Word Fugitives

Toeing the line; Oh, no, you dishn't!

In March, we asked for a word to describe the moment of undignified vulnerability that people in airport security lines experience when they have to take off their shoes. The response most frequently submitted was insockurity. Tracy Gill, of New York City, was one of the readers who suggested it, adding, “PS: This entry might be a shoe-in.” Sorry, but no. Other popular responses included sole-baring, shoemiliation, dis‑ shoeveled, and unshoddenfreude.

James Arnott, of Grand Junction, Colo., wrote, “I am often pedrified when the strong-armed TSA agent implores me to remove those comfortable coverings of my feet. I find myself removed from the familiar world of ‘No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service’ and transported to a foreign land.” Derek Eisel, of Seattle, who explained that he “happened to read the question while on a plane” and so “had inspiration and time” on his hands, submitted a sizable list of possibilities, including Manolo-panicked, Birkenstalked, JimmyChoogrined, and Arched.

Those who know that one meaning of sabot is “a wooden shoe” will probably admire desabotage, from Bill Parks, of Covington, Va. Those who have been reading newspapers for a few decades will remember that Stockholm syndrome is a name for feelings of attachment that captives (such as hostages taken in a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1973) sometimes develop for their captors, and therefore may appreciate the coinage stocking syndrome, from Norm Tabler, of Indianapolis, Ind.

Other, no-backstory-required suggestions included susteptibility (Alexander Miller, of Grand Rapids, Mich.), steparation anxiety (Bill Dunn, of Orlando, Fla.), mortifeetcation (George Yezuke-vich, of South Weymouth, Mass.), discomfooture (Andreas Connal-Nicolaou, of Preston, Conn.), pedanoia (Kristen Cordell, of Chicago), and footwary (Mark Richter, of Radnor, Ohio), plus good old-fashioned cold feet (Aaron Riccio, of New York City).

Dick Engel, of Bark River, Mich., suggested that we extend the meaning of another familiar phrase: toeing the line. Engel takes top honors.

Also sought in March was “a term for the exclamation we use to warn friends that the person they’re talking about is approaching them from behind.” “This happened to me recently as I was dishing about someone,” Patty Rasmussen, of Conyers, Ga., wrote. “How about dishn’t, as in ‘Oh, no, you dishn’t!’?”

Kelly Brown, of Seattle, wrote, “Exclaiming someone’s name to cue a friend that the person they’re gossiping about is approaching is a hintroduction.” Richard Crane, of Greensboro, N.C., wrote, “That of course is called a helloveryourshoulder.” Chris Gibbons, of Vancouver, Wash., called it a slydentifier; Art Gatti, of New York City, a borewarning; and Kate Barton, of Hinsdale, Mass., an astern warning.

And Bill Kime, of Ionia, Mich., takes top honors for his apposite, if not especially polite, suggestion that “the term should be a headshutup.”

Now J. B. Lawton, of Dublin, Ohio, writes, “I would like a word to describe the tai chi–like gyrations I inevitably have to go through in order to activate the sensor of an automatic faucet or towel dispenser.”

And Bill Tierney, of Albany, N.Y., writes, “I’m looking for a word for unpleasant occurrences that come with a job, even though they are not in the official job description—for example, when a hotel bellhop doesn’t get tipped or when a comedian gets heckled. In other words, what is the opposite of a perquisite?”

Send words that meet J. B. Lawton’s or Bill Tierney’s needs to Word Fugitives, The Atlantic Monthly, P.O. Box 67375, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, or visit the Word Fugitives page on our Web site, at www.theatlantic.com/fugitives. Submissions must be received by August 31. Use the same addresses to submit word fugitives that you’d like The Atlantic’s help in finding. Letters become the property of Word Fugitives and may be edited.

Readers whose queries are published and those whose words are singled out for top honors will each receive, with our thanks, a selection of recent autographed books by Atlantic authors. The next installment’s correspondents will be sent The Atomic Bazaar, by William Langewiesche; On The Wealth of Nations, by P. J. O’Rourke; and my own Word Fugitives.

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Visit Barbara Wallraff’s blog, at barbarawallraff .theatlantic.com, to see more commentary on language and to submit Word Fugitive queries and words that meet David K. Prince’s need. Readers whose queries are published and those who take top honors will receive an autographed copy of Wallraff’s most recent book, Word Fugitives. More

Barbara WallraffBarbara Wallraff, a contributing editor and columnist for The Atlantic, has worked for the magazine for 25 years. She is also a weekly syndicated newspaper columnist for King Features and the author of Word Fugitives (2006), Your Own Words (2004), and the national best-seller Word Court (2000). Her writing about language has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wilson Quarterly, The American Scholar, and The New York Times Magazine.

Wallraff has been an invited speaker at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the National Writers Workshop, the Nieman Foundation, Columbia Journalism School, the British Institute Library of Florence, and national or international conventions of the American Copy Editors Society, the Council of Science Editors, the International Education of Students organization, and the Journalism Education Association. She has been interviewed about language on the Nightly News With Tom Brokaw and dozens of radio programs including Fresh Air, The Diane Rehm Show, and All Things Considered. National Public Radio's Morning Edition once commissioned her to copy edit the U.S. Constitution. She is a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel. The Genus V edition of the game Trivial Pursuit contains a question about Wallraff and her Word Court column.

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