 'animatronic' show, part
of a њ17.5-million plan to revamp the Tower.
The Times 28 Sept. 1990, p. 17
adjective (Health and Fitness)
Having had a positive result in a blood test for the Aids virus
HIV; at risk of developing Aids.
Etymology: Formed by compounding; having a positive test for
antibodies to HIV. Long before Aids, antibody-positive was in
technical use for the result of any blood test for antibodies to
a virus; it is only in popular usage that it has become
specialized almost exclusively to the Aids sense.
History and Usage: This sense of antibody-positive arose during
the mid eighties, when fear of Aids was at its height and much
publicity was given to it. Since infection with HIV could
precede the onset of any Aids symptoms by a period of years, and
only some of those who were tested positive would in fact
develop symptoms at any time, health officials emphasized the
need to avoid over-reacting to a positive test and tried (with
varying degrees of success) to prevent discrimination against
those who were known to be antibody-positive. The adjective for
a person found not to have been infected or a test with a
negative result is antibody-negative, but this is less commonly
found in popular sources.
Without testing facilities at, say, clinics for sexually
transmitted diseases, 'high-risk' donors might give
blood simply to find out their antibody status (and
possibly transmit the virus while being
New Statesman 27 Sept. 1985, p. 14
This longstanding concentration on the clinical
manifestations of AIDS rather than on all stages of HIV
infection (i.e., from initial infection to
seroconversion, to an antibody-positive asymptomatic
stage, to full-blown AIDS) has had the...effect of
misleading the public.
Susan Sontag Aids & its Metaphors (1989), p. 31
adjective Sometimes written antichoice (Health and Fitness)
(People and Society)
Especially in US English, opposed to the principle of allowing a
woman to choose for herself whether or not to have an abortion;
a derogatory synonym for pro-life (see under pro-).
Etymology: Formed by adding the prefix anti- in the sense
'against' to choice.
History and Usage: The whole issue of abortion has been an
extremely contentious one in US politics during the past fifteen
years. The term anti-choice arose in the second half of the
seventies as a label applied to pro-life campaigners by those
who had fought for women's rights in the US and resented the
erosion of their work by the anti-abortion lobby. As such it is
deliberately negative in form (supporters of the rights of the
unborn child would describe themselves in more positive terms
such as pro-life or right-to-life). Although abortion has also
been an important issue in the UK in the eighties, the term
anti-choice has hardly been used in British sources until quite
She said there are at least three races in the state
where a clear anti-choice incumbent is being opposed by
a strong pro-choice challenger.
San Francisco Chronicle 26 June 1990, section B, p. 4
anti-lock adjective (Science and Technology)
Of the brakes of a car or other vehicle: set up so as to prevent
locking and skidding when applied suddenly; especially in
anti-lock brake (or braking) system (ABS), a patent system which
allows sudden braking without any locking of the wheels.
Etymology: Formed by adding the prefix anti- in the sense
'preventing' to the verb stem lock.
History and Usage: Anti-lock braking was developed in the
sixties from a similar system which had been applied to
aeroplanes (under the name wheel-slide protection system). The
first application to motor vehicles was Lockheed's Antilok (a
trade mark); at first it was used mainly for heavy trucks and
the like. The term began to appear frequently in car advertising
in the early eighties, when the system became generally
available on private cars (either as an optional extra or a
standard feature), and was used as a strong marketing point. The
system works by momentarily releasing the brakes and freeing the
locked wheel as often as necessary to avoid skid. Anti-lock is
occasionally used on its own as a noun as a shortened form of
anti-lock brake system.
Unlike car systems, the motorcycle ABS does not allow
full application of the brakes while cornering.
Daily Mirror (Sydney) 21 Oct. 1988, p. 111
An anti-lock brake system is available. This amazing
sports sedan also has a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty that's
good for 3 years.
Life Fall 1989, p. 85
antivirus (Science and Technology) see vaccine
1.11 Aqua Libra...
noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
The trade mark of a health drink containing spring water, fruit
juices, and a number of other ingredients, which is promoted as
an aid to proper alkaline balance and good digestion.
Etymology: Latin aqua 'water' and libra 'balance': literally
'water balance' (compare balance).
History and Usage: Aqua Libra was launched under this name in
1987, at a time when there was a fashion for non-alcoholic
drinks, and many smart executives favoured mineral water (see
Aqua Libra...is completely free of alcohol and I like it
because it is not as sweet as, say Perrier and orange
Financial Times 31 Dec. 1988, Weekend FT, p. IX
The smart set in England this season is drinking Aqua
Libra. The pale-gold beverage is a blend of sparkling
water, passion fruit juice and apple juice, seasoned
with sesame, sunflower, melon, tarragon and Siberian
Forbes 25 Dec. 1989, p. 48
noun Sometimes written aquarobics or aquaerobics (Health and
Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
The trade mark of a fitness programme, including a form of
aerobics, in which the exercises are done in a shallow swimming
Etymology: Formed by substituting the Latin word aqua 'water'
for the first syllable of aerobics.
History and Usage: Aquarobics was developed by Georgia Kerns
and Judy Mills in the US in 1980 and registered there as a trade
mark. By the late eighties it had spread to the UK and was
becoming a popular alternative to aerobics, being promoted
especially as a form of exercise suitable for people with
physical disabilities or those recovering from operations.
The movable floor can be lowered from 1.5 feet to 10
feet and is used for such water exercise classes as
aquarobics and aquafitness.
Business First of Buffalo 9 Mar. 1987, p. 30
Many...handicapped people said how beneficial the
Aquarobics Exercises had been.
Keep Fit Autumn 1989, p. 7
arb noun (Business World)
In financial jargon, a dealer in stocks who takes advantage of
differing values in different markets to make money; especially
on the US stock exchange, a dealer in the stocks of companies
facing take-over bids.
Etymology: A colloquial shortened form of arbitrageur, a French
word borrowed into English in the late nineteenth century for
any stock dealer who makes his money from buying stock in one
market and selling in another.
History and Usage: Although the practice of arbitrage (the
simultaneous buying and selling of large quantities of stock in
different markets so as to take advantage of the price
difference) is well established--it dates from the late
nineteenth century--the word arbitrageur was not shortened to
arb in print until Wall Street risk arbitrageurs started buying
up large quantities of stock in companies facing take-over bids
in the late seventies. These take-overs attracted considerable
media interest, and the word arb started to appear frequently in
the financial sections of newspapers from about the beginning of
For a start you often have to make use of the 'arbs',
very useful gentlemen indeed in a bid battle.
Sunday Telegraph 25 Mar. 1984, p. 19
It should have been the risk arbitrageurs' finest
year...Instead, in the wake of archrival Ivan F.
Boesky's admission of insider trading, the arbs are
Business Week 8 Dec. 1986, p. 36
ARC (Health and Fitness) see Aids
noun Sometimes in the form aromatotherapy (Health and Fitness)
A complementary therapy which makes use of essential oils and
other plant extracts to promote a person's health, general
well-being, or beauty.
Etymology: Actually borrowed from French aromath‚rapie,
although the formation of the English word is self-explanatory:
therapy based on aromatic oils.
History and Usage: Aromatherapy was promoted by the French
chemist Ren‚-Maurice Gattefoss‚ in the thirties, but was not
widely taken up in English-speaking countries until the
seventies, when the search began for natural remedies to replace
the increasingly intrusive techniques of traditional medicine.
There was nothing new, of course, in the use of plant extracts
for medicinal purposes; it was the therapeutic effect of
inhaling the aromatic oils or massaging them into the skin that
Gattefoss‚ claimed to have discovered anew. During the eighties,
when alternative therapies proliferated and there was a premium
on the use of natural ingredients, aromatherapy graduated from
fringe status to a reasonably respected technique, especially
for the relief of stress-related symptoms. A practitioner of
aromatherapy is called an aromatherapist; the adjective used to
describe an oil which has some use in aromatherapy is
Today in Britain most therapists and their clients use
aromatherapy as a form of relaxation with some benefits
to minor medical conditions.
Here's Health June 1988, p. 89
For details of a qualified aromatherapist in your area
contact the International Federation of Aromatherapists.
Prima Aug. 1988, p. 74
(Science and Technology) see AI
ARV (Health and Fitness) see HIV
asset noun (Business World)
The first word of a number of compounds fashionable in the
business and financial world, including:
asset card, a US name for the debit card (see card°);
asset management, the active management of the assets of a
company so as to optimize the return on investments; the job of
an asset manager;
asset-stripping, the practice of selling off the assets of a
company (especially one which has recently been taken over) so
as to make maximum profit, but without regard for the company's
future; the activity of an asset-stripper.
Etymology: The word assets, which originally came from
Anglo-French assets (modern French assez enough) was
reinterpreted as a plural noun with a singular asset by the
nineteenth century; however, it was only in the late twentieth
century that it acquired compounds based on this singular form.
History and Usage: All three compounds entered the language
through US business usage in the mid seventies; asset-stripping
had been practised since the fifties, but did not become widely
known by this name until the seventies. Asset management and
asset-stripping have been widely used in the UK during the
eighties, even moving into non-technical usage. By the end of
the decade, though, asset-stripping had become an unfashionable
name for an activity which financiers now preferred to call
unbundling: see unbundle.
Guinness Peat's chief executive...reckons that
institutions in the post Big Bang City will take one of
three forms--bankers, traders or asset managers.
Investors Chronicle 1 Nov. 1985, p. 54
The solution...--moving the $2 billion asset card
business to...South Dakota--ushered in a new era in
US Banker Mar. 1986, p. 42
One of the large mutual fund families...offers not only
a variety of funds but an asset management account that
would give you a monthly record of all transactions,
including reinvestment of dividends.
Christian Science Monitor 20 Feb. 1987, section B, p. 2
A more relevant description of Hanson's strategy would
be asset-mining rather than asset-stripping; that is,
the development of undervalued assets for hidden value.
National Westminster Bank Quarterly Review May 1987,
They were returning...from visiting a foundry in Derby
that had been taken over by asset-strippers.
David Lodge Nice Work (1988), p. 154
ATB (Lifestyle and Leisure) see mountain bike
ATM abbreviation (Business World)
Short for automated teller machine, a machine which carries out
banking transactions automatically. (Usually known colloquially
in the UK as a cashpoint or cash dispenser, although it may be
capable of carrying out transactions other than cash
Etymology: The initial letters of automated (or automatic )
History and Usage: The full term automated teller machine was
first used in the mid seventies, when the machines were put into
mass operation in US banks; by 1976 this had been abbreviated to
ATM, which has remained the standard term for the increasingly
versatile machines in the US as well as Australia and other
English-speaking countries. In the UK, they were available from
the middle of the seventies but not used by the mass of the
British public until the mid eighties. Consequently, the name
ATM has tended to be used mostly in official circles, while cash
dispenser, cash machine, and cashpoint have been the more
popular names. Even though the machines are now capable of
registering deposits, providing statements, etc., it seems
unlikely that ATM will become the regular term in the UK as
Bill payments and loan repayments can be made through
ATMs...80 per cent of all ATM transactions were
withdrawals, 10 per cent were inquiries and 10 per cent
Sunday Mail Magazine (Brisbane) 12 Oct. 1986, p. 16
Need cash at midnight? Hit the ATM.
Life Fall 1989, p. 49
See also cash dispenser
(Science and Technology) see animatronics
noun (Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A relaxation technique in which the patient is taught a form of
self-hypnosis and biofeedback as a way of managing stress.
Etymology: A translation of the German name, das autogene
Training. Autogenic, an adjective which has been used in
English since the late nineteenth century, literally means
'self-produced'. It is not the training that is self-produced,
though; autogenic training is designed to teach people how to
produce a feeling of calm and well-being in themselves in
stressful circumstances. A more accurate (though long-winded)
name would be training in autogenic relaxation.
History and Usage: Autogenic training was invented in Germany
and first popularized by psychiatrist and neurologist Johannes
Schultz from the thirties until the fifties. It is the first of
three stages in a method which is known in its entirety as
autogenic therapy. Although it has reputedly been used by East
German athletes for decades, it only became widely practised
outside Germany in the seventies and eighties. The technique is
particularly useful for athletes because it offers the
possibility of bringing about positive changes in one's own
physical state (such as lowering blood pressure or reducing
heart-rate). Autogenics is an alternative name for autogenic
therapy or autogenic training; although plural in form, this
noun (like aerobics) can take singular or plural agreement.
A new study indicates that autogenics--a form of mental
press-ups--are as good for reducing stress...as physical
She July 1985, p. 115
Liz Ferris uses autogenic training with athletes. This
discipline is designed to help switch off the body's
Observer 6 May 1990, p. 21
automated teller machine
(Business World) see ATM
aware adjective (Environment) (People and Society)
Of a person, social group, etc.: fully informed about current
issues of concern in a particular field. Of a product: designed,
manufactured, or marketed in such a way as to take account of
current concerns and attitudes. (Often with a preceding adverb
indicating the field of concern, as ecologically or
environmentally aware, socially aware, etc.)
Etymology: Formed by increasingly elliptical use of the
adjective: first, people were described as being aware of
certain issues, then they were simply described as socially
(etc.) aware, and finally their quality of awareness was
ascribed to the products which resulted from their concerns.
History and Usage: People have been described as socially or
politically aware since the early seventies; as the green
movement gained momentum in the late seventies and early
eighties it became increasingly important to be ecologically or
environmentally aware as well. The adjective started to be
applied to things as well as people in the early eighties; this
usage remains limited in practice to environmentally aware
products and activities and sometimes appears to mean only that
some part of the profit on the sales is to be donated to a green
Most of the machines described as being 'environmentally
aware' will also cost you over њ400.
Which? Jan. 1990, p. 49
The main dessert component was one of the few
ecologically aware trademarked foods, the 'Rainforest
Crunch' ice cream made by Ben & Jerry's, which donates
some of the profits from this flavor to a rain forest
Los Angeles Times 21 June 1990, section E, p. 8
awesome adjective (Youth Culture)
In North American slang (especially among young people):
marvellous, great, stunningly good.
Etymology: Awesome originally meant 'full of awe', but by the
end of the seventeenth century could also be used in the sense
'inspiring awe, dreadful'. The apparent reversal of meaning that
has now taken place started through a weakening of the word's
meaning during the middle decades of the twentieth century to
'staggering, remarkable'; this was then further weakened and
turned into an enthusiastic term of approval in the eighties.
History and Usage: Within the youth culture, terms of approval
come into fashion and go out again quite rapidly. After becoming
frequent in its weakened sense of 'mind-boggling' during the
sixties and seventies, awesome was taken up in the eighties as
one of the most fashionable words of general approval among
young Americans. In particular it was associated with the speech
of preppies and the New York smart set, and often seemed to be
part of a fixed phrase, preceded by totally. Surprisingly, it
has remained popular among young people into the nineties, and
has spread outside the US to Canada and Australia. It has been
used in British English in this sense too, but really only in
caricatures of US speech.
Stuck in a rut...the kid was at the end of his rope when
out of the blue... kaboom...'Awesome!! The Acclaim
remote for Nintendo!'
Captain America Nov. 1989, p. 7
Roxanne Shante is quite simply the baddest sister
around, and teamed with Marley Marl at the mixing desk
she is awesome.
Number One 8 Nov. 1989, p. 43
That night I freebased a fractal of crack and blissed
out on E. It was awesome. It was ace. It was wicked, bad
and def. It was twenty quid. OUCH!
Blitz Dec. 1989, p. 130
Azeri noun and adjective Sometimes written Azari (People and Society)
noun: A member of a Turkic people of the USSR and Iran, living
mainly in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and northern Iran; an
Azerbaijani. Also, their language.
adjective: Of or belonging to this people or their language.
Etymology: The Turkish form (azerЊ) of what was originally a
Persian word for fire; the place-name Azerbaijan is a compound
meaning 'fire-temple'. Azeri is apparently the preferred form
among those of Azeri ethnic origin, since it preserves a
distinction between the Turkic people and anyone who lives in
Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani can mean either).
History and Usage: Although used in ethnographical and
linguistic works since at least the last century, Azeri was not
a word that the average reader of English newspapers would have
recognized until the late eighties. Then ethnic unrest on the
border between the Armenian and Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist
Republics was widely reported in the newspapers. Since the
trouble was partly caused by the fact that large numbers of
ethnic Armenians lived within the borders of the Azerbaijan SSR
and Azeris in the Armenian SSR, it was necessary for journalists
to make the distinction between the inhabitant of Azerbaijan (an
Azerbaijani) and the Azeri.
At least two civilians, one Armenian and one Azeri,
attacked Armenian homes...Azeri mobs had burned 60
houses...Three Azeris were shot and killed by troops.
Observer 27 Nov. 1988, p. 23
AZT abbreviation (Health and Fitness)
Short for azidothymidine, a drug used in the treatment of Aids
to stop the virus HIV from replicating itself within the
patient's body; now officially known as Zidovudine.
Etymology: The first two letters of azido- combined with the
initial letter of thymidine.
History and Usage: Azidothymidine was developed in the US
during the mid seventies, before Aids became a problem, but was
always intended as a retrovirus inhibitor. When HIV was
identified as the probable cause of Aids in the mid eighties,
its applicability to this virus was tested and it was found that
it could prolong the life of Aids patients by preventing the
virus from copying itself and so reducing the patients'
susceptibility to infections. This discovery led to its being
promoted in the press as a 'wonder drug' and even as a cure for
Aids, although its testers continued to emphasize the fact that
it was only capable of slowing down the development of the
disease. Once the drug was in use for treating Aids, the name
azidothymidine was usually abbreviated to AZT. This is still the
name by which the drug is known colloquially, despite the fact
that its official name has been changed to Zidovudine.
The company has been sharply criticized for the cost of
AZT, and recently cut the price by 20 per cent. An adult
with AIDS now pays about $6,500 a year for the drug.
New York Times 26 Oct. 1989, section A, p. 22
-babble combining form
The jargon or gobbledegook that is characteristic of the
subject, group, etc. named in the first part of the word:
ecobabble (Environment), environmental jargon; especially,
meaningless green jargon designed to make its user sound
Eurobabble (Politics), the jargon of European Community
documents and regulations;
psychobabble (People and Society), language that is heavily
influenced by concepts and terms from psychology;
technobabble (Science and Technology), technical jargon,
especially from computing and other high-technology areas.
Etymology: The noun babble means 'inarticulate or imperfect
speech, especially that of a child': the implication here is
that these jargon-ridden forms of the language sound like so
much nonsense to those who are not 'in the know'. In these words
babble has been added on to the combining form of ecological
etc. like a suffix: compare the earlier use of -speak in this
way, after George Orwell's Newspeak and Oldspeak in the novel
History and Usage: Psychobabble was coined in the US in the
mid seventies, when various forms of psychoanalysis and
psychotherapy were fashionable and the terms of these subjects
were often bandied about by laypeople who only partly understood
them. In 1977, Richard Rosen devoted a whole book to the subject
of Americans who used this language of analysis. It was not long
before other forms using -babble started to appear in the
language: Eurobabble arrived soon after Britain's entry into
the EC and ecobabble followed in the mid eighties as the green
movement gained momentum.
Is the environmental hoopla resonating through the halls
of American business 'mere corporate ecobabble intended
to placate the latest group of special-interest
Los Angeles Times 1 Feb. 1990, section E, p. 1
No matter that the Kohl-Mitterrand accords might amount
to no more than Eurobabble. They, and many British
voters, see a Continental future in which ever more
business is ordained without British involvement.
The Times 27 Apr. 1990, p. 13
(People and Society) see boomer
(People and Society) see buster
Bach proper noun (Health and Fitness)
In Bach (or Bach's) flower remedies (sometimes simply Bach
remedies): a complementary therapy related to homoeopathy, in
which a number of preparations of intestinal bacteria are used
to relieve emotional states which (according to the inventor of
the remedies, Edward Bach) underlie many physical illnesses.
Etymology: The name of Edward Bach combined with flower
remedies (because the preparations are made from intestinal
History and Usage: Dr Edward Bach (1886-1936) was a Harley
Street specialist who became interested in homoeopathy and
developed the remedies as his own contribution to the
discipline. According to his theory, the mind and body can be in
a positive state (ease) or degenerate into a negative one
(disease). He developed 38 different remedies, each designed to
produce the positive state of ease for a particular personality
type. Bach flower remedies were not widely known or used until
the middle of the eighties, when they suddenly became
fashionable, perhaps as a result of the general upsurge of
interest in homoeopathy and alternative therapies at this time.
The key to the Bach Remedies is that they are chosen not
for the symptoms of the illness, but for the underlying
emotional state of the client.
Out from the Core Feb. 1986, p. 14
A technique in music recording in which a disguised message is
included in such a way as to be audible only when the disc is
spun backwards, although it may allegedly be perceived
subliminally during normal playing. Also, the message itself.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: masking a message that has
to be played backwards to be heard. In psychology, backward
masking is a technical term used since the sixties to mean
'disruption of a stimulus by a second, similar stimulus which
closely follows it'.
History and Usage: The idea of hiding a backward message on a
rock record was first tried by the Beatles as long ago as the
sixties, but the term backward masking only became widely known
during the early eighties as a result of attempts by Christian
fundamentalist groups to have the practice banned. They claimed
that a number of rock groups were including satanic messages on
their records using this technique, and that these messages had
a subliminal effect on the listener. In parts of the US,
legislation was passed in the mid eighties making warning
notices compulsory on all records carrying backward masking, and
by the early nineties one rock band had even been sued
(unsuccessfully) for compensation after two teenagers committed
suicide while listening to a record said to contain hidden
In the last two years, Styx has been targeted by
fundamentalist religious groups for the 'backward
masking' of satanic messages on its albums.
New York Times 27 Mar. 1983, section 2, p. 27
bad adjective (Youth Culture)
In young people's slang, especially among Blacks in the US:
excellent, spectacular, full of good qualities.
Etymology: A reversal of meaning: compare wicked and the
earlier use of evil in this sense.
History and Usage: This sense of bad originated among Black
jazz musicians in the US in the twenties and by the seventies
had spread into more general use among US Blacks. It was taken
up by the young in general during the eighties as a favourite
term of approval, especially preceded by the adverb well:
anything that was described as well bad had really gained the
highest accolade. Its use among White British youngsters is an
example of the spread of Black street slang as a cult language
in the late eighties, with the popularity of hip hop culture
etc. When used in this sense, bad has the degrees of comparison
badder and baddest rather than worse and worst.
We ran into some of the baddest chicks, man, we partied,
we had a nice time.
Gene Lees Meet Me at Jim & Andy's (1988), p. 203
Roxanne Shante is quite simply the baddest sister
around, and teamed with Marley Marl at the mixing desk
she is awesome.
Number One 8 Nov. 1989, p. 43
bad-mouth transitive verb Also written badmouth (People and Society)
In US slang (especially among Blacks): to abuse (someone)
verbally; to put down or 'rubbish' (a person or thing),
especially by malicious gossip.
Etymology: The verb comes from the Black slang expression bad
mouth (a literal translation of similar expressions in a number
of African and West Indian languages), which originally meant 'a
curse or spell'.
History and Usage: The earliest use of bad-mouth as a verb in
print is an isolated wartime use by James Thurber in 1941,
although it was almost certainly in spoken use before this. By
the sixties it had become fairly common in US Black English, but
it was not until the late seventies that it acquired any
currency in British slang. In the eighties it started to appear
in respectable journalistic sources without quotation marks or
any other sign of slang status. The corresponding verbal noun
bad-mouthing is also common.
The dealing fraternity and the auctioneers, despite the
fact that they never cease bad-mouthing each other, are
The Times 16 Nov. 1981, p. 10
Jo-Anne was a bitter enemy who could be relied on to
bad-mouth her at every opportunity.
Pat Booth Palm Beach (1986), p. 180
plural noun (People and Society)
Homeless people who live on the streets and carry their
possessions in carrier bags.
Etymology: Formed by compounding (people whose main
characteristic is the bags they carry) after the model of bag
lady (see below). A tramp who carries his personal effects in a
bag has been called a bagman in Australian English since the end
of the nineteenth century.
History and Usage: The earliest references to bag people come
from New York City in the seventies, and are in the form bag
lady (sometimes written baglady) or shopping-bag lady; at that
time it was mostly elderly homeless women who piled their
belongings into plastic carrier bags and lived on the streets.
By the mid eighties both the phenomenon and the term had spread
to other US cities and to the UK, and sensitivity to sexist
language had produced bag person along with its plural form bag
They even had a couple of black-clad bagladies sitting
silently on straight chairs by the door.
Martin Amis Money (1984), p. 105
Peterson saw The Avenue's funky charm and its cast of
misfits as inspirations for his painting. 'I like the
bag people and the alcoholics and the street people.'
Los Angeles Times (Ventura County edition) 12 May 1988,
section 9, p. 2
noun (Business World) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A piece of promotional literature handed out to shoppers in the
streets or put into shopping bags at the checkout.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: these leaflets are usually
treated as so much waste paper with which to stuff one's bag.
History and Usage: The bagstuffer (originally called a
shopping-bag stuffer) was invented in the seventies in the US as
a variation on the flyer. It became a widespread advertising
ploy in the eighties, despite environmentalists' concern about
wasteful use of paper and the destruction of rainforests.
As the vote approaches, soda bottlers have begun airing
television commercials against it. Supermarkets have
opposed it through 'bagstuffer' leaflets in their
New York Times 23 Apr. 1982, section B, p. 1
You have to market your pharmacy to supermarket
customers through coupons and bagstuffers; to the
community through ads in flyers, and by offering free
Supermarket News 15 May 1989, p. 43
bailout noun Sometimes written bail-out (Business World)
Financial assistance given to a failing business or economy by a
government, bank, etc. so as to save it from collapse.
Etymology: The noun bailout is derived from the verbal phrase
bail out, which has a number of distinct meanings. In this case,
it is questionable whether it is a figurative use of the
nautical sense 'to throw water out of (a boat) so as to prevent
it from sinking' or the legal sense 'to get (a person) released
from custody by providing the money needed as security (bail)'.
History and Usage: The financial sense of bailout comes
originally from the US, where the practice was first written
about in the seventies. Bailouts occurred with increasing
frequency in other parts of the English-speaking world as the
eighties progressed and the economic climate became more
difficult even for large businesses; in the UK, though, the
Conservative government of the eighties opposed government
bailouts. The word bailout is often used attributively, with
another noun following, especially in bailout loan and bailout
Governments have to avoid protectionism, bailouts that
cannot work and subsidies just to keep industries alive.
Toronto Star 28 May 1986, section A, p. 16
The executive branch is collaborating with Congress in
putting part of the savings and loan bailout
'off-budget', thereby raising...the real cost of it.
Washington Post 1 Oct. 1989, section D, p. 7
Baker day noun (People and Society)
Colloquially in the UK, any one of several days in the normal
school year statutorily set aside for in-service training of
teachers and mainly intended as a preparation for teaching the
Etymology: Named after Kenneth Baker, who was the Education
Secretary responsible for introducing them.
History and Usage: Compulsory in-service training for teachers
was introduced in 1987 as part of a drive towards greater
accountability in the teaching profession (see INSET); the five
days set aside during the school year 1987-8 to prepare for the
national curriculum had already been nicknamed Baker days by
children and teachers alike by early 1988. Baker days were
popular with children (for whom they meant an extra day off
school), but did not meet with universal approval from teachers
A Leeds delegate told the conference...the Baker Days
were 'universally hated and resented' within staffrooms.
Daily Telegraph 18 Apr. 1990, p. 2
balance noun (Health and Fitness)
In the language of alternative or complementary medicine: a
harmonious relationship of body, mind, and spirit, which it is
claimed can only be achieved by treating the whole person.
Etymology: Balance has been used in the general figurative
sense of 'equilibrium' for several centuries (its original and
literal sense is 'scale(s)'); the recent movement towards
therapies that take a holistic approach has meant that it is now
commonly applied in this context, often without further
explanation (not balance of anything, but simply balance).
History and Usage: The rise of alternative therapies in general
from 'fringe' to respectable complementary status during the
eighties brought this use of balance to public notice; in
particular, techniques such as biofeedback which aim to put the
patient more in touch with the natural rhythms of life and
increase self-awareness, as well as the growing New Age culture,
have stressed this concept of balance as a central precept for
health. This view has been further reinforced by the green
movement, with its emphasis on maintaining ecological balance so
as not to upset the natural rhythms there: human life and health
are seen as inextricably linked with the balance of nature as a
whole. Marketers and copywriters had noticed this development by
the middle of the eighties, and had begun using the word balance
liberally in descriptions of a wide variety of products,
including food and drink, beauty preparations, etc.
This 'holistic' perspective on the essence of healing
presents us with a practical challenge: How can we best
utilize the knowledge and services encompassed by
Western medicine while maintaining a 'healthstyle'
attuned to principles of order, balance, and
Michael Blate Natural Healer's Acupressure Handbook
(1978), p. viii
The body is used as a source of ideas about 'wholeness',
'balance' and 'harmony', involving both the body and the
mind...Nature is deduced from the hypothesis of the
instinct of the body for health. But health is only
found by discovering an inner balance and harmony.
Rosalind Coward The Whole Truth (1989; paperback ed.
1990), p. 32
(Health and Fitness) see angioplasty
band verb (Business World) (People and Society)
To arrange (pay scales, taxes, interest rates, etc.) in
graduated bands. Also as an adjective banded; noun banding.
Etymology: A figurative application of the sense of the verb
'to mark with bands or stripes'; the noun has long had a
corresponding figurative sense 'a range of values'.
History and Usage: Although practised in areas such as income
tax for a long time, the principle of banding became topical
during the discussion of the community charge (' poll tax') in
the UK in 1990, when pressure was put on the government to
introduce a banded rate based on people's ability to pay; the
new council tax proposed in 1991 included this feature. It was
also applied to a practice among some local authorities in the
UK of grouping children by ability, so as to ensure that all
schools got at least some of the brighter children.
This limited banding, which would need legislation,
would be intended to respond to complaints about the
unfairness of the lump-sum tax.
Economist 31 Mar. 1990, p. 27
With Downing Street denying reports that Mrs Thatcher
had herself now accepted that the poll tax was unfair,
the Prime Minister has already rejected any plan for
'banding' the tax.
Financial Times 28 Apr. 1990, section 1, p. 22
Band Aid (Music) (People and Society) see -Aid
bandog noun (People and Society)
A fighting-dog specially bred for its strength and ferocity by
crossing aggressive breeds such as the American pit
bull-terrier, rottweiler, and various breeds of mastiff.
Etymology: The word bandog has existed in the English language
since the fifteenth century: originally, it was any dog that
had to be tied up to guard a house or because of its ferocity
(band in its historical sense 'fastening' combined with dog).
Its use was soon generalized to cover any ferocious dog (such as
a mastiff or bloodhound); the practice of breeding these
cross-breeds for secret dog-fights has led to its being revived
and specialized in meaning.
History and Usage: The news that ferocious cross-breeds were
being produced and used in the UK both for illegal dog-fighting
and as a way of keeping police at bay while other crimes were
committed was reported by the RSPCA in early 1990. This followed
public concern about a number of attacks on children by
rottweilers and other ferocious dogs which had become
increasingly popular as pets. Legislation in May 1991 ensured
that the most dangerous bandogs became banned dogs.
The Kennel Club said yesterday it would discipline any
member who rears bandogs--American pit bull terriers
crossed with rottweilers, mastiffs or Rhodesian
Daily Telegraph 8 Mar. 1990, p. 3
bang (Business World) see big bang
bankable adjective (Business World) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
Certain to bring in a profit; good for the box office (said of a
production which is sure to succeed or of a star whose name
alone will ensure the success of the venture).
Etymology: Formed by adding the adjectival suffix -able to
bank. The adjective bankable already existed in the sense
'receivable at a bank'; this show-business use rests on a pun,
in that the producer can bank on a profit which in turn can be
History and Usage: Bankable has been used in this sense in
Hollywood jargon since the fifties. During the seventies it
increasingly featured in popular magazine articles about
film-making and became popularized still further in the eighties
by wider reporting of the processes which precede the actual
making of a film. As the Hollywood-style hype was applied to
other areas of the arts (writing, music, etc.), it became
commonplace to read about bankable names in these fields as
Sales of the chosen book may rocket. I say 'may'
deliberately because I am not so sure how bankable all
the shortlist are.
Bookseller 20 Oct. 1984, p. 1705
Becoming highly bankable, Allen discovered, meant
becoming instantly popular with incipient entrepreneurs.
New Yorker 29 Apr. 1985, p. 61
Barbour noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
Short for Barbour jacket, the trade mark of a well-known brand
of waxed jacket.
This autumn [the shop] is developing a rather Sloane
country image due to the run on its Barbours and Cricket
Financial Times 10 Sept. 1983, section 1, p. 13
The Seventies brought introspection, and the fashion of
'me' emerged in the Thatcher Eighties. In 1989, clad in
designer clothes and Barbour jacket, the student
programmed a Filofax to ensure that no problems would
frustrate the quest for that coveted job in the City.
The Times 20 Jan. 1990, p. 36
bar-code noun and verb Also written barcode or bar code (Business World)
(Science and Technology)
noun: A machine-readable code consisting of a series of lines
(bars) and spaces of varying width, used for stock control on
goods for sale, library books, etc.
transitive verb: To label (goods, etc.) with a bar-code.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a code based on the width of
History and Usage: The bar-code was invented as long ago as the
early sixties and was quite widely used by public libraries for
their book-issuing systems by the mid seventies. The code has to
be 'read', and in the early days this was usually done using a
light pen. With the introduction of computerized tills and EPOS
during the eighties, bar-codes became seemingly ubiquitous on
goods of all kinds, and a variety of types of bar-code reader
could be seen (and heard bleeping) at the tills. By the early
nineties the bar-code had been put to more inventive uses still:
television-programme magazines published them on their pages so
that videos could be programmed direct from the code, and
scientists used them to label the subjects of their experiments
(in one case, bar-codes were stuck to the hairs on the backs of
hundreds of bees). The adjective used to describe goods which
carry a bar-code is bar-coded; the practice of providing goods
with them is bar-coding.
Bar-code reader...comes with a sheet of bar codes...You
set the timer by running the reader over the appropriate
bar codes for day, time and channel required.
Which? Sept. 1989, p. 450
The electronic supermarket check-out, which bleeped and
flashed up the cost of items taken from the bar codes on
the packets, also warranted some attention.
Good Food Jan./Feb. 1990, p. 26
In short, putting it bluntly, actually. (Usually in speech and
often used at the beginning of a sentence or clause.)
Etymology: A weakened sense of the adverb, which originally
meant 'essentially, fundamentally, at root'. The weakening
arises as much from the way in which the word is used (a
'sentence' adverb) as from the context; the result is a word
which in most cases is redundant, adding nothing to the sense
and simply giving the speaker time to think. Purists object to
it in much the same way as they do to hopefully used at the
beginning of a clause.
History and Usage: Although it had been in use in speech for
some decades, it only became really fashionable to use basically
in this almost meaningless way during the late seventies, when
it took over from actually as a favourite 'filler'. The fashion
may have been reinforced by the increased influence of the
recorded television interview: the interviewee, anxious to reply
succinctly enough to be sure of having the whole answer
broadcast but also wanting to make it clear that this was not
all that could be said on the subject, would prefix the reply
with basically. Whether or not it once had a legitimate purpose,
basically used in this way fast became a clich‚ and passed from
spoken English into the written language as well.
I'm not political, you know, basically I don't know the
first thing about politics or economics or all that
LSE-type crap, despite what you think.
Stephen Gray Time of Our Darkness (1988), p. 142
'Basically I got served off the court,' she admitted.
'She served unbelievably well. I couldn't get the ball
back in that last set.'
Guardian 10 July 1989, p. 15
In a few cases, Western women who were told to report
with their husbands to pick up their exit visas had to
watch the men taken away by security officials,
presumably adding to Saddam's human shield. 'They
basically traded the husband for the visa,' said a
Washington Post 2 Sept. 1990, section A, p. 1
basuco Also written basuko, bazuco, or bazuko noun (Drugs)
A cheap, impure form of cocaine, made by mixing coca paste with
a variety of other substances, which is extremely addictive when
smoked for its stimulant effects.
Etymology: A Colombian Spanish word; perhaps connected with
Spanish basura 'sweepings, waste' (since the drug is made from
the waste products of refined cocaine) or with bazucar 'to shake
violently'. Another suggestion is that there have actually been
two stages of borrowing here: first the English weapon-name
bazooka was borrowed into Spanish, then it was applied
figuratively to the drug (with its explosive effect), and
finally the word was re-borrowed into English in a slightly
History and Usage: Basuco is the South American equivalent of
crack, and has been smoked in Latin American countries for some
time. The drug first appeared in the English-speaking world in
the mid eighties and at first was also known as little devil or
Suzuki, but basuco now seems to be its established name.
There's a big internal market; a lot of coke and basuko
used by the street boys.
Charles Nicholl The Fruit Palace (1985), p. 67
Police and drug enforcement agencies [in Florida]
believed basuco had the potential to create a bigger
problem than crack...The cost of using basuco was as
little as $1 a dose.
Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 15 Dec. 1986, p. 6
While it takes two years of regular cocaine use to
become addicted, it takes only a few weeks to become
hooked on bazuko, a mind-blowing mix of coca base,
marijuana and tobacco containing such impurities as
petrol, ether and even sawdust.
The Times 14 Sept. 1987, p. 10
battlebus noun (Politics)
A bus used as a mobile centre of operations by a politician
during an election campaign.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a bus in which one goes into
battle, figuratively speaking.
History and Usage: The battlebus was a feature of the British
general election campaign fought by the Liberal-SDP Alliance in
1983; the buses even bore the name battlebus on their sides. By
the time of the next general election in 1987, the battlebus had
become an established feature of election campaigning and was
used by other parties as well.
She said the message to Mrs Thatcher from the
by-election was loud and clear: 'It's time to go.' Then,
taking her own advice, she zoomed off in the Sylvia Heal
Battlebus for a lightning victory lap around the
Financial Times 24 Mar. 1990, p. 1
(Drugs) see basuco
2.2 beat box...
beat box noun Also written beat-box or beatbox (Music) (Youth Culture)
In colloquial use among musicians, a drum machine (an electronic
device for producing a variety of drum-beats and percussion
sounds as backing for music or rapping: see rap); hence a style
of music with a throbbing electronic drum-beat which often also
accompanies interludes of rapping. Also, another name for a
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a box which produces the
History and Usage: The beat box, which is essentially a
percussion synthesizer, became a popular alternative to the
conventional drum kit during the early eighties, when
synthesized sounds in general opened up new possibilities for
many bands. It was really the increased popularity of rap and
its spread outside the Black music scene that led to the
development of a distinct style of music called beat box by the
mid eighties. A beat box is an expensive piece of equipment, so
it is perhaps not surprising that some youngsters tried to
imitate the sound without actually using a beat box; this led to
the development of a new action noun beatboxing, the activity of
making percussion noises like those of a beat box using only
one's mouth and body.
How do you compare an album like that to...the sparse
beat-box music and intensely engaging call-and-response
served up by today's leading rap group, Run-D.M.C.?
New York Times 9 Jan. 1985, section C, p. 14
Booming out of beat boxes on the street and bounced to
in aerobics classes, the 'Big' beat sounds like the next
equal-play anthem for American women.
Washington Post 19 Mar. 1985, section C, p. 1
They usurp rap and beatbox, scratching their own
frequently wild guitar marks on top.
Q Mar. 1989, p. 72
noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
Beaujolais wine that is sold while still in the first year of a
Etymology: French for 'new Beaujolais'.
History and Usage: Beaujolais Nouveau was made commercially
available in the early seventies, and, although it had been
allowed no time to mature and in consequence struck some
wine-lovers as very acidic, it proved an instant success. Its
popularity led to the development of a new sport in the hotel
and catering world: the race to be the first to have the new
year's vintage in stock. Some wine bars and restaurants even
went to the lengths of having stocks flown in by helicopter so
as to pip others at the post. As the eighties progressed,
signboards saying 'The Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived' became a
common sight on pavements outside these places in mid November.
Beaujolais Primeur (literally 'early-season Beaujolais') is the
correct term for Beaujolais sold during the first few months of
the vintage (from mid November until the end of January), and is
sometimes used interchangeably with Beaujolais Nouveau, but
Beaujolais Nouveau is much better known in English.
A wine shipper telephoned that he'd reserved me fifty
cases of Beaujolais Nouveau for November 15th...I never
waited for the Nouveau to be delivered but fetched it
Dick Francis Proof (1984), p. 76
becu (Business World) see ecu
In the British colloquial phrase give (someone) a bell: to ring
(someone) up, to contact by telephone.
Etymology: A variation on the theme of give (someone) a ring
and give (someone) a tinkle, phrases which go back to the
History and Usage: Although probably in use in spoken British
English for some time, this phrase did not start to appear in
print until the early eighties. When it did start to spread it
was perhaps under the influence of such television series as
Only Fools and Horses and Minder (both of which popularized the
working-class speech of London's East End). Certainly at about
that time it became a popular phrase in the youth press as a
less formal way of saying 'ring up'. It is curious that it
should have caught on in this way at a time when fewer and fewer
telephones actually had bells; during the eighties telephone
bells were largely replaced by electronic tones, warbles,
DJ Sammon gave me a bell and wrote me a letter (thorough
chap) about his shows.
