August 8, 2003

Essential Dictionary of New Words

One of the perks of being a textbook coordinator is that you frequently receive review copies of books from publishers. It's a new position for me, so I'm still getting used to coming into my office and finding piles of new books waiting for me each day. Today's batch, however, held a special treat. Oxford sent me a copy of it's new Essential Dictionary of New Words. I wondered what kind of gems I might find inside... so I spent a couple of minutes flipping through, and thought that I might share some of these little treasures with you. Perhaps you're already familiar with them, but they were new and exciting words for me to learn and even to say.

amscray: v. leave quickly; scram. Origin: Pig Latin for scram.

andropause: n. a collection of symptoms, including fatigue and a decrease in libido experienced by some older men and attributed to a gradual decline in testosterone levels. Derivatives: andropausal adj. Origin: 1960s: from andro-on tthe pattern of meno-pause.

barkitecture: n. humorous the art or practice of designing and constructing doghouses. The style in which a doghouse is designed or constructed: The property also included an elaborate doghouse that was a stunning example of pampered pooch barkitecture. [Blogger's note: If I am lucky, perhaps someday I can afford to live in an example of barkitecture.]

cramming: n. the practice of charging a customer for telephone services that were not requested, authorized, or used: cramming often shows up as unexplained 900-number charges. Derivatives: crammer: n.

lactivist: n. informal humorous - an advocate for breastfeeding, especially one who promotes the right to breastfeed a child in publich places. Origin: a blend of lactation and activist.

gutkha: n. a sweetened mixture of chewing tobacco, betel nut, and palm nut, originating in India as a breath freshener. Origin: 1990s: from Hindi 'a shred; small piece." [Blogger's note: I really don't mean offense here, but how bad would your breath have to be for this to make an improvement?]

schlimazel: n. informal A consistently unlucky or accident-prone person. Origin, Yiddish, from Middle High German slim "crooked" + Hebrew mazzal "luck"

scissorbill: n. informal an incopetent or objectionable person.

scratchiti: plural n. graffiti that is scratched or etched onto a surface, usually glass: names immortalized with scratchiti on the subway car window. Origin: (um... as if you couldn't tell) blend of scratch and graffiti.

yogic flying: n. a technique practiced chiefly by adherents of Transcendental Meditation that involves thrusting oneself off the ground while in the lotus position. [Blogger's note: Ouch.]

zoophile: n. 1. a person who loves animals; an opponent of cruelty to animals 2. a person who is sexually attracted to animals. [Blogger's note: You'd think with all the words we're adding to the language that we could manage to come up with separate words for these two meanings! I guess it's all in the intonation.]

Well, that's all for now folks. I'm sorry, but I must amscray by yogic flying to my lactivist meeting at the barkitecture in Chevy Chase owned by an andropausal zoophile whose dog eats gutkha while our scissorball neighbor is cramming calls for his schlimazel boss, according to the scratchiti I read on the condo wall.

Posted by c_jane at 7:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Where's your math book?

Ok, so I've been in and out of town for the past couple of weeks, but I'm back now and ready to blog with a vengeance. In the meantime, I thought I'd start with an interesting tidbit that I learned over the weekend. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to get together with some friends from high school. My high school was a small, Catholic, girls' school on the East Coast. We weren't exactly the "Sisters of Mercy," but I can admit that I was pretty naive compared to most of my classmates. Of course, I didn't realize that until just this past weekend.

A group of four of us gathered for brunch last Sunday morning. Usually at brunch, we go through the usual small chatter including what everyone did in the past two months or so, expectations for coming months, and, of course, gossip about other "Sisters of Mercy" students. I mentioned that I'd heard the voice of a former "SOM" student on NPR. Since her mother is a local broadcaster for a network morning news program, it wasn't a stretch that Emma (names changed to protect the not-so-innocent) was working for NPR. One of my friends responded, though, by asking if Emma mentioned “finding her math book.” The other two women at brunch burst out laughing. I, however, remained mystified. My friend, stunned that I'd never figured it out, let me in on the joke.

In high school, students were required to attend a daily assembly. For 15 to 20 minutes each day, the entire school of 250 women would meet in the general-purpose room for announcements. Students wishing to make an announcement (for example, "Tickets for the prom will be sold in the general purpose room all week." Or “Girl Scout cookies. After school. Be there.”) would stand in line in front of the school and wait their turn to make the announcement over a microphone. Periodically, however, there were sudden and unexplained rashes of lost math books. Most of them all came from the class directly below mine. Sometimes it took two girls to announce one lost math book. For example, Emma would stand up with Carol and say "Um... Carol has lost her math book. This is Carol. If you find Carol's math book, please return it as soon as possible." The room would erupt into unexplained giggling and repressed laughter, while the two women would proudly find their seats among the mass of students sitting cross-legged on the floor.

I never got it. I remember thinking that it was odd that so many people were losing their math book. Then again, I never found it odd enough to ask questions, because I was infamous among my friends for losing things on a near daily basis—books, pens, wallet, usually my keys. Despite my best efforts, I’ve always been absent minded that way.... but I didn't get the joke. As my friends pointed out this weekend, though, "math book" was code for virginity. So, every time a student "lost her math book," she was really announcing that she'd lost her virginity.

So, it turns out it was a good joke… in typical form, I just got the punch line a little later than most. Of course, usually I get it a couple of minutes later, but in this case, it’s taken me nearly 12 years! So, the mystery of the missing math books has been solved. Yet another bit of lore to add to the Catholic school cannon.

Posted by c_jane at 11:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack