March 07, 1994 12:00 PM

Acid rain n (1975*): pollution in the form of highly acidic precipitation

Adult children of alcoholics n (1983): support group in which grown children of alcoholic parents meet and drink a lot of coffee. See SUPPORT GROUP; also CODEPENDENT

Aerobics n (1975): popular form of exercise in which scantily clad people try to lose weight by gyrating wildly to music they would not under any other circumstances listen to. With Jane Fonda’s Workout in 1982, the actress launched an extraordinarily successful series of home aerobics videos that inspired dozens of other celebrities to market their own

AIDS n (1982): acronym for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, a disease caused by a virus first identified in 1983 by a team of French scientists. The AIDS virus attacks the immune system and so prevents the body from fighting off other illnesses, which become the causes of death. No known cure. Transmitted via bodily fluids. See SAFE SEX

Air guitar n (1983): an invisible instrument that rock fans “play along” to their favorite music. Significantly, there have been no air versions of other instruments, such as air xylophone or air tuba, at least on a mass level

Animal rights n (1980): the concept that animals have personal rights and should not be used in medical research or fur coats, among other things. (“I don’t eat anything with a face.”—Paul McCartney, 1990)

Assisted suicide n (1990): ending it all, usually after prolonged suffering from a debilitating disease, under medical supervision. For the assist, call Dr. Jack Kevorkian, anywhere in Michigan

Baby boomer n (1980): any of the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964; as a group also referred to as the Love Generation, the Pepsi Generation or the (population) pig moving through the (social) python, a journey that will end only when the last boomer dies, some time around 2075

Bad hair day n (1991): endearing way of admitting that you look like Don King or Bozo (I’m having a bad hair day)

Ballistic adj (1984): a violence-loving society’s colorful way of saying that someone has lost his or her temper (He’s gone ballistic)

Bimbo n (1987): a young woman whose relationship with a presidential candidate or televangelist wrecks his career when the liaison is made public

Biological clock n (1978): an internal timer that tells women nearing the end of their childbearing years to crank it up, procreatively speaking. Connie Chung responded

Birth mothers (1975): woman who gives birth to a child whom she then puts up for adoption or in foster care; not usually used to refer to a woman who gives birth through artificial insemination to another couple’s child (surrogate mother) or to her own child whom she then raises (mom)

Blended family n (1977): the cooking term as applied to a family comprising ingredients from different, albeit human, food groups

Bonding n (1974): once something that only your dentist knew for sure; now the act of establishing a close emotional relationship, e.g. male bonding n (1990): as in “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum,” Monday Night Football and expensive workshops, pioneered by poet Robert Bly in his book Iron John, in which “wild men” put on antlers and imitate Gene Krupa or Ginger Baker, depending on their generational affiliation

Boom box n (1976): a large portable radio or cassette deck requiring huge quantities of D batteries, played only at top volume

Break dancing n (1976): a hyperathletic and gravity-defying form of street dancing in which the participant makes like a Slinky in time to music that comes from a boom box

Burnout n (1980): emotional and physical exhaustion caused by too many addictions, too much work, too much information, not asking why, not knowing when to say when and all combinations thereof

Call waiting n (1976): a telephone service that allows users to annoy the person they are talking to by receiving another call on the same line simultaneously

Camcorder n (1984): a small, lightweight video camera and recorder anatomically connected to the hands of tourists, new parents and offspring of those who benefit from the two-party system

Car phone n (1983): a 1980s umbilical cord quickly eclipsed on the status front by the car fax

Cash machine n (1976): a 24-hour automated teller that politely performs basic banking transactions but at sundown often becomes a crime scene

Cellulite n (1974): saggy, dimpled fat deposits that adhere to human (mostly female) thighs and buttocks and cause the bearers thereof to seek costly cellulite-removing products and procedures. See LIPOSUCTION

Channeling n (1983): verbal contact through a human medium with generally high-ranking dead people popularized by high-ranking living person Shirley MacLaine

Channel surfing n (1992): the act of “riding” or “skimming” the many available television airwaves with your remote control. See COUCH POTATO

Cocooning n (1986): socially accepted form of agoraphobia in which restaurants, travel and outdoor activity are avoided in favor of at-home pursuits, such as tuning in to the Home Shopping Network. See HOME SHOPPING and COUCH POTATO

Codependent n (1974): once a tax dodge; now, as put forth by self-help maven Melody Beattie in her 1987 best-seller Codependent No More, a nonalcoholic person who hangs out on a regular basis with an alcoholic; can also apply to interaction between other social units, such as a non-gambler and gambler, a person who compulsively returns library books on time and one who keeps books way past the due date, and so forth

Come out v (1975): formerly a reference to a society event in which debutantes were presented to the world on their 18th birthdays; now an act in which one voluntarily reveals one’s own homosexuality, as in k.d. lang’s disclosure in the June 16, 1992, issue of the Advocate, a gay publication. See OUTING

Compact disc n (1983): a small plastic disc containing a digitally recorded album that has virtually replaced the vinyl record and audio cassette. Check back in 20 years for obsolescence-causing descendant

Cordless phone n (1984): a telephone connected via radio waves to a conventional hookup to facilitate nonstop availability, immediate ego gratification, greater access to sports hotlines and compulsive acts of connection

Couch potato n (1983): a person who spends many hours at home “vegging out” by watching too much television; also M*A*S*H potatoes and spec-taters (sports fans)

Date rape n (1985): sexual intercourse forced on a woman during a date by a male friend or acquaintance

Designer jeans n (1978): tight-fitting denim pants sometimes marked with a foreign name, which inflates the price

Disco n (1975): an era in which great dance music merged with unsightly clothes and hair to provide obnoxious and otherwise unemployable people in New York City with jobs as club bouncers; now undergoing a renaissance thanks to the ’70s Preservation Society and other TV-advertising purveyors of pop culture

Downsizing n (1991): postrecession euphemism used by large corporations to indicate that a lot of people have just been fired or, in current parlance, job-eliminated. See JOB RETRAINING

Domestic partner n (1977): one of two persons who cohabit and may or may not be codependent

Dweeb n (1983): 1 a nerd; 2 a low-level official. Government: policy dweeb

Dysfunctional family n (1981): an emotionally impaired group of relatives who repeat harmful patterns of interaction and often appear on talk shows to discuss them

Eating disorder n (1977): nice way of saying anorexia or bulimia, which are nice ways of saying starving yourself to death

Family values n (1992): traditional belief systems as seen on The Brady Bunch and not, according to former Vice President Dan Quayle, on Murphy Brown. One of the great riddles of the late 20th century is: Where does Matlock fit in?

Fanny pack n (1987): an accessory attached to a belt worn low on the waist so that one may conveniently carry keys, coins and maybe even a collapsible cellular phone

Fax machine n (1985): a device that transmits facsimiles of documents via telephone wires, the proliferation of which forced the phone company to add new area codes in order to accommodate all the new fax numbers

Freebase v (1980): dangerous process whereby one heats purified cocaine crystals with an open flame to inhale the fumes; near casualties include Richard Pryor

Hacker n (1976): a computer geek who gets up in the morning in order to “hack in” to supposedly impenetrable, high-security computer networks, such as those of banks and defense systems

Hair mousse n (1984): want hair like Tommy Lee in Mötley Crüe? Then apply this foamy stuff, crank up the boom box and plug in your air guitar

Hair replacement n (1982): a strange process that involves nylon mesh, hair from India, and a person worried about being called Chrome Dome behind his back; generally associated with infomercials, 800 numbers and Sy “not only the Hair Club president but also a client” Sperling

Heimlich maneuver n (1974): a lifesaving first-aid technique developed by thoracic surgeon Henry Heimlich that dislodges fish bones, insufficiently chewed hoagie segments and other food items from a person’s windpipe

Homeboy n (1985): originally black street slang; now used by white teenagers from Great Neck to Lakewood to denote a friend from one’s own neighborhood or, more colorfully, “hood”

Home shopping n (1986): the purchase, via telephone, of fabulous products, often shamelessly peddled by famous people such as Joan Rivers on television shopping channels

Infomercial n (1983): a covert way of advertising a product on television by pretending not to be a commercial

Inner child n (1990): the “wounded” part of you, identified by author John Bradshaw, that has not yet grown up and still longs for attention, among other things. (I want this new Lexus. I don’t care what you say, I deserve it, and it’s three weeks before my half-birthday, so let’s buy it now)

Job retraining n (1975): term used by politicians to make those who have been job-eliminated think that, with a few new skills, the sun will come out tomorrow

Junk bond n (1979): a high-risk bond issued to finance a corporate takeover; the floating of many of these in the 1980s either wrecked or saved the economy depending on the state of your wallet at decade’s close