Rave! 6 Mar. 1990, p. 18
bells and whistles
noun phrase (Science and Technology)
In colloquial use in computing, additional facilities in a
system, program, etc. which help to make it commercially
attractive but are often not really essential; gimmicks.
Etymology: An allusion to the old fairground organs, with their
multiplicity of bells and whistles; the bells of a computer are
actually a range of electronic bleeps.
There are more than 600 microsystems on the market so it
is hardly surprising that the manufacturers have taken
to hanging a few bells and whistles on to their machines
to get them noticed.
Sunday Times 26 Aug. 1984, p. 49
(Lifestyle and Leisure) see bum-bag and fanny pack
best before date
noun phrase (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A date marked on a food package (usually preceded by the words
'best before') to show the latest time by which the contents can
be used without risk of deterioration.
Etymology: Formed by combining the statutory words best before
with date: the date before which the food is in best condition.
History and Usage: The use of best before dates was codified in
the UK in 1980, when new food labelling regulations stipulated
that perishable foods should carry some indication of their
durability including the words best before and a date; very
perishable foods must carry a sell-by date or some other
indication of the shelf-life of the product within the store.
After outbreaks of salmonella poisoning and listeriosis at the
end of the eighties, it was felt that for high-risk perishables
best before was a rather ambiguous label, suggesting that the
goods would be best consumed before the date given but could
safely be eaten for some time afterwards (whereas in some cases
this would actually have been quite dangerous). This led to the
wider use of an unambiguous use-by date on foods most likely to
cause illness if stored too long. The best before date has now
become so commonplace that it has acquired a figurative use
among City personnel: one's best before date is the age beyond
which one will be considered past one's best by prospective
Date marking is now required on most pre-packed foods
(with a few exceptions, such as frozen foods, wine and
vinegar) unless they have a shelf-life of at least 18
months...This is expressed as either a best before date
(day, month, year) [etc.]
Maurice Hanssen The New E for Additives (1987), p. 17
Their colleagues in Eurobond dealing and corporate
finance have 'sell by' and 'best before' dates (in most
jobs, at age 35) as career markers.
Observer 29 Mar. 1987, p. 51
Betamax noun (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Science and Technology)
The trade mark of one of the two standard formats for video and
videotapes; also abbreviated to Beta.
Etymology: The name is not (as popularly supposed) derived from
the Greek letter name beta, but from the Japanese word beta-beta
'all over' and English max (short for maximum: see max);
however, the inventors were making conscious and deliberate use
of the pun with Greek beta to create an English-sounding product
History and Usage: The first home-video systems were developed
by Sony in the sixties; the immediate predecessor of the Betamax
was the U-Matic, developed in the late sixties. In order to
create a smaller machine using smaller tapes, a new method of
recording was invented for the Betamax, known as beta or 'all
over' recording because it did away with the tape structure of
guard bands and empty spaces which had previously been employed,
and instead used the whole area of the tape. The Sony Betamax
video system was first available in the mid seventies, but at
first it was not possible to buy pre-recorded cassettes in this
format. However, the policy soon changed and by the mid
eighties video rental had become an important market in which
two formats competed: Betamax and VHS. VHS eventually became
the standard format for home video, although Betacam, a
derivative of Betamax, is used for television news-gathering
If you plan to watch a lot of pre-recorded films...there
may be difficulties getting a wide choice on Beta; VHS
versions are much more common.
What Video Dec. 1986, p. 95
When Betamax was introduced, our first task was to help
people understand why video systems were important in
the home...We beat our brains, and finally came up with
the phrase 'Time Shift'. We were explaining the
concept...all over the world with such catch phrases as;
'For the first time, the world of TV is in your hands
with Betamax', or 'Look at your TV just like a
Sony Corporation Betamax 15th Anniversary (1990), p. 8
beta test noun and verb (Science and Technology)
noun: A test of an experimental product (such as computer
software), carried out by an outside organization after alpha
testing by the developer (see alpha test) is complete.
transitive verb: To submit (a product) to a beta test.
Etymology: Formed by compounding. Beta, the second letter of
the Greek alphabet, has long been used to denote the second in a
series; the beta test is the second test, carried out only after
successful alpha testing.
History and Usage: For history see alpha test. A person whose
job is to test software in this way for a separate developer is
a beta-tester; the process is known as beta testing and the
product at this stage of development is the beta-test version.
Problem solving together with alpha and beta testing of
new products require a minimum of 2 years experience.
The Times 21 Mar. 1985, p. 39
bhangra noun and adjective Also written Bhangra (Music) (Youth Culture)
noun: A style of popular music mainly intended for dancing to,
which fuses elements of Punjabi folk music with features of
Western rock and disco music.
adjective: Belonging to this style of music or the subculture
Etymology: A direct borrowing from Punjabi bhangra, a
traditional Punjabi folk dance associated with harvest.
History and Usage: Bhangra music originated in the Asian
community in the UK in the early eighties, when pop musicians
with a Punjabi ethnic background started to experiment with
Westernized versions of their parents' musical traditions. At
first it was only performed for Asian audiences, but by the end
of the eighties had attracted a more general following. It is
sometimes called bhangra beat.
This was not the middle of a feverish Saturday night,
but a Wednesday mid-afternoon excursion for devotees of
the Bhangra beat, the rhythm of the Punjabi pop...An up
and coming group...turned in a performance which set the
seemingly incompatible rhythmic stridency of funk and
Bhangra dance to a compulsive harmony.
Independent 30 June 1987, p. 12
This is a bhangra 'all-dayer', part of a booming
sub-culture that has sprung up around an English-born
hybrid of Punjabi folk and Western rock music.
Sunday Telegraph Magazine 22 May 1988, p. 36
2.4 bicycle moto-cross...
(Lifestyle and Leisure) (Youth Culture) see BMX
big bang noun Frequently written Big Bang (Business World)
In financial jargon, the deregulation of the Stock Exchange in
London on 27 October 1986. Hence, any far-reaching reform.
Etymology: Big bang literally means 'a great explosion' and
has been used since the forties to refer especially to the
theory that the universe was formed as a result of a single huge
explosion. Since the deregulation was to involve several
significant changes in trading practices which would all be
introduced at once, the whole process was likened to this
explosive supposed moment of creation.
History and Usage: The deregulation of the Stock Exchange
resulted from a restrictive practices suit brought by the Office
of Fair Trading against the Stock Exchange in 1978; this case
was dropped after the Stock Exchange agreed, in 1983, to do away
with minimum commissions. However, the abolition of these made
it difficult for the Stock Exchange to maintain the distinction
between stockbrokers and stock-jobbers, and it became clear that
further changes would be needed. The term big bang was in use
from about that time, as financiers discussed the respective
merits of a phased introduction of the changes and a big bang
approach. The main areas of change were the creation of a single
category of broker-dealer to replace stockbrokers and
stock-jobbers, the admission of institutions as members, and the
introduction of a new electronic dealing system known as SEAQ
(Stock Exchange Automatic Quotation System). Big bang is
sometimes used without a preceding article ('after Big Bang',
etc.); it is also sometimes abbreviated to bang, especially in
post-bang, an adjective meaning 'belonging to the period after
big bang'. Since the London big bang, the term has also been
used in a transferred sense, for example in discussions of EMU°,
with reference to economic reforms in Eastern Europe, and even
to describe the new financial basis of the Health Service in the
In the wake of the City's Big Bang, American and
Japanese banks are chasing each other to occupy the few
City Limits 19 Feb. 1987, p. 10
Less than three months after Big Bang, the start of the
Solidarity-led government's package of strict austerity
and radical market reforms, Poland is in ruins.
Economist 24 Mar. 1990, p. 65
The scale of the 'big bang' reflects the Government's
determination to push through far-reaching health
Sunday Express 16 Sept. 1990, p. 5
See also market maker
In the British slang phrase on your bike (frequently written on
yer bike): go away, push off, get away with you. Also, get on
with it, 'pull your finger out'.
Etymology: Originally a Cockney expression and typically
graphic: the hearer should 'push off', and, in order to get away
faster, should pedal, too.
History and Usage: Although almost certainly in spoken use
since the early sixties, the phrase on your bike did not start
appearing in print at all frequently until the eighties, when it
suddenly became a fashionable insult. It was probably made the
more popular by a speech which Norman Tebbit (then UK Employment
Secretary) made at the Conservative Party Conference in October
1981, pointing out that his father had not rioted in the 1930s
when unemployed, but had 'got on his bike and looked for work'.
This speech was also the cause of some confusion in the meaning
of the phrase: whereas before it had always been a ruder (but
not obscene) way of telling someone to push off or indicating
that you did not believe a word of what they were saying (the
senses in which it continued to be used by those in the know),
it was now taken up by the press as a favourite clich‚ to be
used in stories about anyone who was unemployed, and acquired
the secondary meaning 'get on with it, make an effort'. In this
secondary sense it is sometimes used as an adjectival phrase
rather than an exclamation, to describe the attitude which
Tebbit's remark betrayed.
The first ever Tory prime minister who truly believes in
pull-yourselves-up-by-your-bootlaces, she wants upwardly
mobile, self-helping, on-yer-bike meritocrats.
Financial Times 12 Sept. 1984, p. 24
On your bike Jake, I said, this joke has gone far
Punch 16 Oct. 1985, p. 44
'Wally son, it's Pim.' 'On your bike. Pim's doing five
Tom Barling The Smoke (1986), p. 115
Billygate (Politics) see -gate
bimbo noun (People and Society)
In media slang, an attractive but unintelligent young woman
(especially one who has an affair with a public figure); a sexy
Etymology: This was originally a direct borrowing from Italian
bimbo 'little child, baby'. The word was in use in English in
other senses before this one developed (see below); in all of
them the original Italian meaning has been lost, but in this
case there may be some connection with the use of baby for a
girlfriend, and possibly some influence from dumbo as well.
History and Usage: Bimbo first came into English in the early
twenties, when it was used on both sides of the Atlantic
(although mainly in the US) as a contemptuous term for a person
of either sex; ironically, P. G. Wodehouse wrote in the forties
about 'bimbos who went about the place making passes at innocent
girls after discarding their wives'. By the end of the twenties
it had developed the more specific sense of a stupid or 'loose'
woman, especially a prostitute. During 1987, bimbo started to
enjoy a new vogue in the media, this time without the
implication of prostitution: journalists claimed that the bimbo
was epitomized by young women who were prepared to 'kiss and
tell', ending their affairs with the rich and famous by selling
their stories to the popular press. In the US bimbos cost
politicians their careers; Britain also had its own 'battle of
the bimbos' in 1988, when the affairs of certain rich men were
exposed and the lifestyle of the bimbo was discussed in court.
The word started to acquire derivatives: a teenage bimbo came
to be known as a bimbette and a male bimbo as a bimboy (but see
also himbo), while having an affair with a bimbo was even
described as bimbology in one paper.
In the strict sense the bimbo exists on the fringes of
pornography, and some cynics might say she has the
mental capacity of a minor kitchen appliance.
Independent 23 July 1988, p. 5
A gathering of playboys just wasn't a party unless there
was at least one...scantily clad bimbette swimming
around in a bathtub of shampoo.
Arena Autumn/Winter 1988, p. 157
Actor Rob Lowe was at the Cannes Film Festival,
expressing frustration with his reputation as the Brat
Pack's leading bimboy.
People 5 June 1989, p. 79
Still, Smith, and Gans are not bimbos and understandably
bristle at accusations that they are chatty-cathies for
their white male superiors.
New York Woman Nov. 1989, p. 60
bio- combining form (Environment) (Health and Fitness) (Science and
Part of the words biology and biological, widely used as the
first element of compounds relating to biology or biotechnology;
frequently used as a shortened form of biological(ly).
Etymology: Formed by abbreviating biology and biological; in
both words this part is ultimately derived from Greek bios
History and Usage: Compounds relating to 'life' have been
formed on bio- in English for over three centuries, and even the
ancient Greeks used it as a combining form. During the second
half of the twentieth century, however, advances in
biotechnology and the increasing interest in green issues caused
a proliferation in popular language of compounds in these areas,
alongside the continuing use of bio- in scientific terminology.
Like eco-, bio- was particularly productive in the late sixties
and early seventies, and many of the compounds which had been
well known then came back into fashion during the eighties,
often undergoing further development. The development of
plastics and other synthetic products which were biodegradable,
that is, those that would decompose spontaneously and hence not
become an environmental hazard, led during the eighties to the
verb biodegrade. Biomass, originally a biologists' term for the
total amount of organic material in a given region, was later
also used of fuel derived from such matter (also called biofuel,
or, in the case of the mixture of methane and other gases
produced by fermenting biological waste, biogas; this was burnt
to produce what became known as bioenergy). By contrast,
biofeedback, the conscious control of one's body by 'willing'
readings on instruments (such as heart-rate monitors) to change,
reappeared in the eighties as one of the techniques used in
autogenic training. Computer scientists continued to speculate
that micro-organisms could be developed that would function like
the simple logic circuits of conventional microelectronics, thus
paving the way for biocomputing with biochips. Biological
warfare, a more disturbing application of biotechnology, became
sufficiently familiar to be abbreviated as biowar. Concern about
the effect of even peaceful technology on the biosphere (the
component of the environment consisting of living things) was
expressed in the philosophy of biocentrism, in which all life,
rather than just humanity, is viewed as important (much as in
Gaia theory). Direct and sometimes violent opposition to such
aspects of biological research as animal experimentation and
genetic engineering was organized by biofundamentalists (see
also animalist° and fundie). As a result of the Green
Revolution, the public was made more aware of the threat posed
by intensive cultivation of particular species to biodiversity,
the richness of variety of the biosphere.
Towards the end of the decade bio- began to be used
indiscriminately wherever it had the slightest relevance, either
frivolously or because of its advertising potential (just as
biological had once been a glamorous epithet for washing
powder). The prefix is sometimes even used as a free-standing
adjective in this sense, meaning little more than 'biologically
acceptable'. Examples include biobeer, biobottom (an
'eco-friendly nappy cover'), bio house, bio home, bioloo,
bioprotein, and bio yoghurt.
The term bio-chip, coined only about four years ago,
already means different things to different people. In
the United States, where the word arose, researchers
generally use it to refer to chips in which the silicon
transistors would be replaced by single protein-like
molecules. Such a molecule could be stable in one of at
least two different forms of...charge distribution,
depending on its external environment. But some
scientists, particularly in Europe, now seem to use
bio-chip more widely to refer to any 'smart' system
small enough to interact with a cell.
The Age (Melbourne) 28 Nov. 1983, p. 5
Even medical insurance companies are now beginning to
recognize the value of a veritable A-to-Z of 'holistic'
therapies..., including acupuncture, biofeedback and
John Elkington & Julia Hailes The Green Consumer Guide
(1988; paperback ed. 1989), p. 260
The bio-diversity campaign is an attempt to bring the
seriousness of the global situation to the attention of
people in all walks of life.
The Times 31 Mar. 1989, p. 5
German architect Joachim Ebler has designed a range of
'bio homes'...The buildings are made with timbers from
sustainable sources and are not treated with chemical
Green Magazine Oct. 1989, p. 14
Therapeutic properties...are ascribed to the presence of
the live lactic acid bacteria, particularly in the
bio-yoghurts, said to promote the friendly bacteria in
the gut which can be affected by the overuse of
Healthy Eating Feb./Mar. 1990, p. 37
The 43-year-old Californian has chosen to have a second
child because her teenage daughter has leukaemia and
will die without a transplant of bone
marrow...Biofundamentalists claim emotively that she
wants to use the baby as 'a spare part'...Bone marrow
will be extracted for implanting into her 17-year-old
Daily Telegraph 9 Apr. 1990, p. 16
noun (Science and Technology)
The branch of technology concerned with the use of living
organisms (usually micro-organisms) in industrial, medical, and
other scientific processes.
Etymology: Formed from the combining form bio- and technology.
History and Usage: Micro-organisms are capable of carrying out
many chemical and physical processes which it is not possible or
economic to duplicate: varieties of cheese and wine, for
example, are given their distinctive flavours and appearances by
the action of bacteria and fungi, and antibiotics such as
penicillin could originally only be produced from cultures of
particular micro-organisms. During the seventies and eighties
the increasing sophistication of genetic engineering, in
particular recombinant DNA technology, made it possible for a
biotechnologist to 'customize' micro-organisms capable of
producing important or useful substances on a large scale.
Insulin, interferon, and various hormones and antibodies have
been produced by this method, as well as foodstuffs such as
mycoprotein. Strains of bacteria which digest oil spills and
toxic wastes have also been developed. The commercial importance
of biotechnology was recognized in 1980 when the US Supreme
Court ruled that such genetically engineered micro-organisms
could be patented: during the eighties a number of firms
appeared which specialized in the manufacture of substances by
these means. Such a business is known as a biotech company or
biotech. The potential of these companies as investments was
recognized in 1982 by the editors of the science journal Nature,
who began publishing performance statistics for the stocks of
some representative US companies operating in the field.
Conventional brewing and wine making are not usually
regarded as biotechnology but many other fermentation
The Times 9 June 1983, p. 22
To an extent, the biotech companies have taken over from
the high-techs as the main vehicle for investors' 'risk'
Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 30 June 1986, p. 28
A biotechnologist in London has found a way to make the
natural stimulant which triggers the 'immune system' of
New Scientist 23 June 1988, p. 48
2.5 black economy...
noun (Business World)
The underground economy of earnings which are not declared for
tax purposes, etc.
Etymology: Formed by applying the black of black market to the
History and Usage: The black economy was first so named at the
end of the seventies, when it was revealed that undeclared
earnings accounted for an increasing proportion of the national
income in several Western countries. The trend continued
throughout the eighties.
Part-time jobs have tended to be filled either by new
entrants to the workforce, or in the 'black economy'--by
people on the dole who do not declare their earnings.
The Times 24 June 1985, p. 17
In the colloquial language of the stock-market, the day of the
world stock-market crash which began in New York on Monday 19
October 1987 and resulted in great falls in the values of stocks
and shares on all the world markets.
Etymology: Any day of the week on which something awful happens
can be given the epithet black; the name Black Monday had, in
fact, already been used over the centuries for a number of
Mondays, notably (since the fourteenth century) for Easter
Monday. Black Tuesday was a term already in use on Wall Street
to refer to Tuesday 29 October 1929, the worst day of the
original Wall Street crash.
History and Usage: Within days of the dramatic drop in share
prices which started in New York and sent panic all over the
world, the financial press was describing the event as Black
Monday. The crash had important economic consequences in several
countries, so Black Monday is likely to remain a meaningful
financial nickname for some time.
The Dow Jones, once up 712 points for the year, drops
508 points on Black Monday. Paper losses total $500
Life Fall 1989, p. 28
Many institutions and individual investors have shied
away from stock-index futures, blaming them for speeding
the stock market crash on Black Monday two years ago.
Wall Street Journal 17 Oct. 1989, section C, p. 29
See also meltdown
black tar noun (Drugs)
In the slang of drug users, an exceptionally pure and potent
form of heroin from Mexico. Also known more fully as black-tar
heroin or abbreviated to tar.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: this form of heroin is dark
(black) in colour and has the consistency of tar; tar had also
been a slang word for opium since the thirties.
History and Usage: Black tar first became known under this
name to drug enforcement officials in Los Angeles in 1983
(though it may in fact be the same thing as black stuff, slang
for brown Mexican heroin since the late sixties); its abuse had
become a serious and widespread problem in various parts of the
US by 1986. It is made and distributed only from opium-poppy
crops in Mexico using a process which makes it at the same time
very pure and relatively cheap. Black tar has a large number of
other slang names, including those listed in the Economist
quotation given below.
DEA officials blame the low price of 'black tar' for
forcing down other heroin prices, causing the nation's
first general increase in overall heroin use in more
than five years.
Capital Spotlight 17 Apr. 1986, p. 22
Black tar, also known as bugger, candy, dogfood,
gumball, Mexican mud, peanut butter and tootsie
roll...started in Los Angeles and has since spread to 27
states...What makes black tar heroin unique is that it
has a single, foreign source--Mexico--and finds its way
into Mexican-American distribution networks, often via
Economist 7 June 1986, p. 37
blanked adjective (Youth Culture)
In young people's slang: ignored, cold-shouldered, out on a
Etymology: This is presumably a figurative use: a person who is
blanked apparently no longer exists--he or she might as well be
a blank space.
History and Usage: This usage seems to have originated as a
verb blank (someone or something) in the world of crime several
decades ago (compare blank out, meaning literally 'to rub out').
As a verb it was apparently used by both criminals and
policemen; in his book The Guvnor (1977), Gordon F. Newman uses
it several times, for example 'He also blanked Scotch Pat's next
suggestion, about calling a couple of girls.' It has only
recently emerged as an adjective among young people.
Are you blanked? Safe? Or lame?
New Statesman 16 Feb. 1990, p. 12
blip noun and verb (Business World)
noun: A temporary movement in statistics (usually in an
unexpected or unwelcome direction); hence any kind of temporary
problem or hold-up; a 'hiccup'.
intransitive verb: (Of figures, as on a graph etc.) to rise
suddenly; (of a business, an economic indicator, etc.) to suffer
a temporary 'hiccup'.
Etymology: A figurative use of an existing sense of blip in
radar: the small bump on a financial graph which represents the
temporary change looks rather like the apparent rise and fall of
the blip as it appears on the even trace on a radar screen.
History and Usage: Blip started to be used figuratively in
this way, particularly in economics and finance, during the
seventies. In the UK it was largely limited to economic or
business jargon until September 1988, when Nigel Lawson, then
Chancellor of the Exchequer, was widely quoted as having
announced that a significant increase in the Retail Price Index
was to be regarded only as a 'temporary blip' and not as a sign
that the government's anti-inflation policies were failing.
After this, the word became fashionable in the British press and
it was common to find it applied more widely, outside the field
of finance, to any temporary problem. As was the case with Mr
Lawson, it is not unusual to find that the person who describes
a sudden change as a blip is not yet in a position to know
whether it will, in the end, prove to be only temporary. This
adds a certain euphemistic tinge to the usage.
Nigel Lawson's dilemma is the Conservative Party's also.
Is the first tremor on its happy political landscape
merely 'a blip', as the Chancellor has called the storm
that has gradually engulfed him?
Listener 2 Mar. 1989, p. 10
Prices moved higher during overnight trading, and
blipped a shade higher still following the release of
the G.N.P. figures.
New York Times 27 Apr. 1989, section D, p. 19
BMX abbreviation (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Youth Culture)
Short for bicycle moto-cross, a sport involving organized
cycle-racing and stunt-riding on a dirt track. Also applied to
the particular style of sturdy, manoeuvrable cycle used for
Etymology: The initial letters of Bicycle and Moto-, with X
representing the word cross.
History and Usage: BMX developed in the US in the late
seventies, when youngsters pressed for special tracks where they
could race each other on their bikes without interfering with
normal road traffic or pedestrians. It quickly became popular in
several countries, and, by the mid eighties, ownership of a
distinctive BMX bike had become a status symbol among young
people, whether or not they actually intended to take part in
the sport. The main characteristics of the cycles are their
manoeuvrability (making possible some very daring stunts in
freestyle BMX), small colourful wheels, and brightly-coloured
protective pads fixed on the tubular frame. A wide variety of
other BMX merchandise (such as racing suits, helmets, and
gloves) became available during the eighties as manufacturers
cashed in on the popularity--and the dangers--of the sport. By
the end of the eighties, organized BMX on tracks had waned,
although the bikes and stunts remained popular.
Danny and the Mongoose Team promote the 'fastest growing
youth sport in the country'--BMX bike racing--with a
single called 'BMX Boys'.
Sounds 3 Dec. 1983, p. 6
Up on the far top corner of camp lies the BMX track. A
very fast downhill track with four turns and
jumps...adds up to a fun and competitive track.
BMX Plus! Sept. 1990, p. 36
noun Also written board sailing or board-sailing (Lifestyle and
Another (more official) name for windsurfing.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: sailing on a board.
History and Usage: The name boardsailing was first used in the
US at the very beginning of the eighties for a water sport which
had developed out of surfing, involving a board (a sailboard)
similar to a surfboard but using wind in a small sail rather
than waves for its power. The sport developed during the
seventies and at first was also known as sailboarding.
Particularly since it became an Olympic demonstration sport in
1983, it has been known officially as boardsailing, although
most people probably know it colloquially as windsurfing. A
person who practises this sport is known as a boardsailor or
boardsailer (officially, that is: sailboarder and windsurfer
A more contentious point is whether HRH and his fellow
enthusiasts are wind surfers, sailboarders, boardsailers
or simply bored sailors.
Daily Mail 9 Apr. 1981, p. 39
After scoring seven firsts in as many pre-Olympic
boardsailing regattas this year,...Penny Way is fast
becoming Britain's hottest Olympic hopeful.
The Times 8 June 1990, p. 42
(Lifestyle and Leisure) see mousse°
noun Also written body popping or bodypopping (Lifestyle and
Leisure) (Youth Culture)
A style of urban street dancing featuring jerky robotic
movements, made to music with a disco beat; abbreviated in
street slang to popping.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: the popping part is probably
a reference to the jerkiness of the dance's movements in
response to the popping beat of the music, which is reminiscent
of the electronic bleeps of a computer monitor. There may also
be some influence from West Indian English poppy-show 'an
ostentatious display' (itself ultimately related to puppet
show). Certainly the idea is to perform mechanical movements
like those of a robot or doll, punctuated by a machine-gun
History and Usage: Body-popping developed on the streets of
Los Angeles in the late seventies and became popular in other US
cities, especially among teenagers in the Bronx area of New
York, by the early eighties. Along with break-dancing, with
which it gradually merged to become one of the styles of street
dancing contributing to hip hop culture, body-popping proved to
be one of the most important dance crazes of the decade. By the
middle of the eighties it had spread throughout the
English-speaking world, and crews of dancers (both Black and
White) had been formed in the UK and elsewhere. The verb (body-)
pop and agent noun (body-) popper date from about the same time
The Pop is very characteristic of the Electric Boogie.
Because of the popping nature of Breakdance music, your
Boogie will be fresh if you can Pop with all your moves.
It is as if the music were Popping you.
Mr Fresh with the Supreme Rockers Breakdancing (1984),
Kids on the rough, tough streets of the Bronx used to
beat each other up until they began to have battles in
'break dancing' and 'body popping'.
The Times 2 Feb. 1985, p. 9
'What's the difference between breaking and popping?'
'When they popping, they be waving, you know, doing
their hands and stuff like that. When they breaks, they
spins on the floor, be going around.'
American Speech Spring 1989, p. 32
noun (Health and Fitness) (Science and Technology)
A scanning X-ray machine which uses computer technology to
produce cross-sectional pictures (tomographs) of the body's
internal state from a series of X-ray pictures.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a scanner which produces
pictures of the whole body.
History and Usage: The body-scanner (at first called a
whole-body scanner or total body scanner) was developed by EMI
in 1975, using the same technology as had been used to produce
the brain scanner a few years earlier. It was immediately
welcomed as a powerful diagnostic tool, especially since it was
capable of showing up tumours in all parts of the body while
they were still at an early stage of development. During the
eighties the body-scanner became commonplace in the US, but its
high price made it a rarer acquisition in the National Health
Service in the UK. As the technology of ultrasound and magnetic
resonance imaging (see MRI) have developed, the term
body-scanner has been extended in colloquial use to cover all
kinds of machines which scan the body and compute
cross-sectional pictures of its inside.
The studies could also give a better understanding of
crystals, which are widely used in electronics, and of
magnetism, which is exploited in many body scanners.
Sunday Times 6 May 1990, section D, p. 15
(Business World) see headhunt
bodysuit noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A close-fitting stretch all-in-one garment for women, used
mainly for exercising and sports.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a suit (something like a
swimsuit in fabric structure) to cover the whole body.
History and Usage: The bodysuit first appeared as a fashion
garment in the late sixties (when it was usually an all-in-one
body garment fastened with snap fasteners at the crotch); in the
late seventies and eighties it enjoyed a new lease of life as a
skin-tight all-in-one sports garment, benefiting from the craze
for exercise regimes and the fashion for sportswear outside the
gymnasium and sports stadium.
Before he changes into his tight red Spandex bodysuit
with the plunging neckline, there is the quick hint of a
tattoo lurking beneath the rolled-up sleeve on his right
Washington Post 13 May 1982, section C, p. 17
Four schoolgirls stunned spectators and officials by
wearing 'Flo Jo' bodysuits at Victoria's most
prestigious schools' athletics meeting at the weekend.
Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 31 Oct. 1989, p. 3
The eye-boggling bodysuit...is a style trend that has
been taken up by designers.
New York Times 5 Aug. 1990, section 6, p. 38
boff (People and Society) see bonk
In colloquial use: staggering, stunning, overwhelming.
Etymology: Formed by dropping the word mind from mind-boggling,
itself a fashionable expression since the mid sixties.
History and Usage: Boggling started to be used following nouns
other than mind, and also on its own, in the mid seventies. By
the end of the eighties, mind-boggling seemed quite dated, while
boggling was commonly used, especially to describe a very large
statistic or sum of money--in fact anything that would make you
boggle-eyed with amazement or surprise. Although essentially a
colloquial usage, boggling is found in print, especially in
Per-mile costs fell fractionally as a result of the
additional travel, whose total was a boggling 1.526
New York Times 18 Aug. 1985, section 5, p. 9
Serious damage can mean even more boggling bills, but at
least your insurance should cover it.
Which? Mar. 1990, p. 144
In the colloquial usage of police press releases: a place where
terrorist bombs are made illegally or materials for their
manufacture are secretly stored.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: an unofficial factory for
History and Usage: The term bomb factory seems to have been
invented by the police, who have used it in press releases
announcing the detection of terrorist bomb manufacture since the
mid seventies. The term was taken up enthusiastically by the
press--especially the tabloids, for whom it satisfied all the
requirements of headline material (short words, the use of nouns
in apposition, and emotiveness).
He had no idea the four people in the room were turning
it into a bomb factory.
The Times 21 June 1986, p. 3
A senior police officer described the hoard--one of the
biggest ever found--as 'practically the entire contents
of a bomb factory'.
Daily Mirror 12 Nov. 1990, p. 2
bonk verb and noun (People and Society)
transitive or intransitive verb: In young people's slang, to
have sex with (someone); to copulate.
noun: An act of sex.
Etymology: Bonk originally meant 'to hit resoundingly' and the
corresponding noun was an onomatopoeic word for the abrupt thud
that is heard when something hard hits a solid object (such as
the head); it was used fairly typically in the school-playground
joke 'What goes ninety-nine bonk?'--'A centipede with a wooden
leg', which has been told for at least half a century. The
transition from 'to hit resoundingly' to the present use was
made by way of an intransitive sense 'to make a bonking noise,
to thud'. The slang use has parallels in the bang of gang-bang
and in the American slang equivalent boff (noun and verb). A
less likely theory is that it is backslang for knob, also a
vulgar slang way of saying 'have sex'.
History and Usage: This sense of bonk, which is really a
humorous euphemism, has apparently been in spoken use among
young people (especially, it seems, at a number of public
schools) since the fifties and first appeared in print in the
seventies. Although middle-class slang, it is coarse enough not
to have been used in print at all frequently until the middle of
the eighties. Then it was brought into vogue by journalists
unable to resist the pun with bonk as the onomatopoeic word for
the sound a tennis ball makes in contact with the racquet: in
the 1987 season, the defending Wimbledon champion Boris Becker
was giving disappointing performances, something which the
tabloids put down to too much bonking. This episode was followed
by much journalistic speculation about the origin of the word
(including a street interview on the consumer programme That's
Life) and considerably increased use of it in print, often with
heavy innuendo. As is often the case with words taken up by the
media in this way, interest in it died down within a short time,
but by then it had acquired a respectability that allowed it to
be used even in the quality newspapers. The corresponding action
noun is bonking; agent noun bonker.
The Fleet Street rags had their angle after the Doohan
victory: BONKED OUT; TOO MUCH SEX BEATS BIG BORIS.
Sports Illustrated 6 July 1987, p. 21
Flaubert bonked his way round the Levant, his sense of
sexual adventure unquenched by the prospect, soon
realised, of catching unpleasant diseases.
Independent 28 May 1988, p. 17
Police took away...a 'little black' book containing the
names of thousands of women with whom the legendary
Belgian bonker is said to have had steamy love romps.
Private Eye 15 Sept. 1989, p. 23
boom box noun (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Music)
In US slang, the same thing as a ghetto blaster.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a box which booms.
History and Usage: For history, see ghetto blaster.
How about a law against playing 'boom boxes' in public
Washington Post 26 June 1985, section C, p. 10
boomer noun (People and Society)
In US slang, short for baby boomer: a person born as a result of
the baby boom, a sharp increase in the birth rate which occurred
in the US at the end of the Second World War and lasted until
the mid sixties.
Etymology: Formed by dropping the word baby from baby boomer.
Before this, boomer had meant 'a person who pushes or boosts an
enterprise' in US English.
History and Usage: The term baby boom has been in use in US
English since the forties, but it was only when the children
born as a result of the postwar boom reached maturity in the
seventies and eighties that baby boomers started to be referred
to frequently in the American press. This generation was by
then so numerically significant in US society that advertisers,
businesses, and politicians considered them an essential group
to cater for. So frequent did the name baby boomer become that
by the end of the eighties it could be abbreviated to boomer
without fear of misunderstanding, and boomer itself became the
basis for compounds such as boomer-age and post-boomer.
The post-boomers have also had to deal with the more
recent sellout of the baby boom generation.
Globe & Mail (Toronto) 27 May 1989, section D, p. 5
The script is ambitiously constructed, tracing the
relationships of several boomer-age parents with their
kids, their siblings, and their own parents.
New Yorker 18 Sept. 1989, p. 28
The boomer group is so huge that it tends to define
every era it passes through, forcing society to
accommodate its moods and dimensions.
Time 16 July 1990, p. 57
See also buster
boot verb (Science and Technology)
transitive: To start up (a computer) by loading its operating
system into the working memory; to cause (the system or a
program) to be loaded in this way. intransitive: (Of a
computer) to be started up by the loading of the operating
system; (of a program) to be loaded.
Etymology: An abbreviated form of bootstrap 'to initiate a
fixed sequence of instructions which initiates the loading of
further instructions and, ultimately, of the whole system'; this
in turn is named after the process of pulling oneself up by
one's bootstraps, a phrase which is widely supposed to be based
on one of the eighteenth-century Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
Despite the traditional practice of getting sluggish machines to
work by giving them a surreptitious kick, there is no connection
whatever between this verb and boot meaning 'to kick'.
History and Usage: Bootstraps have been used in computing
since the fifties, but it was not until personal computers
became widespread in the seventies and eighties that the noun
bootstrap and the corresponding verb were abbreviated to boot.
The verb is often used with up; the action noun for this process
is booting (up).
If a computer does not have a hard drive and must be
booted from a floppy, one should boot from a
'write-protected' disc that cannot be altered.
New Scientist 4 Mar. 1989, p. 42
At last the Amiga can boast a game you'll be proud to
boot up when your crystal analyst comes round to listen
to your collect of Brian Eno LPs.
CU Amiga Apr. 1990, p. 57
adjective (People and Society)
Full of the enthusiastic zeal of one recently converted or
reconverted to a cause; vigorously campaigning. Also, getting a
second chance to do something.
Etymology: A figurative application of the adjective, which
originally developed from the verbal phrase to be born again
(after the story of Jesus and Nicodemus in St John's Gospel,
chapter 3) and was properly used to apply to an evangelical
Christian who had had a conversion experience of new life in
Christ and made this experience the basis for all later actions.
History and Usage: The adjective born-again has been used to
refer to fundamentalist or evangelical Christians (especially in
the Southern States of the US) since at least the sixties.
Probably the most influential factor leading to the development
of a figurative sense was the election of Jimmy Carter to the
Presidency of the United States in 1977; the connection between
his born-again Baptist background and the policies that he put
forward was made much of in the press at the time, as were the
hopes of fundamentalist 'Bible Belt' Christians for his
Presidency. Another (quite separate) influence was the rise of
fundamentalism within the Islamic world during the early
eighties and the zeal with which it was presented to the West.
By the end of the eighties, the figurative use was well
established and could be applied to virtually any convert to a
cause, however trivial; it had also started to be used to
describe anyone who had been given a second chance to do
something (another 'life' in the language of games).
Duncan and Jeremy are born-again northerners. They saw
the northern light last year, when they turned their
backs on London.
Sunday Express Magazine 9 Aug. 1987, p. 23
In March 1988 I was a born-again student, having got my
PPL in 1954...then having to let the licence go at the
end of 1956 when marriage came along.
Pilot Nov. 1988, p. 26
In British slang: courage, spirit, guts. Usually in phrases such
as have (got) a lot of bottle, to be spirited or courageous; to
have guts; lose one's bottle, to lose one's nerve (and so as a
phrasal verb bottle out, to lose one's nerve; to pull out,
especially at the last minute).
Etymology: The phrase no bottle has been used in underworld
slang to mean 'no use, worthless' since the middle of the
nineteenth century; it is likely that this was reinterpreted
this century to mean 'lacking substance or spirit', and that
from there bottle started to be used on its own and eventually
to be incorporated into new phrases. The rhyming slang
expression bottle and glass for 'arse' is often assumed to have
something to do with these expressions (in which case bottle
would be more strictly 'guts'), but this may be no more than
History and Usage: These phrases, which are essentially part of
the spoken language, started to appear in written sources in the
sixties as representations of Cockney or underworld speech.
Their use was reinforced by a milk marketing campaign in the
early eighties, the caption for which read 'It's gotta lotta
bottle', and by television series such as Minder, in which
Cockney expressions were brought to a wide audience. Bottle out
did not appear in the written language at all until the very end
of the seventies (at about the same time as this series was
Goodness, was I going to give her a bad time! Of course,
when it got down to it, I bottled out completely.
Robert McLiam Wilson Ripley Bogle (1989), p. 162
You appear not to have the bottle, courtesy or
wherewithal to actually approach her in person.
Just Seventeen Dec. 1989, p. 22
Some of the warders lost their bottle and just fled.
News of the World 8 Apr. 1990, p. 6
A collection point to which empty bottles and other glass
containers can be taken for recycling.
Etymology: Formed by compounding; whereas in blood bank, sperm
bank, etc. the metaphor extends to deposits and withdrawals, the
recycling bank accepts deposits only.
History and Usage: An early manifestation of public interest in
conservation, the bottle bank scheme started in the UK in 1977.
The covered skips or plastic bells normally used for this
purpose had become a familiar sight in supermarket car parks by
the end of the eighties--often overflowing, since there proved
to be more enthusiasm among the public than capacity to recycle
Why not take your old, non-returnable glass bottles to
your local bottle bank instead of throwing them away?
Which? Aug. 1984, p. 355
noun (Business World)
In financial jargon, an arrangement for marketing an issue of
bonds or shares, in which a securities house buys up all the
stock (often after tendering against other houses) and then
resells it at an agreed price.
Etymology: Formed by compounding; the issuer of the shares can
be sure that the whole deal will be bought in advance.
History and Usage: A practice which originated in the US in the
early eighties, the bought deal soon proved attractive to
companies in the UK as well as an alternative to the standard
rights issue; however, the legal right of shareholders to first
refusal on new issues of shares in the UK gave it limited
The American 'bought deal' might become the norm for
equity issues as well as for fixed interest loans.
The Times 11 Sept. 1986, p. 23
bovine spongiform encephalopathy
(Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure) see BSE
boy toy (People and Society) see toyboy
2.8 brat pack...
brat pack noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
In media slang, a group of young Hollywood film stars of the mid
eighties who were popularly seen as having a rowdy, fun-loving,
and pampered lifestyle and a spoilt attitude to society; more
generally, any precocious and aggressive clique.
Etymology: Formed by compounding; deliberately made punningly
like rat pack, a slang name for a group of rowdy young stars led
by Frank Sinatra in the fifties.
History and Usage: The term was coined by David Blum in New
York magazine in 1985 in an article about the film St Elmo's
Fire, and quickly caught on in the media. At a time when rich
young stars of sport as well as films were gaining a reputation
for bad behaviour in public places, it became a kind of
shorthand for the young who had been spoilt by early success and
thought the whole world should be organized to suit them. Blum's
article also coined the term brat packer for a member of the
original Hollywood brat pack; this, too, is used more widely to
refer to members of other brat packs, from professional tennis
players to young, successful authors.
The Brat Packers act together whenever possible.
New York 10 June 1985, p. 42
Border hit back at an Indian newspaper report, which
dubbed the Australian cricket team a 'brat pack',
notorious for uncouth behavior.
Brisbane Telegraph 21 Oct. 1986, p. 2
Young guns. A new generation rediscovers an old genre:
brat-packers Estevez, Sutherland, Sheen and Lou Diamond
'La Bamba' Phillips in a rollicking re-run of the Billy
The Kid legend.
Q Mar. 1989, p. 119
noun Also written breakdancing or break dancing (Lifestyle and
Leisure) (Youth Culture)
A very individualistic and competitive style of dancing,
popularized by Black teenagers in the US, and characterized by
energetic and acrobatic movements performed to a loud insistent
beat; abbreviated in the slang of those who dance it to
Etymology: Formed by compounding: the dancing that was
developed specifically to fill the break in a piece of rap music
(i.e. an instrumental interlude during which the DJ would be
busy mixing, sampling, etc.). In Jamaican English, to broke up
has meant 'to wriggle the body in a dance' since at least the
fifties; in the Deep South of the US a breakdown has been the
name for a riotous dance or hoedown (with an associated verbal
phrase to break down) since the middle of the nineteenth
century, but the connection between rap music and the
development of break-dancing in New York was so close that these
older dialectal uses are unlikely to have had much influence.
