Word Games

A Lexical Life Raft for the Government Shutdown

The government shutdown has reach such absurd levels that a whole new vocabulary is needed to talk about it. By Liesl Schillinger.

What do you call a long-winded member of Congress whose opinions infuriate you? Ambrose Bierce, a century ago, in his Devil’s Dictionary called such a blowhard a “harangue-outang.” If Congress is controlled by harangue-outangs, can the country prosper? Bierce would have called such a prospect “incompossible.”

Given the intractable problems between today’s Republicans and Democrats in Congress, it’s a pity there isn’t a fresher lexicon than Bierce’s to describe the ills of contemporary politics. Oh wait…hold on, there is! In Wordbirds: An Irreverent Lexico for the 21st Century, my illustrated (by Elizabeth Zechel) dictionary for the new millennium, I’ve coined a collection of 200 new words that diagnose the zeitgeist and its afflictions. These multi-purpose definitions emerged over the last three years, as the Tea Party has steeped Congressional discourse into a bitter brew.

Let these eight Wordbirds-for-the-Shutdown serve as a linguistic life raft to float you to safe harbor.

CONSERVASCHISM (n.) kun-’sur-va-’skiz-um

The early-twenty-first-century political divide in the U.S. Congress between moderate Republicans and far -right extremists who refuse compromise at any cost.

CONTAMINOTION (n.) kun-tam-i-’no-shun

A spurious, wrong-headed idea that spreads virally and poisons public discourse.

DELIBEROT (v.) duh-’ib-ur-rot

To waste hours, days, or years mulling over a situation until it’s too late to amend it.

JOURNALEER (n.) ’jur-na-’eer

Commentator on news programs, blogs, and opinion pages who vigorously holds forth on the topics of the day, whether or not he is informed on the issues. Also (v.)

PINK’d (v.) pinkt

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To be falsely branded a communist, leftie, or socialist by right-wing political activists. (In the spirit of Ashton Kutcher’s Punk’d, but less lighthearted.)

SCREENRAVER (n.) ’skreen-ray-vur

A colleague who talks back to his or her computer all day long, responding to such stimuli as news items, e-mail, videos, photos, etc. Also (v.) Screenrave and (ger.) Screenraving

SCHADENFROLIC (n.) ’shah-den-frah-lik

A party held in a spirit of commiseration, not celebration, to mark the extinction of a newspaper, magazine, blog, bank, restaurant, business, etc.; and/or the firing or laying off an employee or employees.