Karaoke n (1988): an apparently uncheckable form of rapidly spreading entertainment in which bar patrons tie one on in order to belt out Top 40 hits to recorded accompaniment, and then claim not to remember the incident the next day. Imported from Japan

Liposuction n (1982): a type of cosmetic surgery in which fat particles are vacuumed from beneath the skin, leaving thighs, buttocks, chins and torsos lean and teenlike. Singer Kenny Rogers became a walking example in 1989

Mall rat n (1981): an adolescent whose primary source of culture and camaraderie is the local shopping plaza

Media event n (1976): an occasion arranged to provide photo ops and sound bites for the journalists invited to record it. See SOUND BITE

Midlife crisis n (1974): a period of intense self-evaluation at the midpoint of the human life cycle, often involving such activities as swimming with sharks and trading old mates in for new; called a passage by Gail Sheehy in her book Passages

Mommy track n (1987): the slow train to career advancement, considered by some managers to be the proper penalty for women who want to have their jobs and see their children too

Moral Majority n (1979): televangelist Jerry Falwell’s alliterative and boastful title for his group of devotees

Music video n (1981): a short film made expressly to showcase a song, often characterized by dry ice, pubescents in garter belts and gratuitous and mostly incomprehensible use of religious iconography

Networking n (1986): the act of attending social events to acquire information and contacts for professional advancement

Outing n (1990): formerly a pleasant Sunday sojourn; now [fr. out of the closet] the act of forcing someone to announce his or her homosexuality by threatening to go public with the news before the alleged homosexual does it him-or herself

Palimony n (1978): first used in the widely covered Lee Marvin/Michelle Triola split, the term refers to alimony awarded to a lover at the end of the relationship. Also galimony, which was awarded to Judy Nelson, the significant other in the 1991 Martina Navratilova breakup

Pasta n (1980s) formerly spaghetti

Personal computer n (1975): a computer for home use with which you can do such things as banking without leaving the house, thus bypassing a potentially dangerous encounter at a cash machine. See CASH MACHINE

Personal trainer n (1975): formerly the Fuller Brush Man; now a generally buffed-out fitness coach who makes house calls and supervises the exercise program of individual clients, many of whom harbor erotic fantasies about this good-looking, mysterious stranger

Politically correct adj (1980s): used in the ’60s by humorous members of the political left to refer to humorless members of the political left; the term now refers to a spin-doctored lexicological contortion designed to offend no one (wildlife conservation park instead of zoo). See SPIN DOCTOR

Power breakfast n (1980) 1 a term used by restaurants favored by the workout crowd, denoting a high-energy meal composed of low-cholesterol, high-fiber food items, such as egg whites and aldente green vegetables 2 among the workaholic upper classes, an expensive, tax write-off meal shared by executives eager to be seen with each other but reluctant to be seen as having time for lunch

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) n (1980) a loose grouping of unpleasant feelings, ranging from mild crabbiness to murderous anger, experienced by some women in the days prior to menstruation. Considered a contributing factor in criminal behavior in Britain

Prenuptial agreement n (1975): a not-very-romantic legal document for engaged couples that anticipates their divorce, outlining the rights and assets of each party

Proactive adj (1990): strange new corporate way of saying strange old Navy-related term, “We’re on board”

Pro-choice adj (1976): in favor of a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion

Pro-life adj (1976): holding the belief that life begins at conception and that abortion is therefore murder

Psychobabble n (1977): initially the jargon of transactional analysis (I’m okay, you’re okay); now the language of self-help, in which catchy words such as issue, denial and enabler are used to simplify profound problems

Pump iron v (1977): to engage in weight lifting and bodybuilding; became widely used after the release of Pumping Iron, the documentary that popularized Arnold Schwarzenegger

Quality time n (1977): a brief but uninterrupted period of forced and often tense interaction with one’s spouse and/or children; widely promoted as a guilt-free homemaking alternative for women who have not derailed to the mommy track. See YUPPIE

Rehab n (1978): the process of recovery from chemical dependence; it often takes place at fashionable institutions where, thanks to generous health care benefits, the proletariat have an off chance of hooking up with Hollywood royalty, as in the 1988 Larry Fortensky/Elizabeth Taylor meeting at the Betty Ford Center

Rollerblade n (1980): an inline roller skate in Minnesota and favored by fitness fans throughout the U.S. Also, blading n: a sport that resembles roller-skating but is a lot faster, and the brake is on the rear of the skate, necessitating (for the novice) a difficult, forward-motion-defying maneuver in order to stop

Safe sex n (1983): 1 sexual intercourse using condoms 2 non-penetrative sex 3 dinner and a movie

Sexual harassment n (1975): behavior in the workplace that can be interpreted by the person on the receiving end as an unwelcome come-on. In other words, no winking, grabbing or back rubs in the office or I’ll sue your pants off!

