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Among the New Words
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American Speech 76.1 (2001) 79-96

At a recent committee meeting, the senior editor of this column sat with a number of faculty trying to come up with a catchy name for an interdisciplinary senior capstone course in ethics. When the naive editor suggested that the course be called "Right and Wrong," noses were wrinkled up, brows were scrunched together, and a chorus of voices exclaimed that such a name would hardly be considered politically correct -- whereupon the editor threw a Rumpelstiltskin fit in which he challenged members of the committee to demonstrate how there was some fundamental difference between PC language and parody PC language. No one responded to that challenge, but the chorus of voices explained that the course could not purport to establish what was right and wrong, since those kinds of decisions were far too complicated for resolution, thus the need for the course -- whereupon the editor threw another fit, proclaiming in an apparently old-fashioned way that some things are plainly right and some plainly wrong. The committee moved on to other business.

If notions of right and wrong are offensive to any readers of "Among the New Words," we urge them to turn over the leaf, so to speak, and choose another tale. The words presented here were culled from our files by graduate assistant Christy Edgar. This spouse of a clergyman was enrolled in a class in Renaissance literature at the time of the culling. It should therefore come as no surprise to learn that she culled forms that she thought were representative of the Seven Deadly Sins, a trope familiar to students of medieval and Renaissance literature. The mnemonic for the Seven Deadly Sins is PALE GAS: Pride, Avarice, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Anger, and Sloth. While medieval preachers made Envy out to be a fairly popular and serious sin, it does not get much shrift here since postmoderns seem to take greater delectation in Pride (in displays of wealth and status), Avarice (in the desire for and acquisition of wealth and power), Lust (in the advertising of, desire for, and consummation of sexual relations, however one wants to define them), Anger (in various displays of anger and violence toward oneself and others), and Sloth (in terms of hours consumed, for example, by watching television or surfing the Net). At the end of each entry below, we have indicated parenthetically the sin or sins that we see applicable to the attitudes and behaviors described in the citations. A particularly knotty problem concerns terms dealing with recreational drugs. Drug use may not immediately appear to be a form of gluttony, but technically it does involve ingestion of one sort or another to an excessive or unnecessary degree. Drug abuse, like alcohol abuse, is also a form of violence or anger expressed against the self. And it could also be said that drug use is a form of sloth: we are reminded of the television public service announcement in which a young man waves away marijuana smoke as his mother yells upstairs and asks him if he has found a job yet.

Citations came to us through the generosity of Adele Algeo, John Algeo, George Cole, Connie Eble, Alice K. Edge, Albert E. Krahn, Mrs. James B. McMillan, and Gaelan de Wolf. Additional citations were found in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe by students in ENGL 4115/5115 in the fall of 2000, who also prepared the entries. Barry Popik provided earlier citations of many terms by searching in the Dow Jones database. We would like to note that the citations he sent us indicate that they were printed out between midnight and 6:30 A.M.! New York is indeed the city that never sleeps.

active attack n Method of thwarting online security systems through the analysis of messages sent by Web site computers 1987 Mar 20 PR Newswire 34 (Dow Jones) "The traditionalists who apply encryption to the problems address only the passive form of attack," says [Bob] Wolkowicz. "To stop the active attack, you have to think in terms of access control and authentication checking as well." 1998 Aug 24 Chicago Tribune 1/5-6 (Reuters) The...



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