History and Usage: This style of dancing was pioneered during
the late seventies by teams of Black teenage dancers (notably
the 'Rock Steady Crew') on the streets of the south Bronx area
of New York; each team (or crew) worked in parallel with
graffiti artists, and the combination of music, art, and street
entertainment that they developed formed the core of the new
Black street culture called hip hop. By 1982 the phenomenon had
been taken up by the press and widely publicized (to such an
extent that by the mid eighties there was talk of over-exposure
in the media and breaksploitation, an alteration of the more
familiar word blaxploitation 'exploitation of Blacks'). To
connoisseurs, breaking is only one of a number of styles of
movement making up the highly competitive dance culture; others
include body-popping, the lock, and the moonwalk. In breaking
itself, dancers spin on the ground, using the body like a human
top, and pivoting on a shoulder or elbow, the head, or the back.
The craze quickly spread to other parts of the world and began
to lose its association with Black culture. The noun
break-dancing was quickly followed by the verb break-dance
(simply break in Black slang use) and both these forms also
exist as nouns; a person who break-dances is a break-dancer (or
While Freddy lays down chanting, talking, rhythmic rap,
the Break Dancers break, trying to out-macho one
another. They jump in the air and land on their backs,
do splits and flip over.
Washington Post 4 June 1982, Weekend section, p. 5
They are young street dudes, nearly all of them black,
anywhere from 10 to 23 years old, and what they are
doing is a new style of dancing known as 'breaking' or
Daily News 23 Sept. 1983, p. 18
In Leningrad the Juventus Health and Sports Club has
activities from Aikido wrestling, skateboarding and
break-dancing to tennis.
The Times 5 Apr. 1989, p. 46
It seems any moment they will break from this
4,000-year-old tradition and spin off into a lively
Burst of Excitement (California Institute of Technology)
Mar. 1990, p. 3
briefcase (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Music) see ghetto blaster
brilliant adjective (Youth Culture)
In young people's slang: great, fantastic, really good. Often
abbreviated to brill.
Etymology: A weakening of the original meaning (in much the
same way as great, fantastic, etc. had been weakened by earlier
generations of young people), followed in the case of brill by
clipping of the ending (like the earlier fab etc.)
History and Usage: Although the literal meaning of brilliant is
'shining brightly', the adjective had been used figuratively for
two centuries and more before being taken up as a cult word by
young people; these earlier figurative uses often described some
kind of spectacle, or a person with abnormal talents. From about
the end of the 1970s, though, brilliant began to be used to
express approval of just about anything. When used in this way,
it is sometimes pronounced as a three-syllable word with the
primary stress shifted to the final syllable: /--/. Brill
appeared in the early eighties. Both are considered a little
dated by the very young, but they still seem to be going strong
in comics and children's television programmes.
I allowed Pandora to visit me in my darkened bedroom. We
had a brilliant kissing session.
Sue Townsend The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole (1984),
I think your magazine is brill.
Music Making July 1987, p. 11
plural noun Also written Brilliant Pebbles (War and Weaponry)
A code-name for small computerized heat-seeking missiles
designed to intercept and destroy enemy weapons; part of the US
Strategic Defense Initiative (or Star Wars). Also, the
technology used to produce these.
Etymology: One of a series of names making a word-play out of
the idea of smart weaponry. The largest, heaviest, and least
intelligent weapons (see intelligent°) were spoken about by
scientists as moronic mountains, smaller and more intelligent
ones as smart rocks (a term coined by SDI chief scientist Gerald
Yonas: see smart), and yet smaller and smarter ones as brilliant
pebbles; a fourth category in the series was savant sand.
History and Usage: Brilliant pebbles were the idea of US
scientist Lowell Wood, who proposed in 1988 that existing
smart-rocks technology could simply be 'shrunk' to smaller
weapons. Work then started on developing brilliant pebbles in
place of the space-based interceptor originally planned for Star
Wars. Their brilliance is explained by the fact that each would
carry a microchip frozen to superconducting temperatures and as
powerful as a supercomputer.
The SDI organization has funded assembly of brilliant
pebbles hardware at the laboratory, and tests to
demonstrate the concept are planned in the near future.
Aviation Week 11 July 1988, p. 37
The Pentagon has been pushing the smart rocks, while
Congress has been championing the ground-based missiles.
Mr Edward Teller advocates 'brilliant pebbles'.
Economist 4 Feb. 1989, p. 44
noun (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Music)
In British slang, the same thing as a ghetto blaster.
(Considered by some to be racially offensive.)
Etymology: For etymology and history, see ghetto blaster.
The other five had on their laps large stereo portable
radios which, I believe, are colloquially spoken of as
The Times 22 July 1986, p. 13
Frank asked someone to fetch his briefcase from his
car...but...all they could see was a ghetto blaster. So
they went back and told Frank. 'That WAS my briefcase
man--my Brixton briefcase,' said Frank.
Fast Forward 28 Mar. 1990, p. 6
(Business World) see big bang
BSE abbreviation (Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
Short for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, an incurable viral
brain condition in cattle which causes nervousness, staggering,
and other neurological disorders, and eventually results in
death. Known colloquially as mad cow disease.
Etymology: The initial letters of Bovine Spongiform
Encephalopathy. Bovine because it affects cattle; spongiform in
that it produces a spongy appearance in parts of the brain
tissue; encephalopathy is a word made up of Greek roots meaning
'disease of the brain'.
History and Usage: Bovine spongiform encephalopathy was first
identified in the UK in 1986, and quickly started to affect a
considerable number of cattle in different parts of the country.
The discovery in May 1990 that it was possible for it to be
transmitted to cats, possibly through pet foods containing brain
tissue or offal from cattle, led to international public concern
over the safety of British beef for human consumption. The
disease has a long incubation period--a number of years--so it
was difficult for experts to be sure that no cases in humans
would occur in the future; but a government inquiry found that
it was extremely unlikely. Steps were taken to ensure that meat
from affected cattle did not enter the food chain, and the
public panic over beef began to die down.
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) twists the
tongues of vets and wrecks the brains of cows. It is
also new and baffling. Since the first case of the
disease was diagnosed in December 1986, it has struck
down 120 animals from 71 herds.
Economist 14 Nov. 1987, p. 92
The disease in cows is similar to Scrapie which occurs
in sheep, and it's possible that BSE may have been
transferred to cattle from sheep.
Which? Sept. 1989, p. 428
BSE-free (Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure) see -free
2.10 B two (B2) bomber
B two (B2) bomber
(War and Weaponry) see Stealth
(People and Society) see airhead
buddy noun and verb (Health and Fitness) (People and Society)
noun: Someone who befriends and supports a person with Aids (see
PWA) by volunteering to give companionship, practical help, and
moral support during the course of the illness.
intransitive verb: To do this kind of voluntary work. Also as an
action noun buddying.
Etymology: A specialized use of the well known American sense
of buddy, 'friend'. The American film Buddies, released quite
early in the Aids era (1985), was surely influential in
popularizing this specialized use.
History and Usage: For several generations children in the US
have been encouraged to follow the buddy system--never to go
anywhere or take part in any potentially dangerous activity
alone, but to take a buddy who can bring help if necessary; a
similar practice is followed by adults in dangerous situations.
The scheme to provide buddies for people with Aids, started in
late 1982 in New York, is an extension of that system,
recognizing that these people need friendship that is often
denied them once they are diagnosed as having the condition.
Our greatest priority is to ensure that no person who
has contracted an AID related disease is without some
kind of personal support...It is therefore our aim to
create a buddy system.
New York Native 11 Oct. 1982, p. 14
I suppose the book wouldn't have been written if I
hadn't buddied, because I wouldn't have had a sense of
knowing the reality of Aids.
The Times 29 June 1987, p. 16
When one of the members crossed the Rubicon from HIV to
Aids, Helpline always appointed two or three buddies to
'see the person through'.
Independent 21 Mar. 1989, p. 15
bum-bag noun Also written bumbag or bum bag (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A small pouch for money and other valuables, attached to a belt
and designed to be worn round the waist or hips; a British name
for the fanny pack.
Etymology: Formed by compounding; skiers wear them with the
pouch to the back, above the bottom (the ' bum'), although as
fashion accessories they are normally worn with the pouch in
front, where the contents can best be protected from
History and Usage: The bum-bag has been well known to skiers,
motorcyclists, and ramblers for some decades as a useful
receptacle for sandwiches, waterproofs, and other bits and
pieces; being worn round the waist, it leaves the hands free. In
the late eighties the bum-bag made the transition from a piece
of sports equipment to a fashion item: perhaps because of the
risk of bag-snatching in busy city streets, it became
fashionable to wear a bum-bag for shopping and everyday use, and
in 1990 it was considered one of the main fashion 'accents' in
the UK. As such, it is probably only a temporary item in the
more general language.
The most brilliant accessory is the bum-bag. Slung
around the waist, it doubles as a belt and a secure
place for valuables.
Indy 21 Dec. 1989, p. 21
buppie noun Also written Buppie or buppy (People and Society)
A Black urban (or upwardly-mobile) professional; a yuppie who is
Etymology: Formed by substituting the initial letter of black
for the y- of yuppie (see yuppie).
History and Usage: The word buppie was invented by the US media
in 1984 as one of several variations on the theme of yuppie.
Unlike some of the others--such as guppie, juppie (a Japanese
yuppie), and puppie (a pregnant yuppie)-- this one caught on:
perhaps this was because it identified a distinct group which
was obviously rejecting its 'roots' culture in favour of the
values and aspirations of a yuppie peer group.
Bryant Gumbel and Vanessa Williams are both Buppies. Of
course, it wouldn't be Yuppie to be Miss America unless
you are the first black one.
People 9 Jan. 1984, p. 47
Old Harrovian and self-confessed buppie, with a
fifth-in-a-row hit, Danny D's entrepreneurship is about
to go global.
Evening Standard 1 May 1990, p. 34
burn-bag noun (Politics)
In the jargon of US intelligence, a container into which
classified (or incriminating) material is put before being
destroyed by burning. Also sometimes known as a burn-basket.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a bag or basket for what is
to be burned.
History and Usage: The word has been used in US intelligence
circles since at least the sixties, but did not come to public
notice until the political scandals of later decades: first
Watergate (1972) and then the Iran-contra affair (1986: see
contra). In relation to these two incidents it was used
especially to refer to the means which allowed prominent
politicians to dispose of incriminating documents allegedly
linking them with the scandal; the chairmen of relevant
inquiries could not then require them to be produced.
'I frankly didn't see any need for it at the time,' he
[John Poindexter] said of the document, known as an
intelligence finding. 'I thought it was politically
embarrassing. And so I decided to tear it up, and I tore
it up, put it in the burn basket behind my desk.
New York Times 16 July 1987, section A, p. 10
burn-out noun Frequently written burnout (Health and Fitness)
Physical or emotional exhaustion, usually caused by stress at
work; more generally, apathy, disillusionment, or low morale.
Also as an intransitive verb burn out, to suffer from this kind
of stress exhaustion; adjective burned (or burnt) out.
Etymology: A noun formed on the verbal phrase burn oneself out,
meaning 'to use up all one's physical or emotional resources';
the noun burn-out already existed in the more literal sense of
the complete destruction of something by fire, as well as in two
History and Usage: The burn-out syndrome, which is thought to
be a direct result of the high-stress lifestyles of the past two
decades, was first identified and named in the mid seventies by
American psychotherapist Herbert J. Freudenberger. Once the
preserve of those in jobs requiring a high level of emotional
commitment (such as charity work, medicine, and teaching),
burn-out soon started affecting professional sportspeople,
executives, and entertainers, too. In the late eighties, the
word remained very fashionable, taking over from the more
old-fashioned terms depression (imprecise except as a clinical
term) and nervous breakdown (for cases of complete burn-out).
The most moderate form of burnout occurs when the
sufferer endures a heavy stressload.
Management Today July 1989, p. 122
She may find herself trapped into trying to please
everybody and do everything, failing to set boundaries
to her role, which leads to chronic overwork and
Nursing Times 29 Nov.-5 Dec. 1989, p. 51
Addled with divorce headaches and post- Born burnout,
Cruise isn't doing press; but would you like to talk to
Don and Jerry, perhaps?
Premiere June 1990, p. 92
burster noun (Science and Technology)
A machine for separating or bursting continuous stationery (such
as computer listing paper) into individual sheets.
Etymology: Formed by adding the agent suffix -er to burst;
originally, a burster was a charge of gunpowder for bursting a
History and Usage: The word has existed in the technical jargon
of office machinery since the fifties, but has only become
widely known since the advent of computers and listing paper to
nearly all offices, with the attendant nuisance of separating
printout into pages.
Users who work through a heavy load of fan-fold may find
that a 'burster'...is a useful accessory.
Susan Curran Word Processing for Beginners (1984), p. 45
buster noun (People and Society)
In US slang, short for baby buster: a person born in the
generation after the baby boom (see boomer), at a time when the
birth rate fell dramatically in most Western countries.
Etymology: Formed by dropping the word baby from baby buster,
following the model of boomer. In economic terms (especially in
US English), a bust is a slump, that is the opposite of a boom.
History and Usage: The busters--children born from the late
sixties onwards--are becoming an important force in Western
economies now that they are adults. These economies, once able
to grow continuously, must now shrink if the smaller population
is not to bust them.
Busters may replace boomers as the darlings of
headline in Wall Street Journal 12 Nov. 1987, p. 41
bustier noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A short, close-fitting bodice (usually without straps), worn by
women as a fashion top.
Etymology: A direct borrowing from French bustier 'bodice'. The
garment helps to define the bust, and so makes its wearer appear
bustier, but this is a popular misunderstanding of the origin of
History and Usage: The bustier came into fashion in the early
eighties; one of its most famous devotees is the rock star
Madonna, who has probably done much to keep the fashion going by
regularly making public appearances in a bustier.
Delicately edged suede jackets and bustiers in scarlet
and black sat atop wafts of brightly coloured chiffon
skirts for evening.
London Evening News 17 Mar. 1987, p. 18
buyout noun Sometimes written buy-out (Business World)
The purchase of a controlling share in a company, either by its
own employees or by another company.
Etymology: The noun is formed on the verbal phrase to buy
History and Usage: The word originated in the US in the mid
seventies, when there was a marked rise in company take-overs
and tender offers. In some buyout schemes it was the company's
own employees who were encouraged to buy up sufficient stock in
the firm to retain control; other variants are the management
buyout or MBO, in which the senior directors of a company buy up
the whole stock, and the leveraged buyout (pronounced /--/: see
leverage) or LBO, practised mainly in the US, in which outside
capital is used to enable the management to buy up the company.
Although originally American, the buyout soon reached UK markets
as well; by the mid eighties there were firms of financial
advisers on both sides of the Atlantic specializing in this
subject alone. Variations on the same theme are the buy-back, in
which a company repurchases its own stock on the open market
(often as a defensive ploy against take-overs), and the buy-in,
in which a group of managers from outside the company together
buys up a controlling interest.
Leveraged buyouts are commonly used in the United States
to defeat hostile takeover bids, but have yet to be
successfully tested in Britain.
The Times 2 May 1985, p. 21
Latest statistics show buyouts and buy-ins by outside
managers running at a record level this year.
Daily Telegraph 30 Oct. 1989, Management Buyouts
Supplement, p. i
Lifting the veil of secrecy was ordinarily enough to
kill a developing buyout in its cradle: Once disclosed,
corporate raiders or other unwanted suitors were free to
make a run at the company before management had a chance
to prepare its own bid.
Bryan Burrough & John Helyar Barbarians at the Gate
(1990), p. 8
buzzword see fuzzword
bypass noun Also written by-pass (Health and Fitness)
A permanent alternative pathway for a blood vessel, artery, etc.
(especially near the heart or brain), created by transplanting a
vessel from elsewhere in the body or inserting an artificial
one. Also, the operation by which this is achieved or the
artificial device that is inserted.
Etymology: A figurative use of the word bypass, which was
regularly used in the sixties and seventies for an alternative
road built to route traffic round a bottleneck such as a large
town; the medical bypass, too, is often created to avoid an
obstruction or constriction in the existing network.
History and Usage: The art of bypass surgery was developed
during the sixties and seventies and was becoming routine by the
eighties. By an interesting reversal of linguistic roles, new
roads were often called arterials rather than bypasses in the
eighties, and the medical sense of bypass showed signs of
becoming the dominant meaning of the word. It is often used
attributively, in bypass operation, bypass surgery, etc.
Sir Robin Day was yesterday 'progressing very nicely'
after his heart by-pass operation in a London hospital.
News of the World 3 Mar. 1985, p. 2
The findings may have far-reaching
implications...offering patients a low-risk alternative
to cholesterol-lowering drugs, bypass operations and
angioplasty, a technique in which clogged arteries are
opened with a tiny balloon that presses plaque against
the artery walls.
New York Times 14 Nov. 1989, section C, p. 1
3.1 cable television...
noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A system for relaying television programmes by cable (rather
than broadcasting them over the air), usually into individual
subscribers' homes; also, collectively, the stations and
programmes that make use of this system. Often abbreviated to
cable tv or simply cable.
Etymology: Formed by compounding; a straightforward combination
of the existing nouns cable and television.
History and Usage: The first experiments with cable television
were carried out in the US in the early sixties, but at first
the system was officially known as community antenna television,
since the signal is picked up by a shared antenna before being
cabled to individual receivers. The snappier name cable tv or
cable television was first used in the mid sixties in the US,
competing for a time with Cablevision (a trade mark which
belonged to one of the larger companies operating the system
there). After unsuccessful experiments here too in the fifties,
cable television was finally adopted in the UK at the beginning
of the eighties, giving rise to much speculation about its
probable effect on the quality and choice of programmes in
conventional broadcasting; in the event it enjoyed a smaller
take-up than satellite television. Once established in any
individual country, cable tv has tended to be abbreviated
further to cable alone (without a preceding article); the word
is often used to refer to the stations or programmes available
rather than the system. There is also a verb cable, 'to provide
(a home, area, etc.) with cable television'.
Reports that the government will soon approve plans to
bring cable television to Britain have appeared in
almost every newspaper.
New Scientist 9 Sept. 1982, p. 674
Even Coronation Street...failed to catch on when it was
shown on a New York channel in 1976 and on nationwide
cable in 1982.
Listener 4 Dec. 1986, p. 29
Cabling a typical 100,000-home franchise takes four to
five years, costs њ35 million--њ350 for each home passed
by the fibre-optic link which carries the signals.
Business Apr. 1990, p. 100
cache noun and verb (Science and Technology)
noun: Short for cache memory, a small high-speed memory in some
computers which can be used for data and instructions that need
to be accessed frequently, instead of the slower main memory.
transitive verb: To place (data, etc.) in a separate high-speed
memory. Adjective cached, action noun caching.
Etymology: A figurative use of cache, which originally meant 'a
hiding place' (borrowed into English at the end of the
eighteenth century from French cache, related to cacher 'to
hide'); from here it went on to mean 'a temporary store' (Arctic
explorers, for example, put spare provisions in a cache, and the
verb to cache also already existed for this activity). A
computer cache is, in effect, only another kind of temporary
History and Usage: The cache memory was invented by IBM in the
late sixties, but the verb and its derivatives appear not to
have developed until the early eighties.
Window images are normally cached in a form to allow
fast screen redraw.
Personal Computer World Nov. 1986, p. 171
If the information is held in the cache, which can be
thought of as a very fast on-chip local memory, then
only two clock cycles are required.
Electronics & Wireless World Jan. 1987, p. 105
plural noun (but usually treated as singular) (Health and
Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
The trade mark of a physical exercise programme originally
developed in the US by Callan Pinckney and based on the idea of
building muscle tone through repeated tiny movements using deep
Etymology: Formed by combining the woman's name Callan with
-etics, after the model of athletics; probably also influenced
by callisthenics, a nineteenth-century word for gymnastics for
girls, designed to produce the 'body beautiful' (itself formed
on Greek kallos 'beautiful').
History and Usage: One of a long line of exercise programmes
and workout routines popular in the eighties, Callanetics was
made the subject of a book of the same name in the US in 1984.
Despite claims that Callan Pinckney had 'stolen' exercises from
the workout routines of her own teachers, the programme was
hailed as a new approach to exercise and by 1988 was proving
extremely successful commercially. When the book Callanetics was
first published in the UK in 1989 it started a new exercise
craze, helped on by reports that the Duchess of York had used
the programme to get herself back into shape after the birth of
her daughter Beatrice. Pinckney herself claims that the unique
feature of Callanetics is the way in which it works out deep
muscles through movements of only half an inch in each direction
from a starting position.
Callanetics requires only two hour-long work-out
sessions a week.
Sunday Times Magazine 5 Mar. 1989, p. 21
camcorder noun Occasionally written cam-corder (Lifestyle and Leisure)
(Science and Technology)
A portable video camera with a built-in sound recorder, which
can produce recorded video cassettes (and in some cases also
play them back).
Etymology: A clipped compound, formed by combining the first
syllable of camera with the last two of recorder.
History and Usage: Prototype camcorders were produced almost
simultaneously by several Japanese companies at the beginning of
the eighties; the word was first used in English-language
sources in 1982. By the end of the eighties it had become almost
a household word, as video took over from cine and home movies
for recording family occasions, travel, etc.
If you want to use a video camera simply to record
events in the school year then the camcorder might be
Times Educational Supplement 30 Nov. 1984, p. 29
The eight-millimetre camcorders (eight-millimetre refers
to the width of the tape)...produce tapes that cannot be
used with the VHS format.
New Yorker 24 Nov. 1986, p. 98
camp-on noun (Business World) (Science and Technology)
A facility of electronic telephone systems which allows an
unsuccessful caller to 'latch on' to a number so that the call
is automatically connected once the receiving number is
Etymology: The noun is formed on the verbal phrase to camp on
to, which in turn is a figurative use of the verb to camp: the
caller stakes claim to a place in the queue, and this 'pitch' is
automatically registered by the system.
History and Usage: First used in the mid seventies, the camp-on
became increasingly widespread with the rise in popularity of
push-button electronic telephones during the eighties.
A Thorn Ericsson PABX can provide over twenty aids to
efficient communications. Here is one of them: Camp-on
busy. An incoming call for an extension that is already
engaged (busy)...can be 'camped' on to the engaged
Daily Telegraph 10 Mar. 1977, p. 2
noun (Health and Fitness)
A bacterium occurring in unpasteurized dairy produce and other
everyday foods and capable of causing food poisoning in humans.
Etymology: The bacterium takes its name from the genus name
Campylobacter, which in turn is formed from a Greek word
kampulos 'bent, twisted' (the bacteria in this family being
twisted or spiral in shape) and the first two syllables of
History and Usage: Campylobacter is an important cause of
non-fatal cases of food poisoning. The word, first used in the
early seventies, would probably have remained known only to
bacteriologists had it not been for public interest in--and
concern about--food safety in the UK in 1989-90.
60 per cent of all poultry carcasses were infected with
either salmonella or campylobacter.
The Times 2 Mar. 1990, p. 2
can bank noun (Environment)
A collection point to which empty cans may be taken for
Etymology: For etymology, see bottle bank.
History and Usage: With increasing consumption of fizzy drinks
from ring-pull cans in the eighties, the can bank was a natural
development of the recycling idea started by the bottle bank.
So far there are less than 200 'can banks' operated by
60 local authorities in Britain. One big problem is that
it isn't easy enough to distinguish steel from
John Button How to be Green (1989), p. 112
Candida noun (Health and Fitness)
Short for Candida albicans, a yeastlike fungus which causes
inflammation and itching in the mouth or vagina (commonly known
as thrush), and is also thought to cause digestive problems when
it multiplies in the digestive tract. Also, loosely, the set of
digestive problems caused by excessive quantities of Candida in
the gut; candidiasis.
Etymology: A shortened form of the Latin name Candida albicans;
popularly, the genus name Candida (which is formed on the Latin
word candidus 'white') is used to refer to the particular
species Candida albicans (whose name is a sort of tautology,
meaning 'white-tinged white').
History and Usage: The effects of Candida in the mouth and
vagina (thrush) have been well known since the thirties. The
theory that the fungus can get out of control in the gut
(especially on a Western diet high in refined sugars) and cause
digestive illness is one that has only been given any credence
in the past decade, and is still not fully supported in
Bill Wyman...tours the world...while she stays in
Britain suffering from an agonising allergy...He spoke
of his wife's painful illness, Candida...Candida's a
yeast allergy that usually affects the stomach...Certain
food's OK for the Candida, but bad for the liver.
News of the World 8 Apr. 1990, p. 9
cap verb and noun (Politics)
transitive verb: To impose a limit on (something); specifically,
of central government: to regulate the spending of (a local
authority) by imposing an upper limit on local taxation.
noun: An upper limit or 'ceiling', especially one imposed by
central government on a local authority's spending.
Etymology: This sense arises from the image of placing a cap or
capping on the top of something (a general sense of the verb
which has existed since the seventeenth century), and may be
related more specifically to the capping of oil wells as a way
of controlling pressure. As such, it is almost opposite in
meaning to the colloquial sense of the verb, 'to exceed or
excel, to outdo'.
History and Usage: This type of capping became topical in the
mid eighties with the UK government's capping of local authority
spending (first in the form of rate-capping, and in 1990 as
charge-capping or poll-capping). Councils on which this was
imposed, or the taxes they could levy, were described as capped
(rate-capped, charge-capped, etc.).
The major cost would come in lost interest on cash flow
because most people would delay paying until the lower,
charge-capped, demand arrived.
Independent 20 Mar. 1990, p. 8
The Court of Appeal yesterday dismissed the second stage
of the legal campaign by 19 Labour local authorities
against the Government's decision to cap their poll tax
levels and order cuts in their budgets.
Guardian 28 June 1990, p. 2
A council once famous for getting disadvantaged people
into further education has abolished all discretionary
maintenance grants because it has been charge-capped.
Times Educational Supplement 7 Sept. 1990, p. 6
capture noun and verb (Science and Technology)
noun: The process of transferring information from a written,
paper format to machine-readable form (on a computer). Known
more fully as data capture.
transitive verb: To convert (data) in this way, using any of
several means (such as punched tape, keyboarding, optical
character readers, etc.).
Etymology: The noun and verb arose at about the same time,
probably through specialization of a figurative sense of the
verb to capture meaning 'to catch or record something elusive,
to portray in permanent form' (as, for example, a likeness might
be captured in a painting or photograph).
History and Usage: A technical term in computing from the early
seventies onwards, capture entered the more general language in
the eighties and became one of the vogue words in journalistic
articles about any computerization project and in advertising
copy for even minimally computerized products.
About 70% of all data captured is reentered at some
ABA Banking Journal Dec. 1989, p. 74
Unmatched range of edit/capture facilities simply not
offered by other scanners at this unbeatable price.
CU Amiga Apr. 1990, p. 68
(Environment) see greenhouse
card° noun (Business World)
A thin rectangular piece of semi-rigid plastic carrying the
membership details of the owner and used to obtain credit,
guarantee cheques, activate cash dispensers, etc.
Etymology: Although made of plastic, this kind of card closely
resembles in size, shape, and purpose a business or membership
card (itself named after the material from which it was
traditionally made); in the electronic age, size, shape, and
recorded data (usually on a magnetic strip) are the important
characteristics, for they determine whether or not the card may
be used in the appropriate machinery.
History and Usage: In the UK, the stiff plastic card was first
widely used by banks as a method of guaranteeing payment on
cheques from the late sixties onwards; this kind of card was
generally known as a cheque card. The huge increase in consumer
credit facilities which took place in the US during the sixties
and in the UK during the seventies meant that the embossed
credit card or charge card became very common. By the eighties
it was not unusual for an individual cardmember to carry a whole
range of cards for different purposes, including the types
mentioned above and the store option card (or simply option
card) giving interest-free credit for a limited period on goods
from a specified store. Some people even considered that plastic
had taken over from money in the US and the UK. This view was
reinforced by the introduction in 1982 of a plastic card to
replace coins in public telephone boxes (see phonecard), the
increasing popularity of the cash dispenser (which allows people
to use a cash card as a means of obtaining cash, discovering
their bank balance, etc.), and the introduction of the debit
card (which uses electronic point-of-sale equipment to debit the
cost of goods direct from the customer's bank account, without
the intervention of cheques or credit facilities). Card
technology became a growth area during the eighties with the
need to increase card-users' protection against theft and
misuse; the chip card, a card which incorporates a microchip to
store information about the transactions for which it is used,
was one of the proposed solutions to this problem. With the
proliferation of different kinds of cards, machinery was needed
which could 'read' the information stored on the magnetic strip
quickly and efficiently; by the end of the eighties, the
card-swipe, a reader similar to an electronic eye, across or
through which the card is 'wiped' rapidly, was widely used for
this purpose. The term (credit-)card (short for
(credit-)card-sized) began to occur in attributive position in
the mid eighties to describe the thing named by the following
noun as being the same size as, or in some other way similar to,
a card (see the last quotation below).
I reported the missing credit cards...but I did not call
my bank that evening, trusting that nobody could use
that card without the PIN code.
New York Times 21 Nov. 1989, section A, p. 24
Forstmann Little would receive senior debt rather than
junior debt--roughly the difference between an American
Express card and an IOU.
Bryan Burrough & John Helyar Barbarians at the Gate
(1990), p. 292
UK Banks and building societies...are vigorously
promoting the advantages of the new style three-in-one
card covering cheque guarantee, cashpoint and debit card
Observer 22 Apr. 1990, p. 35
The British Heart Foundation has leaflets on angina and
other heart conditions as well as credit card guides to
Daily Telegraph 26 June 1990, p. 13
See also affinity card, gold card, and switch
cardэ noun (Science and Technology)
A printed circuit board (see PCBэ) similar in appearance to a
credit card and having all the circuitry required to provide a
particular function in a computer system.
Etymology: So named because of its resemblance to a credit
card; just as a small piece of cardboard is a card, so too a
small circuit board is punningly called a card.
History and Usage: Slot-in cards providing extra facilities for
a computer system (at first known almost exclusively as
expansion cards) became a popular feature of the PCs of the
eighties. The word card is often preceded by another word
explaining the function (as in graphics card or EGA card, a card
upgrading a computer to display enhanced graphics); this
sometimes results in rather cryptic names such as hard card, a
card upgrading the memory of a computer to the equivalent of
hard-disc storage capacity. Because it provides the user with
any of a number of new options without the need to buy a new
computer, this kind of card is sometimes known as an option
VideoFax comes as a pair of circuit boards, or 'cards',
which plug into the back of a personal computer.
New Scientist 21 Jan. 1989, p. 39
No matter how reliable, how well engineered or how many
options your intelligent multiport card claims to
offer,...it will severely limit the numbers of users
your system will support.
UnixWorld Sept. 1989, p. 36
noun (People and Society)
An area of a large town where homeless people congregate at
night under makeshift shelters made from discarded cardboard
boxes and other packing materials.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a city made from cardboard.
History and Usage: A phenomenon of the eighties, and an
increasing problem in large cities both in the UK and in the US.
Sometimes written with capital initials, as though it were a
place-name in its own right.
This is not a country where families can live under
bridges or in 'cardboard cities' while the rest of us
have our turkey dinner.
Washington Post 23 Dec. 1982, section A, p. 16
In The Trackers of Oxyrhyncus...the people of Cardboard
City erupt on to the stage. These are the men and women,
some old and some very young, who live beneath the
arches on the South Bank.
Independent Magazine 19 May 1990, p. 14
noun (Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
The trade mark of a cardiovascular exercise programme which
combines aerobic exercises with dance movements.
Etymology: Formed from the combining form cardio- 'heart'
(Greek kardia) and funk, a type of popular music (see funk).
History and Usage: A development of aerobics, Cardiofunk was
invented in the US in 1989 and imported to the UK in 1990.
Cardiosalsa and Cardiofunk classes are jammed at the
five Voight Fitness and Dance Centers.
USA Today 4 Jan. 1990, section D, p. 1
Tessa Sanderson...is a fan of cardiofunk and has got
together with Derrick Evans to present the video
Cardiofunk: the Aerobic programme.
Company June 1990, p. 25
cardphone (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Science and Technology) see phonecard
carer noun (People and Society)
Someone whose job involves caring; especially, a person who
looks after an elderly, sick, or disabled relative at home and
is therefore unable to take paid employment.
Etymology: Formed by adding the agent suffix -er to care; the
word had existed in the more general sense of 'one who cares'
since the seventeenth century.
History and Usage: This sense arose out of the concept of
caring professions (see below) and the realization that much
unpaid caring was being done by relatives who could not or would
not entrust their elderly or sick loved-ones to professional
care. The word was first used in this way towards the end of the
seventies and became very fashionable in the mid eighties as
increasing efforts were made to provide carers with the support
they need. When used on its own, without further qualification,
carer now usually means a person who cares for someone unpaid at
home (also called a care-giver in the US); professional carer is
often used for a member of the caring professions.
When a son is the primary care-giver, it is usually by
default: either he is an only son or belongs to a
family of sons.
New York Times 13 Nov. 1986, section C, p. 1
Ms Caroline Glendinning, who made the study while a
research fellow at York University, called yesterday for
increased benefit rates for carers and for a non-means
tested carer's costs allowance. Carers also needed
opportunities for part-time work, flexi-time employment,
and job sharing. There are an estimated six million
Guardian 12 July 1989, p. 8
caring adjective (People and Society)
Committed, compassionate; of a job: involving the everyday care
of elderly, sick, or disabled people.
Etymology: Formed by turning the present participle of the verb
care into an adjective.
History and Usage: Caring was first used as an adjective (in
the sense 'committed, compassionate') in the mid sixties. By the
end of the seventies there had been much talk in the UK of the
need for a caring society supported by a strong welfare state,
and certain professions (such as medicine, social work, etc.)
had been recognized as caring professions. With the change of
emphasis towards individual responsibility and away from the
nanny state in the eighties, the caring society based on the
welfare state received less attention, but the government put
forward the idea of caring capitalism instead. After the
conspicuous consumption of the eighties, journalists identified
a change of ethos in Western societies which prompted them to
christen the new decade the caring nineties.
A lot of people seemed to have come from the so-called
caring professions--social work, psychotherapy, and so
New Yorker 22 Sept. 1986, p. 58
The Government had long urged local authority social
service departments to act in an enabling and not just a
providing capacity. They would be responsible, after
consulting agencies such as doctors and other caring
professions, for assessing individual needs, designing
care arrangements, and ensuring that they were properly
Guardian 13 July 1989, p. 6
His major driving force is 'caring capitalism', showing
that making money does not always mean exploiting
Today 13 Mar. 1990, p. 6
carphone noun Also written car phone or car-phone (Lifestyle and Leisure)
(Science and Technology)
A radio telephone which can be fitted in and operated from a
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a phone used in a car.
History and Usage: The carphone has been available since the
sixties, but only really became popular in the late eighties as
less expensive and more reliable models came on to the market.
Their popularity, especially among the yuppie set, with whom
they were considered a status symbol, has led to concern about
the safety of one-handed driving. This was possibly influential
in the British government's decision to tax their use more
heavily in the April 1991 budget.
'Darling can you keep next Friday free for our
appointment at the amniocentesis clinic,' Nicola chirps
down the Cellnet (Yuppiespeak for car phone).
Today 21 Oct. 1987, p. 36
The carphone, that symbol of success that says you are
so much in demand that you cannot afford to be
incommunicado for a moment.
The Road Ahead (Brisbane) Aug. 1989, p. 19
See also cellular and Vodafone.
(Politics) see -gate
cascade noun (Business World)
In business jargon, the process of disseminating information
within an organization from the top of the hierarchy downwards
in stages, with each level in the hierarchy being briefed and in
turn briefing the next level down; a meeting designed to achieve
Etymology: A figurative use of the word cascade, in which the
information is seen as falling and spreading like a waterfall.
It has parallels in a technical sense of the word in transport:
the process of relegating rolling stock etc. to successively
less demanding uses before decommissioning it altogether.
History and Usage: Cascade was a fashionable marketing and
business term which found its way into other professions, such
as education, during the eighties. The opposite effect, in
which those at the bottom of the hierarchy feed back their views
to the higher echelons, has jokingly been called 'splashback'.
An elaborate training programme has been arranged,
spread over four phases in what is called a 'cascade'.
Heads of department are trained so that they can go back
into schools and train the teachers.
The Times 25 Apr. 1986, p. 10
cash card (Business World) see card°
noun (Business World) (Science and Technology)
A machine from which cash can be obtained by account-holders at
any time of day or night by inserting a cash card and keying in
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a dispenser of cash.
History and Usage: Cash dispensers were introduced in the
sixties, but made much more versatile (and therefore more
popular) during the seventies and eighties, when the name
cashpoint started to take over from cash dispenser. Also
sometimes called a cash machine. For further history see ATM.
Ian first noticed the mystery debits one weekend when he
tried to withdraw money from a cashpoint, and couldn't.
Which? Sept. 1989, p. 411
With an Abbeylink card you can also have round-the-clock
access to a national network of cash machines...Problems
with cash dispensers are the biggest cause for complaint
[to the Building Societies Ombudsman], followed by
building societies that charge home owners an
administration fee if they refuse to take out buildings
insurance through them.
Good Housekeeping May 1990, pp. 18 and 191
Cassingle noun (Music)
The trade mark of an audio cassette carrying a single piece of
(usually popular) music, especially one which needs no
rewinding; the cassette version of a single disc.
Etymology: Formed by combining the first syllable of cassette
with single to make a blend.
History and Usage: The Cassingle was introduced in the UK in
the late seventies and in the US at the beginning of the
eighties, when the popularity of the single disc in the popular
music world was waning and much popular music was listened to on
tape. In the UK it started purely as a promotional device, given
away to radio stations and disc jockeys to encourage them to
give airtime to singles; by the end of the eighties, though,
Cassingles were commercially available.
Singles...recently introduced by CBS (which introduced
the two-sided disc back in 1908); the cassingle, which
lists for $2.98 and goes totally against the idea of
Washington Post 31 Oct. 1982, section L, p. 1
All the figures tell the same story. Single and LP
records are on the way out. Within 10 years, we will all
be buying 'cassingles', cassettes and compact discs.
Independent 20 Feb. 1987, p. 14
casual noun Frequently written Casual (People and Society) (Youth
In the UK, a young person who belongs to a peer group favouring
a casual, sporty style of dress and soul music, and often
characterized by right-wing political views, aggressively or
Etymology: Named after their characteristic style of dress,
which is studiedly casual (but certainly not untidy--for
example, sports slacks rather than jeans).
History and Usage: Successors to the Mods of earlier decades,
the first groups of casuals seem to have been formed in the
early eighties. By 1986 they were firmly associated with
football violence, having been described in the Popplewell
report on crowd safety and control at sports grounds as groups
which attached themselves to particular teams, 'bent on fighting
the opposition fans in order to enhance their own prestige'.
The subculture also exists outside the football ground, though,
especially in wealthier areas.
Politics just aren't that important for 90 per cent of
skinheads. And you're more likely to get violence from
the Casuals at football matches than any of us.
Independent 23 Jan. 1989, p. 14
noun (Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure) (People and
Sexual activity between people who are not regular or
established sexual partners.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: sex which is casual.
History and Usage: A change in public attitudes towards sexual
activity was the essential prerequisite for sexual activity to
be described as casual sex, since the description implies that
sex with a diversity of partners is conceivable--a view which,
however much it may have been held by individuals, was not much
aired in public before the 'swinging' sixties. During the
seventies significant numbers of people began to question the
conventional wisdom that only husband and wife, or those in a
'steady relationship', should have sexual intercourse. However,
the idea that sex could become a transaction between any two (or
more) otherwise unacquainted people remained controversial,
despite the existence of such long-established forms of casual
sex as prostitution. Use of the expression steadily increased,
possibly indicating more widespread acceptability for the
concept, and by the late seventies casual could also be applied
to sexual partners. What brought the phrase to unprecedented
prominence during the eighties was the Aids crisis, which made
non-judgemental plain speaking about the reality of people's
sexual behaviour essential.
The length of the list might suggest that Auden was in
the habit of 'cruising'--picking up boys for casual sex.
Humphrey Carpenter W. H. Auden (1981), p. 97
The advice is to either avoid casual sex or to use a
New Musical Express 14 Feb. 1987, p. 4
See also safe sex
CAT° acronym (Health and Fitness) (Science and Technology)
Short for computerized axial tomography, a medical technology
which provides a series of cross-sectional pictures of internal
organs and builds these up into a detailed picture using an
X-ray machine controlled by a computer.
Etymology: An acronym, formed on the initial letters of
Computerized Axial Tomography; sometimes expanded as
Computer-Aided or Computer-Assisted Tomography.
History and Usage: The technique was developed by EMI in the US
in the mid seventies and was at first known as CT scanning (an
alternative name which is still widely used, especially in the
US). By producing detailed pictures of the inside of the body
(and in particular of brain tissue) it revolutionized diagnostic
procedures, often doing away with the need for exploratory
surgery. CAT is normally used attributively, like an adjective:
the image produced is a CAT scan; the equipment which produces
it is a CAT scanner; the process is CAT scanning rather than CAT
Voluntary groups have raised the money...to buy CAT
scanners for their local hospitals.