Share v (1978): formerly a nice thing to do, as in the kindergarten instruction of children (to share with your neighbor) or the concept of sharing a treat, such as an ice-cream cone; now a manipulative way of getting someone to listen to a terrible personal confession (I have something I’d like to share with you. Did you know that I have an eating disorder?). See SUPPORT GROUP

Significant other n (1977): an individual with whom one is cohabiting or otherwise romantically involved; could conceivably become at any point in time an insignificant other; whither Oprah and Stedman?

Sound bite n (1988): a pithy phrase or reworked cliché uttered by those seeking publicity, e.g. Ross “I’m all ears” Perot, in the hope of snaring five seconds of a channel surfer’s attention

Spin doctor n (1984): low-level historian such as George Stephanopoulos who attempts to control the perception of modern disasters, such as the Lani Guinier assistant attorney general nomination, by pitching a knuckleball in the form of press releases on behalf of powerful, aggrieved clients such as the President

Stalking n (1980): an act that in the Middle Ages was considered romantic obsession; it now denotes nonromantic, obsessive following, phoning or writing another person, often a celebrity

Stressed-out adj (1983): experiencing emotional and physical strain caused by problems in the Freudian double header, love and work; condition can precede or prompt burnout

Sunscreen n (1977): a skin-protecting cream first used by fishermen, skiers and others who spend a lot of time under Old Sol; currently—as a result of the disappearing ozone layer and increasing skin cancer rates—an out-of-doors necessity available in numbers ranging from 2 to 60, depending on what kind of tan you want and how fast you want to get it

Support group n (1974): people with whom you have something unpleasant in common, such as an addiction, a relative who has an addiction, a disease or a weird proclivity. See SHARE

Surrogate mother n (1977): a woman, such as Mary Beth Whitehead, who carries a fertilized egg, not in her grocery bag but in her uterus, on behalf of another woman. Whitehead tried to keep the baby but lost her in a 1987 custody battle

Test-tube baby n (1978) a child developed from an egg that has been fertilized outside the mother’s body. While there have been thousands of success stories since Bristol, England’s Louise Brown, who at 15 is the oldest living test-tube baby, the effects of the test-tube population on the world are yet to be felt, to anyone’s knowledge

Trophy wife n (1984): a woman valued for the youth and glamor she brings to a matrimonial union, but not so valued that she might not have to sign a pre-nuptial agreement, as in Georgette Mosbacher in her pre-Robert Mosbacher marriages

Uptalk n (1993): pattern of teen language in which every sentence or phrase fragment is turned into a question (Dude, the media’s doing all these reports on us? And they never get it right?)

User-friendly adj (1982): originally a term used in the computer world to describe a computer that was easy to use; now refers to everything from Hooked on Phonics to Heidi Fleiss

Valley girl n (1982): a teenage female of California’s San Fernando, like, Valley, known for a dense, like, dialect called Val-speak and a preoccupation with, like, shopping and boys, fer sure, popularized in a song by Moon Unit Zappa. Replaced by uptalk?

Virtual reality n (1989): a computer-generated world experienced through fiber-optic gloves and goggles; in the future it may enable participants to engage in multiple vacations without even having to use the home computer to get money from the cash machine to pay for the experience

Walkman n (1979): welcomed as an alternative to the blare of the boom box, this Sony-produced gadget is the first pocket-size portable tape deck; also known as personal stereo. Often used in conjunction with blading and fanny packs

Wannabe n (1985): someone who through appearance, body language or hobby expresses his or her desire to be someone else, as in CEOs who let their ponytails down on weekends, hop on their Harleys and attend road rallies but have never actually met a member of the Hell’s Angels

Yuppie n (1984): once a derogatory acronym (young urban professional) referring to many who were part of or benefited from the junk bond years, as in Hope Murdoch and Michael Steadman on thirtysomething; the term now applies to any white-collar worker under 40 who still has a job. See DOWNSIZING, STRESSEDOUT, BURNOUT and CASH MACHINE


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