Word Fugitives

Dispute erupted in the Word Fugitives mailbag regarding an appropriate tenor for "a word for people who send e-mail messages and then follow them up saying, 'Did you get my e-mail message?'"—one of the word fugitives sought in February.

"I take issue with the blatant attack on those of us who send follow-up e-mails," wrote Andrew Goldberg, of New York City. Cheryl Scott Ryan, of Austin, Texas, wrote, "Our recent office move has not been kind to our outgoing e-mail, so I feel a need to make sure all my e-mails make it to their intended recipients." Ryan, among many others, proposed the bias-free term re-mailers to describe people like her.

Suzanne Lanoue, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, advised, "They may be doing it for a good reason, such as that it is an important matter to them and you didn't answer them in good time." She continued, "How about a word for people who never read their e-mail? Or a word for people who never answer it? And what about for those self-centered people who reply to your e-mail but don't answer any of your questions or don't make comments about anything you said?"

Other readers, however, heaped scorn on the e-mailers who follow up, suggesting such unflattering terms as cybores (coined by Marjory Wunsch, of Cambridge, Massachusetts), confirmaniacs (Sheridan Manasen, of Kennebunk, Maine), memorons (Phil Ruder, of Forest Grove, Oregon), and e-diots (proposed by several people). Mitchell Burnside Clapp, of Los Olivos, California, wrote, "I suggest NetWit, with the irregular capitalization appropriate to the computer age. I think a hideous neologism is needed to describe the hideous reality."

John G. Keresty, of Vernon, New Jersey, shared an observation about a similar behavior in a different realm. He wrote, "Years ago I was in the sportswriting business, and I found that every coach of any sport at any level would repeat short instructions or exhortations thus: 'Let's go get 'em, let's go get 'em'; 'Good job, Keresty, good job'; 'Hey, ref, hey, ref! Are you blind? Are you blind?' and so on, and so on. So for the quest for a word for e-mail follow-uppers, I give you the one I coined for all the double-speak coaches: redundunces." For making the connection and cleverly adapting his coinage (one also submitted by other readers), Keresty takes top honors. Keresty takes top honors.

P.S. To all those readers who sent follow-up e-mails or letters cheekily asking whether we'd received your first communications, Yes, we did, thanks!

The other word fugitive sought in February was one "for those periods in which every little thing that can go wrong does." The responses were rife with references to Murphy's Law (usually stated as "Anything that can go wrong will," though sometimes expressed in terms of the inevitability that falling toast will land buttered side down). Murph, murphase, and Murphy moment were among the many suggestions received.

J. Robert Lennon, of Ithaca, New York, came up with chagrinterval; Charles Memminger, of Honolulu, fluster cluster; Connie West, of Cincinnati, awry spell; and Gina Loebell, of East Windsor, New Jersey, bad err day. Two people suggested erra, and two others dayzaster. Ilan Kinsley, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, came up with an entire week's worth of possibilities: "Mournday, Bluesday, Winceday, Curseday, Frightday, and, of course, the Bleakend." Jennifer Lewis, of New Orleans, wrote, "A natural-born klutz, I tend to regularly experience the phenomenon described. Sometimes my life seems one big, bumbling calamitime."

But perhaps the most productive line of thought was karma combinations. For instance, Chris Nauyokas, of Chicago, suggested karmageddon. And taking top honors is Miko Dwarkin, of Calgary, Alberta, for her right-on-target neologism karmaclysm.

Now Mike Davis, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, writes, "We have so many verbs to describe the things we do with our faces: smile, smirk, frown, etc. Is there a verb to describe the raising of the eyebrows and turning down of the mouth to signify that one is impressed?"

And Scott Buffett, of Bedford, New Hampshire, writes, "If language organizes experience, then please give me a word or phrase for the frantic period of time many families experience each morning prior to leaving home."

Presented by

Barbara Wallraff

What do you think? Discuss this article in Post & Riposte.

Saving the Bees

Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. A short documentary considers how desperate beekeepers are trying to keep their hives alive.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In