Listener 28 Apr. 1983, p. 2
Very soon after meeting Gabriel, I sent him to get a CT
scan of his head and discovered a medium-sized tumor in
Perri Klass Other Women's Children (1990), p. 222
catэ noun and adjective (Environment)
noun: Short for catalytic converter, catalyst, or catalyser, a
device which filters pollutants from vehicle exhaust emissions,
thereby cutting down air pollution.
adjective: Catalysed; fitted with a catalytic converter (used
especially in cat car).
Etymology: Formed by shortening catalytic converter, catalyst,
or catalyser to its first syllable.
History and Usage: Catalytic converters were first developed
in the fifties, but the abbreviation cat did not start to appear
frequently in print until about 1988, when the first models of
car fitted with a cat as a standard option became available in
the UK. Although quite separate from the issue of unleaded fuel,
the desirability of cat cars has tended to be discussed in
connection with the widespread switch to lead-free petrol, since
a cat can only do its job--to 'scrub' carbon monoxide, nitrogen
oxide, and hydrocarbons from the exhaust--in cars which run on
unleaded fuel. At first, new models were produced in both cat
and non-cat versions, but cat-only models look increasingly
likely in the nineties.
Unusually, Ford have been completely wrong-footed on
this one by arch-rival Vauxhall, who are to start
supplying cat cars in the UK this autumn.
Performance Car June 1989, p. 20
The new Turbo's exhaust system...features a
metallic-element catalytic converter, while even the
wastegate tailpipe is equipped with a cat and a muffler.
Autocar & Motor 7 Mar. 1990, p. 13
'Cats' are like honeycombs with many internal
surfaces...covered with precious metals which react with
harmful exhaust gases.
Independent 3 Aug. 1990, p. 2
CD noun (Science and Technology)
Short for compact disc, a small disc on which audio recordings
or other data are recorded digitally and which can be 'read'
optically by the reflection of a laser beam from the surface.
Etymology: The initial letters of Compact Disc.
History and Usage: CD technology was invented by Philips for
audio recording towards the end of the seventies as the most
promising medium for the accurate new digital recordings. By
1980 Philips had pooled their resources with Sony and it was
clear that the CD was to become the successor to the grooved
audio disc. During the early eighties the optical disc (another
name for the CD) was also vaunted as the medium of the future
for other kinds of data, since the storage capacity was vastly
greater than on floppy--or even hard--discs; a number of large
reference works and commercial databases became available on CD
ROM (compact disc with read-only memory), the form of CD used
for data of this kind. The sound and data are recorded as a
spiral pattern of pits and bumps underneath a smooth protective
layer; inside the special CD player or CD reader needed to
'read' each of these kinds of disc, a laser beam is focused on
this spiral. By 1990 the CD had become the established medium
for high-quality audio recordings and new forms of CD were being
tried: the photo-CD, for example, was suggested as a permanent
storage medium for family photographs, the digitized images
being 'read' by a CD player and viewed on a television screen.
CD video (or CDV) applies the same technology to video.
Multimedia CDs, including CDI (Compact Disc Interactive) and DVI
(Digital Video Interactive) offer the possibility of combining
text, sound, and images on a single disc. CDTV allows the
viewer to interact with recorded television.
Whatever you want--get it on CD Video from your record
or Hi Fi dealer.
Sky Magazine Apr. 1990, p. 14
The CDTV system involves a unit the same size as a video
recorder which plugs into a standard television set.
Daily Telegraph 13 Aug. 1990, p. 4
CDI...emphasises the fact that it is a world standard.
This is a claim that can only be equalled by records,
tapes and audio CDs...To achieve this Philips and Sony
developed a new system and a new CD format for text,
graphics, stills, and animation.
Information World Review Sept. 1990, p. 20
The Kodak Photo CD system, jointly developed by Kodak
and Philips of the Netherlands, digitally stores images
from negatives or slides on compact discs. The pictures
can then be shown on ordinary television or computer
screens with a Photo CD player that also plays audio
Chicago Tribune 19 Sept. 1990, section C, p. 4
Ceefax noun (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Science and Technology)
In the UK, the trade mark of a teletext system (see tele-)
operated by the BBC.
Etymology: A respelling of see (as in seeing) combined with fax
(see fax° and faxэ): seeing facsimile, on which you may see
History and Usage: Ceefax was introduced in the early
seventies and is now a standard option on most new television
sets in the UK.
Telesoftware is carried by teletext--in other words, it
is part of the BBC's Ceefax service.
Listener 16 June 1983, p. 38
See also Oracle
cellular adjective (Science and Technology)
Being part of a mobile radio-telephone system in which the area
served is divided into small sections, each with its own
short-range transmitter/receiver; cellular telephone, a
hand-held mobile radio telephone for use in this kind of system.
Etymology: This kind of radio-telephone system is termed
cellular from the small sections, called cells, into which the
operating area is divided. The same frequencies can be used
simultaneously in the different cells, giving greater capacity
to the system as a whole.
History and Usage: This kind of mobile telephone became
available in the late seventies and was considerably more
successful than the more limited non-cellular radio telephone.
By the mid eighties cellular was often abbreviated to cell-, as
in cellphone for cellular telephone and Cellnet, the trade mark
of the cellular network operated by British Telecom in the UK
(and also of a similar service in the US), sometimes also used
to mean a cellphone.
It will soon be possible to use either of the two
cellular networks started this year off almost the
entire south coast.
The Times 15 Feb. 1985, p. 37
The mobile phone is the perfect symbol, if not of having
arrived, then at least of having the car pointed in the
right direction. It would no doubt come as a surprise to
most cellphone users that their conversations are in the
public domain, as it were, available to anyone with a
scanning receiver, a little time to kill, and a healthy
disregard for personal privacy. Fortunately for
cellphone users, it's very difficult for us
eavesdroppers to 'lock in' on one conversation for more
than a few minutes.
Guardian 14 July 1989, p. 7
CFC abbreviation (Environment)
Short for chlorofluorocarbon, any of a number of chemical
compounds released into the atmosphere through the use of
refrigerators, aerosol propellants, etc., and thought to be
harmful to the ozone layer.
Etymology: The initial letters of the elements which make up
the chemical name chlorofluorocarbon: compounds of chlorine,
fluorine, and carbon.
History and Usage: CFCs have been in use as refrigerants, in
aerosols, and in the plastics industry for some decades, but
came into the public eye through the discovery that they were
being very widely dispersed in the atmosphere and that chlorine
atoms derived from them were contributing to ozone depletion.
The experimental work showing this to be the case was carried
out during the seventies; by the early eighties, environmental
groups were trying to publicize the dangers and some governments
had taken action to control the use of CFCs, but it was not
until the end of the decade that CFC became an almost
universally known abbreviation in industrialized countries and
manufacturers started to produce large numbers of products
labelled CFC-free. If not followed by a number or in a
combination such as CFC gases, the term is nearly always used in
the plural, since there is a whole class of compounds of similar
structure and having similar effects on the ozone layer,
although some are more harmful than others.
Shoppers are told that meat and eggs are packaged in
Daily Telegraph 2 May 1989, p. 17
India alone estimates its bill for replacing CFCs over
the next 20 years will be њ350 million. Mrs Thatcher
said it was essential that all nations joined the
process of ridding the world of CFCs otherwise the
health of the people of the world and their way of life
Guardian 28 June 1990, p. 3
Du Pont has...promised to suspend production of
ozone-destroying CFCs by 2000.
News-Journal (Wilmington) 9 July 1990, section D, p. 1
chair noun (People and Society)
A non-sexist way of saying 'chairman' or 'chairwoman'; a
Etymology: Formed by dropping the sex-specific part of chairman
etc. An impersonal use of Chair (especially in the appeal of
Chair! Chair! and in the phrase to address the chair) had
existed for centuries and provided the precedent for this use.
History and Usage: A usage which arose from the feminist
movement in the mid seventies. Although disliked by some, it
has become well established. It is interesting, though, that it
has not produced derivatives: one finds chairpersonship of a
committee, but only very rarely chairship.
On the more general aspects of the arriviste's upward
trajectory, however, such as the craft
of...chairpersonship, he has much less to say.
Nature 9 Dec. 1982, p. 550
She has annoyed the Black Sections by refusing to resign
as chair of the party black advisory committee.
Tribune 12 Sept. 1986, p. 7
(Health and Fitness) (People and Society) see abled
(Science and Technology) see shuttle
chaos noun (Science and Technology)
A state of apparent randomness and unpredictability which can be
observed in the physical world or in any dynamic system that is
highly sensitive to small changes in external conditions; the
area of mathematics and physics in which this is studied (also
called chaos theory or chaology).
Etymology: A specialized use of the figurative sense of chaos,
'utter confusion and disorder' (a sense which itself goes back
to the seventeenth century). Although actually determined by
tiny changes in conditions which have large consequences, the
processes which scientists call chaos appear at first sight to
be random, utterly confused, and disordered.
History and Usage: The serious study of chaos began in the late
sixties, but it was only in the mid seventies that
mathematicians started to call this state chaos and not until
the mid eighties that the study of these phenomena came to be
called chaos theory. It is relevant to any system in which a
very small change in initial conditions can make a significant
difference to the outcome; a humorous example often quoted is
the butterfly effect in weather systems--these systems being so
sensitive to initial conditions that it is said that whether or
not a butterfly flaps its wings on one side of the world could
determine whether or not a tornado occurs on the other side. By
the beginning of the nineties the study of chaotic systems had
already proved to offer important insights to all areas of
science--and indeed to our understanding of social
processes--partly because it views systems as dynamic and
developing rather than looking only at a static problem. A
person who studies chaos is a chaologist, chaos theorist, or
When the explorers of chaos began to think back on the
genealogy of their new science, they found many
intellectual trails from the past...A starting point was
the Butterfly Effect.
James Gleick Chaos: Making a New Science (1988), p. 8
Chaos theory presents a Universe that is deterministic,
obeying fundamental physical laws, but with a
predisposition for disorder, complexity and
New Scientist 21 Oct. 1989, p. 24
One of the tasks facing students of complex chaotic
systems...is to investigate fully the range of
predictability in each case.
The Times 9 Aug. 1990, p. 13
(Politics) see cap
(Business World) see card°
chase the dragon
verbal phrase (Drugs)
In the slang of drug users, to take heroin (or heroin mixed with
another smokable drug) by heating it on a piece of folded tin
foil and inhaling the fumes.
Etymology: The phrase is reputed to be translated from Chinese
and apparently arises from the fact that the fumes move up and
down the piece of tin foil with the movements of the molten
heroin powder, and these undulating movements resemble the tail
of the dragon in Chinese myths.
History and Usage: This method of taking heroin comes from the
Far East, as does the imagery of the phrase. It has been
practised in the West since at least the sixties; in the
eighties, with the threat of contracting Aids from used needles,
it became more popular than injecting and the phrase became more
Probably the stuff was now only twenty per cent pure.
Still, good enough for 'chasing the dragon' Hong Kong
style with match, silver foil, and paper tube.
Timothy Mo Sour Sweet (1982), p. 50
A hundred men or more lay sprawled 'chasing the
dragon'--inhaling heroin through a tube held over heated
The Times 24 May 1989, p. 13
A smokeable dollop of heroin costs about $10, about the
same as a 'rock' of crack, which means that one can
'chase the dragon' for $20.
Sunday Telegraph 18 Feb. 1990, p. 17
chatline (People and Society) see -line
noun (People and Society)
In the colloquial language of the media in the UK, educated
members of the middle and upper classes who read the 'quality'
newspapers, hold freely expressed liberal political opinions,
and see themselves as highly articulate and socially aware.
Etymology: A catch-phrase (apparently coined by the journalist
Frank Johnson in the early eighties and popularized by Alan
Watkins of the Observer), after the model of working
classes--the main characteristic of the group being readiness to
express social and political opinions which are nevertheless
seen by those in power as mere chatter.
History and Usage: According to an article by Alan Watkins in
the Guardian (25 November 1989), the term was coined by Frank
Johnson in conversation with Watkins in the late seventies or
early eighties, when the two journalists lived in neighbouring
flats. Certainly it was Watkins who subsequently popularized
this apt description and turned it into a useful piece of
shorthand for a well-known British 'type'. According to Watkins,
the most important characteristics of the chattering classes at
the time were their political views (usually including criticism
of the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher), their
occupations (social workers, teachers, journalists, 'media
people'), and their preferred reading matter (newspapers such as
the Guardian, Independent, and Observer).
Does anybody really care who is elected Chancellor of
the University of Oxford? Only the chattering classes
Daily Telegraph 7 Mar. 1987, p. 14
(Business World) see card°
noun (People and Society)
Maltreatment of a child, especially by physical violence or
Etymology: Formed by compounding. The specialized sense of
abuse here had already been in use for some time before the
(sexual) abuse of children came to public attention during the
eighties, and is common in other combinations: see abuse.
History and Usage: Child abuse was first used as a term in the
early seventies, but mostly to refer to crimes of physical
violence ('baby battering') or neglect. During the eighties (and
particularly as a result of the public enquiry into the large
numbers of children diagnosed as sexually abused in Cleveland,
NE England, in 1987) it became clear that the sexual abuse of
children, often by a parent or other family member, was much
more widespread than had previously been thought, and a great
deal was both written and spoken on the subject. Since then, the
term child abuse has been used especially to refer to sexual
interference with a child, and seems to have taken over from the
older term child molesting. In 1990 the subject gained
widespread publicity once again in the UK as police investigated
the suspected abuse of children by adults involved in satanic
rituals (known as ritual abuse or satanic abuse as well as child
Child abuse occurs in all walks of life...Doctors and
lawyers, too, batter their kids.
New York Times 6 Jan. 1974, p. 54
Grave disquiet was expressed...about the conclusions
drawn from diagnostic sessions held at the Great Ormond
Street Hospital child abuse clinic in those cases where
there was doubt whether a child had been sexually
The Times 16 July 1986, p. 36
Childline (People and Society) see -line
noun (Science and Technology)
A hypothetical sequence of events following the meltdown of a
nuclear reactor, in which so much heat is generated that the
core melts through its containment structure and deep down into
Etymology: Formed by compounding: the idea is that the syndrome
ultimately results in the meltdown's reaching China (from the
US) by melting through the core of the earth.
History and Usage: The China syndrome was always a fictional
concept. It began as a piece of the folklore of nuclear physics
but was widely popularized by the film The China Syndrome
(produced in the US in 1979), which dealt with a fictional case
of the official cover-up of an operational flaw in a nuclear
reactor. Partly as a result of this film and partly because of
the near meltdown which occurred at Chernobyl in the Soviet
Union in 1986, the idea of the China syndrome came to symbolize
people's fears about the increasing use of nuclear power, even
though the actual sequence of events in the fictional China
syndrome was obviously far-fetched. The phrase had become
sufficiently well known by the late eighties to be applied
punningly by journalists in a number of other contexts, notably
in relation to mass pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing in
1989 and their subsequent violent suppression by the Chinese
Mr. Velikhov's announcement gave no clear indication
just how close the Chernobyl disaster came to creating
the so-called 'China Syndrome'.
The Times 12 May 1986, p. 1
For at least a decade, government and business leaders
around the world have based their Asian thinking on the
belief that China was an economically developing,
politically stable giant. Now all that has been stood on
its head. There is a new China syndrome.
Business Week 26 June 1989, p. 76
(Drugs) see designer drug
chip card (Business World) see card°
(Environment) see CFC
(Environment) see mousseэ
(Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure) see -free
(Politics) see -friendly
claimant noun (People and Society)
A person claiming a state benefit (especially unemployment
Etymology: A specialized use of the word claimant, which has
been used in the more general sense of 'one who makes a claim'
since the eighteenth century.
History and Usage: The term has been used in official documents
since the twenties, but was taken up by the claimants themselves
in the seventies as a word offering solidarity; claimants'
unions were formed and soon the word started to appear in new
contexts such as notices announcing discounts.
The administration argues that its tough
program--reviewing records of claimants and actually
cutting off benefits from persons deemed able to
work--stems from a 1980 law.
Christian Science Monitor 27 Mar. 1984, p. 17
A new and unneccessary hurdle for the thousands of
claimants who have been unfairly thrown off the
New York Times 26 Mar. 1986, section A, p. 22
See also unwaged
clamp transitive verb (Lifestyle and Leisure)
To immobilize (an illegally parked car) by attaching a wheel
clamp to it. Also, to subject (a person) to the experience of
having his or her car clamped.
Etymology: A specialized use of the verb, which has existed in
the general sense 'to make fast with a clamp' since the
History and Usage: For history and usage, see wheel clamp.
In the first eight weeks 4,358 vehicles were clamped
with the Denver shoe.
Daily Telegraph 14 July 1983, p. 19
We've been clamped!! One just can't avoid every
Holiday Which? Mar. 1990, p. 73
classist adjective and noun (People and Society)
adjective: Discriminating against a person or group of people
because of their social class; class-prejudiced.
noun: A person who holds class prejudices or advocates class
Etymology: Formed by adding the suffix -ist (as in racist and
sexist) to class; the corresponding -ism (classism) is a much
older word, going back to the middle of the nineteenth century.
History and Usage: This word belongs to the debate about social
attitudes and motivations which resulted from the feminist
movement of the second half of the seventies.
The user called another participant in the conversation
'a classist' for arguing that (particular) middle class
values and behaviors were superior.
American Speech Summer 1988, p. 183
Clause 28 noun (Politics) (People and Society)
In the UK, a clause of the Local Government Bill (and later Act)
banning local authorities from 'promoting homosexuality', and
thereby imposing restrictions on certain books and educational
material, works of art, etc.; hence also used allusively for the
loss of artistic freedom and mood of homophobia seen by many as
the sub-text of this legislation. Sometimes referred to simply
as the Clause.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: the clause numbered 28 in the
original Local Authority Bill. Although the Bill became an Act
in mid 1988, and the clause therefore became a section, the term
Section 28 did not gain much currency outside government or
History and Usage: Clause 28 was discussed in Parliament for
the first time at the end of 1987 and was welcomed by a large
number of Conservative MPs as an expression of their party's
commitment to 'traditional family values' and its pledge to
tackle the problem of the 'permissive society' which had
resulted from increased sexual freedom in the seventies and
early eighties. From the opposite side of the political
spectrum, though, the emergence of measures like Clause 28 in
the late eighties was interpreted as being symptomatic of a
growing institutionalized homophobia in the post-Aids era. It
was largely the opponents of Clause 28 who continued to use the
term--after the Bill became an Act in mid 1988--to allude to
this perceived mood of artistic censorship and repressiveness.
The homeless, the loss of artistic freedom (Clause 28),
the unemployment figures and the cuts in arts funding
were the subjects discussed.
Independent on Sunday 18 Nov. 1990, p. 23
In the years immediately following 1967 there was a
tripling of the prosecutions for homosexual offences.
What is happening today follows the same logic, reshaped
by a decade of new right dominance, the impact of aids,
and the climate that brought us Clause 28.
Gay Times Apr. 1991, p. 3
click intransitive or transitive verb (Science and Technology)
In computing, to press one of the buttons on a mouse; to select
(an item represented on-screen, a particular function, etc.) by
Etymology: Click, like zap, began as an onomatopoeic word for
any of various small 'mechanical' sounds, such as finger-snaps
or the cocking of a gun. The same word was also used as a verb,
meaning either 'to make, or cause to make, this sound' or (a
later development) 'to operate (a device which clicks)'. The
mouse is simply the latest in a succession of possible objects
for this later transitive sense.
Prodigy uses the mouse extensively...In place of a GEM
double click, you have to click both buttons.
Music Technology Apr. 1990, p. 36
It allows you to browse until you find the file you're
looking for, and, assuming you're in 'recover' mode,
click on its name to request the server to deliver it
back to your client at the desktop.
UnixWorld Jan. 1991, p. 54
clock transitive verb
In slang, to take notice of (a person or thing), to spot; also,
to watch, to stare at.
Etymology: Probably derived from the practice of
clock-watching, which involves repeated glancing at the clock.
History and Usage: This word has been in use in underworld or
criminal slang since about the forties, but has recently been
taken up by journalists and moved into a rather more respectable
This is the one rhythm machine that puts you back in the
driving seat. Clock the SBX-80 at Roland dealers now.
International Musician June 1985, p. 86
Our waiter...was so busy clocking him that he spilt a
bottle of precious appleade over the tablecloth.
Sunday Express Magazine 3 Aug. 1986, p. 33
clone noun (Science and Technology)
A computer which deliberately simulates the features and
facilities of a more expensive competitor; especially, a copy of
the IBM PC.
Etymology: A specialization of the figurative sense of clone
which originated in science fiction: from the early seventies, a
clone was a person or animal that had developed from a single
somatic cell of its parent and was therefore genetically an
identical copy. The computer clones were designed to be
identical in capability to the models that inspired them (and,
in particular, to run the same software).
History and Usage: A usage which arose during the eighties, as
a number of microcomputer manufacturers attempted to undercut
the very successful IBM personal computer (and later its
successor, the PS2). Also widely used for other cut-price copies
(for example, of cars and cameras as well as other computers).
Amstrad [is] leading the cut price clones attacking IBM
personal computers on price.
Marketing 11 Sept. 1986, p. 5
The company is a major porter to Far Eastern clone
makers, who are developing copies of Sun Microsystems'
UnixWorld Jan. 1991, p. 68
cocooning noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
In the US, the practice of nurturing one's family life by
spending leisure time in the home with one's family; the valuing
of family life and privacy above social contact and advancement.
Also as a verb cocoon and an agent noun cocooner.
Etymology: This specialized sense derives from the idea of a
cocoon as a protective layer or shell: Americans are seen as
deliberately retreating from the stressful conditions of life
outside the home into the cosy private world of the family.
Towards the end of the seventies in his book Manwatching, the
anthropologist Desmond Morris had observed a similar protective
device among people who live or work in crowded places where
privacy is difficult to achieve:
Flatmates, students sharing a study, sailors in the
cramped quarters of a ship, and office staff in crowded
workplaces, all have to face this problem. They solve it
by 'cocooning'. They use a variety of devices to shut
themselves off from the others present.
Cocooning can be seen as one step on from the nesting which is
characteristic of new parents.
History and Usage: The word was apparently coined by Faith
Popcorn--a New York trend analyst--in 1986, after analysis of
socio-economic trends had shown that people in the US were going
out and travelling less, ordering more takeout food to eat at
home, doing more of their shopping from catalogues rather than
in person, and showing more interest in traditional pastimes
(such as craft work) which could be done at home. Within a few
years this had had a significant commercial effect in the
US--but it remains to be seen whether the trend will be limited
to affluent Americans. Cocooning is seen by some as an
up-market way of saying 'being a couch potato'.
We are benefitting from 'cocooning'. Everyone wants to
spend more time at home with family. Crafts like
cross-stitching and fabrics for children and home
decorating have experienced tremendous growth.
Fortune 30 July 1990, p. 132
You could be...what Americans call a 'cocooner'--a rich
yuppie who escapes the violence of society by shutting
himself up with his designer wife and baby behind a
screen of security alarms.
Sunday Express 16 Sept. 1990, p. 25
Coexistence or co-operation in government between members of
opposing parties, especially when one is the President and the
other the Prime Minister. Hence, by extension, the coexistence
of different currencies in a single monetary system. Also as an
intransitive verb, cohabit.
Etymology: Borrowed into English from French cohabitation. In
both languages, this is a figurative use of cohabitation in the
sense 'living together as though man and wife, although not
actually married'. Political cohabitation is seen as a marriage
of inconvenience brought about by the fickleness of the voting
History and Usage: The word was first used in this sense in
English in a report of a speech made by French President Val‚ry
Giscard d'Estaing in 1978, during a period of coalition
government in France. As the eighties progressed, the French
voting public tended to favour a Socialist President (Fran‡ois
Mitterrand) in combination with a conservative Prime Minister,
making cohabitation a fact of life in French politics. During
the discussion of EMS and EMU° in the late eighties, the word
was used by journalists in a transferred sense to refer to the
coexistence of different standards for European currencies.
Like France, Portugal is adjusting to the 'cohabitation'
of a Socialist president and a conservative Prime
Economist 5 Apr. 1986, p. 57
Via EMS, the D-mark became Europe's leading currency,
while the yen and the dollar cohabited.
Business Apr. 1990, p. 43
cold call verb and noun (Business World)
In marketing jargon,
transitive verb: To make an unsolicited telephone call or visit
to (a prospective customer) as a way of selling a product.
noun: A marketing call on a person who has not previously
expressed any interest in the product. Also as an action noun
Etymology: Formed by compounding: the call, whether by
telephone or in person, is made cold, without any previous
warm-up, or preparation of the ground.
History and Usage: The term was first used in the early
seventies as a more jargony equivalent for 'door-to-door
selling' (and at that time cold calling was mostly done
door-to-door); in the eighties the rise of telemarketing (see
tele-) and the emphasis on 'hard sell' has meant a huge increase
in cold calling by telephone.
On the first cold call I ever made I started saying what
I had been trained to say when to my astonishment the
person I had rung said 'yes'.
Marketing 11 Sept. 1986, p. 20
We've never been happy with 'cold calling' and are very
disappointed that the FSA extended it further. People
don't make calm, rational decisions if they're
smooth-talked into signing by strangers in their homes.
Which? Jan. 1990, p. 35
Financial salesmen will be able to 'cold call' customers
and sell investment trust savings schemes.
The Times 30 Mar. 1990, p. 23
noun Also written collectible (especially in the US) (Lifestyle
Any article which might form part of a collection or is sought
after by collectors, especially a small and relatively
inexpensive item or one expressly produced for collectors.
Etymology: Formed by turning the adjective collectable into a
noun. In its more general sense the adjective simply means 'that
may be collected', but it has been used by collectors to mean
'worth collecting, sought after' since the end of the last
History and Usage: Not a particularly new word--even as a
noun--among collectors themselves, but one which has enjoyed
increased exposure in the past decade, partly through the boom
in collecting as a hobby. The noun is nearly always used in the
What distinguishes all these catalog 'collectibles' is
that they are at once ugly, of doubtful value, and
Paul Fussell Class (1983), p. 119
The wonderful thing about 'collectables' is that anyone
with just a few extra pounds can become a collector.
Miller's Collectables Price Guide 1989-90, volume 1,
colourize transitive verb Written colorize in the US (Lifestyle and
Leisure) (Science and Technology)
To add colour to (a black-and-white film) by a computerized
process called Colorizer (a trade mark). Also as an adjective
colourized; noun colourization.
Etymology: The verb has existed in the sense 'to colour' since
the seventeenth century, but was rarely used until the invention
of the Colorizer. This use of the verb is likely to be a
back-formation from Colorizer rather than a straightforward
History and Usage: The Colorizer program has been used in
Canada since the early eighties; the name was registered as a
trade mark in the mid eighties. Also during the mid eighties,
the practice of colourizing classic black-and-white films
(especially for release as home videos) caused considerable
controversy, with one side claiming that a company which had
bought the rights to a particular film should be allowed to do
as it wished with it, and the other maintaining that classic
films were works of art not to be tampered with in any way.
'Colorizing' great movies such as Casablanca...is like
spray-painting the Venus de Milo.
Time 5 Nov. 1984, p. 10
Rather than legislate directly against the business
interests that stood to profit from colorization,
Congress approved provisions under which films could be
given landmark status and protected...When broadcast
recently on TBS, colorized pictures have been labeled as
Philadelphia Inquirer 20 Sept. 1989, section A, p. 4
noun (Business World)
The process of turning something into a commodity or viewing it
in commercial terms when it is not by nature commercial;
Etymology: Formed by adding the process suffix -ification to
the first two syllables of commodity.
History and Usage: Coined in the seventies, commodification has
become a fashionable word to describe the eighties' increasingly
commercial approach to the Arts and to services (such as health
care) which would not previously have been regarded as
marketable. In financial sources, the word has also been used to
refer to the tendency in the late eighties for money to be
traded as though it were a commodity.
[Artists] have made conscious attempts over the last
decade to combat the relentless commodification of their
Lucy Lippard Overlay (1983), p. 6
community antenna television
(Lifestyle and Leisure) see cable television
noun (Business World) (Politics)
In Great Britain, a charge for local services at a level fixed
annually by the local authority and in principle payable by
every adult resident; the official name for the tax popularly
known as the poll tax.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a charge for community
services, and payable by every adult resident of the community
who is not specially exempted.
History and Usage: The government announced its intention to
replace the system of household rates with a community charge in
1985; the original plan was for a flat-rate charge of њ50 per
person. The plan was first put into effect in Scotland in 1989
and in the rest of Great Britain (but not Northern Ireland) in
1990. In both places it met with considerable opposition and a
campaign of non-payment, not least because of the high level of
tax fixed by many local authorities, the large discrepancies
from one area to another, and the absence of any kind of means
testing from the system (although those on low incomes could
apply for rebates). The government's decision to cap the tax in
high-spending areas only compounded the problem, since bills had
already been issued by many of the local authorities affected.
Community charge is the official term used by the government and
some local authorities; popularly, though, and in some
literature issued by non-Conservative local authorities, it is
known as poll tax. In April 1991, the government announced the
result of its review of the community charge, which, it said,
would be replaced after consultation by a property-based council
tax by 1993.
You don't pay the personal charge if you're...a
prisoner, unless you're inside for not paying the
community charge or a fine.
Which? Oct. 1989, p. 476
This week's violent community charge agitation has
sparked a dramatic resurgence in the fortunes of
Militant Tendency and other Trotskyite groups.
The Times 8 Mar. 1990, p. 5
(Science and Technology) see CD
(People and Society)
A temporarily indifferent or unsympathetic attitude towards
others' suffering as a result of overexposure to charitable
Etymology: Formed by compounding: fatigue affecting one's
capacity for compassion.
History and Usage: Compassion fatigue was first written about
in the US in the early eighties, and at first was used mainly in
the context of refugee appeals and the resulting pressure on
immigration policy there. In the UK compassion fatigue was first
mentioned when famines in Ethiopia in 1984-5 became the subject
of graphic television appeals, followed by large-scale
fund-raising events such as Band Aid (see -Aid). It was feared
that the British public could only stand the sight of so many
starving children before 'switching off' emotionally to their
suffering, but in the event the response to these appeals was
good and it seemed that the issues most vulnerable to compassion
fatigue were the ones generally perceived as 'old news'. The
same effect on governmental agencies has been described as aid
Geldof, the Irish rock musician who conceived the event
and spearheaded its hasty implementation, said that he
'wanted to get this done before compassion fatigue set
in', following such projects as the African fund-raising
records 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' and 'We Are the
New York Times 22 Sept. 1985, section 2, p. 28
It is a chilling vision, a cataclysm. Compassion fatigue
be damned. There is no doubt that we in Britain,
without ceasing to wage our domestic battle against
Aids, should be careful not to forget Africa, fighting
its far more savage war.
Independent on Sunday 1 Apr. 1990, Sunday Review
section, p. 10
adjective (Health and Fitness)
Of a therapy or health treatment: intended to complement
orthodox medical practices; alternative, naturopathic. Also of a
practitioner: not belonging to the traditional medical
Etymology: A specialized application of complementary in its
normal sense, 'forming a complement', the idea being that the
alternative therapies do not compete with traditional medicine,
but form a natural complement to it. This is the successor to
the earlier and more dismissive 'fringe medicine', which saw
these techniques as being on--or even beyond--the fringe of
History and Usage: The term complementary medicine was coined
by Stephen Fulder and Robin Munro in a report on the use of
these techniques in the UK, published in 1982:
After extensive consideration of titles such as
'alternative medicine', 'fringe medicine' or 'natural
therapeutics' we have decided to use the term '
complementary medicine' to describe systems...which
stand apart from but are in some ways complementary to
conventional scientific medicine.
Since then it has become very common, reflecting the change in
public attitudes to these techniques during the decade (from
'fringe' or even 'quack' medicine to an accepted approach).
Apart from complementary medicine, the adjective is used in
complementary therapist, complementary practitioner, etc.
The Research Council for Complementary Medicine (RCCM)
was set up to find research methods acceptable to both
complementary and conventional practitioners.
Practical Health Spring 1990, pull-out section, p. 5
The plight of Mrs S wishing to fight cancer with
complementary medicine before surgery...but rejected for
this reason by five doctors is sad indeed. She could no
doubt be helped by more than one complementary therapy.
Kindred Spirit Summer 1990, p. 38
computer-aided tomography, computer-assisted tomography
(Health and Fitness) (Science and Technology) see CAT°
adjective (Science and Technology)
Proficient in the theory and practice of computing;
Etymology: Formed by combining computer and literate into a
blend, taking advantage of the shared syllable -ter-. There was
a precedent for this concept in the words numeracy and numerate
(mathematically literate), which in the late fifties introduced
the idea of a range of skills modelled on literacy/literate.
History and Usage: When computing skills became sought after in
the job markets in the seventies, there was much discussion of
computer literacy and the need to provide a general education
which would produce computer-literate individuals. It was a
short step from this metaphor to the blend computerate, which
started to appear in the early eighties. The corresponding noun
computeracy has been used colloquially since the late sixties,
but also attained a more general currency during the eighties. A
similar, but less successful, coinage is the punning adjective
computent, competent in the use of computers (coined by Richard
Sarson in the mid eighties), along with its corresponding noun
Chapman and Hall are looking for a numerate and
computerate person with publishing experience.
New Scientist 30 Aug. 1984, p. 59
Computeracy will not solve all your problems.
headline in Guardian 28 Feb. 1985, p. 25
Andy's computence did not make him a philosopher or a
captain of industry...But he passed on some of his
computence to me, for which I will always be
grateful...Computent Andy, illiterate and innumerate in
the eyes of the educational system though he may be, has
made me computent, and thereby more literate and
numerate than I was.
The Times 19 Apr. 1988, p. 33
(Science and Technology) see -friendly
computerized axial tomography
(Health and Fitness) (Science and Technology) see CAT°
(Science and Technology) see virus
condom noun (Health and Fitness)
A sheath made of thin rubber and worn over the penis during
sexual intercourse, either to prevent conception or as a
Etymology: Of unknown origin; often said to be the name of its
inventor, although this theory has never been proved.
History and Usage: The word has been used in this sense in
English since the early eighteenth century. It is included here
only because it acquired a renewed currency--and a new
respectability--in the language as a direct result of the spread
of Aids in the 1980s. Whereas sheath or trade marks such as
Durex were the only terms (apart from slang expressions) in
widespread popular use in the UK immediately before the advent
of Aids, it was condom that was chosen for repeated use in
government advertising campaigns designed to explain the concept
of safe sex to the general public in the mid eighties. Soon the
word had become so widespread that there were even reports of
schoolchildren who had invented a new version of the playground
game tag in which the safe area was not the 'den' but the
condom. The pronunciation with full quality given to both vowels
/--/ belongs only to this twentieth-century use (in the past it
had been pronounced /--/ or /--/, to rhyme at the end with
conundrum) and possibly reflects the unfamiliarity of the word
to the speakers of the government advertisements. In 1988 there
was an attempt to introduce a condom for women to wear;
meanwhile, the buying of the male version was presented very
much as a joint duty for any Aids-conscious couple. This
emphasis in advertising, as well as the generally permissive
attitude to sexual relationships of any orientation in the
eighties, led to the development of the nickname condom culture,
used especially by those who favoured stricter sexual morals.
More women should buy, carry and use condoms to help
stop the spread of Aids, according to the organisers of
National Condom Week, which starts today. The intention
is to encourage people to get used to buying and
carrying the contraceptives without embarrassment or
Guardian 7 Aug. 1989, p. 5
The government has promoted a 'condom culture' of sex
without commitment as part of a dismal record on support
of family life, the National Family Trust claims today.
Daily Telegraph 11 Aug. 1989, p. 2
Everyone on the docks has...condoms...Pull a kid
aside...and he'll tell you he doesn't need them...Does
it sound to you like I need to put on a bag?
Village Voice (New York) 30 Jan. 1990, p. 34
(Science and Technology) see neural
(People and Society) see tamper
contra noun Sometimes written Contra (Politics)
A member of any of the guerrilla forces which opposed the
Sandinista government in Nicaragua between 1979 and 1990; often
written in the plural contras, these forces considered
Etymology: An abbreviated form of the Spanish word
contrarrevolucionario 'counter-revolutionary', probably
influenced by Latin contra 'against'.
History and Usage: The word appeared on the US political scene
at the very beginning of the eighties and became an increasingly
hot issue in view of the US presidential administration's desire
to aid the overthrow of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
This reached its peak in the Iran-contra affair of 1986, when it
was alleged that profits from US arms sales to Iran had been
diverted to aid the contras, even though legislation had by then
been passed to prevent any material aid from being sent; the
ensuing Congressional hearings made the word contra known
throughout the English-speaking world even if reporting of the
long civil war in Nicaragua itself had not. Despite a plan
agreed by Central American leaders in August 1989 to 'disband'
the rebels, even the end of the Sandinista government after the
elections in 1990 did not immediately bring an end to guerrilla
activity from the contras.
Oliver North, the ex-Marine colonel at the heart of the
Iran-contra affair, whom Ronald Reagan dubbed 'a true
American hero', was yesterday spared a prison term.
Guardian 6 July 1989, p. 20
The scenario clearly involved some kind of trade-off of
contra aid and drugs and money.
Interview Mar. 1990, p. 42
noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
In the UK, a temporary traffic flow system (for example during
carriageway repairs on a motorway) in which traffic is diverted
on to the outer lane or lanes of the opposite carriageway, so
that the carriageway which remains fully operational is in
effect a temporary two-way road.
Etymology: Contraflow has existed as a word meaning 'flow in
the opposite direction' since the thirties; the traffic use is a
specialized application of this sense.
History and Usage: The first contraflow systems on British
roads--at least, the first to be called contraflow--appeared in
the seventies. As the country's system of motorways began to age
in the eighties, the contraflow became a seemingly ubiquitous
sight and one was reported on radio traffic news almost every
day. Sometimes contraflow is used on its own to signify the
whole traffic-flow system; often, though, it is used
attributively in contraflow system, etc.
Resurfacing...has meant closing the northbound section
and funnelling traffic into a contraflow system of two
lanes each way on the southbound side.
The Times 9 Apr. 1985, p. 3
A spokesman said the contraflow was working smoothly at
the time of the crash and visibility was good.
Daily Telegraph 7 Sept. 1987, p. 4
(Politics) see -gate
adjective and noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
adjective: Of foods: sold in a pre-cooked and refrigerated form,
for consumption within a specified time (usually after thorough
reheating). Also in the form cook-chilled.
noun: The process of pre-cooking and refrigerating foods for
Etymology: Formed by compounding: the principle is first to
cook and then to chill the food.
History and Usage: The system was invented as an offshoot of
partially cooked frozen meals, and had become popular in
institutional catering by the early eighties. The term was
widely popularized in the UK in 1989, when there was an increase
in cases of listeriosis thought to be caused at least in part by
failure to store cook-chill foods correctly or reheat them
The Department of Health has already advised people in
at-risk groups not to eat cook-chill foods cold, and--if
you buy one to eat hot--to make sure that it's reheated
until it's 'piping hot'.
Which? Apr. 1990, p. 206
core wars plural noun (Science and Technology)
In computing jargon, a type of computer game played by
programming experts, in which the object is to design and run a
program which will destroy the one designed and run by the
Etymology: Formed by compounding; core is a reference to the
old ferromagnetic cores which made up the memory elements of
computers used in the fifties and sixties, before the advent of
semiconductor chips. Active memory is still sometimes referred
to as core memory, even in modern computers.
History and Usage: The 'sport' of core wars originated among
computer scientists at Bell Laboratories in the US in the late
fifties and sixties and was originally the proper name of a
program developed by the computer-games group there. It was
popularized in the US in the mid eighties, probably as a more
respectable offshoot of the interest in mischievous programs
such as the computer virus and worm and in defensive programming
techniques which could be used to protect software from attack.
By 1986 it had been raised to the level of international
competition, but remains a minority interest.
Robert Morris Sr....played a game based on a computer
virus over 40 years ago...Called Core Wars, the game
centered around the design of a program that multiplied
and tried to destroy other players' programs.
Personal Computing May 1989, p. 92
(Environment) see crop circle
(Drugs) see angel dust
corn-free (Lifestyle and Leisure) see -free
noun (Business World)
Corporate bureaucracy: bureaucratic organization in large
companies (or in a particular company), especially when
excessively hierarchical structures lead to overstaffing and
inefficiency. Such companies are described as corpocratic; a
director of one is a corpocrat.
Etymology: Formed by combining the first two syllables of
corporate with the last two of bureaucracy to make a blend.
History and Usage: The word was coined by American economist
Robert Heller in his book The Common Millionaire (1974), but was
still sufficiently unfamiliar in the mid eighties for John S.
Berry and Mark Green to present it as a new coinage in The
Challenge of Hidden Profits: Reducing Corporate Bureaucracy and
Waste (1985). In the UK the word--although not the
phenomenon--was popularized by financier Sir James Goldsmith.
Corpocracy was presented as an important reason for the
uncompetitiveness of British and American businesses during the
It doesn't believe much in hierarchy, rule books, dress
codes, company cars, executive dining rooms, lofty
titles, country club memberships or most other trappings
Forbes 23 Mar. 1987, p. 154
Such a complete change of direction is not likely to be
welcomed by directors who I would describe as complacent
or entrenched in their current 'corpocratic' culture.
Sir James Goldsmith in First, 3.3 (1989), p. 18
(Business World) see makeover
noun (Lifestyle and Leisure) (People and Society)
In slang, a person who spends leisure time passively (for
example by sitting watching television or videos), eats junk
food, and takes little or no physical exercise.
Etymology: Formed by compounding; a person with the physical
shape of a potato who spends as much time as possible slouching
on the couch. The original humorous coinage by Californian Tom
Iacino relied on a pun: because of their love for continuous
viewing of the television (known in US slang as the boob tube,
unlike British slang, which uses the term for a skimpy stretch
bodice), these people had formerly been called boob tubers; for
their emblem, cartoonist Robert Armstrong therefore drew the
best known tuber--a potato--reclining on a couch watching TV,
formed a club called The Couch Potatoes, and later went on to
register the term as a trade mark.
History and Usage: The US trade mark registration for the term
couch potato claims that it was first used on 15 July 1976.
Robert Armstrong (who is really responsible for popularizing the
term and maintaining the cult) has claimed that this coinage was
not his, attributing it instead to Tom Iacino, another 'Elder'
of the cult, who used it when asking to speak to a fellow Elder
(known only as 'The Hallidonian') on the telephone. The Couch
Potatoes club which Armstrong formed aimed to raise the
self-esteem of tubers, and provided a counterbalance to the cult
of physical fitness which was by then a dominant influence in
American society. With the growth of the domestic video market,
the couch potato cult became very popular during the eighties
and resulted in much merchandising-- couch potato teeshirts,
dolls, stationery, books, etc. designed to promote pride in the
tuber culture. Many variations on the term developed too: the
obvious couch potatoing and couch potatodom and a whole range of
words based on spud, such as vid spud, telespud, spud suit, and
spudismo. With the coining of the trend analyst's term cocooning
in 1986, couch potatoes felt that their way of life was being
officially recognized; however, a National Children and Youth
Fitness Study carried out in the US in 1987 made it clear that
it was not to be officially condoned, criticizing parents for
not getting children to take outdoor exercise and for raising a
nation of couch potatoes. The couch potato concept and
merchandising reached the UK in the late eighties, although the
lifestyle had existed without a name for some time before that.
Though Mr. Armstrong's brainchild has yet to make him
rich, he is still undaunted, spreading the Couch Potato
gospel: 'We feel that watching TV is an indigenous
American form of meditation. We call it "transcendental
Parade 3 Jan. 1988, p. 6
The economy could be thrown into recession because of
the couch potato's penchant for staying home with the
family, watching TV and munching on microwave popcorn.
Atlanta Oct. 1989, p. 61
(Business World) (Politics) see community charge
noun Also written counter culture or counterculture (Lifestyle
and Leisure) (Youth Culture)
A radical, alternative culture, especially among young people,
that seeks out new values to replace the established and
Etymology: Formed by adding the prefix counter- (an anglicized
form of the Latin contra 'against') to culture: something that
rebels against established culture.
History and Usage: The counter-culture has, in a sense, always
been with us, since the younger generation in each succeeding
age rebels against the values of its parents and tries to
establish a new lifestyle; but the word counter-culture was
first used in the US to describe the hippie culture of the
sixties by those who looked back on it from the end of the
decade. The concept was popularized by Theodore Roszak in his
book The Making of a Counter-Culture (1969). Counter-culture
has come to be used especially to refer to any lifestyle which
attempts to get away from the materialism and consumption of the
post-war Western world; in the eighties, it has tended to give
way to the word alternative, especially in British English. A
follower of the counter-culture is a counter-culturalist.
The counter-culture ponytail is gone, sacrificed to the
heat of arena lights and the sizzling sweat of the
Time 30 May 1977, p. 40
It was the counter-culture, the alternative society, a
middle-class movement, an explosion of creative energy,
a bunch of unwashed, stoned-out air heads.
Observer 23 Oct. 1988, p. 43
The fact that so many counter-culturalists have now cut
their hair...and...become green 'rainbow warriors', is a
point which seems to have been overlooked.
Films & Filming Mar. 1990, p. 50
(Science and Technology) see -ware
Cowabunga Originally written kowa-bunga or Kawabonga; now also cowabunga
interjection (Youth Culture)
In young people's slang (originally in the US), an exclamation
of exhilaration or satisfaction, or sometimes a rallying cry to
action: yippee!, yahoo!, yabbadabba doo!
Etymology: The word was originally used in the fifties (in the
form kowa-bunga or Kawabonga) as an exclamation of anger by the
cartoon character Chief Thunderthud in The Howdy Doody Show,
written by Eddie Kean. By the sixties, it had entered surfing
slang as a cry of exhilaration when riding the crest of a wave.
Since the surfers of the sixties had been the children for whom
The Howdy Doody Show was written, it is easy to see how the word
made this transition; it is less clear how Eddie Kean came upon
it. Chief Thunderthud used the expression when annoyed, or if
something went wrong; when things went well, he said Kawagoopa.
Although Thunderthud was meant to be an American Indian, there
had been early speculation that cowabunga might come from the
Australian or South Seas surfing world; interestingly, kauwul is
recorded as an aboriginal word in New South Wales for 'big',
bong for 'death', and gubba for 'good', but this is surely no
more than a curious coincidence.
History and Usage: As mentioned above, Cowabunga was in use as
an exclamation among Californian surfers by the sixties. It
reached a wider audience through a series of films about a
surfer called Gidget in the sixties, through its use by the
cookie monster in the children's television series Sesame Street
in the seventies, and more particularly from 1990, when it was
taken up as the rallying cry of the Teenage Mutant Turtles. In
the book of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: the Movie, the turtles
are searching for a suitable cry:
They turned to Donatello, who struggled to come up with
the perfect word to describe their exploits. But
Donatello was at a loss. His brothers continued to top
each other: 'Tubular!' 'Radical!' 'Dynamite!' At last
Splinter raised a finger and brought an end to the
debate. 'I have always liked', he said quietly,
'cowabunga.' The turtles stared at him, grinning, then
laid down high-threes all around. 'Cow-a-bung-a!' they
cried in unison. And the battle-cry was born.
The word soon crossed the Atlantic as part of turtlemania, with
the result that one could hear the cry of 'Cowabunga, dudes!'
from British children apparently unaware that, as far as their
parents were concerned, they were speaking a foreign language.
'Hey, Mike, I didn't know that you could drive!' 'Me
Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles 10-23 Feb. 1990, p. 20
Marketers are betting that youngsters will have the same
reaction as American kids: Cowabunga!
Newsweek 16 Apr. 1990, p. 61
crack noun (Drugs)
In the slang of drug users, a highly addictive, crystalline form
of cocaine made by heating a mixture of it with baking powder
and water until it is hard, and breaking it into small pieces
which are burnt and smoked for their stimulating effect.
Etymology: The name arises from the fact that the hard-baked
substance has to be cracked into small pieces for use, as well
as the cracking sound the pieces make when smoked.
History and Usage: The substance itself first came to the
attention of US drug enforcement agencies in 1983, but at that
time was generally known on the streets as rock or freebase. The
name crack appeared during 1985 and by 1986 had become
established as the usual term, both among drug users and by the
authorities; since 1988, the fuller term crack cocaine has
tended to replace crack alone in official use. Crack's
appearance on the US drug market coincided with a marked rise in
violent crime, testifying to its potency and addictiveness, with
users prepared to go to almost any lengths to get more. The word
crack quickly became the basis for compounds, notably crackhead
(in drugs slang, a user of crack) and crack house (a house where
crack is prepared or from which it is sold). The phrasal verb
crack (it) up has also acquired the specialized meaning in drugs
slang of smoking crack.
In New York and Los Angeles drug dealers have opened up
drug galleries, called 'crack houses'.
San Francisco Chronicle 6 Dec. 1985, p. 3
'Crack it up, crack it up,' the drug dealers murmur from
the leafy parks of the suburbs to New York City's
Time 4 Aug. 1986, p. 27
Charlie and two fellow 'crackheads' took me to a vast
concrete housing estate in South London where crack is
on sale for between њ20 and њ25 a deal.
Observer 24 July 1988, p. 15
Some crack users [in Washington DC], unable to work for
a living, will go out with a lead pipe or a bat and hit
Japan Times 19 May 1989, p. 20
See also wack
cracking (Science and Technology) (Youth Culture) see hack
crank verb (Drugs)
In the slang of drug users in the UK: to inject (a drug). Often
as a phrasal verb crank up.
Etymology: A figurative use of the verb which normally means
'to start a motor by turning the crank'; a synonym in drugs
slang for jack (up), which follows a similar type of metaphor.
History and Usage: A word which has been used by drug users in
the UK since about the beginning of the seventies, crank seems
to be a rare example of a piece of drugs slang which is
exclusively British. US drugs slang has crank as a noun for
methamphetamine and cranking for repeated use of
methamphetamine, but the verb is apparently not used at all. In
Britain, it is normally used in the context of heroin injection.
'Where do you inject?' 'Me feet, me arms, me hands.'
'Would you give up cranking?' 'No, it's the needle I'm
Sunday Telegraph 29 Oct. 1989, p. 15
creative adjective (Business World)
Used euphemistically in the language of finance: exploiting
loopholes in financial legislation so as to gain maximum
advantage or present figures in a misleadingly favourable light;
ingenious or inventive.
Etymology: A figurative extension of meaning: creative had
been used of writing that was inventive or imaginative since the
early nineteenth century, and in context frequently meant no
more than 'fictional'. The creative accountant's task is to
interpret the figures imaginatively, with the result that a
largely fictional picture of events is often presented.
History and Usage: Used in the business world (especially in
creative accountancy or creative accounting) since the early
seventies, the euphemism was popularized in the mid eighties,
when it was rumoured that the technique had been used in
presenting both central and local government figures. At this
time creative accounting also became the subject of a number of
books published for people running small businesses or working
on their own.
Mr Nicholas Ridley, the Secretary of State for the
Environment, is today expected to warn high-spending
councils that he is ready to take tough new action to
stamp out 'creative accounting'.
The Times 21 Nov. 1986, p. 2
cred° noun (Youth Culture)
In young people's slang: credibility, reputation, peer status.
Etymology: Formed by abbreviating credibility to its first
History and Usage: The emphasis on cred in the early nineties
arises from the concept of street credibility which developed at
the very end of the seventies. Street credibility (which by the
early eighties was being abbreviated to street cred) originally
involved popularity with, and accessibility to, members of the
urban street culture, who were seen as representing ordinary
people. Before long, though, the term had come to mean
familiarity with contemporary fashions--or the extent to which a
person was 'hip'. Once the concept was established, the word
street was often dropped, leaving cred alone.
'Cred' was achieved by your rhetorical stance and no one
had more credibility than the Clash.
Bob Geldof Is That It? (1986), p. 125
'They've got to have total cred,' Boxall insisted, when
listing the special qualities he is looking for [in a
Sydney Morning Herald 1 Feb. 1990, p. 28
credэ noun (Business World)
In colloquial use (originally in the US): financial credit.
Etymology: Formed by abbreviating credit to its first syllable.
History and Usage: A natural development in view of the boom in
the use of credit facilities during the late seventies and
eighties. Also used in combinations, especially cred card.
Neat trick, eh? Cash and cred all in one bundle.
The Face Jan. 1989, p. 61
(Business World) see card°
crew noun (Youth Culture)
In hip hop culture, a group of rappers, break-dancers, graffiti
artists, etc. working together as a team. Also, loosely, one's
gang or posse.
Etymology: A specialized use of crew in the sense of 'a body or
squad of people working together', which goes back to the
seventeenth century. In this case, there is probably a conscious
allusion to the Rock Steady Crew: see break-dancing.
History and Usage: Originally used mainly of groups of rappers
(from about 1982 in the US), the term was soon applied to street
groups using other hip-hop forms of expression such as
break-dancing and graffiti (see tagэ) and by the end of the
decade had been adopted more generally by groups of youngsters.
To kids out of the South Bronx and Harlem, what the top
crews make is big bucks. For a one-night gig...a dancer
takes home $150 to $300.
Village Voice (New York) 10 Apr. 1984, p. 38
He and four friends, members of a crew of graffiti
artists who call themselves the L.A. Beastie Boys,
gathered at the park.
Los Angeles Times 22 Oct. 1987, section 10 (Glendale),
A (usually circular) area of standing crops which has been
inexplicably flattened, apparently by a swirling, vortex-like
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a circle of flattened crop.
History and Usage: The puzzling phenomenon of crop circles
(sometimes also called corn circles) has been perplexing
scientists for about a decade. Since the early eighties
increasing numbers of circles and other patterns have been
reported in areas as far apart as the South of England, the
farming belt of the US, and Australia, often appearing
overnight. A number of theories--ranging from meteorological
changes or fungi to alien spaceships or the activity of
hoaxers--have been put forward to explain them, but none has
They are the result not of the supernatural but of an
everyday, common garden variety of fungi, according to
biologists Mr Michael Hall and Mr Andrew Macara, who
have been conducting a study into the crop circle
Sunday Telegraph 11 Mar. 1990, p. 5
Could the enormous increase in the perplexing crop
circles be anything to do with the Earth's vital
Kindred Spirit Summer 1990, p. 26
crossover noun and adjective Sometimes written cross-over (Music) (People
noun: The process of moving from one culture (or especially from
one musical genre) to another; something or someone that has
done this (specifically, a musical act or artist that has moved
from a specialized appeal in one limited area of music into the
general popular-music charts).
adjective: (Of a person) that has made this transition from one
culture or genre to another; (of music, an act, etc.) appealing
to a wide audience outside its genre, sometimes by mixing
Etymology: The noun is formed on the verbal phrase cross over
and has been used in a number of specialized senses in English
since the eighteenth century. The cultural sense here is perhaps
in part a figurative application of the genetic crossover (one
of the word's specialized senses, in use since the early years
of this century), in which the characteristics of both parents
are displayed as a result of the crossing over of pairs of
History and Usage: Since the sixties, crossover has been used
in politics (especially in the US) in relation to the practice
or tactic of switching votes from the party with which one is
registered to another party--for instance in a State primary.
Within the music industry crossover was being used by the mid
seventies in relation to records in the country charts which
were tending to cross over into popular music generally, and it
was not long before this process became more generalized, for
example as various Black sounds acquired a more general appeal
to White audiences. In the eighties, crossover was one of the
favourite words of the music industry and there was plenty of
scope for its use, as soundtracks from films and television
series increasingly figured in the charts and the big names of
classical music ventured into middle-of-the-road and easy
listening recordings. In the broader cultural context
sociologists use crossover to refer to the way in which people
from one ethnic background consciously leave their roots culture
for another, more prestigious one; this has led to an extended
use of crossover in relation to fashion, as ethnic cultures
acquired high prestige and became fashionable in Western
society. Other extended uses of the word included actresses
crossing over from theatre to films and even a supermarket which
had gone over to wholefoods to cash in on the new green culture
of the late eighties.
'I think the crossover has already started happening',
says Salman Ahmed. 'This year I've noticed a lot of
white and coloured kids at the shows...' Within the
world of bhangra there are mixed reactions to the idea
Sunday Telegraph Magazine 22 May 1988, p. 38
It showed the group making the crossover from
deft-but-faceless R&B outfit to 'far out' funkers.
Q Dec. 1989, p. 169
Blame prefigured what fashion mood critics would soon
call 'crossover culture'--the white mainstream's fresh
infatuation with black style.
Vogue Sept. 1990, p. 87
crucial adjective (Youth Culture)
In young people's slang: very good or important, great,
Etymology: An example of the way in which meaning is weakened
and trivialized in the idiom of young people: compare ace,
awesome, and rad.
History and Usage: Crucial belongs to the slang usage of the
very young (largely the pre-teenage group) in the late eighties.
It was popularized especially by children's television
presenters and other media personalities, notably the comedian
Lenny Henry, who devoted a whole book to the subject. As often
happens with such slang words, the respectability which crucial
gained by being used in print caused it to go out of fashion
rather among the youngsters who were using it.
Martha (aged seven): 'Lenny Henry, he wrote the "guide
to cruciality", so we don't say crucial no more.'
New Statesman 16 Feb. 1990, p. 12
The very latest buzz-word, after last year's favourite
sayings like 'mental, mental', 'crucial' and 'wicked',
Daily Star 20 Mar. 1990, p. 13
I have worn out three sets of trainers running around
telling my friends how crucial Young Eye is.
Private Eye 26 Oct. 1990, p. 21
Of cosmetics and other goods: not tested (or only minimally
tested) on animals during development; produced ostensibly
without involving any cruelty to animals.
Etymology: For etymology, see -free.
History and Usage: This is a term which started to appear in
the late eighties as a natural consequence of the increasingly
well-publicized animal liberation movement--a movement whose
arguments seemed to get a more sympathetic hearing once green
views in general became acceptable. Cruelty-free often appears
on the labels of cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and other everyday
products which have hitherto been routinely tested on laboratory
animals but are now produced without actual cruelty (although
the interpretation of 'actual cruelty' evidently still varies);
vegetarians also sometimes use it to refer to animal-free food
Mary Bonner showed over 50 people how enjoyable a
cruelty-free Christmas can be with her celebration
roast, mushroom stuffing and red wine sauce, vegan
Christmas Cake and mince pies.
Vegetarian Mar./Apr. 1988, p. 42
Pamphlets that bring news of...where they can purchase
'cruelty-free' soaps and shampoos.
Forbes 20 Mar. 1989, p. 44
crumblie noun (People and Society) (Youth Culture)
In young people's slang: an old or senile person (older than a
Etymology: Formed by treating a figurative sense of the
adjective as a noun; the metaphor relies on the assumption among
the young that all elderly people will eventually 'crack up' and
become senile. This process of crumbling, they suppose, is the
natural next step after going wrinkly.
History and Usage: Used mainly by children and teenagers from
about the late seventies, and apparently limited to British
The growing fashion among teenagers is to describe their
parents as 'wrinklies' and their grandparents as
'crumblies'. A reader, however, tells me how she
countered this when...she described her own children, in
their earshot, as 'pimplies'.
Daily Telegraph 26 Jan. 1987, p. 17
cryo- combining form (Health and Fitness) (Science and Technology)
Widely used in compounds relating to extreme cold, especially
when this is an artificial means of preserving tissue.
Etymology: From the Greek kruos 'frost, icy cold'.
History and Usage: Early words formed with this combining form
concerned temperatures not much below the freezing point of
water. However, as it became possible to create lower and lower
temperatures artificially, cryo- came to be associated with the
sort of intense cold that could only be achieved with the aid of
'cold-creating' or cryogenic equipment, such as apparatus for
liquefying nitrogen or other gases. During the sixties and
seventies the creation of such temperatures began to find
applications in electronics and surgery: below a certain point
some materials become superconductors, that is to say they lose
all electrical resistance, which makes them very useful in a
wide range of applications (in brilliant pebbles, for example),
while cryosurgery uses intense cold to remove or destroy tissue
just as effectively as heat. Until the late seventies cryonics
(or cryopreservation), the use of extreme cold to preserve
living tissue, had remained at an experimental stage because of
the tendency of water to expand when frozen--making the
formation of ice crystals within living cells lethally damaging.
However, study of the few animals which can survive freezing led
to the development of substances which circumvent some of the
problems (cryoprotectants). During the eighties it became
possible to cryopreserve an increasingly wide range of tissues
for future use: sperm may be stored in a cryobank, and frozen
embryos may now be thawed out for cryobirth. The lack of any
reliable means of freezing and thawing the entire human body
without severe damage has not prevented cryonicists, mostly on
the West coast of the US, from setting up businesses offering
cryonic suspension to those willing to pay for it, especially
the incurably ill (who may wish to be 'thawed out' when a
treatment for their condition arrives).
Once a month, she goes to the Southern California
Cryobank, a commercial sperm bank in Los Angeles, pays
$38 for a syringe of sperm packed in dry ice, which she
either takes back to the health center for insemination,
or takes home.
New York Times 20 July 1980, section 6, p. 23
Still others call for these pre-embryos to be
cryopreserved--frozen for months, years and perhaps
indefinitely. Once the pre-embryos are thawed out, they
can be used as if they were fresh.
Washington Post 12 Apr. 1988, section Z, p. 14
Cryonicists...talk...of storing the brains of the frozen
hopeful in the bodies of anencephalic babies.
Independent 1 Aug. 1988, p. 13
Mr Thomas Donaldson, 46, wants his head cryonically
suspended in the anticipation that a way will be found
to attach it to a healthy body and cure his brain
Daily Telegraph 3 May 1990, p. 12
A mathematician from Sunnyvale, California, has filed a
lawsuit in America for the right to 'cryonic suspension'
The Times 27 Oct. 1990, p. 3
noun (Health and Fitness)
An alternative therapy popular in New Age culture and based on
the supposed healing power of pulsar crystals. Sometimes also
called crystal therapy or crystal treatment.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: healing by crystals.
History and Usage: The idea of harnessing the healing power
which--according to the crystal healer--emanates from some
crystals is not new: its supporters claim that it goes back to
the practices of the ancient Greeks. However, it only gained any
real popularity with the rise of the New Age movement in
California. By the end of the eighties this idea had spread
outside the US to other English-speaking countries but was still
regarded by many as being on the fringe of serious healing.
For the esoteric set, crystal healing, extraterrestrials
and transchanneling will be summer pursuits.
Los Angeles Times 29 May 1987, section 5, p. 4
Ben says something called crystal healing is one of the
new fads brought in by what he calls 'weirdos' from the
Sunday Mail Magazine (Brisbane) 10 Apr. 1988, p. 13
(Drugs) see ice
CT (Health and Fitness) (Science and Technology) see CAT°
cursor noun (Science and Technology)
A distinctive symbol on a computer screen (such as a flashing
underline or rectangle) which shows where the next character
will appear or the next action will take effect, and which can
usually be moved about by using a cursor key on the keyboard or
Etymology: From Latin cursor 'runner' (the agent-noun formed on
the verb currere 'to run'). When first used in English (until
the middle of the seventeenth century) the word meant a runner
or messenger; it then came to be used for a part of a
mathematical instrument, etc. that moved backwards and forwards
(for example, the transparent slide with a hair-line which forms
part of a slide-rule). It was a logical step to its present use
in the computer age, since it is the cursor which 'runs' round
History and Usage: The first uses of the word cursor in
computer technology are associated with the development of a
mouse in the mid sixties, although the idea had been invented
(and described using other names such as marker) by John Lentz
of IBM in the fifties. Even though the cursor had first been
thought of in connection with mouse technology, the principle of
having a cursor which was controlled using keys on the keyboard
was well-established in home computing in the late seventies,
before windows and mice (see WIMPэ) became widespread. With the
increased popularity of home computing and word-processing in
the eighties, cursor has passed from the technical vocabulary
into everyday currency.
Cursor movement is particularly important in word
processing, and well laid-out cursor keys are a real
Susan Curran Word Processing for Beginners (1984), p. 31
For home use you may not mind if the cursor is a bit
slow to move on occasions.
Which? Nov. 1988, p. 524
cuss (Youth Culture) see diss
(Science and Technology) see leading edge
cyberpunk noun Sometimes written Cyberpunk (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A style of science fiction writing combining high-tech plots (in
which the world is controlled by artificial intelligence) with
unconventional or nihilistic social values. Also, a writer of
(or sometimes a character in or follower of) cyberpunk.
Etymology: Formed by combining the first two syllables of
cybernetics (the science of control systems) with punk (probably
as an allusion to the hard, aggressive character of punk music,
with which cyberpunk has much in common, particularly in its
harshness and deliberate attempt to shock).
History and Usage: Although only a few years old, cyberpunk has
grown into a leading genre of science fiction. The word may have
been coined by Gardner Dozois to describe the work of a number
of writers in the mid eighties, notably William Gibson and Bruce
Sterling. William Gibson's book Neuromancer (1984) is seen as a
foundational influence; so much so, in fact, that another name
for the writers of this type of fiction is Neuromantics. They
have also been called outlaw technologists or the mirror-shades
group, while the genre has been called technopunk or radical
hard SF as well as cyberpunk. Outside the world of science
fiction only cyberpunk has been widely popularized, especially
as a result of the television adaptation of Neuromancer, Max
Headroom. In 1991 Cyberpunk was the title of Peter von
Brandenburg's documentary film on the genre, which itself used
some of the techniques characteristic of cyberpunk writing.
The purveyors of bizarre, hard-edged, high-tech stuff,
who have on occasion been referred to as
'cyberpunks'...They are the '80s generation.
Washington Post 30 Dec. 1984, p. 9
It's the Rhetoric of the New. Pitched somewhere between
the SF genre of cyberpunk and the mainstream brat novel.
Listener 4 May 1989, p. 29
(Lifestyle and Leisure) see -free
noun and verb (Business World)
noun: In financial jargon, a string of buyers who concentrate
their dealings on a particular stock in order to raise its price
transitive verb: To raise (prices) artificially in this way.
Etymology: A specialized use of the figurative sense of daisy
chain, which has been used as a noun since the middle of the
last century to refer to any linking together of people or
things in the fashion of a real daisy chain.
History and Usage: A practice which began with strings of
traders in crude oil who bought and sold to each other on paper
in the seventies, the daisy chain became a shady and only
semi-legal activity on the wider market in the mid eighties. The
conspirators make a show of activity in their chosen market,
thereby pushing up the price and attracting unsuspecting
investors. They then pull out, leaving the new investors with
overpriced stock. Most countries have tried to curb the practice
They have been buying crude from resellers who illegally
inflated the prices and supplying products to brokers
whose only function was to 'daisy chain' the prices.
Washington Post 31 May 1979, section A, p. 11
Can order be brought to the daisy chain market?
The Times 19 Feb. 1986, p. 17
Lincoln traded junk bonds with other daisy chain members
at 'artificial and escalating prices so that both
parties could recognize artificial and improper
profits', the suit said.
Los Angeles Times (Orange County edition) 10 Feb. 1990,
section D, p. 11
transitive verb (Science and Technology)
To link (computers and other electronic devices used with them)
to each other in series, forming a chain which is connected to a
single controlling device.
Etymology: Daisy chain had come to be used as a verb meaning
'to join things together in the manner of a daisy chain' during
the middle years of the century; the computing sense is a
specialization of that use.
Occupying a full-size slot, each SCSI device lets you
daisy-chain other devices to it.
PC World Oct. 1989, p. 80
Twenty or more players can be daisy-chained to one card.
Guardian 18 Jan. 1990, p. 29
noun Also written daisy-wheel or daisywheel (Science and
A removable printing unit in some computer printers and
electronic typewriters, consisting of a disc of spokes extending
radially from a central hub, each spoke having a single printing
character at its outer end.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a wheel which in some ways
resembles a daisy with its radiating 'petals'.
History and Usage: The daisy wheel type of printer was
introduced in the late seventies and proved a popular
alternative to dot-matrix printing in cases where clear,
typewriter-like quality was needed. The wheel revolves to
position the next character in front of a single hammer (a
process which in the early machines was both slow and noisy,
although this was improved in later models). The wheels are
removable, allowing a number of different scripts or founts to
be used on a single printer, but only text can be printed (a
limitation which does not apply to the cheaper, poorer-quality
dot-matrix or the more expensive, top-quality laser
printers--both can also print graphics such as charts and
As I write, an IBM word processor with daisywheel sits
malevolently waiting for me in a customs shed.
Anthony Burgess Homage to QWERTYUIOP (1986), p. xii
The action or process of minimizing the damage to one's cause
(usually a political one) after an accident, mistake, etc. has
occurred. Also sometimes called damage control.
Etymology: Formed by compounding.
History and Usage: The term damage limitation was first used in
the mid sixties to refer to a policy in US politics of planning
for the disaster of nuclear war, so as to have mechanisms in
place for minimizing the damage to the US of a first strike by
the enemy; damage control originated in international shipping
law and later came to be used figuratively in politics. Both
terms were applied in new contexts in the eighties as a series
of political scandals and mistakes involving individual
politicians or whole parties threatened to affect the polls
unless damage-limiting measures were taken.
The meeting decided to put Lord Whitelaw in charge of a
'damage limitation' exercise. Part of this would be a
speech by Mrs Thatcher distancing the government from
the [Channel] tunnel.
Economist 14 Feb. 1987, p. 19
(Environment) see Alar
DAT acronym Also written dat (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Science and
Short for digital audio tape, a kind of audio tape on which
sound is recorded digitally, equivalent in quality to a digital
recording on CD. Also, a piece or cassette of digital audio
Etymology: An acronym, formed on the initial letters of Digital
History and Usage: Digital audio tape was developed
experimentally at the beginning of the eighties and had started
to be called DAT outside technical trade sources by 1985. It was
widely used in recording studios as a convenient form of
high-quality master tape. However, when commercial production
was first talked about in the mid eighties there was near panic
among some record producers (called DATphobia by one music
paper), since DAT was expected to pose a considerable threat to
the growing compact disc market, and to be much more difficult
to protect from copying and piracy. After a lull in the late
eighties, the word came back into the news in 1990 as companies
talked of making DAT commercially available in 1991.
Compact Discs have been marketed as the ultimate in
sound. If DAT allows you to copy CDs...with absolutely
no loss in that quality, where does this put the major
record houses currently investing sharp-intake-of-breath
sized sums on CD pressing plants?
Q Oct. 1986, p. 18
The introduction of DAT has been bitterly fought here by
record companies fearing unstoppable competition to
Music & Musicians International Feb. 1988, p. 14
During a visit to Japan a year or so ago, I was
convinced the year for consumer DAT is '91. I still
believe that to be the case.
Music Week 23 June 1990, p. 4
(Science and Technology) see capture
(Science and Technology) see Walkman
(Business World) (Science and Technology) see massage
(Science and Technology) see tablet
dawn raid noun (Business World)
In financial jargon, a swift buying operation carried out at the
beginning of the day's trading, in which a substantially
increased shareholding is obtained for a client, often as a
preliminary to a take-over.
Etymology: A figurative use of a compound which comes
originally from military contexts but had become something of a
journalistic clich‚ in reports of police operations during the
twentieth century: the media often reported that a dawn raid had
been carried out on a house occupied by suspected drug dealers
or other criminals.
History and Usage: A phenomenon which began at the very
beginning of the eighties, the dawn raid offers a 'predator'
company the chance to take an intended victim by surprise, and
is therefore a popular preliminary to a take-over. The
proportion of shares which may be bought up in this way by a
dawn raider has been successively limited during the eighties so
as to give a fairer chance to the target company.
Market lethargy has brought out the dawn raiders again,
despite the recent stock exchange report on such
Economist 26 July 1980, p. 84
Its shares rose 14p to 235p, 5p below the new terms, as
Blue Circle picked up a 29.5 per cent stake in a dawn
raid on the stock market.
Guardian 3 Aug. 1989, p. 11
ddI abbreviation Also written DDI (Health and Fitness)
Short for dideoxyinosine, a drug which has been tested for use
in the treatment of Aids.
Etymology: The initial letters of Di-, Deoxy-, and Inosine.
History and Usage: The compound dideoxyinosine was first
synthesized in the mid seventies in connection with cancer
research; in the late eighties it was suggested that it should
be tried as an alternative to AZT (Zidovudine) in treating
people with Aids. It was successfully tested in clinical trials
in the US in 1989 and trials in the UK followed in 1990. Like
AZT, ddI prevents the Aids virus HIV from replicating itself
within the body.
Almost 20 times as many people have flocked to free
distributions of the new drug DDI than have signed up
for the clinical trial.
New York Times 21 Nov. 1989, section A, p. 1
The UK trial of ddI will be accompanied by a similar
trial in France.
Lancet 10 Mar. 1990, p. 596
DDI may offer an alternative treatment to the many
people with AIDS who cannot tolerate zidovudine.
New Scientist 26 May 1990, p. 32
deafened adjective (Health and Fitness) (People and Society)
Of a person: having lost the faculty of hearing (although not
deaf from birth) to such an extent as to have to rely on visual
aids such as lip-reading in order to understand speech. The
corresponding noun for the state of being deafened is
Etymology: A specialized use of the adjective, which has
existed since the seventeenth century in the more general sense
'deprived of hearing', but has usually referred to temporary
deafening (as, for example, by a loud noise).
History and Usage: The distinction between the deaf (who have
never been able to hear) and the deafened (who lose their
hearing after having acquired normal language skills) has been
made in medical literature for some time, often with an adverb
making the situation absolutely clear, as pre-lingually deaf and
post-lingually deafened. In popular usage, though, deaf has
tended to serve both functions, as well as being used frequently
to mean 'hard of hearing' (for which the official term is now
hearing-impaired). The term deafened was brought into wider
usage--partly as an attempt to alert the public to this
important distinction and make them aware of the special
problems of the deafened--by the formation of the National
Association for Deafened People in 1984.
Deafened people share many problems with those born
deaf, but there is a gulf between us in terms of
Good Housekeeping Sept. 1986, p. 45
Lip-reading...confounds crucial distinctions between the
hard of hearing, the profoundly deafened and the
pre-lingually profoundly deaf. The hard of hearing and
the deafened have...been...supporters of oralism; and
the born deaf have retaliated by speaking as if they
alone were the true deaf.
Independent 16 May 1989, p. 15
(Music) (Youth Culture) see thrash
(Business World) see card°
(Politics) see decommunize
noun Written debt counseling in the US (Business World) (People
Professional advice and support provided for those who have
fallen into debt and are unable to meet their financial
commitments. The work of a debt counsellor.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: counselling about debt.
History and Usage: The term was first used in technical sources
as long ago as the late sixties, but did not become at all
common in general usage until the late seventies in the US and
the eighties in the UK. The successive problems of the credit
boom (leading to credit-card debt) and high interest rates
(causing people to default on mortgage payments) have made it
increasingly common since then.
As debt counselors all over the state can attest: The
woods around here are full of people who can't handle a
single credit card without getting into deep, deep
Los Angeles Times 30 Jan. 1986, section 5, p. 14
For homeowners forced into debt by rising interest
rates, the Portsmouth Building Society has set up a free
debt counselling phoneline...manned by staff trained in
Daily Telegraph 10 Feb. 1990, p. 34
transitive verb (Politics)
To remove the communist basis from (a country, its institutions
or economy), especially in Eastern Europe; loosely, to
democratize. Also as a noun decommunization, the process of
dismantling communism; adjective decommunized.
Etymology: Formed by adding the prefix de- (in its commonest
sense of removal or reversal) and the verbal suffix -ize to the
History and Usage: The word has been in use since the early
eighties, when the first signs emerged of a willingness in
communist countries to allow a small amount of private
enterprise in some areas of their economies. Its use became more
frequent in the late eighties--first in relation to Poland and
Hungary and later to all former Warsaw Pact countries, as the
whole edifice of Marxism in Eastern Europe began to be replaced
by varying degrees of democracy and capitalism. The verb is
sometimes used intransitively, in the sense 'to become
decommunized'. The noun decommunization covers all the
processes, both economic and political, which contribute to the
dismantling of communism, whereas democratization and its
Russian equivalent demokratizatsiya really refer only to the
political process. Debrezhnevization was used for a short time
to describe the personal discrediting of Leonid Brezhnev and his
style of government, a process which took place during the mid
eighties, shortly after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the
The momentum of decommunization is likely to carry most
of the successor states of the Soviet Union quite far to
The Times 24 Feb. 1990, p. 10
'We cannot decommunize a whole society overnight,' says
Friedrich Magirius, superintendent of Leipzig's
Protestant churches, who notes that East Germany was 'a
Time 9 July 1990, p. 75
deepening (Politics) see widening
(Environment) see green
(Music) (Youth Culture) see garage and house
def adjective (Youth Culture)
In young people's slang (originally in the US): excellent,
great, 'cool'. Often used in the phrase def jam, brilliant
Etymology: Usually explained as a clipped form of definite or
definitive (in its slang sense 'the last word in...'); compare
rad and brill (see brilliant). However, it seems more likely to
be connected with the use of def (derived from death) as a
general intensifying adjective in West Indian English. This is
borne out by a number of early uses of def in rap lyrics, where
death can be substituted more readily than definite or
definitive (words which would not anyway be appropriate in this
History and Usage: Def belongs originally to hip hop, where it
started to be used by rappers in about the mid eighties; the US
record label Def Jam dates from about that time. The word soon
became extremely fashionable among both Black and White
youngsters in the US and the UK. A series of programmes for a
teenage audience on BBC2 from 9 May 1988 onwards was given the
general heading 'DEF II'. For further emphasis, the suffix - o
may be added, giving deffo.
Further def vinyl to look out for includes deejay Scott
La Rock's album.
Blues & Soul 3-16 Feb. 1987, p. 30
Shot in super-slick black and white, with a half-hour
colour 'behind the scenes' documentary, this is actually
quite a funky lil' package. And a deffo must for all
P.S. Dec. 1989, p. 27
(Environment) see desertification
dehire (People and Society) see deselect
(Business World) see leverage
(Politics) see decommunize
Ability to deny something; especially, in the context of US
politics, the extent to which a person in high office is able to
deny knowledge of something which is relevant to a political
Etymology: Formed by adding the noun suffix -ability to deny,
giving a noun counterpart for the adjective deniable.
History and Usage: Deniability is one of those potential words
which the building blocks of affixation would make it possible
to form at any time, and in fact it was first used in its more
general sense at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The
special political sense, though, dates from the political
scandals of the late twentieth century in the US--first the
Watergate scandal of 1972-4, and later the Iran-contra affair of
1986 (see contra). This special sense seems to have originated
in CIA jargon, where it was sometimes used in the phrase
plausible deniability. It was popularized at the time of the
Watergate scandal by an article by Shana Alexander in Newsweek
in 1973, entitled 'The Need (Not) To Know'; and indeed the whole
point of this concept is the perceived need to protect the
President (or another high official) from knowledge of some
shady activity, so that he will be able to tell any ensuing
inquiry that he knew nothing about it.
The concept of 'plausible deniability' was devised by
the late CIA director, Mr William Casey, by having
Israeli arms brokers as middlemen.
Daily Telegraph 11 July 1987, p. 6
I made a very definite decision not to ask the President
so that I could insulate him from the decision and
provide some future deniability...The buck stops here
John Poindexter quoted in Time 27 July 1987, p. 24
The government is rendering itself less competent,
preparing a more thoroughgoing deniability.
Marilynne Robinson Mother Country (1989), p. 182
Denver boot, shoe
(Lifestyle and Leisure) see wheel clamp
noun (Politics) (People and Society)
Any of the many people who disappeared in Argentina during the
period of military rule there between 1976 and 1983; by
extension, anyone who has disappeared in South or Central
America under a totalitarian regime.
Etymology: A direct borrowing from Spanish desaparecido
'disappeared', the past participle of the verb desaparecer 'to
History and Usage: The plight of the desaparecidos, also called
in English the disappeared or disappeared ones, was much
discussed in the newspapers in the US and the UK from about the
late seventies. Many were never seen again after being arrested
by the army or police, and can only be presumed killed in
detention; many others were children who were taken away from
their arrested parents and placed with other families without
any consent. Since the end of the military regime, the
desaparecidos have remained in the news from time to time, and
some of those formerly in detention have reappeared. The effort
continues to trace as many of the displaced children as possible
and return them to their real families. Recently the word has
been extended in use to anyone who has suffered a similar fate
in Spanish America.
People whose children or husbands or wives were
desaparecidos--'disappeared ones'--would go to Cardinal
Arns, and the Cardinal would stop whatever he was doing
and drive to the prisons, the police, the Second Army
New Yorker 2 Mar. 1987, p. 62
The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo are assembling a
genetic databank on grandparents whose grandchildren are
still missing, and on children who suspect that they are
desaparecidos but whose grandparents have yet to be
Nature 18 June 1987, p. 553
deselect verb (Politics)
Of a local constituency party in the UK: to reject (an
established candidate, especially a sitting Member of
Parliament) as its constituency candidate for an election.
Etymology: Formed by adding the prefix de- (indicating
reversal) to the verb select. This kind of formation with de- is
characteristic of euphemistic verbs like deselect--compare
dehire for 'sack' in the US (where deselect has also been used
as a euphemism for 'dismiss').
History and Usage: The verb has been used in this sense in
British politics since the very end of the seventies, when the
Labour Party's reselection procedure made deselection a real
danger for a number of Labour MPs. The practice was particularly
common during the middle years of the eighties, and the word
came to be used in other contexts (such as local government) at
Mr Woodall, MP for 12 years..., launched a bitter attack
on his opponents in the NUM and local party who, he
said, had 'connived' to deselect him.
Daily Telegraph 24 Feb. 1986, p. 24
Echoes of a more turbulent past also emerged from the
NEC's monthly meeting in the long-running dispute over
Frank Field's deselection as Birkenhead's sitting MP.
Guardian 28 June 1990, p. 20
The changing of fertile land into desert or arid waste,
especially as a long-term result of human activity. Also
sometimes known as desertization.
Etymology: Formed by adding the process suffix -ification to
History and Usage: The process of desertification was
recognized as a world environmental problem as long ago as the
mid seventies, but it was not until the late eighties that the
word became widely known as a result of the green movement and
increased awareness of environmental issues generally. The
problem is exacerbated by destruction of forests
(deforestation), erosion of the topsoil, and global warming
(which involves formerly fertile areas in drought). As the
process takes place, the affected land is first termed arid,
Some 6.9 million sq. km. of Africa...were under direct
threat of desertification in 1985, according to UN
The Annual Register 1985 (1986), p. 395
The very processes of extracting Third World resources
result in environmental disasters--deforestation,
massive soil-erosion and desertification.
New Internationalist May 1987, p. 13
designer adjective (Lifestyle and Leisure)
Originally, of clothes and other fashion items: bearing the name
or label of a famous designer, and therefore (by implication)
expensive or prestigious. Later extended to describe anything
fashionable among yuppies and the smart set generally; also
applied to anything that can be designed individually for or by
a particular user.
Etymology: An attributive use of the noun designer which has
become so common in recent years that it is now regarded by many
as an adjective.
History and Usage: This use of designer began with the designer
scarf (also known as a signature scarf) back in the mid sixties,
but did not really take off in the language until the late
seventies. Then denim jeans were elevated from simple workaday
clothing to high fashion by the addition of the designer label
on the pocket, which made them designer jeans and therefore
comparatively expensive. The trend spread to other areas of
fashion (notably designer knitwear) in the early eighties; by
the middle of the decade the word had become one of the
advertising industry's favourites, and anything associated with
the smart and wealthy class targeted by these advertisers could
have the designer tag applied to it ironically (for example,
overpriced sparkling mineral water served by trendy wine bars
came to be called designer water). A distinct branch of meaning
started to develop in the second half of the eighties, perhaps
under the influence of the same advertisers and fashion writers.
Whereas before this, designer items had to be created by a
designer (or at least bear the name of a designer: the name was
often licensed out on goods which the designer had never seen),
the emphasis was now on designing for the individual customer,
and in some cases the consumers were even encouraged to do the
designing themselves. This was the era of such things as
designer stubble (a carefully nurtured unshaven look) and
designer food (inspired by the chef-artists of nouvelle
cuisine). The concept has been used outside the world of
'lifestyle' and fashion as well, for example in popular
descriptions of genetic engineering.
Small wonder Perrier is called Designer Water. My local
wine bar has the cheek to charge 70p a glass.
The Times 4 Sept. 1984, p. 12
I mean Ah'd...got into ma designer tracksuit just to be
Liz Lochhead True Confessions (1985), p. 72
Designer stubble of the George Michael ilk has also run
its bristly course. Hockney thinks that the only people
who can get away with it are dark, continental men whose
whiskers push through evenly.
Guardian 7 Aug. 1989, p. 17
Altering the shape of plants is another
possibility--what Professor Stewart calls designer
plants...In some cases they could be made to grow a
canopy across the bare earth to keep in gases like
Guardian 5 Mar. 1990, p. 6
'Designer' pianos in coloured finishes, veneers and
marquetries now form about 5 per cent of the market.
Ideal Home Apr. 1990, p. 84
See also designer drug
A drug deliberately synthesized to get round anti-drug
regulations, using a structure which is not yet illegal but
which mimics the chemistry and effects of an existing, banned
drug; hence any recreational drug with an altered structure.
Etymology: For etymology, see designer. The ultimate in
made-to-measure kicks, the designer drug was also designed to
keep one step ahead of anti-drugs laws.
History and Usage: Designer drugs were being made privately as
early as 1976; the first designer 'look-alikes' of heroin
appeared on the streets in the late seventies under the names
China White and new heroin. The term itself was coined several
years later when Professor Henderson of the University of
California at Davis investigated the large number of deaths and
Parkinsonian symptoms among users of China White in California.
Despite attempts to limit them by legislation, designer drugs
mimicking prohibited amphetamines enjoyed an explosion in the
late eighties, as drug users looked for ways of avoiding heroin
use with its associated Aids risk. With the new legislation came
a development in the sense of the term: any recreational drug
which deliberately altered the structure of an existing drug
could be called a designer drug, as could a drug used by a
sports competitor hoping to avoid falling foul of random tests.
The legality of the designer drugs is only one of the
many powerful economic incentives working to make them
the future drugs of abuse.
Science Mar. 1985, p. 62
Some of these people obviously also use cocaine,
marijuana and some exotic designer drugs.
New York Times 23 Sept. 1989, p. 23
(Lifestyle and Leisure) see organizer
desk-top noun and adjective Also written desktop (Science and Technology)
noun: A personal computer which fits on the top surface of a
desk (short for desk-top computer). Also, a representation of a
desk-top on a VDU screen.
adjective: Using a desk-top computer system to produce printed
documents to a publishable standard of typesetting, layout,
etc.; especially in the phrase desk-top publishing (abbreviation
Etymology: A specialized use of the transparent compound
History and Usage: The desk-top computer goes back to the
seventies, but only started to be called a desk-top for short in
the mid eighties. At about the same time, computer manufacturers
whose systems made use of icons and other features of WIMPS (see
WIMPэ) started to use desk-top widely as a way of referring to
the representation of the top of a working desk that appeared on
the screen. Desk-top publishing depends on software packages
that were only first marketed in the mid eighties. Essentially
it makes available to the computer user a page make-up and
design facility which makes it possible to create any
arrangement on the 'page' of text and graphics output from other
packages such as word processing and spreadsheets, using a wide
variety of different type-styles and sizes. The design can then
be printed using a laser printer. These systems proved very
popular for the production of documents on a small scale,
bypassing the cost of commercial typesetting and design. By 1990
the dividing line between desk-top and conventional typesetting
systems had blurred; this book, for example, was typeset using
DTP software, but output on a high-quality image setter.
Given today's low cost desktop publishing systems,
almost anyone could set up as a newsletter publisher,
working from home.
Guardian 10 Aug. 1989, p. 29
There's nothing remotely hostile about a desktop with
icons for both Unix and DOS applications.
PC User 11 Oct. 1989, p. 203
It was in fact set on a personal computer DTP system
(feel the quality, never mind the width!).
Creative Review Mar. 1990, p. 47
des res noun Also written des. res. (Lifestyle and Leisure)
Colloquially in the UK (originally among estate agents), a
desirable residence; an expensive house, usually in a
Etymology: Formed by abbreviating desirable and residence to
their first three letters.
History and Usage: Des res belongs originally to the highly
abbreviated and euphemistic language of estate agents' newspaper
advertisements, where the clich‚ has been in use for some years.
During the mid eighties, though, it moved into a more general
colloquial idiom, often used rather ironically. Des res is
sometimes used as an adjective--again, often ironically.
The days of the 'des res' that clearly isn't are set to
end for estate agents.
The Times 20 Apr. 1990, p. 2
WDS make many practical suggestions as to how women's
toilets could be improved; if all were adopted, they'd
become highly des res.
Guardian 11 July 1990, p. 17
For those for whom the genuine article is not beyond
reach, the Georgian country house (right) is one typical
English version of the des res.
Independent 22 Dec. 1990, p. 33
device noun (War and Weaponry)
Euphemistically, a bomb.
Etymology: Formed by shortening the earlier euphemism explosive
History and Usage: The word was used as long ago as the late
fifties in nuclear device, a euphemism for atom bomb, but this
term was rarely shortened to device alone. In the age of
international terrorism, the euphemism was taken up in police
jargon, at first often in the longer form explosive device or
incendiary device, and widely used in press releases describing
terrorist attacks in which explosives were used. During the
course of the eighties device seems to have become an
established synonym for bomb in news reports.
After sprinkling them with an unidentified liquid, an
explosive charge was put on top of the human pile. The
device detonated as planned.
Washington Post 3 Jan. 1981, section A, p. 1
February 24: A device pushed through a letter box
wrecked an army careers office in Halifax, West
Guardian 11 June 1990, p. 2
4.5 diddy goth...
(Youth Culture) see goth
(Health and Fitness) see ddI
(Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure) see fibre
(People and Society) see abled
digital adjective (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Science and Technology)
(Of a recording) made by digitizing, or turning information
about sound into a code of numerical values or digits, and
Etymology: A straightforward development of the adjective
digital in the computing sense 'operating on data in the form of
digits'; first the method of recording was described as digital,
and then the adjective was also applied to a recording or piece
of music reproduced in this way.
History and Usage: The technology for digital recording was
developed as early as the sixties, but it was not until the late
seventies that the first digital discs became commercially
available. The sound information that is stored includes
millions of coded pulses per second; until the advent of the CD
there was no suitable medium for this mass of information. This
method of recording is considerably more faithful to the
original sound than analogue recording (the audio method
previously used) and the recording does not deteriorate so
quickly; as a result, digital recording has more or less taken
over the classical market (where fidelity of sound is especially
important) and is also widely used for popular music. The
process of translating a signal into coded pulses is called
digitization (or digitalization); older analogue recordings are
often re-recorded using the digital technique and are then
described as digitally remastered.
The performances could hardly be more authentic, with
magnificent playing and an ample resonance in this fine
Sunday Times 14 Oct. 1984, p. 40
In their day (1957-59) these recordings stood as
superior examples of the conducting and engineering art.
They sound even more impressive today in RCA's digitally
Chicago Tribune 22 Apr. 1990, section 13, p. 22
digital audio tape
(Lifestyle and Leisure) (Science and Technology) see DAT
digital video interactive
(Lifestyle and Leisure) (Science and Technology) see CD
DINK acronym Also written Dink, dink, Dinkie, Dinky, etc. (People and
Colloquially, either partner of a career couple with no
children, both of whom have an income from work and who are
therefore viewed as affluent consumers with few drains on their
Etymology: Formed on the initial letters of Double (or Dual )
Income No Kids; in the variant forms Dinkie or Dinky, the
diminutive suffix -ie, -y is added in imitation of yuppie,
although Dinky is sometimes explained as Double Income No Kids
History and Usage: DINK is one of a line of humorous terms
(often acronyms) for social groupings that followed in the wake
of the successful yuppie in the mid eighties. It owes its
existence to the trend analysts and marketing executives of the
US and Canada, who in 1986 identified and targeted this group as
an increasingly important section of the American market.
Typically, the partners in a DINK couple are educated to a high
level and each is committed to a high-paid career; the social
trend underlying the coinage is that women with high educational
qualifications tend to have fewer children, and to have them
later in their careers than was previously the case. For two or
three years, DINK appeared to be almost as successful a coinage
as yuppie (despite its confusability with the US slang word dink
'penis', also used as a personal term of abuse); derivatives
included dinkdom and the adjective undink (not characteristic of
a DINK). Less successful variants on the theme, such as OINK
(One Income No Kids), Nilkie (No Income Lots of Kids), and
Tinkie (Two Incomes, Nanny and Kids) came and went during 1987.
A later attempt was SITCOM (Single Income, Two (K)ids,
Outrageous Mortgage), which appeared in 1989, but this also
failed to make much impression.
These speedy high-rollers are upper-crust DINKs...They
flourish in the pricier suburbs as well as in gentrified
Time 20 Apr. 1987, p. 45
The wolf is looming through the smoked-glass door even
for many hard-working Dinkie...couples.
The Times 2 May 1990, p. 10
direct broadcasting by satellite
(Lifestyle and Leisure) (Science and Technology) see satellite
(Lifestyle and Leisure) (Youth Culture) see lambada
dis (Youth Culture) see diss
disablist adjective Also written disable-ist or disableist (People and
Showing discrimination or prejudice against disabled people;
characterized by ableism.
Etymology: Formed by adding the adjectival suffix -ist to the
root form of disabled, after the model of ageist (see ageism),
racist, and sexist.
History and Usage: The word was coined in the mid eighties as
the adjectival counterpart for ableism. At first it was
sometimes written disableist or even disable-ist, but disablist
now seems to be becoming established as the usual form.
Disablism, which represents the opposite side of the coin from
ableism (discrimination against the disabled rather than in
favour of the able-bodied) very rarely occurs as a term.
I am not apologising for SM and believe that in itself
it is neither racist, classist, disablist nor
Spare Rib May 1986, p. 6
Labour has promised to infuse racist, sexist,
'disablist', and 'ageist' criteria into higher
education, like those that are making an academic
mockery of some American institutions.
Daily Telegraph 8 Nov. 1989, p. 20
See also abled
(Politics) (People and Society) see desaparecido
Discman (Lifestyle and Leisure) see Walkman
disco noun Also written distco (Business World)
A power-distribution company; any of the twelve regional
companies set up in 1989 to distribute electricity in England
Etymology: Formed by combining the first syllable of
distribution with co, a long-established abbreviation of company
which had already been used as a suffix in company and brand
names (for example, Woolco for a Woolworths brand).
History and Usage: Disco was used in company names in the US
before becoming topical in the UK because of the government's
reorganization of the electricity supply in the late eighties
and their plans to sell off the discos as part of their
privatization strategy. Distco seems to be the officially
preferred form, although disco is commoner in the newspapers
(despite confusability with the musical disco). The sale of the
distribution companies took place in 1990.
It is argued that smaller distcos, such as Manweb and
South Wales, will have lower growth prospects to push
Observer 18 Mar. 1990, p. 57
The discos have much better growth prospects than the
water companies, while the gencos generate a unique
Daily Telegraph 25 July 1990, p. 23
Lloyds pitched for the business of arranging the
loans...for three discos, with two of whom it already
enjoyed a relationship as a clearing bank.
Daily Telegraph 17 Aug. 1990, p. 17
See also genco
(Lifestyle and Leisure) (Youth Culture) see funk
dish (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Science and Technology) see satellite
diss verb Also written dis (Youth Culture)
In young people's slang (originally in the US): to put (someone)
down, usually verbally; to show disrespect for a person by
insulting language or dismissive behaviour. Also as an action
Etymology: Formed by abbreviating disrespect to its first
History and Usage: Diss originated in US Black English and has
been popularized through the spread of hip hop. In Black
culture, insults form an important part of the peer-group
behaviour known as sounding or playing the dozens, in which the
verbal repartee consists of a rising crescendo of taunts and
abuse. The concept of dissing moved outside Black culture
through its use in rap, and is now widely known among Whites
both in America and in the UK; even children interviewed in an
Inner London school playground in 1990 practised this trading of
insults, referring to them as cusses.
The victim, according to detectives, made the mistake of
irritating Nuke at a party. 'He dissed him' Sergeant
New York Times 15 Nov. 1987, section VI, p. 52
The gladiatorial rapping, the sportswear, the symbolic
confrontations ('dissing') are all about self-assertion.
Weekend Guardian 11 Nov. 1989, p. 20
While taking a dispute to someone's home is the ultimate
in 'dissing'...there are other insults that can be just
as deadly...'You dis, you die,' some youths say.
Boston Globe 2 May 1990, p. 12
distco (Business World) see disco
4.6 doc, docu-...
combining forms (Lifestyle and Leisure)
Parts of the word documentary, used in docudrama (also called
dramadoc or drama-doc) and docutainment to show that a film or
entertainment contains an element of documentary (or at least
that real events have formed the basis for it).
Etymology: Doc, which also exists as a free-standing
colloquial abbreviation of documentary, is used as the second
part of an abbreviated compound; when the documentary element
comes first, the -u- is kept as a link vowel.
History and Usage: The dramatized documentary (dramadoc,
docudrama) suddenly became a fashionable form of television
entertainment at the end of the seventies in the US, and this
was a fashion which lasted through the eighties both in the US
and in the UK. The proportions of fact and dramatic licence in
these programmes is variable, whereas the docutainment (a word
which dates from the late seventies and appears to be a Canadian
coinage) is more likely to be factual, but designed both to
inform and entertain: compare infotainment (at info-).
This two-part production about the life and times of
Douglas MacArthur is no docudrama. It is instead a
documentary or, more precisely, five hours of
'docutainment', a fascinating...biography based on
William Manchester's book about America's most
intriguing, epic soldier.
Los Angeles Times 3 Mar. 1985, p. 3
While the film is not a 'docu-drama', immense pains have
been taken to achieve authenticity.
Daily Telegraph 8 Mar. 1990, p. 18
See also faction
donutting (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Politics) see doughnutting
doom and gloom
(Business World) (Politics) see gloom and doom
doorstep verb (Politics)
intransitive: Of a politician: to canvass support by going from
door to door, talking to voters on their doorsteps; also as an
action noun doorstepping and agent noun doorstepper.
transitive: Of a journalist, campaigner, etc.: to 'stake out'
the doorstep of (a person in the news, someone in a position of
authority or power in a particular area, etc.) in the hope of
getting a statement or story from them.
Etymology: Formed by treating the noun doorstep as though it
were a verb. This shift originally took place at about the
beginning of this century, when door-to-door salesmen carried
out their trade by doorstepping.
History and Usage: The intransitive, political sense goes back
at least to the sixties, when door-to-door canvassing took over
from public debate as the most important means of winning voters
to one's cause--but doorstepping and doorstepper are later
developments. The media use of the verb belongs to the eighties,
when investigative journalism and straightforward intrusions of
privacy on the part of journalists came in for some considerable
criticism. The staying power of some journalists and press
photographers became so widely publicized that the transitive
verb started to develop a transferred sense: a person who was
determined to get a decision or change of policy on a particular
issue would talk of doorstepping the person responsible in order
to achieve this (in much the same way as one might speak of
lobbying one's MP).
The journalists are often the last ones to see him
before he goes to bed or the first to see him when he
gets up in the morning, spending late nights at his
house after his day is over and doorstepping him next
The Times 13 Jan. 1988, p. 30
Some say it is time for a new approach, with bands of
scientific inspectors doorstepping laboratories around
New Scientist 4 Aug. 1988, p. 31
Hard News...will doorstep editors and reporters, if
necessary, to get a reply.
Independent 5 Apr. 1989, p. 17
double zero option
(Politics) see zero
noun Also written donutting (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Politics)
In television jargon, the clustering of politicians round a
speaker during a televised parliamentary debate so as to fill
the shot and make the speaker appear well supported.
Etymology: Formed by adding the suffix -ing to
doughnut--presumably alluding to the ring shape of some
doughnuts as resembling the ring of supporters, or to the jam in
the middle as representing the speaker, surrounded by the
apparently substantial dough of his support.
History and Usage: The word is often said to have been used in
connection with the first televised debates from the federal
parliament in Ottawa, but Canadian newspaper reports of the time
do not bear this out (describing the practice, but not using the
word). When the British parliament began to be televised, and
particularly when House of Commons debates first appeared on TV
screens in 1989, the word enjoyed a brief vogue in the press
amid speculation that members would attempt to fill the seats
immediately behind the speaker so as to make the chamber appear
full, even when in fact a debate had attracted only a handful of
MPs. Its use in popular sources promises to be shortlived.
Mr Kirkwood did have a little ring of fellow-Liberals
around him. But this practice of 'doughnutting', as
Canadian parliamentarians call it, exhausts the nutters
more than it fools the viewers.
Daily Telegraph 24 Nov. 1989, p. 14
dozens (Youth Culture) see diss
dramadoc (Lifestyle and Leisure) see doc, docu-
drive-by noun Plural drive-bys (People and Society)
In the US, a criminal act (usually a shooting) carried out from
a moving vehicle. Also known more fully as a drive-by shooting.
Etymology: Formed by dropping the word shooting from drive-by
shooting and treating what remains as a noun.
History and Usage: The drive-by represents a reappearance in
American crime of the gang-led murder carried out from a moving
car, something which many would associate with the twenties
rather than the eighties. In its new manifestation in the late
eighties and early nineties it is particularly associated with
rival teenage gangs, but the gun is often shot randomly into a
crowd, endangering innocent passers-by as well as the gang
The task force suggested increased penalties for
drive-by shootings and other gang-related homicides, and
for the possession and sale of controlled substances,
New Yorker 3 Nov. 1986, p. 128
In Chicago, 'drive-bys' contributed to a 22 per cent
leap in the youth murder rate last year.
The Times 7 Feb. 1990, p. 10
(Drugs) (People and Society) see abuse
DTP (Science and Technology) see desk-top
dude (Youth Culture)
In urban street slang (originally in the US): a person, a guy,
one of the 'gang'. Often used as a form of address: friend,
Etymology: Dude is a slang word of unknown origin that was
first used in the US in the 1880s to mean 'a dandy, a swell' or
(as a Western cowboys' word) 'a city-dweller'. By the early
1970s it had been taken up in US Black English to mean 'a man, a
cool guy or cat' (and later 'any person'), losing its original
History and Usage: This more general use of dude was
popularized outside Black street slang through the
blaxploitation films of the late seventies and, more
particularly, through the explosion of hip hop during the
eighties. Its spread into British English idiom, at least among
children, was finally ensured by repeated use among the Teenage
Mutant Turtles and other US cartoon characters in comic strips,
cartoons, and games.
Dudes like that, they're totally dialled in. They can
earn a quarter of a million a year, serious coin.
Richard Rayner Los Angeles Without a Map (1988), p. 68
It is the teenage Bart who has caught the public's
imagination. With his skateboard and, touchingly, his
catapult, he is a match for anyone, not least because of
his streetwise vocabulary. 'Yo, dude!' he says; 'Aye
caramba!' and--most famously--'Eat my shorts!'
Independent 29 July 1990, p. 17
dumping noun (Environment)
The practice of disposing of radioactive or toxic waste by
burying it in the ground, dropping or piping it into the oceans,
or depositing it above ground in another country.
Etymology: A specialized use of the verbal noun dumping, which
literally means 'throwing down in a heap'.
History and Usage: It was only in the late seventies that
environmentalists began to expose the scale of dumping by all
the industrialized nations over the previous decade and the
environmental disasters that this could cause. Hazardous waste
had been buried in landfill sites on which houses were later
built, sent off to Third World countries desperate for revenue,
and pumped into rivers and oceans. Dumping became a topical
issue in the UK in the eighties first because of public
resistance to plans to bury radioactive waste in British
landfill sites and later when the UK fell foul of European
Community directives on clean beaches because of the large
quantities of raw sewage being pumped out to sea from British
Dumping increases the input of nutrients such as
nitrogen and phosphorus into the marine environment.
Steve Elsworth A Dictionary of the Environment (1990),
Waste trichloroethene probably gets into the tap water
because of careless dumping.
Which? Aug. 1990, p. 433
(Music) (Youth Culture) see house
Dutching noun Also written dutching (Environment) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
In the jargon of the British food industry, the practice of
sending substandard food intended for the UK market for
irradiation in the Netherlands (or some other European country
where irradiation is permitted) so as to mask any bacterial
contamination before putting it on sale in British shops.
Etymology: Formed by making a 'verbal' noun from the adjective
Dutch (since the irradiation is normally carried out in the
Netherlands) and the suffix -ing; a similarly euphemistic
expression for the same process is 'sending on a holiday to
History and Usage: The practice of Dutching was exposed in a
Thames television documentary in 1985, but it was not at that
time given this name. Both the word and the practice became
topical in 1989 during discussions of the proposed legalization
of food irradiation. At a time when there was widespread public
concern over food-related illnesses, many people were shocked to
discover that bad food was already being passed off as good in
A dealer...talked about 'Dutching' to a Sunday Times
reporter posing as a potential buyer. Asked if the
prawns would pass health tests at a British port...:
'Well, they won't if they come into England directly.
But if they went into Holland and Belgium, yes.'
Sunday Times 6 Aug. 1989, section 1, p. 3
See also irradiation
DVI (Lifestyle and Leisure) (Science and Technology) see CD
dweeb noun (Youth Culture)
In North American slang: a contemptible or boring person,
especially one who is studious, puny, or unfashionable; a
Etymology: Of unknown origin; probably an invented word
influenced by dwarf, weed, creep, etc.
History and Usage: The term has been in use since the early
eighties, and may have originated in US prep school slang. The
corresponding adjective is dweeby.
Norman, a research dweeb with a rockabilly hairdo.
Kitchener-Waterloo Record (Ontario) 9 Nov. 1989, section
C, p. 22
Nathan Hendrick, 9, is wonderfully nerdy as Leonard
Digbee, a dweeb's dweeb whose only goal in life is to
Los Angeles Times 19 July 1990, p. 6
'These Val guys are totally gross. They think they're
real, but you can tell they're Barneys.' She says
'dweeby types' often 'snog right up' to her when she's
wearing her 'floss', or thong-back bikini.
Wall Street Journal 27 Sept. 1990, section A, p. 1
dynamize transitive verb (Business World)
To increase the value of (a pension) by taking inflation into
account in the calculations of final salary on which the pension
is based; to calculate (final salary) by adding the value of
inflation in successive years to a real salary some years before
retirement. Such a pension or salary is dynamized; the
calculation involved is dynamization.
Etymology: The verb to dynamize has been in use in financial
contexts with the more general meaning 'make more dynamic or
effective' since the seventies. The use in relation to pensions
is a specialization of this.
History and Usage: The dynamized pension is an approved way of
avoiding the Inland Revenue's maximum allowable pension rule
(that a pension may not be worth more than two-thirds of final
salary) and dates from the late seventies.
Norwich Union...cannot dynamise the pension without the
Daily Telegraph 14 Oct. 1989, p. 31
E° (Environment) (Lifestyle and Leisure) see E number
Eэ (Drugs) see Ecstasy
e° (Science and Technology) see electronic
earcon (Science and Technology) see icon
(Environment) see -friendly
eco adjective (Environment) see eco- below
eco- combining form (Environment)
Part of the words ecology and ecological, widely used as the
first element of compounds and blends which relate in some way
(sometimes quite tenuously) to ecology, the environment (see
environment°), or green issues. Hence as a free-standing
adjective: ecological, environment-friendly.
Etymology: The first two syllables of ecology and ecological;
in both words this part is ultimately derived from Greek oikos
'house' (ecology being, properly speaking, the study of the
'household' or community of organisms).
History and Usage: One of the most fashionable combining forms
of the late eighties, eco- had already enjoyed a vogue in the
late sixties and early seventies, especially in US English. As a
formative element of scientific terminology (for example in
words like ecoclimate, ecosphere, ecospecies, ecosystem, and
ecotype), it goes back to the twenties and thirties; scientists
have also used it as a kind of shorthand for 'ecological and...'
(for example in ecocultural, ecogenetic, ecogeographical,
ecophysiological, etc.). The explosion of non-technical uses
arises from the increasing influence of the green view of
politics, and represents a shift in meaning which had also taken
place in the use of the full forms ecology and ecological: eco-
in these words can signify a range of different connections with
'the environment' or with environmental politics, but not
usually (if ever) with the community of organisms studied by
ecology proper. At the furthest extreme of this development are
the words in which eco- is synonymous with environment-friendly
(see -friendly) and often operates as a free-standing adjective
(see the quotations below).
Among the formations of the earlier vogue period were
eco-activist, eco-catastrophe (or ecodisaster), and ecofreak
(also called an eco-nut or eco-nutter). Many of these seventies
formations betray a lack of sympathy with environmental action
groups and others who were already campaigning against the
destruction of the environment; the formations of the eighties
and early nineties, on the other hand, tended to have much more
positive connotations, as green politics became acceptable and
even desirable. Some of the earlier forms were now telescoped
into blends: eco-catastrophe, for example, became
eco-tastrophe. Many ad hoc formations using eco- have appeared
in only one or two contexts (especially when it is used as a
type of adjective); a few of these are illustrated in the
Among the more lasting eco- words (some originally formed by the
environmental campaigners of the seventies, others new to the
eighties or early nineties) are: eco-aware(ness); ecobabble
(see under -babble); ecocentric (and ecocentrism);
ecoconsciousness; ecocrat; ecocrisis; ecodoom (and -doomster,
-doomsterism); ecofeminism; eco-friendly; ecolabel(ling) (see
also environmental); ecomania (sometimes called ecohysteria);
ecopolitics (also ecopolicy, ecopolitical); ecoraider;
ecorefugee; ecosocialism (and ecosocialist); ecotage (also
called ecoterrorism) and ecoteur (also an eco-guerrilla or
ecoterrorist); ecotechnology (and ecotechnological); Ecotopian
(as an adjective or noun, from Ecotopia, an ecologically ideal
society or environmental Utopia); eco-tourism and eco-tourist.
Whew, the day certainly had a funny colour to it--a harp
light, but livid, bilious, as if some knot of eco-scuzz
still lingered in its lungs.
Martin Amis Money (1984), p. 43
Among the measures called for are...introduction of
'ecomark' labels for products that have little adverse
effect on the environment.
Nature 25 May 1989, p. 242
Tom Cruise will wear a shock of bright green hair in his
next movie, fighting such evil characters as Sly
Sludge...in an effort to wipe out those 'eco-villains
who pollute the earth'.
Sunday Mail Magazine (Brisbane) 11 Feb. 1990, p. 42
Four eco-warriors risk their lives as Greenpeace
attempts to prevent a ship dumping waste in the North
Sky Magazine Apr. 1990, p. 3
Oiling the wheels of eco progress.
Times Educational Supplement 11 May 1990, section A,
What scientists call an 'eco-tastrophe' [on Mount St
Helen's] has witnessed a remarkable recovery by nature.
Guardian 18 May 1990, p. 12
Lex Silvester is no Crocodile Dundee, but dedicated to
eco-tourism, blending sightseeing with conservation.
The Times 2 June 1990, p. 29
The 'Eco house', in its own acre garden, will
demonstrate how we can live in a more environmental
friendly way with highly efficient insulation, solar
heating, energy efficient appliances and organic
Natural World Spring/Summer 1990, p. 9
The Department of the Environment produced a useful
discussion paper on eco-labelling back in August 1989,
and after some lengthy consultation set up an Advisory
She Aug. 1990, p. 122
An overwhelming groundswell of support transformed
Greenpeace from a daring but ragtag band of
eco-guerrillas into the largest environmental
organization in the world in barely over a decade.
New York Times Book Review 25 Nov. 1990, p. 14
As products with specious 'eco-friendly' claims multiply
on store shelves, the need for substantiated product
information has intensified.
Garbage Nov.-Dec. 1990, p. 17
ecobabble (Environment) see -babble
Concerned with ecology or green issues; hence,
Etymology: For etymology, see eco- and ecology.
History and Usage: Ecological has developed in very much the
same way as environmental during the past ten years, developing
the sense 'concerned with environmental issues' in the seventies
(see ecology below) and the more elliptical sense
'environment-friendly' in the early eighties.
It seems it can already be economical (though surely not
ecological) to fly cargo to London for onward trucking
to Paris and points east, and vice versa.
Guardian 19 June 1990, p. 15
ecology noun (Environment)
Conservation of the environment (see environment°); green
politics. Often used attributively, in Ecology Party etc., in
much the same sense as the adjectives environmental and green.
Etymology: A sense development of the noun ecology, which is
formed on the Greek word oikos 'house', and originally referred
only to the branch of biology which has to do with the
'household' or community of organisms and how they relate to
their surroundings. Since it was the potential destruction of
habitats (including the human one) that first focused political
attention on green issues, ecology came to be used popularly to
refer to the protection of the natural world from the effects of
History and Usage: The transformation of ecology from
scientific study to political cause was foreseen by the writer
Aldous Huxley in his paper The Politics of Ecology (1963), in
which he wrote:
Ecology is the science of the mutual relations of
organisms with their environment and with one another.
Only when we get it into our collective head that the
basic problem confronting twentieth-century man is an
ecological problem will our politics become
realistic...Do we propose to live on this planet in
symbiotic harmony with our environment?
The word ecology was popular throughout the seventies as the
ecology movement gained momentum. In the eighties, though,
ecology has tended to be replaced in its attributive use by
green--the Ecology Party in the UK officially changed its name
to the Green Party in 1985, for example--and by the environment
The strongest organised hesitation before socialism is
perhaps the diverse movement variously identified as
'ecology' or 'the greens'.
New Socialist Sept. 1986, p. 36
The Polish Ecology Club was the second independent
organisation to be established after Solidarity, and has
several thousand members.
EuroBusiness June 1990, p. 14
economic and monetary union
(Politics) see EMU°
Ecstasy noun Also written ecstasy or XTC (Drugs)
In the slang of drug users, the hallucinogenic designer drug
methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA, also known as Adam.
Sometimes abbreviated to E (and used as a verb, in the sense 'to
freak out on Ecstasy').
Etymology: The name refers to the extreme feelings of euphoria
and general well-being which the drug induces in its users. The
word ecstasy has been used in the sense of 'rapturous delight'
since the sixteenth century; 'street chemists' in the eighties
have simply applied it in a more specialized and concrete sense.
History and Usage: It has been claimed that the drug was first
made in the early years of this century as an appetite
suppressant and patented in 1914 by the pharmaceutical company
Merck; according to the chemical literature it was first
synthesized in 1960 and did not become known as MDMA until the
seventies. It was not until 1984, though, that it was made as a
designer drug; by 1985 it had appeared on the streets in the US
and was being called Ecstasy or Adam. It soon acquired a
reputation as a drug of the smart, wealthy set; it was Ecstasy
that the media most associated with the introduction of acid
house culture to the UK in 1988, claiming that the drug, in the
form of small tablets, could easily be sold at crowded acid
house parties, and lent itself to being 'pumped' down with fizzy
drinks and the energetic style of dancing practised there.
Despite claims by psychotherapists that it had a legitimate
therapeutic use in releasing the inhibitions of some psychiatric
patients, research showed that prolonged use could do
irreversible damage to nerve cells in the brain, and it was
banned in both the US and the UK. It remains one of the most
popular illicit drugs of the eighties and early nineties; its
users are sometimes known as Ecstatics.
If cocaine and angel dust were the drugs of the 70s,
Ecstasy may be the escape of the 80s.
Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 31 May 1985, p. 4
It is 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, MDMA, ADAM,
Decadence, Essence, XTC, Ecstasy. Ecstasy! Paradise
induced. And as of July, by emergency order of the Drug
Enforcement Administration, illegal.
Washington Post 1 June 1985, section D, p. 1
Police fear Acid House parties...provide an ideal
opportunity for professional criminals to sell drugs,
particularly the 'designer' drug Ecstasy favoured in the
Acid house culture.
Independent 7 Nov. 1988, p. 2
The really great thing was three years ago, the Ecstasy
explosion, when everybody started E'ing all over the
place, there was all these different sorts of music
getting mixed up.
Melody Maker 23-30 Dec. 1989, p. 38
ecu acronym Also written Ecu or ECU (Business World)
Short for European Currency Unit, a unit of account used as a
notional currency within the EMS and in Eurobond trading, and
intended as the future common currency of EC countries under
EMU°. Also, a coin denominated in ecus.
Etymology: An acronym formed on the initial letters of European
Currency Unit, but influenced by and deliberately referring back
to the French word ‚cu, a name for a historical French gold or
silver coin worth different amounts in different periods. This
influence explains the fact that most English speakers use an
anglicized version of the French pronunciation rather than
History and Usage: Ecu was adopted as the name for the
European Community's currency unit in the early seventies (after
a short period during which it was known as the EMU, or European
Monetary Unit). In the UK the word was hardly known outside
financial markets until the late eighties, when it became a
central subject in discussions of EMS and EMU. The value of the
ecu is based on a weighted average of a 'basket' of European
currencies. The Delors report provided for the ecu to become the
single European currency in the third stage of development of
EMU, replacing the existing national currencies of EC member
states. The UK government in particular opposed this implied
loss of national sovereignty, and the Chancellor John Major put
the issue at the centre of his counter-proposals for EMU in June
1990, suggesting an intermediate stage when Europe would use a
hard ecu alongside national currencies, moving on to the ecu as
a single currency unit only if individual member states decided
they wanted this. Ecu coins were minted as collectors' items in
some countries, including Belgium, where they have been legal
currency since 1987, but are rarely used. Ecus were
increasingly popular for business transactions, travellers'
cheques, and as a stable currency for mortgages before the UK's
entry to the ERM in October 1990. A million ecus make one mecu
and a billion ecus one becu, although neither term is in common
Charcol has launched a mortgage in ECUs...because ECUs
should be less volatile than a single currency.
Sunday Times 19 Feb. 1989, Business section, p. 15
'I think that really it will become a reality when that
currency exists,' he says, pulling an ECU coin out of
Financial World 7 Mar. 1989, p. 40
The 1989 budget was adopted on 15 December 1988 and
provides for total Community expenditure of 44.8 becu
(њ29.9 bn) in payment appropriations.
Accountancy June 1989, p. 43
Another clever aspect of Mr Major's scheme is that the
EMF would manage the ecu so that it was never devalued
at a currency realignment: it would be a 'hard ecu'.
Economist 23 June 1990, p. 64
E-free (Environment) (Lifestyle and Leisure) see E number
EFTPOS acronym Also written Eftpos, eft/pos, or EFT-Pos (Business
World) (Science and Technology)
Short for electronic funds transfer at point of sale, a method
of paying for goods and services by transferring the cost
electronically from the card-holder's account to the retailer's
using a card such as a credit or debit card and a special
terminal at the cash-desk.
Etymology: The initial letters of Electronic Funds Transfer at
Point Of Sale; the formation is modelled on the earlier acronyms
EPOS and POS, point of sale.
History and Usage: EFTPOS was heralded in the late seventies
as the facility which would ensure a cashless society within a
decade. In practice, it was not officially announced in the UK
until 1982, and was only generally introduced in the second half
of the eighties. The rather cumbersome abbreviation, which does
not lend itself very readily to being pronounced as a word, is
used mainly in business circles; popularly, EFTPOS facilities in
the UK are usually known by the proper names Switch and Connect,
while in the US EFTPOS is often referred to simply as EFT (an
abbreviation which has a longer history than EFTPOS).
While Publix was launching its p.o.s. debit card system
last week, Abell and other EFT experts suggested that
any debit card system be considered carefully before a
supermarket company invests in joining bank-controlled
Supermarket News 2 July 1984, p. 20
A trial of some 2,000 EFT-Pos terminals is set to take
place, some time in the autumn of 1988, in retailers in
Southampton, Leeds and Edinburgh.
Daily Telegraph 29 May 1987, p. 19
EFTPOS...will save you the hassle of writing a cheque or
carrying cash around. You hand over a debit card like
Switch and Connect cards, which deduct money straight
from your bank account.
Which? Feb. 1990, p. 69
5.6 EGA card
EGA card (Science and Technology) see cardэ
electro combining form, adjective, and noun (Music) (Youth Culture)
combining form and adjective: (Of popular music) making heavy
use of electronic instruments, especially synthesizers and drum
noun: A style of popular dance music with a strong and
repetitive electronic beat and a synthesized backing track.
Etymology: Electro- started life as a combining form of
electric or electronic, as in familiar scientific terms such as
electromagnetism. In the musical sense it developed from
combinations with the names of popular-music styles
(electrobeat, electro-disco, etc.) to become an adjective in its
own right, and eventually to be used as a noun to describe a
particular style of dance music.
History and Usage: The first combinations of electro- with the
names of other popular-music styles date from the early
eighties, when synthesized and electronically produced sounds
were becoming very important in a number of different areas of
pop. One of the earliest and most enduring combinations is
electrofunk, which expresses just one of the new directions that
funk has taken in the eighties. More temporary combinations have
included electro-disco (perhaps the most important, especially
in Belgium), electrobeat, electro-bop, electro-country, and
electro-jazz. By the mid eighties the music papers had begun to
use electro on its own, both as an adjective and as a noun.
Sometimes this was used as another name for electric boogie, the
music played on ghetto blasters as an accompaniment to
break-dancing in the street, and a style which ultimately fed
into hip hop.
Pianist Herbie Hancock...played a sterling set totally
unlike his tarted-up electro-funk of recent years.
Maclean's 29 Mar. 1982, p. 66
No dress restrictions, music policy is well 'ard with P.
Funk, House, Go-Go and Electro cutting in.
Blues & Soul 3 Feb. 1987, p. 34
You get bored with the happening hardcore electro groove
New Musical Express 25 Feb. 1989, p. 43
See also techno
(Lifestyle and Leisure) (Science and Technology) see
adjective (Science and Technology)
In machine-readable form; existing as data which must be read by
a computer. Especially in:
electronic mail (often abbreviated to email or e-mail), the
transfer of messages or files of data in machine-readable form
from one user to one or more others by means of a computer
network; also, the messages that are sent and received using
electronic publishing, the publication of text in
machine-readable form (on tape, discs, CD-ROM, etc.) rather than
on paper; texts published in this way;
electronic text (sometimes abbreviated to etext), the
machine-readable version of a text, which is created by data
Etymology: A development of the adjective electronic in the
sense 'operated by the methods, principles, etc. of electronics'
in which a subtle shift from active to passive has taken place:
whereas in the original term electronic data processing (a
synonym for computing in the sixties), electronic referred
principally to the processing rather than to the data, now it is
applied also to the 'soft' copy of the text, the object of the
processing. Instead of being operated by electronics, these
electronic media may only be operated upon by electronic
equipment (in practice, specifically by computer). This shift is
evident within the development of the term electronic mail
itself, which at first only referred to the system (operated
electronically), but later came to be used also of the messages
(existing in a form which meant that they had to be operated
upon by the computer). In general during this period electronic
has tended to become a synonym for computerized.
History and Usage: Electronic mail, which relies upon data
transfer across telecommunications networks, began in the late
seventies and by the mid eighties was frequently abbreviated to
email or e-mail. Electronic publishing had begun during the
seventies, but did not acquire this name until 1979 and only
became a growth industry in the mid eighties; it tends to be
popularly confused with conventional publishing using electronic
techniques (especially desk-top publishing). The proliferation
of electronic text was a natural result of the growth of
electronic publishing and increasing use of computers for
editing and research work during the eighties.
When our coded file arrives, PPI's Atex computer merges
electronic text and digitized artwork into a complete
Chemical Week 28 July 1982, p. 7
The first Electronic Publishing conference was held at
Wembley four years ago.
Daily Telegraph 13 June 1988, p. 27
We read and respond to e-mail as it pleases us, not at
our correspondent's convenience.
New Scientist 6 May 1989, p. 66
Just now the Soviet people are getting into networking.
They are not yet used to the idea of electronic mail.
Guardian 3 Aug. 1989, p. 20
electronic funds transfer at point of sale
(Business World) (Science and Technology) see EFTPOS
(Music) (Science and Technology) see keyboard
electronic point of sale
(Business World) (Science and Technology) see EPOS
(Science and Technology) see tablet
(People and Society) (Science and Technology) see tag°
email (Science and Technology) see electronic
EMS abbreviation (Business World)
Short for European Monetary System, a financial arrangement
which consists primarily of an exchange-rate mechanism (ERM)
linking the currencies of some EC member countries to the ecu so
as to limit excessive fluctuations in exchange rates, and common
Etymology: The initial letters of European Monetary System.
History and Usage: The EMS was set up in the late seventies,
after the failure of the 'snake' to regulate currency
fluctuations in Europe. It grew out of dissatisfaction among
politicians from some EC countries (notably the former British
Chancellor of the Exchequer Roy Jenkins, Helmut Schmidt of West
Germany, and Val‚ry Giscard d'Estaing of France) with the slow
progress of plans for economic and monetary union (see EMU°
below). By the time EMS was formally accepted by the European
Council in 1978 and put into effect in March 1979, the British
government was not prepared to participate fully in it,
declining to take part in the exchange rate mechanism which is
the core of the system. EMS was widely discussed in the British
newspapers during the late eighties, as plans for EMU began to
move forward, the single European market of 1992 approached, and
pressure increased on the UK to join EMS. There was a
concentration of uses of the term during 1988-9, when it was
reported that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson
favoured British participation as a way of controlling
inflation, but could not break Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher's opposition to it. This deadlock eventually
contributed to Mr Lawson's resignation in October 1989. His
successor, John Major, took the UK into the ERM in October 1990,
even though the so-called Madrid conditions had not been met.
Given the existence of the EMS, our continuing
non-participation in the ERM cannot fail to cast
practical doubt on that resolve [to beat inflation].
Nigel Lawson quoted in The Times Guide to 1992 (1990),
Sterling quickly lost the big early gains that followed
ERM entry. But its ability to hold pre-EMS levels is no
Financial Times 5 Nov. 1990, section 1, p. 19
EMU° abbreviation Also written Emu (Business World)
Short for economic and monetary union, a programme for full
economic unity in the EC, based on the phased introduction of
the ecu as a common currency.
Etymology: Now nearly always explained as the initial letters
of Economic (and) Monetary Union, although during earlier
discussions (see below) it was intended to stand for European
Monetary Union, and this expansion is still sometimes given.
History and Usage: EMU is by no means a new abbreviation, the
idea having been proposed as early as 1970 as a way of solving
currency difficulties in France and Germany. The original plan
envisaged that the full union of EC currencies should be
achieved by 1980 and be based on a European monetary unit (see
ecu). Little progress towards this aim had taken place by 1978,
when the European Monetary System (see EMS) was adopted by eight
member states as the EC's financial system, incorporating a
mechanism for controlling exchange rates. A new impetus for EMU
was the publication in April 1989 of the Delors report, a
three-stage plan for introducing a common currency and aligning
the economies of the Twelve. This was discussed at summits in
Madrid and Strasburg during 1989, with Britain (or principally
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) standing out against
acceptance of the plan as it stood--despite the enthusiasm of
other member states--because of the implied threat to national
sovereignty; stage one was, however, adopted. In June 1990,
Chancellor of the Exchequer John Major made a counter-proposal
for the phased introduction of a common currency, designed to
minimize the effect on sovereignty (see ecu). One result of all
this discussion has been the very widespread use of the
abbreviation in newspapers and the media generally during the
late eighties and early nineties.
The EC's main debate a few months ago centered on 'EMU',
or how to achieve economic and monetary union after
International Management Mar. 1990, p. 21
EC monetary officials interpreted Mr Major's emphasis on
the elements of agreement between the British government
and the other EC countries on crucial aspects of the
plan for EMU as a deliberate signal of a new line in
Guardian 2 Apr. 1990, p. 8
EMUэ (Business World) see ecu
5.9 enterprise culture...
noun (Business World) (People and Society)
A capitalist society in which entrepreneurial activity and
initiative are explicitly encouraged; a culture founded on an
individualistic, go-getting economic ethic.
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a culture founded on
(business) enterprise. In general, enterprise has been a
favourite word in the economic vocabulary of the Conservative
government in the UK during the eighties and nineties: see also
enterprise zone below.
History and Usage: Put forward by Sir Keith Joseph and other
prominent Conservatives from the early eighties in the UK, the
enterprise culture was modelled on the spirit of free enterprise
which characterized US society. In the UK it found its
expression principally in various schemes to encourage small
businesses and financial self-reliance, as well as in the
fostering of a more individualistic and materialistic atmosphere
in British society.
At the age of 27 she has embraced the enterprise culture
and established Upstage Theatre.
Blitz Jan. 1989, p. 11
They are required to...review their courses and explain
how they are going to alter them in the light of the
career prospects of their students, the enterprise
culture, 1992...and, for all I know, the end of the
Modern Painters Autumn 1989, p. 78
An area in which a government seeks to stimulate new enterprise
by creating financial incentives (such as tax concessions) for
Etymology: Formed by compounding: a zone in which enterprise is
History and Usage: Enterprise zones were first discussed in
the late seventies, principally as a way of revitalizing
economically depressed areas of inner cities, where there tended
to be high levels of unemployment and relatively little
investment. The idea has been tried in various parts of the
world during the past ten years, including the US, the UK, and
The enterprise zone...development will become the norm
in Wales, as more service industries requiring office
space move to the area.
Building Today 22 June 1989, p. 26
E number noun (Environment) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A code number in the form of the letter E followed by a group of
digits, used as a standard way of referring to approved food
additives when listing ingredients on food or drink labels under
EC regulations; by extension, an additive (especially the
additive to which a particular code refers). Sometimes
abbreviated to E, an additive.
Etymology: The initial letter of Europe(an) in a compound with
History and Usage: The European Commission recommended in 1977
that all food additives should be declared by their name or
their E number; by 1986 this was compulsory except in the case
of flavourings. As the eighties progressed, and particularly
after the publication in 1984 of Maurice Hanssen's book E for
Additives, public awareness of E numbers grew steadily in the
UK. By the early nineties, E number was often abbreviated to E
alone and both terms were popularly used to refer to the
additives themselves rather than the codes (a point which was
picked up and exploited in a number of food-advertising
campaigns). This resulted in labelling and advertising copy
which used E-free as a synonym for additive-free.
Apparently the effect of Es on Yuppie kids is dramatic.
A simple glass of orange squash or a packet of crisps
can bring them out in a rash or drive them barmy.
Today 21 Oct. 1987, p. 36
It's not so long since we learned the link between
eating certain 'E' numbers and the behaviour of highly
She Oct. 1989, p. 2
Usually with the definite article, as the environment: the sum
of the physical surroundings in which people live; especially,
the natural world viewed as a unified whole with a pre-ordained
interrelationship and balance among the parts which must be
conserved. Hence sometimes used in an extended sense:
conservation of the natural world; ecology.
Etymology: A specialized use of environment, which literally
means 'surroundings', and had been used in the sense of the
particular set of physical features surrounding a person or
thing since the early nineteenth century.
History and Usage: This sense of environment, which in the late
eighties and early nineties has been the dominant general sense,
grew out of the concern about the natural world--particularly
the effects upon it of industrialization and pollution--which
was first expressed in any concerted way in the sixties. By the
early seventies, some governments were taking enough notice of
these concerns to appoint a Minister (or Secretary ) for the
Environment (colloquially environment minister, secretary); but
the real vogue for this word only came in the second half of the
eighties, after green politics took off in Europe and
politicians in general realized that the environment promised to
be the central political concern of the nineties. From the late
eighties onwards, environment was frequently used in
combinations, too, the most important being environment-friendly
(see -friendly). The playfully formed opposite of this is
environment-unfriendly (see unfriendlyэ) or environment-hostile;
other combinations include environment-conscious(ness) and
President Bush said that the environment was now on the
'front burner' and that no other subject, except the
anti-drugs campaign, had aroused such fervour among his
Guardian 17 July 1989, p. 20
A campaign is being launched to encourage sustainable
development within our cities. The status 'Environment
City' will be awarded to the four coming nearest to the
Natural World Spring/Summer 1990, p. 7
We have to have a government-backed labelling scheme
before consumers throw up their hands in horror and
revert to their old 'environment-hostile' ways.
She Aug. 1990, p. 122
noun (Science and Technology)
In computing jargon, the overall structure (such as an operating
system, a collection of software tools, etc.) within which a
user, a computer, or a program operates or through which access
can be gained to individual programs.
Etymology: Another specialized use of the sense described
above; the environment is still the sum total of the surrounding
structure, but limited to the restricted world of the computer
system. This metaphor of a restricted world is often extended to
refer to the ability of a computer user to communicate only in
one programming or operating language while in that language's
environment, as if in a foreign country where only that language
History and Usage: Computer scientists have spoken of an
integrated structure of tools or an operating system as an
environment since at least the early sixties. What brought the
term into popular use was the rapid development of home and
personal computing in the late seventies and eighties.
In Applications-by-Forms, the 4GL development
environment, the interface includes a visual catalog for
ease of use.
UnixWorld Sept. 1989, p. 142
Designed with the user in mind, the A500 features a
friendly WIMP environment and comes supplied with a free
CU Amiga Apr. 1990, p. 93
Concerned with the conservation of the environment (see
environment°); hence, serving this cause: not harmful to the
Etymology: A sense development of the adjective which arises
directly from the use of environment as a kind of shorthand for
'conservation of the environment'.
History and Usage: The use of environmental in this sense seems
to have begun in the US towards the end of the seventies, when
advertisers first attempted to climb on to the bandwagon of
concerns about the environment. In its more general sense 'to do
with the conservation of the environment' it is used in a great
variety of grammatical constructions; one of the recent ones,
environmental labelling, is even more elliptical than most,
contracting 'to do with the effects of the thing labelled on the
conservation of the environment' to a single word. In local
government and also in the private sector the term environmental
services (first used as long ago as the late sixties) seems to
have become the fashionable way to refer to the upkeep of the
local environment, such as parks and public gardens, waste
disposal (including the management of hazardous wastes), and
street cleaning. See also environmental friendliness (under
Right Guard spray deodorant...now directs itself toward
ecological armpits with the epithet 'new environmental
American Speech Spring 1983, p. 94
The Labour Party is planning to issue a 'Green Bill'
later this year, setting out its plans for tackling
atmospheric pollution, and its proposals for
environmental labelling, litter control, handling
hazardous waste, and improving water quality.
Guardian Weekly 30 July 1989, p. 4
An environmental meeting in Bergen at which ministers
from ECE's member countries discussed practical steps to
promote 'sustainable growth', the catch-phrase...for
economic growth that does not destroy the environment.
EuroBusiness June 1990, p. 64
Concern with, or support for, the preservation of the
environment (see environment°); green politics or consumerism.
Etymology: A new sense of environmentalism which also arises
directly from the recent use of environment; previously,
environmentalism was the name of the psychological theory that
it is our environment ('nurture') rather than our inborn nature
that determines individual or national character.
History and Usage: The term environmentalism was first used in
this sense in the US in the early seventies, at a time when the
ecology movement was starting to gain some public support, but
was still widely considered to be the concern of freaks and
hippies. In its early uses, the word therefore had a rather
derogatory nuance; this was completely turned round in the late
eighties, as green ideas became both acceptable and desirable as
a replacement for the conspicuous consumption of the first half
of the decade. Environmentalist, which is used both as an
adjective and as a noun, has a longer history than
environmentalism but has enjoyed the same transformation from
negative to positive connotations in the media.
Even some politicians on the other side of the trenches
felt the need to identify themselves with
Sports Illustrated 15 Nov. 1982, p. 24
The kind of environmentalism that is finding favour with
Bush and his friends in industry has a new slant,
substituting the power of market forces for moral
outrage and blanket control measures.
Nature 22 June 1989, p. 570
Environmentalism is the new religion for the 'us
generation' replacing the 'me generation', according to
a report released this week.
Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 4 May 1990, p. 50
As regards the conservation of the environment (see
environment°); used especially to qualify an adjective, as in:
environmentally aware, of a person or group: informed about
contemporary concerns for the environment; sensitive to the
effect upon the environment of a product, activity, etc.;
environmentally friendly, environment-friendly (see -friendly);
environmentally sensitive, of a geographical area: officially
recognized as containing a habitat for rare species or some
other natural feature which should be protected from
environmentally sound, of a product: having no harmful effects
on the environment; environment-friendly.
Etymology: Most of these formations use environmentally in a
way which can be predicted from the developments in the use of
environment (see above); the exception is environmentally
friendly, which involves a grammatical development as well. The
original term environment-friendly, modelled on user-friendly in
computing, implies a dative construction: 'friendly to the
environment'. Once the hyphen was dropped and the free-standing
adjective friendly also acquired the meaning 'harmless', it had
to be qualified by an adverb--hence environmentally friendly.
History and Usage: Work on environmentally sensitive areas
(abbreviation ESA) began in Canada in the mid seventies and soon
spread to other industrialized countries; government regulations
ensured that economic development, agricultural practices, etc.
were not allowed to destroy the natural beauty of these areas.
Environmentally friendly, by far the commonest of the other
combinations, was first used in the US during the mid eighties;
it owes its popularity in part to the enthusiasm with which
manufacturers began labelling their products with it, sometimes
with little foundation--a practice which in the UK led to calls
for government regulation of eco-labelling. New formations with
environmentally are cropping up all the time: the ones mentioned
here are some of the more important and lasting.
One has to be reasonable. The factory means jobs. There
is no factory without emissions. It just has to be as
environmentally friendly as possible.
Christian Science Monitor 6 Apr. 1984, p. 9
Under new proposals from the European Commission, member
states are empowered to pay farmers to continue with or
revert to traditional farming methods in environmentally
New Scientist 15 May 1986, p. 30
Nobody can deny that there are occasions on which the
careful guiding of a river along its course requires
some bank reinforcement. However, there are plenty of
sensible materials to hand for the environmentally aware
Jeremy Purseglove Taming the Flood (1989), p. 191
Environmentally friendly household products are big news
on the shopping front.
Health Shopper Jan./Feb. 1990, p. 7
EPOS acronym Also written Epos or epos (Business World) (Science and
Short for electronic point of sale, a computerized system of
stock control in shops, in which bar-codes on the goods for sale
are scanned electronically at the till, which is in turn linked
to a central stock-control computer.
Etymology: The initial letters of Electronic Point Of Sale; its
inventors probably chose to add E (for electronic) to the
already existing POS, point of sale.
History and Usage: EPOS was introduced in the early eighties
and by 1990 was widely used in the larger chains of stores. In
order for EPOS to be used, all goods must carry a bar-code and
special electronic tills must be installed, making the
changeover an expensive business; one large chain even uses EPOS
as a verb meaning 'to convert (goods, a shop, etc.) to an EPOS
The barcoding of books by their publishers is crucial to
the success of the WHS epos system.
Bookseller 1 Mar. 1986, p. 819
All of the supermarkets (except Waitrose) now have some
branches with the EPOS [Electronic Point of Sale]
Which? Feb. 1990, p. 69
I Eposed Oxford--that's where the grey hairs came from.
Bookseller 26 Apr. 1991, p. 1232
See also EFTPOS
ERM (Business World) see EMS
ESA (Environment) see environmentally
etext (Science and Technology) see electronic
noun (Business World)
In financial jargon, investment which takes account of the
client's scruples by screening the companies to be invested in
for their business morality and social outlook.
Etymology: A transparent combination of ethical and investment.
History and Usage: The demand for ethical investment began in
the US in the early eighties and was a natural consequence of
the drive to involve ordinary people in capital investment;
clearly some customers would not feel happy about handing over
their portfolios only to find that they were unwittingly
supporting companies whose principles they were unable to agree
with. Investments which customers have wanted to avoid have
included the politically questionable (notably companies with
South African connections), the armaments industry, and
companies making 'unhealthy' products (especially tobacco and
alcohol). Ethical investment became fashionable in the UK and
Australia during the second half of the eighties.
The latest craze to be imported from America is for
'ethical investment'. Almost every week, there seems to
be a new unit trust launched which promises to invest
your money only in 'socially screened' firms.
Daily Telegraph 25 Sept. 1987, p. 20
Labor backbencher Mr Hayward told Parliament last night
that Queensland should legislate to attract 'ethical
investment' by superannuation and other funds.
Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 29 Sept. 1988, p. 26
ethnic adjective (Music) (Youth Culture)
Of pop and rock music: inspired by, or incorporating elements
of, the native music of a particular ethnic group. Especially in
ethnic pop or ethnic rock, pop or rock music which fuses native
musical traditions with Western rock styles.
Etymology: A development of the adjective ethnic in the sense
'of or pertaining to (a particular) race'; by the mid sixties
the adjective was already being used in the more general sense
of 'foreign', and this development is simply an application of
that sense in a particular context.
History and Usage: The adjective ethnic has been applied to
folk and modern music for some decades, but the fashion for
ethnic elements in pop and rock music dates from the late
seventies. The distinction between ethnic music and world music
is often not clearly drawn.
As majors attempt to follow Island's commendable
packaging of ethnic music, they rely on yet another
promotional push to find Africa's Bob Marley.
Blitz Jan. 1989, p. 35
Shanachie, the New Jersey-based record company that has
specialized in funky international ethnic pop, recently
put out two Mahlathini albums.
Washington Post 15 June 1990, section 2, p. 17
Euro° noun (Politics)
Either a European or a Eurocommunist (see Euro-).
Etymology: Formed by shortening European, probably under the
influence of the combining form Euro- used as a free-standing
adjective; compare Brit used as a noun.
History and Usage: These two rather different uses have been
current since the mid eighties; the sense 'a Eurocommunist'
really belongs to the jargon used by Communists among
themselves, while the more general sense 'a European' is a
colloquial nickname for all Europeans (including the British) in
the US, but largely limited to continental Europeans (or those
in favour of European integration) when used by the British. In
this latter use it was particularly topical during the debate
about European integration (see EMU°).
I'm the only person I know that tries to persuade both
Euros and Tankies to join the Labour Party.
Marxism Today May 1985, p. 9
Why didn't we assert British Rule and make the Euros
change to furlongs and chains, bushels and pecks?
Listener 6 Feb. 1986, p. 43
There are the chic Euros on holiday, the armies of
retired people, and the smart 'Miami Vice' clones.
Newsday 5 Jan. 1989, p. 2
A dense fog of rhetoric in which the Thatcherites insist
on their commitment to co-operation and the Euros insist
on their devotion to British sovereignty.
Spectator 20 May 1989, p. 6
Euroэ noun (Business World)
Colloquially in finance (especially in the US): a Eurobond,
Eurodollar, Eurodollar future, or other item traded on the
Euromoney markets (see Euro-).
Etymology: Formed by abbreviating Euromoney or any of the other
financial terms formed on Euro-.
History and Usage: Although probably in spoken use for some
time, Euro in this sense did not start to appear in print until
the early eighties, at first as a shorthand for Eurodollar
future. These futures were traded especially at the Chicago
Board of Trade, the New York Futures Exchange (from 1981), and
the London International Financial Futures Exchange (from 1982).
By the end of the eighties the abbreviated form Euro had become
very common in financial writing and was no longer limited to
Euros have a very good correlation with domestic CDs--so
good, in fact, that maybe the market will not need both
American Banker 9 July 1981, p. 11
Euros tend to remain liquid for a longer period...If
people would downgrade the definition of liquidity...,
you would find a lot of Eurobonds are liquid.
Institutional Investor May 1988, p. 105
Euro- combining form (Politics)
The first part of the name Europe and the adjective European,
widely used in compounds and blends relating to Europe, the
European Community, or the 'European' money market. Hence as a
free-standing adjective: European, conforming to EC standards or
belonging to a European institution.
Etymology: The first two syllables of Europe or European, Euro-
began as a regular adjectival combining form with the function
of linking two adjectives together, as in Euro-American,
History and Usage: Like eco-, Euro- has enjoyed two fashionable
periods in English, the first during the sixties (when British
membership was first under discussion) and the second more
recently, as EC institutions and standards have begun to impinge
more on the British way of life and a greater degree of European
integration has been under discussion. When the European Common
Market was first set up in the late fifties, it was nicknamed
Euromarket or Euromart by some (perhaps in imitation of
Eurovision, which had begun in the early fifties), and this
began the earlier fashion for formations with Euro-. The Euro-
words of the sixties included Eurocrat (a European bureaucrat),
Europarliament, Eurofarmer, and several terms to do with the
Euromarket in the sense of the 'European' financial markets
(such as Eurobond and Euroissue). In the seventies came (amongst
others) Eurocentrism (or Eurocentricity), Euro-MP, Eurosummit,
The rapid growth of the market in Eurocurrencies (some of which
are exemplified below) and in Eurobond trading has meant that
Euro- has been one of the most fashionable combining forms for
financial terms during the eighties and early nineties (examples
include Euroconvertible, an adjective or noun applied to
Eurobonds which can be converted into another type of security,
and Euroequity, an international equity issue).
By the late seventies it had also become a fashionable
combining form for all consumer products, packaging, etc.
produced to EC standards (including Eurobottle, Euro-pack,
Euro-pass, and Eurocode) as well as for the standards themselves
(Eurostandards). Europe has also been blamed (although perhaps
unfairly) for the design of the large wheeled rubbish bin known
as a Eurobin or wheelie bin. EC standards and regulations
themselves came in for some criticism for their use of
gobbledygook, which came to be known as Eurobabble (see
-babble), Eurojargon, Eurolingo, or Eurospeak. The apparent
inability of EC countries to cope with the commercial challenges
of new technology gave rise to the term Eurosclerosis in the
early eighties, but this tended to die out in the late eighties
as the single European market of 1992 approached and a more
optimistic view was taken of the economies of the Twelve.
Nevertheless there was much discussion of the pros and cons of
European integration in the late eighties, and the issue
certainly contributed to the downfall of Margaret Thatcher, who
was considered Britain's leading Euro-sceptic. Quite
independently of the EC, an important political development of
the second half of the seventies was the rise of Eurocommunism,
a brand of communism which emphasized acceptance of democratic
institutions and sought to influence European politics from
within; in the mid eighties the Eurocommunists and
Eurosocialists sought to resolve their differences and re-form
under the more general heading of the Euroleft. The music scene
also had a vogue for Euro- words, with Eurodisco, Europop, and
Eurorock. In the late seventies and eighties there was
opposition to the deployment of Euromissiles and heated
discussion in the US over Eurosubsidies given to European firms
setting up business or marketing products there.
From the beginning Euro- was popular in proper names (for
organizations, projects, etc.)--examples include Eurocontrol for
air-traffic control from the early sixties, Eurotransplant for
an international file of potential donors in the early eighties,
and more recent formations such as EuroCypher, an encryption
system for satellite transmissions, and Eurotunnel, the
Anglo-French consortium which undertook the building of the
channel tunnel--and in these cases the capital initial was
usually kept. In other Euro- words, though, there is a tendency
for the capital to be replaced by a lower-case initial once the
word becomes established, and for hyphenated forms to be joined
up into a solid word. Occasionally Euro (or euro) is used as a
free-standing word operating as an adjective and simply meaning
'European' (see the examples below).
Mrs Thatcher is seen in most of the EEC as a
Euro-sceptic at best.
The Times 30 June 1986, p. 9
A maximum fine of њ1,000 is proposed for owners of all
lawnmowers which fail to 'produce a noise of acceptable
EEC standard, or Euronoise'.
Independent 4 Dec. 1986, p. 1
Though far larger than the domestic stockmarket, the
eurodollar market does not directly involve the general
Michael Brett How to Read the Financial Pages (1987),
Investors in Industry...yesterday made its first foray
into the Euroyen market with the issue of a 12 billion
yen...bond, only the third conventional Euroyen issue by
a British company.
The Times 14 Feb. 1987, p. 18
The Euro terrorists announced...that they had set up a
'Western European Revolutionary offensive'.
Evening Standard 24 Mar. 1987, p. 7
While outside influences transform Euro-pop, white
America sticks to some well-tested styles.
Guardian 7 July 1989, p. 33
The Communists meanwhile have split into two separate
groups; a 28-strong 'Euro' tendency led by the Italian
PCI, and an 'orthodox' grouping of French, Greek and
Portuguese communists and the single Irish Workers'
Guardian 24 July 1989, p. 3
The name Britannia had been dropped from the deal
because its nationalistic connotations could have
obvious drawbacks in a pan-Euro venture.
European Investor May 1990, p. 57
It would be very regrettable if anyone sought to divert
the party down a Euro-sceptic path.
Daily Telegraph 29 Nov. 1990, p. 2
How Euro are you?
Radio Times 18 May 1991, p. 72
(Politics) see -babble
European Currency Unit
(Business World) see ecu
European Monetary System
(Business World) see EMS
Eve (Drugs) see Adam
5.16 exchange rate mechanism...
exchange rate mechanism
(Business World) see EMS
Exocet noun and verb (War and Weaponry)
noun: The trade mark of a kind of rocket-propelled short-range
guided missile, used especially in sea warfare. Used
figuratively: something devastating and unexpected, a
transitive or intransitive verb: To deliver a devastating attack
on (something) with, or as if with, an Exocet missile; to move
as if hit by a missile, to 'rocket'.
Etymology: A direct borrowing from French exocet, literally
'flying fish'; the missiles are made by a French company and
they skim across the surface of water like flying fish, making
them virtually impossible to detect and destroy.
History and Usage: The name has been registered as a trade mark
in the UK since 1970, but came to prominence during the
Falklands war of 1982. In particular, the destruction of Royal
Naval ships by Argentinian Exocet missiles during that conflict
helped to establish the figurative use of the word, both as a
noun and as a verb.
Then he produced his Exocet: a copy of your most recent
New Statesman 27 Sept. 1985, p. 13
The full range of missiles--notably the Exocet, whose
very name...has become synonymous with highly efficient
death and destruction--will be on display.
The Times 10 June 1987, p. 20
Burton's family are furious at Sally's decision to sell
the family home...Their Exocet reply is to back a
critical biography of the late screen hero.
Telegraph (Brisbane) 6 Jan. 1988, p. 5
I presented the bristle end of a broom to the back end
of the pony, which exoceted up the ramp into the
Daily Telegraph 16 Dec. 1989, Weekend section, p. vii
(Science and Technology) see cardэ
noun (Science and Technology)
A computer system using software which stores and applies the
knowledge of experts in a particular field, so that a person
using the system can draw upon that expertise to make decisions,
Etymology: Formed by compounding: although not itself expert,
the system is founded on expert knowledge, proving the truth of
the maxim that a computer system can only be as good as the
input it receives (a principle in computing that is known by the
acronym GIGO, or garbage in, garbage out).
History and Usage: The first expert systems were developed in
the second half of the seventies; they have proved very
successful and popular, especially in diagnostic work, because
of their ability to consider large numbers of symptoms or
variables at one time and reach logical conclusions.
The technology of expert systems is said to have now
matured to a point where it can help manufacturers
improve productivity and hence their competitive
British Business 14 Apr. 1989, p. 9
(War and Weaponry) see device
F (Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure) see fibre
faction noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A blend of fact and fiction, especially when used as a literary
genre, in film-making, etc.; documentary fiction. Also, a book,
film, etc. that uses this technique.
Etymology: Formed by telescoping the words fact and fiction to
make a blend.
History and Usage: The word was invented in the late sixties,
when there was a fashion for novels based on real or historical
events. In the eighties, the term was also applied to the
dramatized television documentaries sometimes called docudramas
or drama-docs (see doc, docu-). The adjective used to describe a
work of this kind is factional or factionalized; the process of
combining fact and fiction into a narrative is factionalization.
His Merseyside is vivid enough, every bit as 'real' as
those fictionalised documentaries we are learning to
Listener 30 June 1983, p. 16
Factional drama will be discussed in detail at a BBC
The Times 13 July 1988, p. 1
Humphrey's... No Resting Place...offers a factionalised
account of Indian history.
Literary Review Aug. 1989, p. 14
factoid noun and adjective (Lifestyle and Leisure)
noun: A spurious or questionable fact; especially, something
that is popularly supposed to be true because it has been
reported (and often repeated) in the media, but is actually
based on speculation or even fabrication.
adjective: Apparently factual, but actually only partly true;
'factional' (see faction above).
Etymology: Formed by adding the suffix -oid (from Latin -oides
and ultimately derived from Greek eidos 'form') to fact; the
implication is that these spurious pieces of information have
the form or appearance of facts, but are actually something
History and Usage: The word was coined by the American writer
Norman Mailer in 1973. In his book Marilyn (a biography of
Marilyn Monroe), he defined factoids as
facts which have no existence before appearing in a
magazine or newspaper, creations which are not so much
lies as a product to manipulate emotion in the Silent
Since it so aptly described the mixture of fact and supposition
that often characterized both biography and journalism in the
seventies and eighties, factoid established a place for itself
in the language as a noun and as an adjective.
Santa Fe is full of writers, which is what he has now
become. His speciality is big fat factoids full of real
people, especially his old boss.
The Times 19 Mar. 1987, p. 17
The vast bulk of it is devoted to a somewhat breathless
and awestruck factoid account of how these difficulties
will work themselves out to an inevitable, or at least
dauntingly probable, finale.
Spectator 4 July 1987, p. 31
noun Also written factor eight (Health and Fitness)
A substance in blood which is essential to the coagulation
process and is deficient in haemophiliacs.
Etymology: Substances which contribute to the blood-clotting
process have been called factors since the early years of this
century, and were assigned a series of identifying Roman
numerals by medical researchers. This is the eighth in the
History and Usage: Although congenital factor VIII deficiency
had been identified as the cause of haemophilia by the fifties,
the term did not become widely known until the Aids era. In the
mid eighties, before the implications of Aids for the blood
donor system were fully understood, thousands of haemophiliacs
worldwide were infected with the Aids virus HIV as a result of
receiving injections to boost their levels of factor VIII. This,
and the subsequent actions for damages, brought the term factor
VIII to public attention.
Doctors, unaware of the cause of his illness, pumped him
with huge doses of Factor VIII...But with AIDS becoming
a public issue...both he and Elizabeth were aware that
the massive transfusions of blood could well have
exposed him to the virus.
New Idea (Melbourne) 9 May 1987, p. 8
More than 1,200 haemophiliacs were infected with the
Aids virus after treatment with contaminated Factor
VIII, a blood-clotting agent that was administered
through the NHS.
Sunday Times 30 Sept. 1990, p. 1
noun Also written fannypack (Lifestyle and Leisure)
The US slang name for a bum-bag.
Etymology: Formed by compounding; in US slang, fanny is the
equivalent of British slang bum and has none of the sexual
connotations of the British English fanny.
History and Usage: Fanny pack has a similar history in US
English to that of bum-bag in British English, arising as long
as twenty years ago as a term used by skiers, motorcyclists,
etc. (sometimes with variations on the name, such as fanny bag
or fanny belt) and moving into the more general vocabulary when
the idea was taken up by the fashion world in the late eighties.
As a fashion accessory in the US, the fanny pack has also been
called a belly-bag, reflecting the fact that it is worn at the
front rather than the back (see bum-bag) or belt bag, avoiding
all reference to human anatomy.
I've hurt myself and my cameras numerous times...but
I've never had a problem, even doing an eggbeater at
full speed, with my gear tucked away inside a fannypack.
Sierra Jan.-Feb. 1985, p. 45
Christin Ranger...says her company put out six versions
this year (compared with only two last year), including
larger fanny packs that hold lunches or tennis shoes and
front-loaders with just enough room for a wallet.
Newsweek 5 Dec. 1988, p. 81
fast-food adjective (Drugs)
Of substances other than food, especially drugs: instant; quick
and easy to make, obtain, and use. Also occasionally of
non-material things: intellectually accessible; easy to present
Etymology: A figurative use of fast food, a term which has been
used since the fifties in the US and the seventies in the UK for
food which is kept hot or partially prepared in a restaurant and
so can be served quickly when required. The term fast food was
used attributively (in fast-food service, fast-food outlet,
etc.) before being used as a compound noun in its own right, so
it is hardly surprising that it should now be perceived and used
as an adjective, replacing instant in some contexts.
History and Usage: Fast-food was first used in this figurative
way in the late seventies and was applied to drugs from the
middle of the eighties, when the rapid spread of crack on the
streets of US cities could be attributed to the fact that it was
easily made, cheap to buy, and instantly smokable--it seemed to
drug enforcement agencies that anyone who wanted to obtain the
drug could do so as easily as buying a hamburger. The
description provides a useful distinction between the fast-food
drugs offering instant gratification (like crack and ice) and
the more complex designer drugs, and so has stuck. The term can
be applied in its figurative sense also to consumable but
non-material things (such as broadcasting or the arts); this is
the more established figurative use and may yet prove to be the
most enduring as well.
If he does talk, listen. Do not respond with 'fast-food'
answers such as 'Heck, it can't be so bad', or 'Why
don't you take the afternoon off?'
Industry Week 9 Mar. 1981, p. 45
Fast-food opera that will face an anniversary judgment.
headline in Guardian 3 July 1989, p. 19
A few years ago, all the talk was about more complex,
more expensive 'designer drugs'. Ironically it has
turned out to be the fast-food drugs like crack and
ice...that are tearing us apart.
People 13 Nov. 1989, p. 13
noun, adjective, and verb Also written fast-track when used as
an adjective or verb (Business World) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
noun: A hectic lifestyle or job involving rapid promotion and
intense competition; also called the fast lane.
adjective: High-flying, enjoying or capable of rapid
transitive verb: To promote (a person) rapidly, to accelerate or
rush (something) through.
Etymology: A figurative use of the horse-racing term fast track
(which dates from the thirties), a race-track on which the going
is dry and hard enough to enable the horses to run fast; track
has a long history in US terms to do with careers, for example
in the concept of a tenure track for academics.
History and Usage: The figurative use of fast track in business
arose in the mid sixties; it may owe its popularity to US
President Richard Nixon, who claimed at that time that he
preferred New York to California because it was the fast track.
Certainly it became a vogue word in US business circles during
the seventies, in all its grammatical uses, and developed a
number of derivatives: the agent-noun fast-tracker (and even
fast-tracknik), a person who lives or works in the fast track;
also the verbal noun fast-tracking, the practice of promoting
staff rapidly or accelerating processes. In the eighties this
vogue has spread to British English, although in the UK fast
lane is still probably better known as the name for the hectic,
competitive lifestyle of the yuppie.
Some of the fast trackers seem so preoccupied with
getting ahead that they don't always notice the
implications of what they do.
Fortune June 1977, p. 160
Many a thrusting young manager or fast-track public
servant has had his hopes dashed.
The Times 15 Dec. 1984, p. 7
An assurance was given to 'fast track' the required
Stock & Land (Melbourne) 5 Mar. 1987, p. 3
fatigue (People and Society) see compassion fatigue
fattism noun Also written fatism (People and Society)
Discrimination against, or the tendency to poke fun at,
Etymology: Formed by adding the suffix -ism (as in racism and
sexism) to fat.
History and Usage: Fattism is one of a large number of
formations ending in -ism which became popular in the eighties
to describe perceived forms of discrimination (see also ableism,
ageism, and heterosexism). This one belongs to the second half
of the eighties, a time when general diet-consciousness and an
emphasis on physical fitness in Western societies made being
overweight almost into a moral issue. It was coined by American
psychologist Rita Freedman in the book Bodylove (1988), in which
she points out the insidious influence of one's personal
appearance on others (in particular the notion that obese people
are lazy or undisciplined):
Looksism gives birth to fatism, another cruel stereotype
that affects us all.
It is usually used only half-seriously, though, as is the
corresponding adjective fat(t)ist. The adjective appears to be
becoming more established in the language than the noun at
present, but neither promises to be permanent.
Fatist is a refreshing new word to me, as opposed to
fattest which is much more familiar.
Spare Rib Oct. 1987, p. 5
Dawn French makes no apologies about her size, and any
frisson of incipient fattism is instantly quashed in her
Sunday Express Magazine 25 Mar. 1990, p. 18
Now Ms Wood looks smarter and has lost so much weight,
some of her fattist pieces lose their credibility.
Gay Times Nov. 1990, p. 71
fatwa noun Also written Fatwa or fatwah (Politics)
A legal decision or ruling given by an Islamic religious leader.
Etymology: A direct borrowing from Arabic; the root in the
original language is the same verb fata (to instruct by a legal
decision) from which we get the word Mufti, a Muslim legal
expert or teacher.
History and Usage: Actually an old borrowing from Arabic (in
the form fetfa or fetwa it has been in use in English since the
seventeenth century), the fatwa acquired a new currency in the
English-language media in February 1989, when Iran's Ayatollah
Khomeini issued a fatwa sentencing the British writer Salman
Rushdie to death for publishing The Satanic Verses (1988), a
book which many Muslims considered blasphemous and highly
offensive. Fatwa is a generic term for any legal decision made
by a Mufti or other Islamic religious authority, but, because of
the particular context in which the West became familiar with
the word, it is sometimes erroneously thought to mean 'a death
The...International Committee...have capitalized on the
outrage felt at the notorious fatwa to drive forward
with new confidence the long-nurtured campaign for total
abolition of blasphemy laws in this country.
Bookseller 29 Sept. 1989, p. 1068
This Fatwa...was written and signed by the Grand
Ayatollah of Shia in Iraq, explaining his position
regarding the executions of 16 Kuwaiti Pilgrims after
the Saudi media quoted his name.
Independent 27 Oct. 1989, p. 10
[He]...rejected the findings of a BBC opinion poll which
claimed that only 42 per cent of Muslims in Britain
supported the fatwah.
Independent 16 July 1990, p. 5
fax° noun and verb (Science and Technology)
noun: Facsimile telegraphy (a system allowing documents to be
scanned, digitized, and transmitted to a remote destination
using the telephone network); a copy of a document transmitted
in this way; a machine capable of performing facsimile
telegraphy (known more fully as a fax machine).
transitive verb: To transmit (a document) by fax.
Etymology: An abbreviated and respelt form of facsimile;
sometimes popularly associated with the respelt form of facts in
the next entry.
History and Usage: Experiments in different methods of
facsimile transmission began in the late nineteenth century; the
first successful transmission of a document took place in 1925.
Fax technology was first written about using this name in the
forties, describing a method of transmitting newspaper text by
radio rather than by telephone; this was the result of research
and development work carried out by the American electrical
engineer and inventor John V. L. Hogan during the late twenties
and thirties. In 1944, after contributing to military use of
facsimile during the Second World War, he was instrumental in
forming Broadcasters' Faximile Analysis, a research project
linking broadcasters and newspaper publishers in the US, but
their plans to provide a facsimile news service in individual
homes failed because of licensing difficulties. Legal
restrictions on the use of telephone equipment which did not
belong to the telephone company also stood in the way of
widespread application of telephone fax, and the word fax
remained in the technical jargon of telegraphy until these
restrictions were lifted and the machines became widely
affordable for business use in the early eighties. By the middle
of the eighties, it had already developed the three distinct
uses mentioned above as well as being widely used as a verb, and
it was commonplace for company notepaper to carry a firm's fax
number (the telephone number to be dialled to enable the firm to
receive a faxed document) as well as standard telephone and
telex numbers. Derivatives include faxable (capable of being
faxed), faxee (a person to whom a fax is sent), faxer (a sender
of faxes), faxham (a person who uses the fax as a radio ham uses
short-wave radio to contact unknown enthusiasts), and faxing
(the sending of faxes).
As the technology improved, fax became faster and
Daily Telegraph 21 Nov. 1986, p. 16
In a five-storey office building, there may be a fax on
Observer Magazine 19 June 1988, p. vi
NFUC sent out several thousand faxes urging the faxees
to refax the fax to the fax machines in the governor's
Washington Post 23 May 1989, section C, p. 5
He had not faxed me specifically, he continued, since he
did not know me from Adam--the faxham simply tapped
arbitrarily into the void...hoping sometime, somewhere,
to encounter responsive life.
The Times 20 Mar. 1990, p. 14
faxэ plural noun
Colloquially, facts, information, 'gen'.
Etymology: A playful respelling of facts (compare sox for
socks), in this case reflecting the lack of a t sound in most
people's casual pronunciation of the word.
History and Usage: This spelling of facts was devised by
Thackeray in his Yellowplush correspondence: Fashnable fax and
polite annygoats, first published in 1837. It has been common in
popular magazines and newspapers using normal modern orthography
since about the 1970s and had formed the second element of trade
marks (see Ceefax and Filofax) for decades before that. However,
it was only when the Filofax and facsimile (fax°) became
fashionable in the eighties that fax really acquired any popular
currency as a word in its own right; the increasing emphasis on
information as a commodity in eighties culture has helped it to
establish a place in the language that is not simply a newspaper
Eco-fax. These pages are designed for you to fill in the
address and/or telephone numbers you may need.
John Button How to be Green (1989), p. 230
(Lifestyle and Leisure) see Filofax
FF (Lifestyle and Leisure) see functional food
fibre noun (Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
Food material such as bran and cellulose that is not broken down
by the process of digestion; roughage. Often in the fuller form
dietary fibre; occasionally abbreviated to F, especially in the
US trade mark F Plan Diet (or F-Plan), a weight-reducing diet
based on a high fibre intake to provide bulk without calories.
Etymology: A specialized use of fibre in its collective sense
of 'matter consisting of animal or vegetable fibres'.
History and Usage: Scientists have written about fibre in this
sense since the early years of this century; what brought it
into the more popular domain and made it a fashionable subject
was the discovery in the seventies that a high-fibre diet could
help to prevent certain digestive illnesses, including cancers
of the colon, diverticular disease, and irritable bowel
syndrome. In the eighties, the green movement added impetus to
this by stressing the need to concentrate on natural,
unprocessed foods (the highly refined foods which most people in
developed countries normally eat contain relatively little
fibre). The F-Plan diet (the book of which was published in
1982) is one of many diets put forward in the eighties which
emphasize the need for fibre, and the word now seems to have
taken over from the more old-fashioned roughage in popular
The newly promoted F plan diet, which underlined the
nutritional value of beans, fortuitously coincided with
the Heinz campaign message. 'They were talking fibre;
we were talking goodness.'
Financial Times 18 Aug. 1983, p. 9
Bran is one type of fibre, nature's own 'filler' that is
present only in plant foods and is essential for proper
Here's Health Apr. 1986, p. 127
Get into a wholefood diet routine, sticking to
high-fibre low fat foods, plenty of salads, fresh fruit
Health Shopper Jan./Feb. 1990, p. 9
Filofax noun (Business World) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
The trade mark of a type of loose-leaf portable filing system; a
Etymology: A respelling of file of facts which is meant to
reflect colloquial pronunciation.
History and Usage: The Filofax has been made for several
decades (the trade mark was first registered in the early
thirties), but the name was not widely known until the early
eighties, when it suddenly became fashionable (especially for
business people) to carry a Filofax. These small loose-leaf
folders usually contain a diary and other personal documentation
such as an address book, planner, note section, maps, etc., as
well as a wallet with spaces for a pen, credit cards, and other
small non-paper items. In the mid eighties the Filofax was
associated particularly with the yuppie set--the word was even
used attributively in the sense 'yuppie'. By the end of the
decade all sorts of people could be seen with Filofaxes--or with
one of the numerous imitations of the Filofax proper--and a
growing market developed for different types of filofax insert.
So popular were they that variations on the theme started to
appear--notably Filofiction, novels produced on hole-punched
sheets to fit a Filofax. (Some other examples of the birth of
filo- as a combining form are given in the quotations below.)
Filofax is even occasionally used as a verb, meaning 'to steal a
Filofax from (someone) in order to demand a ransom for its
return'--a crime apparently known colloquially as filo-napping
The Digger guide to Metropolitan Manners No 1: Yup and
Non-Yup by Ivor Pawsh (Advice: consult filonotes when
Digger 9 Oct. 1987, p. 26
Small neat people tend to go for the small neat
organizers while fatsos nearly always buy large
Filofaxes and stuff them fit to burst.
The Times 10 June 1988, p. 27
An advertisement in last week's Bookseller for
Filofiction--or what the publishers describe as
'publishing's brightest new idea'.
New Scientist 28 July 1988, p. 72
Taxpak '89 is a new filofax insert detailing the Budget
changes, enabling you to check your income tax
Investors Chronicle 17-23 Mar. 1989, p. 35
One of the more Americanised [pop groups] of England's
Listener 4 May 1989, p. 36
The filoflask...a normal personal organiser but with a
hip flask fitted inside, is being marketed.
The Times 14 June 1990, p. 27
transitive verb (Lifestyle and Leisure)
To style and dry (the hair) by running one's fingers through it
to lift it and give it body while it dries naturally in the
warmth of the air. Also as an adjective finger-dried and action
Etymology: A transparent combination of finger and dry; the
warmth from the fingers apparently also helps to dry the hair.
History and Usage: Hair has no doubt been finger-dried since
the beginning of time; the technique was only graced with the
fashion term finger-drying at the beginning of the eighties,
when hairdressers sought a more natural look than could be
achieved with the blow-dried styles of the seventies.
Howard layered Jocelyn's hair, and finger-drying brought
out its natural movement.
Woman's Realm 10 May 1986, p. 29
An advance on the razor is the new texturising technique
which forms a feathery, textured look and is ideal for
Cornishman 5 June 1986, p. 8
flak noun (Business World) (Politics)
In business and political jargon, short for flak-catcher: a
person employed by an individual or institution to deal with all
adverse comment, questions, etc. from the public, thereby
shielding the employer from unfavourable publicity.
Etymology: Formed by a combination of semantic change and
abbreviation. Flak was originally borrowed into English from
the German initials of a compound word meaning 'pilot defence
gun' in the Second World War, for an anti-aircraft gun and (by
extension) anti-aircraft fire; by the late sixties it was being
used figuratively to mean 'a barrage of criticism or abuse'. The
sense under discussion here arose by shortening the compound
flak-catcher to flak again, perhaps involving some confusion
with the word flack, an established US term for a press agent
which was allegedly coined quite independently by the
entertainment paper Variety in the late thirties. Variety
claimed that this word for a press agent was the surname of Gene
Flack, a well-known movie agent.
History and Usage: An example of a well-established Americanism
that has only gained a place in British English in the past few
years. The term flak-catcher was popularized at the beginning of
the seventies in the US (by the writer Tom Wolfe in Mau-Mauing
the Flak Catchers); the name was apt enough to stick in US
English, and to be applied in British English as well during the
seventies to those slick spokesmen who can turn any question to
the advantage of the government or organization whose image they
are employed to protect. The abbreviation to flak belongs to the
late seventies in the US and the eighties in the UK. The form
flak-catching (as an adjective or noun) also occurs.
Spitting Image...has firmly established itself as TV's
premiЉre flak-catching slot.
Listener 7 Mar. 1985, p. 29
The tone is world-weary, that of the flakcatcher for
whom life has become an arduous process of warding off,
out-manoeuvring, beating down.
Times Literary Supplement 31 Oct. 1986, p. 1210
Most U.S. companies employ spokespeople who are paid to
parrot the company line...To reporters they are
derisively known as 'flaks' whose main duties consist of
peddling press releases.
Bryan Burrough & John Helyar Barbarians at the Gate
(1990), p. 293
flake noun (People and Society)
In US slang: an eccentric, dim, or unreliable person, a
Etymology: A back-formation from the adjective flaky, which in
US slang has been used in the sense 'odd, eccentric,
unpredictable' since the mid sixties.
History and Usage: Flake was first used in US baseball slang
and in college slang generally in the sixties; during the
seventies it passed into general slang use in the US, and by the
early eighties was becoming more widely known still through its
use in political contexts (compare wimp°).
Out in California, Gov. Jerry Brown--often called a
flake--was campaigning against San Diego Mayor Pete
Wilson...Larry Liebert...quoted an anonymous Brown aide
as asking 'Why trade a flake for a wimp.'
New York Times Magazine 24 Oct. 1982, p. 16
flashy (Lifestyle and Leisure) see glitzy
flavour of the month
noun phrase (Lifestyle and Leisure)
The current fashion; something that (or someone who) is
especially popular at a given time. Also with variations, such
as flavour of the week, year, etc.
Etymology: A figurative application of a phrase that began as a
marketing ploy in US ice-cream parlours in the forties, when a
particular ice-cream flavour would be singled out for the month
or week for special promotion.
History and Usage: Flavour of the month started to be used
figuratively in the news media in the late seventies, and for a
while in the early eighties the phrase itself appeared to be
flavour of the month with journalists. There is often a note of
cynicism in its use, implying that the thing or person described
as flavour of the month is but a passing fashion or whim that
will soon be replaced by the next one. It is also sometimes
applied to something which is not really subject to fashions,
but is especially common or widely reported at a given time.
In many ways the question of authority in the Church is
the theological flavour of the year in Anglican circles.
Church Times 15 May 1987, p. 7
Readership surveys were flavour of the month in that
sector so he wanted one.
Media Week 2 Sept. 1988, p. 14
Currently the England dressing room resembles a MASH
unit, with finger and hand injuries the flavour of the
Guardian 2 Apr. 1990, p. 15
noun Also written fly tipping or flytipping (Environment)
In the UK: unauthorized dumping of rubbish on the streets or on
Etymology: Formed by compounding. The fly- part is probably
ultimately derived from the verb to fly (the culprits tip and
fly); it is the equivalent of fly-posting (a term which dates
back to the early years of this century) except that it involves
dumping rubbish rather than putting up posters. Since the
thirties, street salesmen have called their unlicensed pitches
fly-pitches, but this name is probably derived from the
adjective fly, 'clever'.
History and Usage: The term fly-tipping has been used in
technical sources to do with waste disposal since at least the
late sixties. A topical problem in the Britain of the eighties,
fly-tipping was the subject of tighter legislation in 1989 to
try to tidy up city streets and give the UK a greener image. The
term fly-tipping has also been applied to the dumping of toxic
waste in other countries. Fly-tip has been back-formed as the
verb corresponding to the noun fly-tipping; individuals or
bodies who do it are fly-tippers.
The LIFT...Report divides the people who fly tip into
four categories: the 'organised criminal', the
'commercial', the 'domestic' and the 'traveller'. The
organised criminal fly tipper operates to make money
through illegal deposition of wastes.
Managing Waste (Report of the Royal Commission on
Environmental Pollution, 1985), p. 71
The Control Of Pollution (Amendment) Bill, to tighten up
the law against fly-tippers and stop illegal dumping of
builders' rubble, was given an unopposed third reading
in the Lords.
The Times 5 July 1989, p. 13
There was the visible evidence of fly-tipping. A mound
of rubbish all but obscured an electrical sub-station on
which two local hospitals depended.
Independent 23 Aug. 1988, p. 17
fontware (Science and Technology) see -ware
(Environment) (Lifestyle and Leisure) see additive
foodie noun (Lifestyle and Leisure) (People and Society)
In colloquial use, a person whose hobby or main interest is
food; a gourmet.
Etymology: Formed by adding the suffix -ie (as in groupie,
etc.) to food; one of a succession of such formations during the
eighties for people who are fans of, or heavily 'into', a
particular thing or activity.
History and Usage: Although gourmets have been around for a
long time, the foodie is an invention of the early eighties,
encouraged by the food and wine pages of the colour supplements
and the growth of a magazine industry for which food is a
central interest. The foodie is interested not just in eating
good food, but in preparing it, reading about it, and talking
about it as well, especially if the food in question is a new
'eating experience'. An Official Foodie Handbook was published
He told me about the foodie who sat next to him in a
Chinese restaurant and went into transports of
enthusiastic analysis about the way in which the chicken
had been cooked.
Listener 27 Sept. 1984, p. 19
The oriental chopper...--a perfect gift for your
favourite foodie, particularly if that happens to be
Good Food Jan./Feb. 1990, p. 11
(Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure) see irradiation
footprint noun (Science and Technology)
In computing jargon, the surface area taken up by a computer on
a desk or other surface.
Etymology: A figurative use of footprint; the latest in a
succession of technical uses employing this metaphor. In the mid
sixties, footprint had been proposed as the name for the landing
area of a spacecraft; from the early seventies onwards it was
used for the ground area affected by noise, pressure, etc. from
a vehicle or aircraft (an aeroplane's noise footprint is the
restricted area on the ground below in which noise exceeds a
specified level, and the footprint of a tyre is the area of
contact between it and the ground); it is also used for the area
within which a satellite signal can be received.
History and Usage: Interest in the footprint of computer
hardware began in the early eighties, with the widespread sale
and use of PCs and other microcomputers which had to compete for
space on people's desks with books, papers, and simply room in
which to work. A small footprint soon became a selling-point for
a microcomputer. In the era of hacking (see hack), there is some
evidence that footprint also came to be used figuratively in
computing to mean a visible sign left in a file to show that it
had been hacked into (the machine-readable equivalent of 'I woz
With features like a...memory mapper and a footprint of
only 12.6 inches by 15.7 inches, it's a difficult micro
advertisement in Mail on Sunday 9 Aug. 1987, p. 39
Footsie acronym Also written footsie or FT-SE (Business World)
In the colloquial language of the Stock Exchange, the Financial
Times-Stock Exchange 100 share index, an index based on the
share values of Britain's one hundred largest public companies.
Also known more fully as the Footsie index.
Etymology: A respelling of FT-SE (itself the initial letters of
Financial Times-Stock Exchange), intended to represent the
sounds produced when you try to pronounce the initials as a
History and Usage: The FT-SE index was set up in January 1984
and almost immediately came to be known affectionately as
Footsie, perhaps because FT-SE is such a mouthful. Within a few
months, traded options and futures which were linked to the
index became available and these were described as Footsie
options etc. (even without a capital initial) almost as though
Footsie were an adjective. Footsie is used with or without the
to refer to the index; the 100 part of the index's name
sometimes follows Footsie, especially when the official form,
FT-SE 100 index, is used.
The FT-SE 100 (Footsie) Index has already fallen from a
peak 1717 early in April to 1565, but if you think
calamity lies ahead, it is not too late to buy Footsie
Daily Mail 17 May 1986, p. 30
With Congress and Administration still deadlocked over
the US Budget, the most anodyne political remark is
quite capable of shifting Footsie 50 points.
Investors Chronicle 20 Nov. 1987, p. 29
(People and Society) see Rule 43
F-plan (Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure) see fibre
-free combining form (Environment) (Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and
As the second element in a hyphenated adjective: not containing
or involving the (usually undesirable) ingredient, factor, etc.
named in the word before the hyphen.
Etymology: A largely contextual development in the use of what
is an ancient combining form in English: originally it meant
'exempt from the tax or charge named before the hyphen' (as in
tax-free, toll-free, etc.) and this developed through the
figurative sense 'not hampered by the trouble etc. named in the
first word' (as in carefree and trouble-free) to the present
use, in which ingredients or processes, often ones formerly
thought desirable in the production of something, have been
found to be unwanted by some section of the public, and the
product is therefore advertised as being free from them.
History and Usage: The sense of -free defined here has become
particularly fashionable since the late seventies, especially
through its use by advertisers (who possibly see it as a
positive alternative--with connotations of liberation and
cleanness-- to the rather negative suffix -less). The uses fall
into a number of different groups, including those to do with
special diets (alcohol-free, cholesterol-free, corn-free,
dairy-free (an odd term out with animal-free in naming the
generic source rather than the substance as the first word),
gluten-free, meat-free, milk-free, sugar-free, wheat-free, and
many others), those to do with pollutants or additives
(additive-free (see additive), Alar-free (see Alar), CFC-free
(see CFC), e-free (see E number), lead-free, etc.), those in
which an undesirable process or activity is named first
(cruelty-free, nuclear-free), and those with the name of an
illness or infection as the first element (BSE-free,
salmonella-free). Occasionally advertisers omit the hyphen, with
unintentional comical effect: during the scare about salmonella
in eggs in the UK in 1989, for example, some shops displayed
posters advertising 'Fresh farm eggs--salmonella free'.
The Saudis have oil, which the world wants. Now C.
Schmidt & Sons, a Philadelphia brewery, has something
the Saudis want--alcohol-free beer.
Washington Post 23 June 1979, section D, p. 9
Special dishes which are gluten-free, dairy-free and
Hampstead & Highgate Express 7 Feb. 1986, p. 90
These contain a complex of high potency, dairy-free
lactobacilli, good bacteria that help the body to
maintain a positive balance.
Health Shopper Jan./Feb. 1990, p. 4
The advice of the National Eczema Society is to use
either liquids (none of which contains bleaches) or
enzyme-free 'non-biological' detergents.
Which? Apr. 1990, p. 190
We all feel virtuous because we have gone lead-free; but
this is a separate issue from the greenhouse effect.
Good Housekeeping May 1990, p. 17
They say they can deliver BSE-free embryos, but no one
can guarantee that.
Independent on Sunday 29 July 1990, Sunday Review
section, p. 13
freebase noun and verb Also written free base or free-base (Drugs)
noun: A purified form of cocaine made by heating it with ether,
and taken (illegally) by inhaling the fumes or smoking the
intransitive or transitive verb: To make a freebase of cocaine
or smoke it as a drug; to smoke (freebase). Also as a verbal
noun freebasing; agent noun freebaser.
Etymology: Formed by compounding; the base, or most important
ingredient in cocaine, is freed by the process of heating.
History and Usage: The term has been in use in the drugs
subculture since the seventies (there are reports of people who
claim to have been using freebase since 1978, for example), but
it was not taken up by the media until 1980, when American
comedian Richard Pryor was badly burned while freebasing. It
then became clear that freebase was a favourite form of cocaine
among the Hollywood set, since smoking it was more congenial
than 'snorting' cocaine. The cheaper crystalline cocaine, crack,
was at first also known as freebase. The noun and verb appeared
simultaneously in printed sources, but it is likely that the
noun preceded the verb in colloquial use.
A police lieutenant said Mr. Pryor had told a doctor the
accident happened while he was trying to make 'free
base', a cocaine derivative produced with the help of
New York Times 15 June 1980, p. 15
She recalled that her seven-year-old daughter used to
follow her around the house with a deodorant spray
because she could not stand the smell of freebasing.
Daily Telegraph 30 June 1981, p. 15
A society drugs scandal is introduced as the freebasers
start brewing up in their alembics.
Times Literary Supplement 14 Aug. 1987, p. 872
free from artificial additives
(Environment) (Lifestyle and Leisure) see additive
noun (Health and Fitness)
An atom or group of atoms in which there is one or more unpaired
electrons; an unstable element in the human body which, it is
thought, can be overproduced as a result of chemical pollution
and may then cause cell damage.
Etymology: Formed by compounding; free in its chemical sense
means 'uncombined' and radical denotes an atom which would
normally form part of a compound.
History and Usage: As a chemical term, free radical has existed
since the beginning of this century. What has brought it into
the public eye in the past few years is the interest shown by
the alternative health movement and environmentalists in free
radicals as the apparent link between pollution and late
twentieth-century health problems such as cancer and Alzheimer's
Vincent Lord knew that many drugs, when in action in the
human body and as part of their metabolism, generated
Arthur Hailey Strong Medicine (1984), p. 159
Increasingly essential are the anti-oxidants--vitamins
A, C, E and the mineral selenium, which bolster the
body's natural defence against disruptive free radicals.
Generated in the body as a result of radiation, chemical
pollutants, medicinal drugs and stress, free radicals
can damage cells and tissues bringing about premature
Harpers & Queen Apr. 1990, p. 143
(Lifestyle and Leisure) (Youth Culture) see BMX
freeware (Science and Technology) see -ware
noun and verb Also written freeze frame (Lifestyle and Leisure)
(Science and Technology)
noun: A still picture forming part of a motion sequence; a
facility on video recorders allowing one to stop the action and
view the picture currently on the screen as a still.
intransitive or transitive verb: To use the freeze-frame
facility; to pause (action or a picture) in this way.
Etymology: Formed by compounding; freeze-frame is effectively a
contraction of the technical phrase freeze the frame as used in
History and Usage: Freeze-frame was first used as a noun in
cinematography in the early sixties; at that time, before the
advent of home videos, the effect was achieved by printing the
same frame repeatedly rather than actually stopping on a
particular frame, and was also known simply as a freeze. The
word freeze-frame became popularized in the early eighties by
the appearance on the general market of video recorders which
had the facility; most manufacturers chose to label the control
freeze-frame, and so it was a natural step to the development of
a verb in this form to replace the more cumbersome phrase freeze
You can freeze-frame sequences for close analysis.
Listener 12 May 1983, p. 2
Don't use 'freeze frame'...for longer than necessary--it
increases tape and head wear.
Which? June 1984, p. 250
fresh adjective (Youth Culture)
In young people's slang (especially in the US): def, 'hip',
'cool', new and exciting.
Etymology: A sense shift which is perhaps influenced by the pun
with cool; as a word of approbation in young people's slang it
has its roots in rap talk and ultimately in the street language
of hip hop.
History and Usage: This is a usage which only began to appear
in print in the second half of the eighties, as part of the crop
of new slang expressions popularized by the spread of hip-hop
culture. A number of rappers used the word in their pseudonyms,
and a US sitcom which was centred on hip hop and shown on UK
television as well had as its title The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Run DMC, the rap group, told it to the audience
straighter than most. The other groups at the Fresh
Festival, a compendium of rappers and break dancers, had
Chicago Tribune 7 July 1985 (Final edition), section 3,
According to Freddy, street talkers and rappers long ago
abandoned bad for such alternatives as fresh, def and
Los Angeles Times 29 Aug. 1988, section 6, p. 2
friendly adjective (War and Weaponry)
Of troops, equipment, etc.: belonging to one's own side in a
conflict; in specific phrases (such as friendly fire, friendly
bombing, etc.): coming from one's own side; especially, causing
accidental damage to one's own personnel or equipment.
Etymology: A specialized and slightly elliptical use of the
adjective friendly in the sense 'not hostile'.
History and Usage: This sense of friendly has been in use in
military jargon since at least the Second World War (and may go
back even further as a noun meaning 'a member of one's own or
one's allies' forces'); in the earlier uses, though, friendly
tended to be followed by aircraft, ships, etc. The euphemistic
phrase friendly fire had been used in the Vietnam War (it was
chosen in the seventies as the title of a book and film about
the parents of a soldier killed by his own side in Vietnam), but
was brought to prominence in the Gulf War of 1991, when the
majority of fatal casualties among allied troops were attributed
'There will be other occurrences of some of our troops
potentially being a victim of "friendly fire"', Marine
Corps Maj. Gen. Robert B. Johnston, the Central
Command's chief of staff, told reporters on Feb. 2.
National Journal 9 Feb. 1991, p. 335
Since the war began, more American troops are thought to
have been killed by 'friendly fire' than by the Iraqis,
most by air-launched missiles.
Independent 22 Feb. 1991, p. 3
-friendly combining form (Environment) (Science and Technology)
As the second word in a hyphenated adjective: either adapted,
designed, or made suitable for the person or thing named in the
first word or safe for, not harmful to what is named before the
hyphen. Hence as a free-standing adjective (often qualified by
an adverb): accessible or harmless, non-polluting.
Etymology: Formed on the adjective friendly, after the model of
user-friendly in computing.
History and Usage: One of the most popular ways of forming a
new adjective in the late eighties, especially in consumer
advertising and writing on environmental issues, -friendly has
its roots in the extremely successful late-seventies coinage
user-friendly (the history of which is described under that
heading). By the early eighties the computing metaphor was being
extended to users of other types of product, sometimes simply as
an extension of user-friendly itself, but sometimes substituting
a new first word (reader-friendly, listener-friendly, etc.); the
gobbledygook of legal drafting was replaced in some legislation
by clear, understandable language and this was described as
citizen-friendly. It was also in the early eighties that the
second branch of meaning started to develop, with the appearance
on the scene of environment-friendly (causing little harm to the
environment, ecologically sound); this also gave rise to a
stream of imitative formations, notably ozone-friendly (see
ozone), Earth-friendly, eco-friendly (see eco-), and
planet-friendly. In the second half of the eighties both
branches of meaning grew steadily and became somewhat confused,
as new formations arose which did not follow the original
pattern. In the sense to do with accessibility and ease of use,
for example, the term computer-friendly (used of a person, a
synonym for computerate or computent (see the entry for
computerate) with a nuance of willingness as well as ability to
use computers) seemed to turn the tables: the person was now
friendly to the computer, rather than the other way round. On
the environmental side there were formations like
greenhouse-friendly, in which the basic meaning 'not harmful to'
had been extended into 'not contributing to the harmful effects
of' in a potentially confusing way. The fashion for formations
in -friendly has also led to the use of hyphenated adjectives in
which the -friendly part means no more than 'friendly' in its
usual sense (see the example for Thatcher-friendly in the
There were also grammatical confusions when -friendly started to
be used as a free-standing adjective. From the late seventies,
friendly was used as a free-standing word in computing as a
synonym for user-friendly. As -friendly became more and more
popular, some sources started to print the compounds with no
hyphen between the two words; what is essentially an abbreviated
dative phrase 'friendly to...' was then interpreted as an
adjective qualified by a noun, and this was 'corrected' to an
adverb, giving forms such as environmentally friendly (see
environmentally). There were even some examples in which two
adjectives were used together, in environmental friendly etc.
(presumably transferring the adjective from environmental
friendliness). Friendliness, with a preceding noun, and with or
without a hyphen, can be used to form noun counterparts for most
of these adjectives, but environmental friendliness co-exists
Companies' requirements for computer-friendly personnel
The Times 3 Mar. 1987, p. 21
Non-food products such as 'environment-friendly'
detergents...may not be as widely available.
Which? Jan. 1989, p. 27
Listener-friendly tunes...take him close to Michael
Jackson in tone and delivery.
Guitar Player Mar. 1989, p. 12
Mitsubishi mixes high performance and environmental
friendliness in its new Starion 2.6-litre turbo coup‚.
Financial Times 4 Mar. 1989, Weekend FT, p. xxiv
Young people are displaying a lot of behaviour and some
attitudes which are Thatcher-friendly.
Listener 4 May 1989, p. 4
It argued that nuclear power had a role to play in a
'greenhouse friendly' electricity supply industry but
that this role should not be exaggerated.
Financial Times 18 July 1989, p. 18
Nearly 4,000 products are being analysed according to
user- and environment-friendliness in a study sponsored
by property developers Rosehaugh.
Sunday Telegraph 13 Aug. 1989, p. 2
On the grocery shelves, garbage and trash bags of all
sizes, once the scourge of the environment, now come
with planet-friendly certification.
Los Angeles Times 4 Feb. 1990, section E, p. 1
Another well-advanced initiative...involves the
production of a sterilized sewage and straw compost, a
process which disposes of two major pollutants at once,
turning them into earth-friendly products which are good
The Times 24 Mar. 1990, p. 45
noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A smooth white curd cheese or quark, originally from France; now
also any of a number of low-fat dairy desserts based on curd
cheese with fruit, sugar, etc. added.
Etymology: Borrowed from French; literally 'fresh cheese'. This
kind of cheese is normally known as petit suisse in France,
History and Usage: Fromage frais is a product which was
introduced to British supermarkets in the early eighties and to
American ones a few years later as a way of extending the dairy
dessert market in which yogurts were becoming very popular.
Fromage frais has proved extremely successful as the basis for a
whole range of desserts.
Tell us the fat content of Sainsbury's virtually
fat-free fromage frais and you might win a white
porcelain gratin dish.
Good Housekeeping May 1990, p. 42
Remove and discard pods, herbs, carrot and celery.
Process until smooth with the yogurt or fromage frais,
adding a little extra water or skimmed milk to desired
She Aug. 1990, p. 128
noun (Science and Technology)
In media jargon, direct input of newspaper text by journalists
at their own terminals, cutting out the traditional typesetting
Etymology: Formed by adding the action or process suffix -ing
to front end (the part of a computer system that a user deals
with directly, especially a terminal that routes input to a
central computer); the term front end is used attributively (in
front-end system etc.), for the 'new technology' which allowed
journalists to set their own copy.
History and Usage: Computer scientists used the term
front-ending from the early seventies to refer to ways of using
mini- and microcomputers in networks attached to a single
central computer. In the context of newspaper production, the
term came into the news in the mid eighties, when the
introduction of the system in the UK (especially by the News
International group producing The Times, The Sunday Times, Sun,
and News of the World) gave rise to mass picketing by print
union representatives who were angry about their members' loss
of jobs in typesetting.
I intend to negotiate the introduction of front-ending
and...a modern web-offset printing plant.
The Times 10 July 1986, p. 21
6.10 fudge and mudge...
fudge and mudge
verbal phrase (Politics)
As a political catch-phrase: to evade comment or avoid making a
decision on an issue by waffling; to apply facile, ill-conceived
solutions to problems while trying to appear resolved.
Etymology: The verb fudge has been used since the seventeenth
century in the sense 'to patch up, to make (something) look
legitimate or properly done when in fact it is dishonestly
touched up'; mudge here is probably chosen for its rhyme with
fudge and influenced by smudge or muddle, although it might be
taken from hudge-mudge, a Scottish form of hugger-mugger, a noun
meaning 'disorder, confusion' but also used as an adjective in
the sense 'makeshift'.
History and Usage: The catch-phrase was coined by the British
politician David Owen in a speech to his supporters at the
Labour Party conference in 1980. In a direct attack on the
leadership of James Callaghan, he said:
We are fed up with fudging and mudging, with mush and
slush. We need courage, conviction, and hard work.
Since then it has been used in a number of political contexts,
both as a verbal phrase and as a noun phrase for the policy or
practice of fudging and mudging.
A short term victory must poison the atmosphere in which
much-needed, long-term reforms of pay bargaining are
examined. There are occasions on which it is right to
fudge and mudge at the margins.
Guardian Weekly 14 June 1981, p. 10
Since the Prime Minister has a well-known abhorrence for
fudge and mudge, it must be assumed that she agreed to
this next step [in joining the European Monetary System]
because she intended to take it.
Guardian 28 July 1989, p. 22
(Health and Fitness) see Aids
noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A foodstuff which contains additives specifically designed to
promote health and longevity. Sometimes abbreviated to FF.
Etymology: A translation of Japanese kinoseishokuhin.
History and Usage: Functional foods were originally a Japanese
idea and by 1990 had an eight per cent share of the Japanese
food market. They cleverly turn round the negative connotations
of food additives by fortifying foods with enzymes to aid
digestion, anti-cholesterol agents, added fibre, etc. and by
marketing the foods as beneficial to health--much the same idea
as the familiar breakfast cereals fortified with vitamins and
iron, but taken a stage further. Functional foods have yet to
be tested on Western markets.
Unless food manufacturers outside Japan wake up to the
market potential of functional foods, a new Japanese
invasion of protein-enhanced Yorkshire pudding,
high-fibre spotted dick and vitamin-boosted
toad-in-the-hole is likely...Mr Potter, a food scientist
and technologist, explained: 'FF ingredients are
products known to have positive health benefits like
lowering cholesterol levels, lowering blood sugar,
preventing calcium loss from the bone, lowering
incidences of heart disease.'
Independent 28 Apr. 1990, p. 3
fundie noun Also written fundy or (in discussions of German Green Party
politics) Fundi (Environment) (Politics)
In colloquial use: a fundamentalist; especially either a
religious fundamentalist or a member of a radical branch of the
green movement, a 'deep' green.
Etymology: Formed by adding the suffix -ie to the first four
letters of fundamentalist; the spelling Fundi reflects borrowing
from the German slang name of the radical wing of the German
History and Usage: A nickname which belongs to the political
debates of the early eighties, when the Moral Majority and other
fundamentalist Christian groups in the US and the Greens in
Germany became a political force to be reckoned with. In the
green sense, fundie has its origins in the arguments from 1985
onwards between the German Greens' realo wing, who were prepared
to take a normal co-operative approach to parliamentary life,
and the more radical fundamentalists, who did not wish to
co-operate with other parties and favoured extreme measures to
solve environmental problems.
The Fundies are not a serious political force and their
current hero is not a serious political candidate.
New York Times 7 Mar. 1988, section A, p. 19
The fundies are the purists who believe the only way to
save the Earth is to dismantle industry.
Daily Telegraph 20 Sept. 1989, p. 15
funk noun (Music) (Youth Culture)
In recent use in popular music, a style that draws upon Black
cultural roots and includes bluesy or soulful elements,
especially syncopated rhythms and chord progressions including
sevenths and ninths; often as the second word in combinations
Etymology: In US English the word funk originally meant 'a bad
smell' but a new sense was back-formed from the slang adjective
funky in the fifties to refer to the fashion then for
down-to-earth bluesy music; funky also meant 'swinging' or
'fashionable'. (There is no connection with the British English
word funk meaning 'a state of fear'.) In the latest development
of its meaning, Funk has been extended outside the styles
traditionally thought of as funky, tending to become a catch-all
tag for whatever is fashionable in a particular area of popular
History and Usage: As mentioned above, funk has existed since
the fifties, but has acquired a broader meaning recently. The
first crossovers between funk and other styles came in the
seventies with disco-funk, a funky (that is, fast and rootsy)
style of disco music. This was followed in the eighties by
electrofunk (see electro), jazz-funk (which, it has more than
once been claimed, is neither jazz nor funk), p-funk (a style
developed by George Clinton of Parliament/Funkadelic),
slack-funk, slow-funk, and techno-funk (see techno), to name
only a few of the styles which claimed to include funk elements.
A leading and influential practitioner of funk proper is James
Brown. Often the funk tag signifies no more than an attempt to
incorporate Black musical traditions and jagged rhythms, funky
chord progressions, or soulful lyrics into the White music
style: funk has been widely played by White musicians since the
mid seventies. Derivatives formed on funk have also been common
in the eighties: funker and funkster extended their meaning to
cover the broader sense of funk, and there were other, one-off
formations along the lines of funkadelic (originally a proper
name but also adopted as a common noun or adjective), funkateer,
funkathon, and funketize.
We scored No 1 disco albums with legendary jazz-funk duo
Music Week 2 Feb. 1985, Advertisement pullout, p. i
If old bubblegum music is on I sing at the top of my
lungs, and if new funkadelic is on I bop in my seat.
New York Times 14 May 1986, section C, p. 1
If you've never fancied this kind of frantic funk try
this for size. Blackman's wild and witty lyrical style
combines macho street level cliche with sharp social
Hi-Fi Answers Dec. 1986, p. 78
These 10 songs demonstrate that all it takes is a good
kick in the pants, a bottleneck slide guitar, and a feel
for Muscle Shoals slow-funk to make a boy want to whoop
and holler all night long.
Dirty Linen Spring 1989, p. 56
The second track on the album, 'Have a Talk with God' is
a simple message to people with problems...backed with a
Shades No. 1 1990, p. 19
fun run noun (Health and Fitness) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
An organized long-distance run in which amateur athletes take
part for fun or to raise money for charity rather than
Etymology: A transparent compound of fun and run, exploiting
History and Usage: The first fun runs took place in the US in
the mid seventies as a way of bringing together people who had
taken up jogging or long-distance running recreationally. The
idea was introduced into the UK in the late seventies, and by
the mid eighties the fun run was an established part of many
Western countries' culture, with large races such as the annual
London Marathon attracting thousands of participants. Often the
fun runners, who are only competing for the enjoyment of running
or so as to raise money for charity from sponsors, run alongside
serious international athletes in the same race.
Thousands of fun runners and disabled competitors
pounded the same rain-soaked course as the stars.
New York Times 21 Apr. 1986, section C, p. 6
A fun run over 8km was held at the Phobians Athletics
South African Panorama Jan. 1988, p. 50
Before the main race, limited to 150 runners, there will
also be a charity one-mile Family Fun Run.
Northern Runner Apr./May 1988, p. 6
futon noun (Lifestyle and Leisure)
A low-slung Japanese-style bed or mattress.
Etymology: A direct borrowing from Japanese, in which it
traditionally refers to a bed-quilt or thin cotton mattress
which is laid on a mat on the floor overnight, and may be rolled
up and put away during the day.
History and Usage: The word has been used in descriptions of
Japanese culture since the end of the last century, but the
present Western application dates from the early 1980s. The
futon as marketed in the West may include a slatted wooden base
which stands only a few inches from the floor, is often capable
of conversion into a sofa for day-time use, and usually includes
a stuffed cotton mattress similar to the Japanese version.
They fall onto the stripped-pine futon.
Artseen Dec. 1986, p. 19
Slatted bases are often used in traditional bedstead
designs and low line beds such as futons.
Daily Mail DIY Home Interiors 1988, p. 112
A deliberately confusing, euphemistic, or imprecise piece of
jargon, used more to impress than to inform.
Etymology: Formed by compounding and abbreviation: a word that
is fuzzy in its twentieth-century sense 'imprecisely defined,
confused, vague'. It is also a deliberate alteration of buzzword
(a fashionable but often meaningless piece of jargon, a vogue
word), which has been in use since the late sixties.
History and Usage: Fuzzword was coined by the Washington Post
in 1983 and is still principally a US usage.
In the often emotional arms control debate, there may be
no more common fuzzword than 'verification'.
National Journal 14 Apr. 1984, p. 730
7.1 gag me with a spoon...
gag me with a spoon
(Youth Culture) see Valspeak
Gaia noun (Environment)
The Earth viewed as a vast self-regulating organism, in which
the whole range of living matter defines the conditions for its
own survival, modifying the physical environment to suit its
needs. Used especially in Gaia hypothesis or Gaia theory, the
theory that this is how the global ecosystem functions.
Etymology: Named after Gaia, the Earth goddess in Greek
mythology (the daughter of Chaos).
History and Usage: The term was coined by the British scientist
James Lovelock, who first put forward the hypothesis at a
scientific meeting about the origins of life on Earth in 1969;
the suggestion that it should be named after the goddess Gaia
had come from William Golding. Although not especially well
received by the scientific community, the theory reached a wider
audience in the eighties and early nineties and proved very
attractive both to environmentalists and to the New Age
movement, with its emphasis on holistic concepts and an Earth
Mother. Gaia is used as a proper name for the hypothetical
organism itself, and also as a shorthand way of referring to the
Gaia hypothesis. Gaian (as an adjective and noun) and Gaiaist
(as an adjective) have been derived from it.
'The Biosphere Catalogue' expresses a kind of
spirituality in science, a metaphysical belief in the
biosphere as an entity which has been dubbed 'Gaia', as
if to acknowledge its divine qualities.
Los Angeles Times 15 Dec. 1985, p. 12
Gaians (to use an abbreviation popular at the meeting)
argue that this state of affairs is indeed evidence of
the interconnectedness of life on Earth, and that it
would be foolish to expect to find a series of isolated
and independent mechanisms.
Nature 7 Apr. 1988, p. 483
Will tomorrow bring hordes of militant Gaiaist activists
enforcing some pseudoscientific idiocy on the community?
New Scientist 7 Apr. 1988, p. 60
It is at the core of the current debate over the 'Gaia
hypothesis', which holds that the planet is one huge
organism in which everything interacts to sustain and
maintain life on Earth.
Christian Science Monitor 30 Jan. 1990, p. 12
Understanding Gaia means understanding that the survival
of the plants, trees and wildlife which live on this
planet with us is crucial to our own survival.
Debbie Silver & Bernadette Vallely The Young Person's
Guide to Saving the Planet (1990), p. 52
galleria noun (Business World) (Lifestyle and Leisure)
In marketing and planning jargon, a collection of small shops
under a single roof, either in an arcade or as concessions in a
Etymology: A direct borrowing from Italian galleria 'arcade'.
History and Usage: Architects in English-speaking countries
were first inspired by the idea of the Italian galleria in the
sixties and began to design shopping arcades on the same model,
but it was not until the early eighties that the word galleria
suddenly came into vogue as a fashionable way of saying
'arcade'. The vogue was continued by the application of the
term to shops-within-a-shop as well.
Burton and Habitat intend to create a new format at
Debenhams with the 'Galleria concept'--an integrated
collection of highly-focused speciality stores under one
Yorkshire Post 23 May 1985, p. 4
The winning scheme...incorporated the inevitable
The Times 17 Feb. 1990, p. 10
Johnson took over eleven floors in an unremarkable glass
tower at a suburban shopping center named The Galleria.
Bryan Burrough & John Helyar Barbarians at the Gate
(1990), p. 85
gamete intra-fallopian transfer
(Health and Fitness) (Science and Technology) see GIFT
gaming (Lifestyle and Leisure) see role-playing game
garage noun Also written Garage (Music) (Youth Culture)
A variety of house music from New York which incorporates
elements of soul music, especially in its vocals.
Etymology: Probably named after the Paradise Garage, the former
nightclub in New York where this style of music was first
played; there may also be some influence from the term garage
band, which has been applied since the late sixties to groups
(originally amateurs who practised in empty garages and other
disused buildings) with a loud, energetic, and unpolished sound
which is also sometimes known as garage or garage punk.
History and Usage: New York garage developed in the early
eighties (principally at the Paradise Garage but later also at
other New York clubs), but only came to be called garage--or by
the fuller name garage house--in the second half of the decade.
The founding influence on the style was the New York group The
Peech Boys. In its later manifestations garage is very closely
related to deep house (see house)--indeed some consider deep
house to be simply the Chicago version of garage, incorporating
the lyrical and vocal traditions of American soul into the fast,
synthesized dance music which is typical of house.
The void left in trendier clubs following the
over-commercialisation and subsequent ridiculing of
'acieed!'...is being filled by 'garage' and 'deep
Music Week 10 Dec. 1988, p. 14
The records will be anything dance-orientated: 'Rap,
reggae, hip hop, house, jazz, garage or soul,' says
Anita Mackie...'What is garage?' I ask. She consults a
colleague and they decide on 'Soulful house'. I decline
to ask them what 'house' is.
The Times 25 July 1990, p. 17
garbage in, garbage out
(Science and Technology) see expert system
(Health and Fitness) see lens
-gate combining form (Politics)
Part of the name Watergate, widely used in compounds to form
names for actual or alleged scandals (usually also involving an
attempted cover-up), comparable in some way to the Watergate
scandal of 1972.
Etymology: Formed by abbreviating Watergate, treating the -gate
part as a word-forming element in its own right.
History and Usage: Before the Watergate scandal and the ensuing
hearings were even fully over, journalists began to use -gate
allusively to form names for other (major or minor) scanda